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Writing Screenplays in Google Docs

Chromebooks have become extremely popular, especially for writers, because it’s a cheap option and it’s a good option. After I stole my nephew’s $100 Chromebook while he slept, I found these glorified tablets to be quite useful. Then I got an idea. Can you write a screenplay using web tools or Google Docs? The thing about a lot of Chromebooks is you can’t download software, so Final Draft, Fade In Pro, Highland, and even Scrivener are out as options. In short, the answer is yes, and you can write a screenplay in Google Docs. This should make you slap happy for a couple of reasons. 

1. The barrier to entry just got smaller, cheaper, and more accessible. Which is a relief to the many new writers that ask me about screenwriting all the time, but have no money nor the experience to warrant using a $249 software. 

2. Your work is backed up into the cloud, which means, not only can you access your script from any browser, but you can share your script for easy collaboration. 

There are also a couple of things to think about if you venture down this cheap road. 

1. You get what you pay for. So expect certain perks you can get with dedicated writing software to not exist. However, if you’ve never used one of these software’s, you’ll live in ignorant bliss. Then you’ll have the pure unadulterated joy of saying, “where have you been all my life?” when you do switch to Final Draft or Highland. 

2. If you do plan to make the switch eventually, exporting and uploading into another software is the most painful experience you will ever have if you do not prepare. You’ve been warned. There are formatting issues when you try to load a PDF or text document in one of those many programs. So if you start a script in Google Docs, finish the script in Google Docs. Do not switch halfway through your script unless you plan to rewrite all your pages or manually reformat your script. 

In this blog, I will show you how to download screenplay formatting extensions to use in Google Docs. 

Step One: Download the Extensions

Extensions will be in GSuite Marketplace and not the Google Web Store. The first time I did a blog on this, many people went to the web store and found nothing.

Go to : Gsuite Marketplace: https://gsuite.google.com/marketplace

Search: Screenplay Format

What you’ll see are four options. Only two work, so install the two without an X through them. 

Step Two: Using the Extension

Now you can go to Google Docs and start a blank doc. When that’s open, you’ll open the extensions from the Add-Ons dropdown. You should see Fountainize and/or Screenplay Formatter. Select one and start writing. 

Two steps, that’s pretty easy. Now I will give you a short walkthrough with what you’re looking at with each extension. 

Screenplay Formatter:

To your right is your screenplay formatting tools. Start by clicking the big blue button Set screenplay margins and font. Now you’re ready to start. 

If you’re familiar with screenplay formats, then you know what Header, Action, Speaker, Parentheses, and Dialog mean. If not, there is a nice guide to let you know. 

Start with the Header. 

This is where you’ll miss one of the great features of screenwriting software. Once you put in a location and character, your software will remember this. Unfortunately, Screenplay Formatter, at the time of this writing, doesn’t do this or at least doesn’t do it well. I’ve noticed the Header will bring up every location, from every screenplay. Character will bring up everyone in your contact list.

If you’ve never used screenwriting software, this is going to be the one thing you’ll get slap-happy about. Screenwriting software will format as you write. With this extension, you have to always click the format button before you type the next section. However, to me, this is not a deal-breaker. It’s free, after all. 

When you’re finished, your script will look like a script. 

Fountainize: 

I’m not sure if this extension is a part of the John August open-source text editor called Fountain. I suspect it’s not, but it at least works similarly. 

What Fountainize does is it allows you to format in a simple non-stylized text. In other words, you write and format later. However, this takes some getting used to, so I recommend you read the instructions in the margins and do a test run using their guidelines, which is what I did. 

I wrote out the text, as they suggested. It looks like this. 

Fountainize on Google Docs from Celeste Thoms on Vimeo.

I selected Convert Markup, and now my sample looks like this. 

Once I got used to writing this way I kind of got into it. I think I liked Fountainize better because it was the closest to my process, meaning I can write without stopping. If you ever use Fountain, which you should because it too is free, then you can probably copy-paste this format into a screenwriting software, use Fountain in say, Fade In Pro, and have your script. 

The other weird pro I love about using Google Docs to write scripts is I can switch between a screenplay format and prose writing seamlessly. This is beneficial because if I’m writing teaching notes, I can explain a method and then show the method. I can also write treatments that have scene ideas right in them. I don’t have to use my scripting software and have a word processor open at the same time.

One more note before I conclude this. Will you be able to do this on a tablet device like an iPad? No. Anytime I tried to use it in the browser, it would send me back to the app. I am only able to read and edit my document, but if I start to edit, then I cannot format from the app. Add-ons don’t work in the Google Docs app on the iPad.

Thank you for checking out my blog. I write blogs on writing and filmmaking. Like, share, and follow for more quicks tips. 

Comment below for questions, sharing additional information on this topic, or to just say hey.

Happy writing!

Plot and Plan Your Story with Story Planner

Disclaimer: I have not been paid, nor contacted by Joanne Bartley, the creator of Story Planner, to do this review. I do not have that level of blogging clout. My reviews are my own, and my pockets are empty. Well, there is the fabric of those pockets, but that is all. Enjoy! 

