Santa Clarita Diet season one is now streaming on Netflix! Aaron and I worked on this series and had a blast helping mad genius Victor Fresco craft a darkly hilarious murder sitcom.
This was an amazing project that required the hard work of like a billion different awesome people and we’re so proud to have gotten the chance to produce it with Anna and the fine folks at New Form Digital.
Hunt the Truth season two is out and I wrote several episodes.
Hunt the Truth is an award winning radio drama/podcast set in the Halo universe.
Season one was structured like Serial, the This American Life spinoff podcast that investigated a single murder over a season of podcast episodes.
Season two is structured like an old fashioned radio drama. So it’s a format invented in the early 1900s telling stories in a videogame universe set in the 26th century. Which is pretty awesome if you think about it.
Writing our episodes was unbelievably fun for a few reasons:
Amazing freedom. In television and web video, Aaron and I are always limited by budget. No one’s going to give us a hundred million dollars to film a spaceship battle no matter how awesome and funny we promise it’s going to be. But in radio, there is no budget! The only limits are the sound design and the audience’s patience.
It’s friggin Halo. I still remember rushing home from high school and tearing open my brand new Xbox. I’d been waiting for months for the console and years for Halo, so when the awesomely over the top Halo menu music started (monks chanting and harmonizing, 480p graphics sizzling my eyeballs), it felt like a borderline spiritual moment. Now, all these years later, it’s just so exciting to know that I got to write in a little corner of that universe.
Infinite thanks to the Ayzenberg creative agency for inviting us to work on this with them and their awesome in-house writers.
Though NBC cancelled About a Boy earlier this year, thankfully the episode my partner and I wrote was still made and produced. Episode 217, About a Babymoon, is now available online at Amazon and iTunes.
I’m releasing a major new update to my screenwriting app, Fountain Loader.
To quickly recap, Fountain Loader is a web app that makes it easy to write screenplays in Google Docs.
What the hell is a screenwriting format? Well fountain is really just a basic set of formatting rules. If you write text that follows those rules, then that text can be easily converted into a finished screenplay using great programs like Highland, Slugline, and now Fountain Loader.
What’s New: Final Draft Support & Multicam Support
The new Fountain Loader can now not only preview screenplays but also convert fountain files into Final Draft FDX files, complete with title pages. What’s more, it has some features that even Highland and Slugline lack.
If you’re writing a television script rather than a feature film script, Fountain Loader has built-in tools to make that easier. By labeling the top of your script with the “Format: Multicam” tag, Fountain Loader will automatically produce a Final Draft file with classic sitcom formatting. It will also convert Act Breaks into their proper Final Draft elements rather than just converting them into centered action text.
The new Final Draft export feature also supports script notes and some really complicated overlapping text styles.1
Google Docs is Now Screenwriting Software
I made this update because my writing partner and I were writing a multicam script, and everytime I wanted to check the page count, I had to copy and paste the script into Highland, output a Final Draft file, then open up Final Draft, import a multicam template, and then fix all the act breaks. Now that’s a one-click process.
It’s been a huge improvement for us. Writing a screenplay collaboratively in Google Docs is now much, much easier. When we were staff writers on NBC’s About a Boy, we wrote our episode in Google Docs using fountain and Fountain Loader. Everything we write from now on will live in Google Docs and then end up in Final Draft only when we’re ready to distribute our scripts.
- For more information about how Fountain Loader works, check out my original post announcing the project.
- If you want to learn how to write in fountain, check out the fountain syntax page.
Fountain Loader does a good job with tricky, edge case Fountain formatting. EXAMPLE: “_David is **stunned**. How could *she* do this ***to*** him?_” ↩
I’ve released a small update to Ranndy.com, my random name generator site. Now every first and last name generated by the site contains a link to a Google search about that name.
For example, if I generate the surname “Swisher” and want to know more about it, I can click on the name and quickly learn that the name is Austrian and originally meant “person who lives near a hill, stream, or church.”
Sometimes when creating characters, I like to find last names that have hidden meanings and reflect the character’s personality.
I’ve released a new version of Ranndy.com, my random name generator for use in fiction writing and baby naming.
New Starts With Feature
Ranndy can now show you names that start with certain letters.
- If you enter “Jo” in the Starts With field, Ranndy will only show you names that start with “Jo” like John, Jordan, Jose, etc.
New Exclusion Feature
Ranndy can also do the opposite of Starts With, showing you names that DON’T start with certain letters. Just use the * character in the Starts With field.
- If you enter “D*, S*, P*” in the Starts With field, Ranndy won’t show you any names that start with D, S, or P. This is useful when you’re writing a screenplay and don’t want too many characters whose names sound or look similar on the page.
New Force Name Feature
Ranndy now lets you force a first or last name. If you already know a first or last name that you love, you can force that name with the ^ character in the Starts With field.
- If you enter “Smith^” in the Last Name Starts With field, then Ranndy will show you random first names but every last name will be “Smith”. This is useful for baby naming and also creating family members for characters.
I’ve also made some tweaks to how Ranndy ranks first names by popularity. The default setting of “High” popularity is now much broader, which should give a better variety of names without including too many weird names.
