This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 426 – Creating WriterDuet With Founder Guy Goldstein .
Welcome to Episode 426 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyer, screenwriter and blogger with sellingyourscreenplay.com.
Today I’m interviewing Guy Goldstein. He is the founder of WriterDuet, which is a screenwriting software that’s gaining a lot of traction. It’s a really smart guy and just a really creative and generous soul. There’s a lot of free tools that his company offers to screenwriters. So, we’re going to be talking through all of that, as well as the main writing platform that they have developed over at WriterDuet. So, stay tuned for that interview. And WriterDuet has been very generous and coming on board as a sponsor of SYS, a six-figure screenplay contest. So, this year’s winner of the contest is going to get a free membership to WriterDuet valued at $399. So, a big thanks to Guy and to WriterDuet for that.
SYS is a six-figure screenplay contest is open for submissions, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. Our regular deadline is May 31st. So, if your script is ready, definitely submit now to save some money. We’re looking for low-budget shorts and features. I’m defining low-budgets as less than six figures. In other words, less than $1 million dollars. We’ve got lots of industry judges reading scripts in the later rounds, we’ve got giving away 1000s in cash and prizes. And now again, we’re giving away this WriterDuet membership as an added bonus to our winner. This year, we have a short film script category 30 pages or less. So, we have a low budget short script. So, by all means, if you have a short script, do submit that as well, I’ve got a number of industry judges who are producers who are looking for short scripts. Anyway, if this sounds like something you’d like to enter or learn a little bit more about, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest.
If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You’ll find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for episode number 426. If you want my free guide How to Sell a screenplay in five weeks, you can pick that up by going to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address, and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter, and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material really is everything you need to know to sell your screenplay, just go to sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So, a quick few word about what I’m working on. A couple of things I’ve been pushing through this week, we’re still ramping up our marketing efforts on the Rideshare killer. And we’re opening up to more and more platforms, we went live on Tubi TV last week, this is a great way to watch the Rideshare Killer for free, you do have to watch some ads. That’s how we make money as they put some ads in the video as you’re watching it. But it’s totally free to watch it you can download the Tubi TV app on Roku or Apple TV or really any device that you use to stream movies, you should be able to find the Tubi TV app and just download it. Or you can actually just go to the website tubitv.com and watch the movie in a web browser. In fact, my other film The Pinch is also available on Tubi TV now as well. So, if you haven’t checked that out and want to see what that’s about, again, this is a quick, easy free way to check out both; The Rideshare Killer and The Pinch. And I will link to those in the show notes. I’ll give some more specific links so you can go straight to it in the show notes. And speaking of The Pinch. The other thing I’ve been doing over the last week is experimenting a little bit with NFT’s and I’ve created a few NFT’s on different marketplaces for The Pinch. Really, I’m just doing this as sort of an experiment to figure things out. I think I’ve done eight of them. I’ve done eight NFT’s so far, I’ll probably do a couple more. I’m just sort of experimenting with the different marketplaces, they all work a little bit different, they all cost a little bit differently. Some of them are easier to upload to than others. So, as I said, I’m just kind of experimenting but if you have any interest in looking at those, you can go to our website, thepinchfilm.com And I put a little link up in the header that says NFT’s so you can just click on that and I’m listing all of these different marketplaces where I am linking to it. And again, I’m still planning on doing something with NFT’s with the Rideshare Killer. So, stay tuned for that. But as I said, I’m just kind of trying to learn about it with these NFT’s for The Pinch.
Buying NFT’s is not for the faint of heart. It’s you know, you got to download like a crypto wallet and then put some money in it. It’s not always that easy to get some cryptocurrency into this crypto wallet. You have to go through one of the exchanges like Coinbase, where they will take something like PayPal, I think they’ll take a credit card. I’ve been using PayPal to push money into Coinbase. And then I have a little bit of crypto. And then I’ve been able to go and as I said, mint, some of these NFT’s. But it is definitely pretty confusing. And one of them, for instance, I think it was this marketplace called PolyC , it seemed to minted the NFT but it’s not actually listed under my listing. But I can see the NFT in this wallet that I created, this crypto wallet that I created. So, it’s definitely as I said, definitely still is a little bit I’m saying not user friendly, and is a little bit complicated. But hopefully as the space matures, these sorts of sort of function type things will kind of be worked out so that things are much, much easier. And as I said, if this this market matures, I do think this could be something that filmmakers can use to help monetize their films, I think it’s just a great way to increase interest in the film, bring some notoriety to the film. And as I said, potentially another monetization stream for filmmakers, and especially indie filmmakers like this, you know, an indie film that really took off I think, could do a lot with NFTs. And again, especially once the NFT marketplace sort of matures. Anyway, any feedback on this, just let me know, I’m happy to hear what anybody has to say on NFT’s. As I said, I’m still definitely in the learning phase. And once again, if you want to check that out, it’s going to be thepinchfilm.com. And I will link to that in the show notes as well. But you can just go to thepinchfilm.com website, and then you can find all the links to the different marketplaces that I’ve been trying out. Anyways, that’s the main things I’ve been working on over the last week. Now let’s get into the main segment. Today, I am interviewing Founder of WriterDuet, Guy Goldstein, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Guy to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Guy: Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Ashley: So, you’re the Founder of screenwriting software, WriterDuet, maybe you can just give us a quick pitch for that. I think it will give us some context as we kind of get into your background a little bit, what is special and unique, just in a couple of seconds about WriterDuet.