Are you frustrated with the number of writing methods available? Are you frustrated at how frustrated you are with trying to organize your story based on those writing methods? Are you beyond frustrated with never having a template that was easy to use and saves you time? Are you frustrated by my level of frustration at how frustrating writing methods can be?! Well, I offer you a pathway to a solution. 

I spent a lot of years reading screenwriting books. I started down this path at the age of thirteen with a desire to know what a screenplay was. I began with Syd Field’s Screenplay, and I committed to reading it at least once a year. Now, I’m into Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and mostly write all my stories with the hero’s journey in mind. I used to set up detailed templates based on the hero’s journey and breaking the hero’s journey up into the 3 Act structure. Making my own templates did not go well for me because I was spending more time on the template than on writing. However, I still enjoy a good break up of a template. Do I use them faithfully? No, but at least they get me writing. 

Now, my method of madness is to free-associate ideas, characters, and plot as I discover my story. I throw all kinds of words on the page to see if they stick. However, when it came to organizing these thoughts, I became frustrated at all the notes I don’t want to look at ever again. I need the best of both worlds. Something that allows me to ask the essential questions of my story while allowing me the freedom to discover my story organically. This is why I am elated, relieved, thrilled, or as close to displaying those emotions as an introvert can get. I’m all of these fantastic emotions because a fellow writer friend found this site and recommended it to me — Story Planner. 

I spend a lot of time world-building, designing characters, settings, motivations, etc. I have all of these piled up notes from notebooks, Evernote, and Scrivener. However, all I want is to take these ideas and ask the essential and straightforward questions that get me writing. That’s where Story Planner comes in. 

I’ve been using it for a bit, and I’m using it right now to write this blog post. My main workflow is to build the framework of my story, like a sculptor who sketches their sculpture before they start crafting an image. Story Planner allows me ways to take my ideas and place them into my desired template. The best part is I don’t have to make the template myself. I am also free to try out my story on any template that works. Integrating Story Planner into my writing process was easy because it solved so many of my issues. The best part, it’s free. Not just free to try but free to use. There is also a subscription model, which I will talk about later. 

Features:

The templates are modeled after some of the most popular writing methods on this planet, and there are templates for those who don’t use a writing method, but you still need something to organize your writing. There’s something for everyone. 

Here’s an idea of the types of templates you’ll find. First the templates are broken up into types of writing: Non-Fiction, Novels, and Screenwriting. You can also write loglines, outlines, chapters, and ideas. Then you have the Story World section where you can write character plans, settings, and even explore yourself as a writer. I personally don’t need that level of psychotherapy, but I have a feeling I can get into that section too. 

If you design your stories from Save the Cat, this has got you. If you love the three act structure, you good. If you like whatever the Snowflake Method is, there you go. There’s a template from Michael Hauge, one from Into the Woods, Pixar, and the Moral Premise. There’s also index cards. 

For the Non-Fiction writer there is all kinds of good stuff, even if you write blogs. 

How to Use:

I’m not going to do a tutorial on how to use the site because I think it’s self explanitory. I encourage you to explore for ten minutes. However, the majority of your writing is going to start in the Story World section to plan scenes, characters, and setting. Then you might try the Story Summaries section if you are one of those smart people that can write a perfect logline before ever writing one page of your script. I’m jealous and I know it. Anycrap, you can also leave the Story Summaries for last. 

The bulk of your story will happen in the Story Plans section and to view your projects you will look in the My Story Plan section. 

Cost:

Free = One story at a time

$15 for 3 months = Unlimited amounts of projects

$40 for the year = Unlimited amounts of projects

If you use the free model, you can use everything on the website as if you paid for it. So there is no paying to unlock features. The purpose of paying is if you have multiple projects at the same time. If you choose to stay with free, you can only work on one project. You can export that project out when finished, but you have to delete it before you can start another one.

I’m using the $15 model because I want to examine how much I will potentially use the site. Right now I have multiple projects, multiple blogs, so I paid. For the price, it’s not that bad. It’s so easy to spend $15 these days, so it was easy to let go of that money. To be honest, I also really love what Joanne Bartley has done, and I really want to support it and share it in case this benefits another fellow writer. 

That’s that on that. Thank you for reading my words and if you have questions or want to say, “hey,” comment below. I also don’t get mad if you correct my spelling or grammar. I appreciate the look out. 

I will be writing more stuff about writing and filmmaking. Please feel free to follow my blog, Intagram, or Twitter. 

Take care, and happy writing!

Link to Story Planner https://www.storyplanner.com

Bob Iger Teaches Business Strategies and Leadership on Masterclass

Running Time: 2hrs and 10min. 

Lessons: 13

The timing is great. This class was released a day after Disney + launched, so if you’re excited about the future of Disney and want to learn more about what makes this company successful, this is the class that will answer a lot of great questions. However, don’t expect him to answer or give explanations on some of his questionable Star Wars decisions. I am kidding, of course, but part of me wanted him to cop up.
I wanted to take this class in combination with reading Bob Iger’s new book, which is also good and will give you a lot more information than this class.

