Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

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  • Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

    Writing Screenplays in Linux Using Fountain

    Writing screenplays in Linux is no longer the challenge it once was. Where once you had to depend on Celtx (for a while a Ubuntu downloadable version of Celtx was available) or an OpenOffice template, you now have many options.

    Not only is there the cross-platform, commercial, stand-alone screenwriting application, Fade In Pro, there is a newcomer from Russia, KIT Scenarist, that is gaining traction. And the old standby, Trelby is still viable, though long in the tooth. (As a matter of fact, it's still my favorite GUI Linux screenplay formatting application.) You can even legally download a non-expiring beta version of Scrivener for Linux.

    And there are several online screenwriting applications. Celtx, YouMeScript, WriterDuet (all of which promise seamless collaboration, and limited offline writing) and 'afterwriting (which can also be used offline).

    It's 'afterwriting that brings us directly to the Fountain syntax. With 'afterwriting you can either write online (using the simple built-in editor) or read in Fountain or Final Draft (.fdx) files. The Final Draft file will be converted to Fountain format for editing. You can view the PDF conversion by clicking a button, and when you're finished, you can download your script in PDF format. Optionally you can save online (on Dropbox or Google Drive). I have a simpler solution, I just copy my files to Simplenote and they're available everywhere.

    But what is the Fountain syntax? For me it's the whole key to portability. And, more importantly, allows me to write in Jstar with WordStar keystrokes. (Important to me, probably means nothing to most everyone else.) But Fountain files can be used in conjunction with the GUI programs (Fade In Pro, KIT Scenarist and Trelby), or can be used with online converting software like Screenplain, 'afterwriting, YouMeScript, ScriptDuet, Celtx and probably all or most of those mentioned above (and others not mentioned).

    Or you can go "full non-GUI," by using just your editor (Jstar for me) and Screenplain. With that combination you can write your script and save it in Final Draft (.fdx), PDF or HTML format. Add the pdftotext utility to the the mix and you've got the ability to save in formatted text (for uploading to online forums, like Done Deal Pro).

    The Fountain (markup) syntax is simple. It's basically just writing in screenplay format without the indentions. There are a few more complicated tools, but the basics are this ...

    Headers, Slugs or Scene Headings (whatever you call them) are simply typed in CAPS as they are normally.

    INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY

    Action is written as normal. You put a space between it and the header. Don't worry about the length of the line, Fountain takes care of that in the conversion process.

    JOE, 60s, is sitting in front of the TV, burping and scratching his nose. He chokes on a piece of pizza.

    Characters are typed in CAPS as normal, except you don't indent. And, as normal a space separates Character from other screenplay elements (usually action). You can also add (O.S.) or (V.O.) behind the character's name and Fountain will deal with that correctly.

    JOE (O.S.)

    Dialog is put directly below the Character Name. Again, no indentions and type the line as long as you want. The conversion process will fix it. You can also add "wrylies" (parentheticals) simply by typing them as you would normally.

    JOE
    (burping)
    That's dang good pizza.
    (burping again)
    Really, REALLY good.

    And that's the basics. There's also syntax for the Title Page, and several other more advanced features, but you've got enough to go on for starters. (See the full Fountain syntax at www.fountain.io.)

    So let's see what Fountain, Screenplain and pdftotext can do with this script snippet ...

    Code:
    INT. LIVING ROOM — DAY
    
    JOE, 60s, is sitting in front of the TV, burping and
    scratching his nose. He chokes on a piece of pizza.
    
                       JOE
                 (burping)
             That's dang good pizza.
                 (burping again)
             Really, REALLY good.
    
    We leave Joe to his burping and inadequate chewing as we move
    into the kitchen.
    
                       JOE (O.S.)
                 (wheezy voice)
             Damn that didn't almost go down. I
             had me a pizza attack.
    
    EXT. SOMEWHERE ELSE — NIGHT
    This is exactly what the PDF looks like. I just used pdftotext to extract text and remove page breaks, had this been a multi-page script – or script snippet).

    The Fountain file could have been fed into any of the GUI or online applications mentioned above, but this was all done from the terminal. Type your script (in Fountain syntax), remove soft carriage returns if you're using a text editor (like the Jstar variant of JOE) which doesn't support dynamic carriage returns, change the simple hyphens to prettier ones (if you want) and then save your file as with the .fountain extension. Then type the following ...

    screenplain joe.fountain joe.pdf

    You now have a correctly formatted PDF file (it takes about half a second).
    You can also type ...

    screenplain joe.fountain joe.fdx
    or
    screenplain joe.fountain joe.html

    ... if you want Final Draft (.fdx) or HTML format.