Guy: A WriterDuet is a real-time collaborative screenwriting software. So, anyone who is co-writing a screenplay will certainly benefit from it like a Google Docs of screenwriting software, essentially. And then in general, it’s just modern screenwriting works across platforms. It works on your mobile device, keeps you in sync everywhere, and has a lot of features that screenwriting software should have to make writing more efficient and effective and fun for writers.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. As I said, we’re going to dig into that a little bit more later. But I just kind of like to get to know you a little bit. Where did you grow up? And how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Guy: I allegedly grew up in upstate New York. Well, 36 years later, I haven’t really grown up yet. But I started there got into acting probably around four or five because my whole family acted and I just house productions and we had taken to, you know, senior citizen homes and things like that. And then the community theatre. My sister, one of my sisters is a musical writer in New York City now, and she was writing musicals when she was a little bit older than me. And she was like, 13. So I was acting her shows. We had a whole, like, local production company. So, I’ve been acting since I was too young to know how to act. And again, some would say, I still don’t know how to act. But I’ve been doing that for a long time. And then I got really into improv as an older, you know, as an adult. And that led to screenwriting when I unfortunately, realized I didn’t like when everything else talked. So, I had to control both sides of the conversation and improv and that’s poor improv skill, but a good screenwriting trait. So, that’s my creative side of my career.
Ashley: Okay, yeah. So, let’s dig in then, where did the programming come in? Maybe take us out, so you’re in Buffalo, New York growing up, you went to college, you got a computer science degree.
Guy: I did. So, I was in connected to New York was my like little small hometown. And then I went off to Pittsburgh, and I did Carnegie Mellon and I graduated pretty young, I was into the theatre side there. But programming, it’s kind of funny, I was a math major officially, because computer science was too specific, like math was theoretical and fun. And as an adult, I have like fluctuate between the artist and engineer, let’s call it and I like math, because it was just thinking and storytelling in your own way. And I kind of probably put more of my theatre focus on the creative artists and math side. And then at the same time, I’m very problem solving oriented. And that’s another I guess, screenwriting skill in some ways, where you have a specific thing that has to work a certain way, and you find ways of making it work to achieve your goal. And that’s where software has to solve a problem where it’s not very useful so I kind of, even though I think of myself as like an artist creative, it’s a lot with a, if I want to create art I have to do in a very concrete way or no one will see my art, software or otherwise.
Ashley: Yeah, yes. So then take us to some of your early jobs as a programmer and then ultimately, take us all the way to how did you end up then at WriterDuet.
Guy: So, I graduated from Carnegie Mellon, I got a job in compilers because I liked language. And so, I was studying compilers because they do the human to computer translators, essentially. And I liked thinking about how to, essentially humans communicate with computers, how do we make them more efficient? And how do we make the code optimized and all this stuff. And so, I built those for about five and a half years, I was in California at the time in Santa Barbara. And that’s where I sort of not … because I never really stopped, but I continued to get into improv and theatre and Santa Barbara. And I started my screenwriting. And this is kind of, you’ll hear the interesting thing you might not know about what I’m doing now with WriterDuet, but I started, before WriterDuet and I built something called Readthrough.com. And that was a way of listening to scripts, because I was in Santa Barbara travelling to LA for, you know, writing workshops and hanging out with writers and stuff. And so, I had this 90 to, you know, two times that length drive from Santa Barbara to LA and back. And so, I would listen to screenplays on the way and whatever a software that let me listen to screenplays read by computer voices. And that was actually the first screenwriting product they built a voice audio job at the time and then was transitioning to that. So, I actually built Readthrough.com for myself as this audio script performance. And then WriterDuet was a sort of transition where I had already quit my job and was doing this full time as a startup. And I don’t think I ever cared if it was successful at the time. Not that I didn’t want it to be, but I was building something to build it, again kind of artist side, you just believe something is interesting. And you hope that other people share your belief. And so, I did that two and a half years later, I was still kind of not going nowhere with it. Honestly, I was in Austin, randomly, and my buddy, friends with the co-founders of a company called Firebase as well to Google. And it’s a very, it’s real time data syncing, basically. So, it keeps data on the web all together. And I thought I’d just build a cool demo of their product for South by Southwest that was happening a few months. So, this is January 2013. And I was like, oh, you know, it’s coming to Austin, hang out South by. I’ll build this demo and built in three months, launched it at South by they’re just going around to all the short films and talking to all the writers afterwards and stuff. And I was like, wow, people are boring to this thing. I spent two and a half years building, I probably should just do this now. And so WriterDuet service was not an accident. But it wasn’t this, I had a co-writer, I need to co-write with him was sort of just I thought be cool. And I thought was interesting.
