Screenplay Markdown, or SPMD, began as some musings here and matured into a full syntax proposal. Martin adapted his pre-existing Screenplain engine to SPMD’s syntax, and Brett was able to use that engine within Marked to create HTML that could, via a CSS style sheet, be formatted to look exactly like a screenplay. Jonathan stepped up and worked on the CSS, dialing it in to match Final Draft’s formatting, and making sure that it would print as accurately as possible.
If you’re not familiar with Marked, here’s what it says on the tin:
Marked opens MultiMarkdown, Markdown, Text or HTML files and previews them as HTML documents. It watches the file for changes, updating the preview any time the file is saved. With a full set of preview styles, Marked adds an ideal “live” Markdown preview to any text editor.
Marked is designed for Markdown, but flexible enough to use a custom processing engine. So you download Screenplain, point Marked at it, and then add Jonathan’s CSS file to Marked’s Custom CSS list. Complete instructions and download links can be found on the Marked support site, and on Jonathan’s blog.
Once you have this configured, you can type your screenplay text in your favorite text editor, and Marked will show you a preview, updated every time you save.
Like the Markdown syntax that inspired it, SPMD is designed to be as transparent as possible. If you just type some text that looks like a screenplay, SPMD should do a darn good job of interpreting it. If you want to do fancy things like text emphasis, non-standard sluglines, or overlapping dialog, there are simple tags to learn—and Marked will show you right away whether you’ve got the hang of it.
So now you can write a screenplay anywhere, using any writing software you like, on any device you like, without sacrificing any formatting capabilities.
For the tiny cost of four dollars you can get a live preview of your screenplay while you work on your Mac, and print to paper or PDF.
I’m so inspired by this whole process—four guys who have never met in person collaborated on making something awesome, and now it works.
Are we done? Not even close.
There’s room for writing applications, whether WYSIWYG or more Byword-MultiMarkdown-preview-style, that support SPMD internally as their native format (Fade In currently has limited SPMD support via import/export). And not every feature of SPMD is implemented in Screenplain, notably cover pages and notes.
I’m not sure how fun it would be to work on a very long screenplay using the Marked workflow, even with the super cool feature of navigating by sluglines. And screenwriters think in pages, so a screenwriting tool that doesn’t paginate will rapidly feel like a car without a speedometer.
What something like this needs most is users, and I’m thrilled that we’re at that stage that you, the Prolost reader, could use SPMD for your creative work. We need the feedback to keep this project going.