    To get the formatted text (for this document), I just typed the following ...

    pdftotext -layout -nopgbrk joe.pdf joe.txt

    Why do I do this instead of just typing in Trelby, or KIT Scenarist or Fade In Pro? Because I like working with plain text. It's quick, it's clean and it's fast.

    I've got my computer set up to go to go into a terminal with the touch of one button, F12 by using Guake – a terminal program. Once in the terminal, I type 'jscreen' a Bash script which opens Jstar in the screenplay directory under Documents. I either begin typing, or hit ^KR to read in another file. When it prompts me for a name, I can either type it in, or hit TAB for a list. Once the file is loaded ^QC will immediately take me to the bottom of the file, where I can continue where I left off. ^QL spell checks. ^B reformats a paragraph if I edit within the paragraph. There are several other shorthand keystrokes I use.

    There's also the matter of not having my computer available all the time. I can type my scripts anywhere, using a dedicated word processor like an AlphaSmart Neo (which can last a year on three double AA batteries). Or I can type into my phone using Simplenote and a Bluetooth keyboard. I can even dictate to my phone in a pinch, or use it's built-in keyboard. All these scraps of writing can be combined into Jstar, via Simplenote. (I use Simplenote instead of Evernote because Simplenote is pure text. Evernote tries to format your notes for you and makes copy and paste messy.)

    Also, as is mentioned on the Fountain website, text will always be readable. How many times have you seen someone trying to get a script converted from an old, discontinued product, like Sophocles or Scriptware? I guess not as often anywhere, but it used to be a common occurrence.

    Well, that's about it. If you want any more information about Screenplain, you can go to www.screenplain.com, where you'll find a link for downloading and installing (it uses Python and Pip). pdftotext comes from the poppler-utils package, which (I'm guessing) is available for most Linux distributions. Guake is a drop-down terminal available for most (if not all) Linux distributions. F12 toggles the drop down terminal and hides it. So, while typing this article, I can hit F12, hide the terminal – and then bring it back again, Jstar still opened and ready to go. Guake also supports multiple tabs (open terminals). JOE (Joe's Own Editor) is widely available for Linux and Windows (and I think you can also use it on Macs).

    Good luck.
    STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

  • #2
    Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

    Since I am a computer geek, I am sure that I would groove on exploring Linux, but I have never had the space available for a Linux box.

    So I will pass over the Linux part of your post.

    I gave up on Final Draft a long time ago. No Unicode support, no direct support for Fountain. So scratch Final Draft.

    But I can comment on how useful Fountain is with Fade In.

    Right now I am doing a rewrite of someone's old script that has a great story. However, some of the scenes need help.

    Sometimes things need radical rearrangement as well as revision. Maybe you have three or four continuous scenes that need to be reorganized, with items from one scene transferred into one of the other scenes. This can become cumbersome, and you can get lost if you try to move and revise a lot of text in a screenwriting application. Why? Because the formatting can get in the way. Maybe you accidentally drop the text into the wrong spot, and your action line becomes a LONG character name. Or maybe you have a short action line that you want to use as a parenthetical. It can all become awkward.

    But with Fade In you can do something really neat. You can select all the text that you want to work on (like maybe two or three scenes), and you will have an option to right-click the text and then select FOUNTAIN > COPY AS FOUNTAIN.

    You can then paste the text into your favorite text editor. It will be in perfect Fountain format, which is easy to manipulate.

    When you are finished with editing and moving things around, you just select all the text in the text editor, and you paste it back into Fade In by right-clicking where you want to paste it and then using FOUNTAIN > PASTE AS FOUNTAIN.

    I used this method within the last hour to reorganize and revise some actions that spanned several scenes.

    "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

      Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
      Since I am a computer geek, I am sure that I would groove on exploring Linux, but I have never had the space available for a Linux box.

      So I will pass over the Linux part of your post.
      Just set up dual-boot on your Windows computer and make Windows the primary OS. (It's easy and Linux doesn't need a huge partition.)

      Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
      I gave up on Final Draft a long time ago. No Unicode support, no direct support for Fountain. So scratch Final Draft.
      Final Draft STILL doesn't support Unicode? Or Fountain?

      Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
      But I can comment on how useful Fountain is with Fade In.

      Right now I am doing a rewrite of someone's old script that has a great story. However, some of the scenes need help.