Ashley: But me back there. So, how did it how did these guys… what did you say, Firestarter? How did they impact that? And like what was the seed of, just germ of an idea, you said, like why did you need to create this?
Guy: So, Firebase was or is, because like, this is wonderful. I’m a real-time data synchronization. So essentially, how does you know someone does something doesn’t matter what, how does a number get transferred from one computer to another on the internet, and especially like when they were doing this more than eight years ago, it was very, you know, complex to build yourself. So, they had built the first I think, great version of that, that really synchronized data, with a really great way of doing that. It’s just a small was just two friends originally, and then other people joined as they grew. So, I thought, hey, I’m in the screening space anyway, I was writing at the time. So, I’m still a screenwriter, allegedly. I’m not writing as much anymore, but I’m trying real hard. And I was writing and I thought; okay, well, I’ll just build something that’s a real time syncing, writing software, I thought it would just be like, essentially a toy at the time, just as prove you could do it. Like, you know, I didn’t really know how important would because I wasn’t actually a co-writer. And once I built it, the first like, simple version of it, then I realized, oh, wait, a lot of people are co-writing. It’s not just common for the, you know, early-stage writing. But obviously, once you’re in production, almost every director if they’re not the same person, as the writer wants to engage with the screenplay in some way. And then you have the production staff who need to see the screenplay. And so obviously, a ton of co-writers, who just start out that way from the beginning. But then once you’re in production, essentially, film is extremely collaborative. And I still have never actually produced anything. So, I haven’t gotten to experience that level of collaboration myself. But I have been very blessed to see people do that. And, you know, realizing that need was so important.
Ashley: It seems to me I could be wrong. But it seems to me eight years ago, like Google Docs was launched. And that was kind of, you know, I could be in one room, you could be in another room and I could watch you type and vice versa, you could see where the other person’s cursor was, was that’s part of the I mean, that’s essentially what you’ve done with WriterDuet. You’ve made a screenwriting, collaborative screenwriting software that works similar, correct?
Guy: Yeah, that was the actual inspiration was just to build something that worked as well as Google Docs that does for regular writing to work for the domain specific screenwriting as everyone know screenwriter, like you need screenwriting software to not just achieve the goal but to make it fun and effective, like using Google Docs to write screenplays, not a great experience, even if you’re, you know, not super cognizant of the format as long as you’re trying to be somewhat screenplay formatting aware, it just doesn’t work. very well in other programs. And so, you need domain specific screening software. And I always think about the niche products should deliver the same joy that you can get from the products everyone’s using for their everyday life. And I think screenwriting software fell behind that. And it’s actually improved a lot, not just because of WriterDuet. Obviously, other people have contributed to this, you should feel the joy of using your favorite app, while you’re writing your screenplay. I wanted people to feel that way. And collaboration was the starting point of that, like, if you’re emailing scripts back and forth, and you’re waiting for your writing partner to add their notes or write their scenes or, you know, edit your scenes that you’ve written, that just takes you out of the creative moment. And everything I’ve done with Writer Duet kind of extended from that idea of everything should be about capturing your creativity and just getting you what you need to keep moving forward. Maybe that’s you need us to leave you alone, okay, we have, you know, focus mode takes everything away, you just need to focus on the words you’re writing. Or you want a tool that helps you analyze what you’ve read, or look at just one characters dialogue, or just certain scenes. And all these little tools that we built over the years have all been about how do we keep you in your creative moment? And that’s the thing that’s really been important to me.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So then, okay, so you’re at this Austin, it was the Austin Film Festival. Is this South by Southwest?
Guy: South by Southwest.
Ashley: Okay, South by Southwest. Okay, so then what were the next steps? What did you come out of that? You realize that maybe there’s a market for this, you’d spent this two and a half years on the other project, maybe not getting as much interest in it. So, what were those next steps and turning it into an actual usable software?
