My writing system

Hello fellow screenwriters!

One of you recently asked me what software I use for screenwriting. I believe my answer was, and I quote:

“Uhh… No I don’t use Final Draft… I sort of use a few different things together… it’s kind of complicated… I can’t really recommend it”

This apologetic admission caused me to take a look at the byzantine process I’d set up and try to actually understand it. This is what it looks like:

Screenwriting cloud setup

So the reason for this is that I am a bad writer. I don’t do it diligently or oftenly or frequently or responsibly or any other -ly that indicates a professional writer writing in a professional manner. To counteract this I try to remove all mental obstacles to writing, so that I have no excuse not to put it down when it pops into my head. The screenplay must be always accesible to me and omnipresent. We have the technology.

The Technology

This is not a program, but a markup language, which sounds complicated, but it really is not. It’s just a way to type in plain text so that multiple programs can interpret it into correct screenplay formatting.

This is an amazing composition program, full of features the depths of which I can’t even understand, but it has a screenwriting mode and can sync, in Fountain format, with DropBox.

ia Writer
This is a simple word processor that also reads Fountain, and can sync with DropBox

This is the key to uniting the various programs on different machines, it makes the screenplay accessible everywhere, on any device you can install it on.

The way I’ve set up and synced these programs means that no matter where I am, I have no excuse not to work on the screenplay.  If I’m on the bus, or at a bar, or not altogether sure of my location, it doesn’t matter. I can pull out my phone and work on it. And when I find my way back to a computer, it’ll be updated and waiting for me to keep working on it.

This works for me and I swear I’ve tried to make it clear.  If it’s not, feel free to ask questions.

It worked!

So last year I wrote this snarky blog entry, because my movie Tex: Vampire Hunter didn’t get into SIFF.

Well, this year Love and War is playing on closing night of SIFF ShortsFest.

I wonder if this had anything to do with it.

“Love and War” movie website

We’ve got an official website up. Check back soon for updated news and info on future screenings.
Love and War movie site

Post-production on “Love and War”

This is not the glamorous part. The actors have taken off their costumes and makeup and gone home. The cameras and lights have been put away. The cables have been wound. The wrap party drinks have been drunk.

Now it’s just a lot of technical stuff. Mostly guys tinkering around on computers in darkened rooms. We are editing, adding digital effects, composing the score, and recording ADR. Then comes the final sound design and mixing.


Someone once said, in response to a filmmaker’s whining about how long editing takes, “Why don’t you just plan and shoot very carefully? Then you won’t have to edit so much.“ While that view is more or less true, it’s not very realistic and fails to grasp what editing is really about: assembling the story. It’s not so much about cutting out all the mistakes. This is the part of the process where you sort through all your footage and build the movie.

Editing station

I strongly believe that the director should not edit the movie. The editing process often requires an objective opinion when there are hard decisions to be made. I think that, as the director, I can fall in love with shots and want to hang on to them beyond their use in furthering the story. A good editor who can see what needs to be cut is invaluable. I found just such a collaborator in Fred Beahm.

Also, it helps if he has a friendly cat.
Fred's cat

Digital Effects

I honestly have no clue what I’m doing here. There’s a picture in my head. There is software that makes pictures. It’s just a matter of looking up tutorials online and tweaking them to suit your needs. And then the movie has more blood and bigger explosions.

Sound Design, Foley, Mixing

Let’s define some terms.

Sound design is the way sound effects interact with the music, dialogue and foley. If something needs to sound distant, or underwater, or an explosion comes from the right, this is all done with sound design.

Foley is sometimes used to mean “sound effects”, but more strictly it means the sounds associated with human movement: footsteps, floorboards creaking, clothes rustling. If all the sound in the movie is being replaced, foley is essential to the realism of the scene. Without it, it feels lifeless. Even though we were lucky and most of our production audio was useable, audiences are used to hearing foley, even if subconsciously, so we have to put it in.

It’s astounding how much stuff we do only because audiences expect it.

Austin making foley

Mixing is analogous to mixing music, and just as crucial. All the tracks of dialogue, music, sound effects, and foley have to be balanced against each other and blended in a way that is pleasing to the ear, and conveys the desired aural effect of the film.


All the post production sound duties were handled by Microsoft Studios, and foley artistry was done by Austin Healy.

Color Grading

Even films shot on actual film do digital color grading to look more like film. So movies originally captured on a digital format, like ours, have to do a double catch-up in order to have that professional look.

Luckily we have a genius on our side. John Davidson is a 30 year movie industry veteran and we recruited him to bring that final extra punch to the images captured by our cinematographers.
John Davidson at work

The post-production process on this film was a lot more involved than any previous project I’ve worked on, and I learned a lot from it. If there’s any lesson I can impart, it would be to plan ahead and budget adequately for post, as it’s an absolutely crucial part of creating a film.

Premiere at SIFF

SIFF logo

“Love and War” will premiere at Seattle International Film Festival.

Now enjoy some tasty boilerplate:
Now in its 36th year, the Seattle International Film Festival plays host to a stellar array of films from around
the world. SIFF screens an eclectic selection of the best new international features,
documentaries, and US independent films and is the largest and most highly attended
film festival in the United States with an audience of more than 140,000 attending in
2009. The 25-day Festival presents more than 400 films from over 60 countries. Programming
also includes industry seminars and panels, awards, tributes, retrospectives,
and educational outreach programs. With extensive local, national, and international
media coverage, the Festival is one of this country’s most accessible and highly publicized
film events.

A few more stills from “Love and War”

We’re deep into the editing process. It’ll be a few months before we have a finished piece. In the mean time, here some new stills from the footage.

And time is running out to donate! Do it now!

That’s a wrap. With production photos.

Yesterday at 4:15 in the AM, I called “Love and War” wrapped. Thanks to everyone involved. Enjoy the pics.