      Sometimes things need radical rearrangement as well as revision. Maybe you have three or four continuous scenes that need to be reorganized, with items from one scene transferred into one of the other scenes. This can become cumbersome, and you can get lost if you try to move and revise a lot of text in a screenwriting application. Why? Because the formatting can get in the way. Maybe you accidentally drop the text into the wrong spot, and your action line becomes a LONG character name. Or maybe you have a short action line that you want to use as a parenthetical. It can all become awkward.

      But with Fade In you can do something really neat. You can select all the text that you want to work on (like maybe two or three scenes), and you will have an option to right-click the text and then select FOUNTAIN > COPY AS FOUNTAIN.

      You can then paste the text into your favorite text editor. It will be in perfect Fountain format, which is easy to manipulate.

      When you are finished with editing and moving things around, you just select all the text in the text editor, and you paste it back into Fade In by right-clicking where you want to paste it and then using FOUNTAIN > PASTE AS FOUNTAIN.

      I used this method within the last hour to reorganize and revise some actions that spanned several scenes.
      I just tried it. Very, very nice feature. Worked like a champ copying into Jstar and then back into Fade In from Jstar. Thanks for the pointer.
      Last edited by Centos; 04-02-2018, 02:33 PM. Reason: added missing )
      STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

        Just set up dual-boot on your Windows computer and make Windows the primary OS. (It's easy and Linux doesn't need a huge partition.)
        Yeah, well, I have never done that, and I am reluctant to experiment. I might try it on the laptop that I am using right now. My desktop computer (old) developed a severe problem (essentially died) about ten days ago. I am going to buy a new computer later this week. It will have Windows 10, and I am definitely not going to tinker with it. But I have two laptops (both with Windows 7), and I can risk the oldest of them, which is still a pretty good machine.

        Any advice about how to go about setting up the dual boot? I would probably be thinking about using Linux Mint.

        Final Draft STILL doesn't support Unicode? Or Fountain?
        Incredibly, Final Draft does not support Unicode. This means that writing in a non-Western foreign language can be difficult.

        As for Fountain, the last "party line" statement from Final Draft that I read somewhere was that Fountain support was unnecessary, since Final Draft could import text. Or something to that effect.

        But just try importing text, especially text that deviates from the standard format (e.g., "vertical writing"). Your results may disappoint you.

        You might enjoy this article from Kent Tessman's website. It is five years old, but still relevant and interesting.

        "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

          Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
          Yeah, well, I have never done that, and I am reluctant to experiment. I might try it on the laptop that I am using right now. My desktop computer (old) developed a severe problem (essentially died) about ten days ago. I am going to buy a new computer later this week. It will have Windows 10, and I am definitely not going to tinker with it. But I have two laptops (both with Windows 7), and I can risk the oldest of them, which is still a pretty good machine.

          Any advice about how to go about setting up the dual boot? I would probably be thinking about using Linux Mint.
          I'm going to try to look up a step by step guide for you. I've installed Linux so many times that I don't even think about it much any more. I set up three laptops to dual-boot (one's running Windows 7, one Windows Vista and one is running Windows 8.1). They're all running various "flavors" (different desktops) of Linux Mint 18 (Xfce, Mate and Cinnamon) and two of them (since they're kind of spare family computers) boot by default into Windows. I've got the it set up so you won't even notice Linux is on there, unless you hit the ESC key when the computers come up to the boot screen. I did all this by making a Live, bootable USB drive (which let's you test out Linux Mint before installing) and then doing the advance setup – which allows you to repartition the drive (using the Linux utility gParted) to make space for the installation. But a lot of folks suggest you use Windows for the partitioning, which might make sense if that's what you're use to – I'll either make or find a step-by-step procedure. You might also consider whether one of the computers could just be temporarily dedicated to Linux (which makes the installation extremely simple). (Rambling again, sorry.)

          Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
          Incredibly, Final Draft does not support Unicode. This means that writing in a non-Western foreign language can be difficult.

          As for Fountain, the last "party line" statement from Final Draft that I read somewhere was that Fountain support was unnecessary, since Final Draft could import text. Or something to that effect.

          But just try importing text, especially text that deviates from the standard format (e.g., "vertical writing"). Your results may disappoint you.

          You might enjoy this article from Kent Tessman's website. It is five years old, but still relevant and interesting.
          I never have liked Final Draft. I've never liked the product and I've never liked the attitude. No Unicode is just pure stupid. No Fountain (in my opinion) is just part of their attitude issue. "We're the 'standard,' you find a way to work with us, not vice versa."