What do we learn from this class?
The class is broken up well and always has an excellent summary after each lesson, which I loved. You listen to Iger giving you advice about how he delegates his time, how he leads people, what his expectations are of himself and other people, and how to make decisions.

Topics Discussed?
What is success, branding, time management, and case studies on Pixar, Marvel, and Disney +.

What’s the best advice I learn?
I loved his take on perfectionism. Perfectionism has a lot of negative connotations and for a good reason. You can kill yourself trying to be perfect. However, Iger explained that perfectionism is doing better when you know you can do better. For yourself, you may be doing a project that you give your all, but down the road, you learn something new that could have made that project better. Does that mean your first attempt you didn’t do your best? No. You did the best you could with the resources you had at the time. However, if during the project, you can take the time to do better, you should, even if that means delaying its release. I’ve done that with many projects, and I’m grateful for it. Time and resources are the key. Perfectionism doesn’t mean you keep exhausting yourself, putting things off until they’re right. It means you do the very best you can always.

Is it worth $90?
Get his book. I will say that. Then if you feel you need more, get this as well. If you have the annual subscription to Masterclass, this is a definite yes. But as a stand-alone, no. I love Iger, and I love his advice. However, it’s not necessarily new advice. If you read business books from guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferris, Donald Miller, and even Bill Iger’s new book, then you’ve gotten this information in some way.

Check out the class here:

https://www.masterclass.com/classes/bob-iger-teaches-business-strategy-and-leadership

Spike Lee’s Masterclass on Independent Filmmaking – A Review

Spike Lee Teaches Independent Filmmaking 
Running Time: 3:12:23 (3+ hours) 
Topics discussed: Working with your D.P., writing, working with actors, music, and editing.

Love him or hate him, Spike is always interesting, and his love of cinema is contagious. Through his experience, you learn to work within your style while he also encourages your collaborative style. Spike also makes an emphasize on the importance of continuing to learn as a filmmaker. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing as long as you learn from your mistakes and get better. This is a mantra recited among all the Masterclass teachers, and it’s honestly always a good reminder. 
Cinema is a real art for him, and he understands the social constructs of the medium. He understands and thinks about what the medium can do to an audience. He knows the power of it and understanding that gave me a greater understanding of his movies. People may not agree with his point of view, but you can’t deny he starts some interesting conversations. 
       I would group Spike Lee among guys like Martin Scorsese, Elia Kazan, and Sidney Lumet. They tell stories that are personal but comment on the parts of the human condition we’d rather ignore especially within entertainment, such as the movies. With this Masterclass, I appreciated the conversation, and it’s the first Masterclass that I watched in one sitting while pausing to take notes. 
    Some of the things I learned that stood out to me were understanding the language behind camera movement and actor blocking. This is a topic I love to listen to filmmakers talk about the most. Why did they choose this shot or camera move versus all the other options they had? Was it an artistic choice or time constraints? How do you adjust on the day of shooting when you’ve planned certain camera moves and shots? I like to hear filmmakers talk about how they solved their creative problems in the moment. 
       Spike Lee gives you a lesson on how to collaborate with your actors and crew. He breaks down this process into steps even in a conversational style. He breaks down how to work with your D.P., editor, and composer. I especially liked the conversation about working with the composer in the lesson Music is Key. He breaks down his process from bringing the composer in on the project during the pre-production phase through to the final cut phase of the film. There’s a lot about that process that never occurred to me. 
    My favorite classes were Speaking Truth to Power: On the Waterfront and the lesson on Editing. Both examined films from a psychological and philosophical level. One of the points Lee brought out in Editing was never to forget how a film comments on society. It’s not just important to look at films of the past and look at their editing, cinematography, acting, and directing. It’s also important to look at the art through the lens of the time that it was made and understand the message the artist is trying to state. This was Lee’s outlook on controversial movies like Birth of a Nation (1915). Birth of a Nation is not a movie that should not only be seen for all the reasons film analysis state, but it’s also essential to understand D.W. Griffith’s messaging and purpose behind releasing that film. It’s important to understand how powerful cinema still is even with a 103-year-old movie. 
     I can’t think of one thing I would have liked to have seen in this Masterclass. I have become accustomed to Masterclass’ format. Whenever a filmmaker would do a masterclass, I also wanted them to work with actors and the crew to get a front row seat to the process. However, that’s not always the format. I would like that to be added more to these types of classes, but it’s always a blessing to hear all the advice filmmakers like Spike Lee give their students. Ron Howard’s Masterclass on Directing does give you a front row seat to what it is like to be on set with a director like Howard. Masterclass is incorporating it more. 
Is it worth the $90? Yes. It’s worth it for Spike Lee’s commentary on the power of cinema alone. No other filmmaker goes into depth the way Spike does in any additional Masterclass on the platform. 

Spike Lee Teaches Independent Filmmaking