To learn more about Ranndy, you can visit my first blog post about it.
The Problem: Death
I’m the designated nerd in my family, so I handle all of our online accounts. To keep them secure, I use randomly generated, unique passwords and two-factor authentication.
But that means that my wife doesn’t know the online logins for our iTunes account, our bank and retirement accounts, our gas company, our cable company, our water and power company, and so on and so on.
What if I died or was suddenly incapacitated? How would she access our accounts?
- I need a system that’s secure. I don’t want to weaken all my online accounts just for the off chance that I get hit by a bus.
- I need a system that can outlive my hardware. What if my hypothetical death also destroyed my laptop, tablet, and phone?
- I need a system that can be easily understood by my tech illiterate survivors.
Step One: Put all your passwords in 1Password
1Password is a password management app available for Mac, Windows, and iOS. It saves your passwords in a secure vault with a master password. Instead of having to remember hundreds of weak passwords, you only have to remember one strong password. The app can generate random, unique passwords for all your online accounts, so if a service gets hacked, your other accounts are safe because each has a unique and unguessable password.
Step Two: Put your 1Password vault in Dropbox
1Password can store your secure password vault in your Dropbox account. That means that by leaving detailed instructions and a few key passwords, all of your online account information can be accessed from one simple file.
Step Three: Write a letter explaining how to access your Dropbox account and 1Password vault
The letter should be stored in a secure location like a safe or safety deposit box in a sealed envelope with the date written on it. And you should tell people important to you about the letter and where to find it. If you have a legal will for your estate, you should mention the letter in that will.
Writing the letter is the hardest step. It should include the following information:
- Your email account username and password. If your family needs to reset any of your passwords, they’ll need access to your email.
- Your Dropbox username and password.
- Your 1Password Master Password.
- Your passcode for your cellphone.
- Detailed instructions for how to access the 1Password master vault.
Here is some example text from my own letter.
Accessing a two-factor authentication protected gmail account:
My Gmail account is protected with two-factor authentication. This means you need both my password and the Google Authenticator app on my iPhone in order to access it. If you can’t access my phone, you can use a special one-time only backup code to get into my Gmail account without using the authenticator. Once you log in with a backup code, you should turn off two-factor authentication so that you don’t get locked out of the account.
Accessing Dropbox and 1Password:
My writing as well as an encrypted archive containing all of my online passwords can be found in my Dropbox account.
Inside my Dropbox is a file called 1Password.agilekeychain. This is an encrypted archive that contains all of my passwords, including those for important accounts like my bank account. It can be opened using a program called 1Password which is available at https://agilebits.com/onepassword.
Bonus: List Your Online Assets
Passing on all of your online accounts to your survivors isn’t useful if they don’t know what’s worth saving. At the end of the letter, write down a list of every online asset that’s important or valuable to you. For instance, web domains, online photo storage accounts, and anything you’ve written online and want preserved.
Why did I make this
Google Docs is the best collaborative writing program I’ve found. It lets me and my writing partner work on a script simultaneously, sometimes even working on the same sentence at the same time.
But Google Docs is butt ugly. It doesn’t even have a decent Courier font.1 I’m used to writing code and staring at ugly markup, but my writing partner can’t stand it. Google Docs just doesn’t look like a screenplay to him.
Fountain Loader bridges the visual gap between Google Docs and the final script. It loads our script as we work on it and generates a preview in another tab. It can generate both a traditional screenplay preview as well as a multicamera sitcom preview. It can also watch the file and update as the document changes.2
Then, once our script is ready to send out, Fountain Loader’s export feature lets us download the script as either a Final Draft file or a fountain file.
- Pretty damn accurate: The preview should be very close to how your script will look when output by Final Draft.3
- Responsive: Multiple layouts so you can preview screenplays on your phone or tablet.
- Detect Changes mode: Watches your document and generates new previews with each change.
- Multicam Support: Fountain Loader supports multicamera sitcoms. By placing “Format: Mulitcam” at the top of your script, Fountain Loader will preview your script with multicam formatting, and when exporting your script as an FDX, Fountain Loader will apply multicam styles there too.
- Act Break Support: Fountain Loader also supports Final Draft act break elements. If you use Fountain markup to center some key words (Teaser, Cold Opening, Act One, Act Two, Tag, etc.) then Fountain Loader will automatically convert those into true act break elements when you export into Final Draft.
- Script Note Support: Fountain Loader also supports Final Draft script notes. If you write a script note using Fountain’s [[note]] syntax, that note will be applied to the element above the note.
- Tested: I wrote an episode of an NBC sitcom with this. It works.
Version 2.0 - Released 06/29/2015
Possible Future Features
- More formatting/template options. Maybe even a Template: metatag that lets you define your own Final Draft elements.
- Use Fountain outlining elements to create fast-links to jump through a script (e.g. jump to act two).
- Toggle to hide notes and outline elements.
Check it out at http://fountainloader.com.
Why isn’t it 100% accurate? Well Final Draft handles spaces in dialogue text a little differently than a web browser handles text, so some things are just never going to look perfect. The output will also be a little longer than PDFs generated by John August’s Highland app. Highland squeezes more dialogue onto a page than Final Draft. ↩