          I read Kent Tessman's blog entry – can't disagree with any of it. If I ever get the review of KIT Scenarist written (I keep bogging down into too much detail) I'll mention that one of the things that impresses me about it is how well *it* renders text. I'm guessing both KIT and Fade In are much better than Final Draft. (Speaking of Kent Tessman, I see he has a book up on Amazon, I think I'll read it.)

          To me the lack of Fountain support is pretty much the death knell for any screenplay formatting software.

          Okay, I'll quit rambling (for now).
          STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

            I found this article on how to set up the dual-boot. It is for Windows 10, but the procedure is probably pretty much the same for Windows 7.

            Article:

            https://itsfoss.com/guide-install-li...-boot-windows/

            I will just have to print it out and study it and have it ready to guide me.

            I decided a few years ago that if I made the Linux leap, I would go with Linux Mint Cinnamon.

            "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

              Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
              I found this article on how to set up the dual-boot. It is for Windows 10, but the procedure is probably pretty much the same for Windows 7.

              Article:

              https://itsfoss.com/guide-install-li...-boot-windows/

              I will just have to print it out and study it and have it ready to guide me.

              I decided a few years ago that if I made the Linux leap, I would go with Linux Mint Cinnamon.
              Looks good. I saw that one, but had rejected it because it specifically mentioned Windows 10. It looks more complicated than doing it from the Linux Mint install (using gParted) but that's probably because I'm used to Linux and no longer keep up with Windows. This FOSS guy is pretty knowledgeable. I subscribe to his newsletter but don't always read it.

              Linux Mint has good (active) forums at https://forums.linuxmint.com/

              You might also want to take a look at Youtube. Quite a few people put up videos about dual-boot installing Linux Mint and Windows. A lot of them yak way too much, but it might be helpful to step through some of these just to see what to expect.

              https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...+of+linux+mint

              As for the Cinnamon desktop, I've got that on my newest laptop. Linux Mint does a good job of "branding" their various desktops. You hardly know which one you're using, except when you get to specific features (like the GUI file manager). Currently I'm using the Xfce desktop on this laptop, but it looks and works almost identically to the Mate or Cinnamon ones. (I used Xfce on this desktop because it's older and the Xfce uses less "power.")

              I found out I can use afterwriting from the terminal (it can be done in Windows, as well). It's PDF output seems to be identical to Screenplain, except it uses (I think) the Courier Prime font, so it's darker.
              STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

                Thanks for the links. I will be checking them.

                "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Linux Screenplay Writing with Fountain

                  By the way ... a comment about Courier Prime.

                  Maybe two or three months ago, I downloaded a screenplay from Zoetrope. It was in PDF, of course, and my aim was to import it into Fade In. I use Courier Prime in my personal template, which I apply to any imported files. I may not even look at the imported file, more than to glance at it, until I apply my template.

                  I did the import, applied my template, and discovered that the expected hyphens were missing. I went back to the PDF file, copied some text with hyphens, and discovered (with some sleuthing) that all the hyphens were not the standard hyphen that you have on your keyboard just to the left of the = key. That usual hyphen character is ASCII decimal 0045; hex 002D.

                  However, the hyphens in the PDF were the so-called soft hyphens (called "shy"). That character is ASCII decimal 0173; hex 00AD. The "shy" is a discretionary hyphen, and it is a confusing character that most of us do not use. It has a use beyond being just an "optional" hyphen. Read the bewildering Wikipedia article on the subject of the "soft hyphen" if you want to delve into this.

                  In any case, most fonts seem to have a discretionary hyphen. But Courier Prime does not. Consequently, when I applied my template, which uses Courier Prime, the "shy" glyphs disappeared, and I did not have hyphens of any kind.

                  I was able to fix the situation by using a different Courier font temporarily to perform a search-and-replace to convert the shys to regular hyphens.

                  I do not know how those shy characters got there in the first place. I think it may have been related to the computer that the author used. The confusing Wikipedia article talked about how the shy is used in some kinds of terminals (part of a peculiar network setup, I suppose).

                  Anyway, I reported this to Kent Tessman (who, by the way, did not create the Courier Prime font). He was thinking about addressing that issue in an update to Fade In (I suppose the shys would be converted to normal hyphens). I have not checked to see whether he has done this.

                  Just be careful with Courier Prime.

                  "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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