XML-Grammar-Screenplay: Alternative Format for Hollywood Screenplays

A short time after I posted a message about XML-Grammar-Screenplay to a Perl forum, a Perl enthusiast sent me a message reading like that:

I would think that a proper screenplay grammar would be useful (I've thought of writing one myself). Though I've looked through your screenplay examples, I can't see any of them, anywhere, which is actually rendered in correct screenplay format (example), nor anything which appears to directly support the special directives often found in screenplays, such as sluglines. Am I missing something?

(Poor) Directions for formatting a screenplay are here. That really doesn't cover the *extremely* rigid formatting rules involved (a reader can often toss a script with bad margins and get paid for it anyway).

Screenplay-Text looks something like this:

<s id="humanity" title="'Humanity' - The Movie">

[Note: This screenplay was written by
<a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/">Shlomi Fish</a>, and is original artwork.]

<s id="the-well" title="The Well">

[ The Well is shown. Several women are standing nearby with large pots near
them. They are chatting. Three men approach. ]

Man #1: OK. Let's move it.

Man #2: You know, I heard of a guy called Moses who could move a stone like
this all by himself.

The Inventor's Voice from outside the frame: That's because he was using the
Mosesiom 3000!

Man #3: I beg your pardon?

[ The Inventor enters the frame with his invention that looks suspiciously
like a lever. ]

The Inventor: With this ingenious invention one man can move this stone
all by himself. Wanna try?

Man #1: OK. I'll try.

The Inventor: OK. First we tie the stone to the ropes here.

[ He ties the stone]

The Inventor: Now lift the other hand.

Man #1: [After lifting the stone.] Wow, it's so easy, look I can move the
stone here [moves it to the left], and here [ moves it to the right].

The Inventor: No! No! Don't misuse it.

[The stone falls down on the well, splits into two pieces which both fall down
the well. The men are amazed. ]

The Inventor: Don't worry, I can get down and tie the ropes to each stone and
we can lift it up in a flash...

Man #1: I'll get the ropes.

Man #2: I'll get the horses.

[ They leave the frame ]

The Inventor: This is not my day.

Woman #1: Who is John Galt?



Why is it important? Because it seems that with this pedantic and perfectionist attitude, Hollywood has left its original rebellious and insurgent roots (the film production companies were located around Los Angeles to avoid litigation from Edison's patent trolling machine; and Henry Ford voiced some anti-semitic concerns about the Jewish dominance of Hollywood, which he claimed was part of their conspiracy to take over the world), and became more strict. How many good films did not take off because of badly formatted or malformed screenplays?

This is why I now think that the format of Screenplay-Text is better simply because it is validated to conform with it and is easier to write (being based on scripts for drama that I read, as well as some Internet screenplays such as "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Star Trek - The Next Generation"). XML-Grammar-Screenplay still has many issues like the fact that its error messages can be unhelpful, or that it is still lacking many features, but these should be relatively easy to resolve (possibly by a refactoring, or partial or complete rewrites).

As I note in the "David and Goliath" section of my "Putting all the Cards on the Table (2013)" essay, a hacker knows the rules, plays by them, but is not afraid to bend them, or make up his own rules and that is what action heroes is all about. So now I'm trying to promote Screenplay-Text and Screenplay-XML as hackier alternatives to the traditional screenplays of Hollywood which became more "professional" and "tragic hero"-like.

Naturally, "reality, to be conquered, must be obeyed", and I think we can use a manual conversion to the more traditional Hollywood screenplays at first as a way to challenge the status quo.

I can be reached as rindolf on the Freenode IRC network in a private message or in several channels ( see /whois rindolf rindolf) to further discuss the vision for Screenplay-Text and Screenplay-XML. But I think it is a noble goal, which I would like to pursue.

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About Shlomi Fish

user-pic An Israeli software developer, essayist, and writer, and an enthusiast of open/free software and cultural works. I've been working with Perl since 1996.