You probably saw this coming. Last year, I joined forces with screenwriter John August to create Fountain, a plain text screenplay format. I even shared an idea of what a Fountain editing app might look like.
But even as the small but wonderful world of screenwriting nerds—and the developers who love/are them—embraced Fountain, I couldn't shake the growing itch to build a Fountain app myself.
Like many screenwriters, I have a love/hate relationship with the software I use. What's bothered me most is that comprehensive screenwriting software seems designed more for film production departments than for writers. Developers seem to be full of ideas for things to do with a screenplay in the last 5% of its life. But what about the first 95%?
My itch to build a better screenwriting tool goes back a long time, but I was never sure what unique value I had to offer. I knew I wanted to simultaneously make something simpler and more powerful than what was out there, but I had no idea how. Fountain was the key that unlocked this formula for me—as well as for my partner in Slug-crime, Clinton Torres, creator of Gradiest.
- With Fountain, we saw how the app could be simple—to its core. We could be the first screenwriting app with no toolbar, because all the formatting happens automatically based on what you type.
- Thanks to Fountain's Sections and Synopses, we saw how we could visualize story structure with a live, hierarchical outline—eliminating the need to outline in a separate app.
- Sections also solve my longstanding gripe with apps that use Scene Headings as the only measure of a "scene."
- But maybe most importantly for Clinton and I—who would be stealing time from other endeavors for this project—Fountain helped us see how making one app that runs on only one kind of computer could be enough. With writers embracing multiple platforms, both desktop and mobile, it's easy for a developer to get caught in the trap of "If I build an app, I have to build a whole ecosystem." For us, Fountain is the ecosystem, and that it's a thriving one makes Slugline viable as a single-platform app.
Slugline is more similar to Markdown-aware plain-text writing apps such as Byword and iA Writer than it is to any other screenwriting software. It's essentially a plain-text editor with Fountain syntax highlighting. You are typing right into a raw Fountain file—which is nothing more than plain text, and can therefore be edited anywhere, on any device. The iPad version of Slugline is any text editor you like—even the built-in Notes app.
Some writers will care about this a lot. Many probably won't though—and we want to make Slugline great for them too. We've worked hard to make Slugline as elegant and uncluttered as possible. We think it's the simplest way to write a movie, and we've written a plain-English overview of how it works. Even if you're brand new to screenwriting, we hope you'll find Slugline a lightweight and friendly way to dip your toes in.
Mark Coleran helped us enormously in exploring some early user experience design. He helped us dig deep into the problem of visualizing story structure, and he was honest with us about our bad ideas.
We are also grateful to filmmakers Stephan Bugaj, for pushing us to make the Outline Navigator powerful enough for his mighty structure nerdery; and Eric Escobar, for committing to Slugline for his prolific writing even before I was brave enough to.
Thanks to Blake Snyder Enterprises for allowing us to include the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet from Save the Cat!® as one of our templates.
Huge thanks also go to Nima Yousefi for his immense generosity with the technological underpinnings of Fountain. He saved us a lot of time.
And to John August, well, we just can't thank you enough. Your support quite frankly fooled us into thinking this wasn't a crazy idea.
Obvious Setup for a Sequel
Making a 1.0 is hard—you have to leave a lot of stuff out. We have tons of ideas for where to take Slugline, and we bet you do too. Please get in touch with us, via our contact form or Twitter, and let us know what you think.
Simply Write a Movie
Slugline is available today, exclusively in the Mac App Store. We'd love nothing more than for you to make something with it.