Guy: So, it was super organic, like the first place I told anyone besides literal people I was meeting at South by, I was on the Reddit screenwriting forum, which also which is tiny at the time, like, I don’t know, numbers, but back then I think I looked at my original post, I had like 50 something up votes is one of the most up voted thing of the month or whatever, back then it was a little hot thing and now it’s, you know, you get 500 up votes, if you’re popular, because it’s just a bigger platform now. But the screenwriting subreddit was just a wonderful place, because it is a film community still, I think people still there, they just love writing, they love helping each other, you know, people have agendas. And not everyone is, you know, encouraging, let’s call it, but especially back then, and to a large degree still, people were excited about not just WriterDuet, but each other. Right, they you’re building something, okay, that’s interesting, and how can I offer something to you to help you. So, I just posted it there, people immediately wanted to try it, they gave me feedback, I had the attitude of, if it takes me you know, an hour to build this thing, I’m just going to do it now. I’m just going to make this for you, I’m going to make your life better. I’m going to make you not only appreciate the product, but appreciate that you’re part of the creative process with me. And I just built everything for the writers. And from there, like, I can shout out Craig Mason and the script that’s podcast, he really creates and really launched it to the broader world by just talking about his one cool thing for you know, a few months after I posted on Reddit, and then kind of extended, where we got no film school, they wrote about it because of Craig. And then, you know, years later, just a cycle of people who I think it’s kind of not ecosystem, I don’t mean it that way. But it’s people who appreciate what we’re trying to accomplish. And I think the thing that has propelled writer has never been marketing dollars. It has never been, I’m not good at marketing. And honestly, you know, we look at the history, I’ve never done anything that made us more successful than the people who just liked it. The people were just like; well, that’s cool. Even if I’m not using your software, I like that you’re building this and I like that you want to make the creative process better for other people. And they’ve just shared that. And, you know, without that there would be no WriterDuet, like wouldn’t have gone anywhere people went to told us what to build. And that’s been the basis of everything we’ve done.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, that’s so funny. You mentioned the Reddit screenwriting. I went in there is probably about eight years ago when I started my podcast and stuff. And I was I think it was just my blog, and I was posting blog posts in there. And they just hammered me because I wasn’t part of the community. I was kind of just spamming their forum and they’re getting annoyed at me.
Guy: That’s like an in this is an art for writers I think too is not to criticize you, or say you were doing this or weren’t doing this. But why it worked really well for me is I think it was so authentic. Like, I was just a guy trying to make a thing. And they were like; Yeah, that’s cool. We’re all just trying to make things. Like we’re making screenplays. And I was also making screenplays. But they were making screenplays, I was making software in this context. And I just wanted them to tell me they hated it, tell me they loved it, just be part of it. And that’s, I think, a key for startups for writers for whatever, like choosing who you are, why you’re doing this and being real about it. And I think people relate to that in any creative community, especially.
Ashley: Were you a part of the community like were you in there before WriterDuet, you know, just contributing making comments?
Guy: I wasn’t actually, that’s probably, how to say it? I don’t think I was on Reddit, probably, just barely made an account by the time I made that thing. But I had just looked for where people were engaging with each other like where they were actually like, especially, I don’t want to I think it’s great now it’s a wonderful community now, but if you look at the glory days of it in my worldview, there was so much engagement in proportion to the number of people there, like they were all so caring. And I think finding communities like that is just so important like having being part of a million-person community is great because you’re going to find people with immense experience, you’re going to find people can help your any phase can offer sage wisdom, and that’s not there at the smaller community sometimes depends, you have to get lucky enough. But when you are just an artist who wants to build something, you just want people who care, you just want the people who are going to engage with you and like, think it’s cool that you made it or downvote you to oblivion because I’ve been downloaded to oblivion as well. Like, hey, the way I presented something sucked, or our product had a bug or something and like people let you know, like, I got one, I remember, I was like; Hey, does anyone else see that, right? That guy is always posting, I was like, yeah, maybe it does annoy everyone so I made another post was like, hey, if y’all don’t want me here, I’ll chill. It’s okay, I’ll still be here to like, you know, listen to your feedback, but I will post and I was truly… I think, knowing that if they didn’t want me I would leave, maybe help them like, and it was true. So, I think finding a creative community that you really feel like you’re a part of, and knows you and they kind of embraces yours is really critical.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s such sound advice. And I think stage 32 is similar. There’s a lot of forums over there that you can join and get a part of but yeah, the Reddit forum, there’s a lot of them out, there’s probably a number of Facebook groups people can probably join. How did Craig Mason happen to hear about you? Did he find you through Reddit?
Guy: That would be slightly cool. I may have presented like, that’s true. Unfortunately, it’s not because one thing I am, is not shy. And so, I tweeted at him a bunch of times. Again, it was like, hey, I made this thing, it was not a coincidence, literally, it’s a fortunate timing that he had said on the script notes of podcast, man, if someone made a collaborative screenwriting program, that would be real important to the world or whatever. And just what he said, like I made that thing. So, I tweeted at him a few times. And he didn’t tell me, both John and Craig are great, great assets to the community. And just have helped so many writers. And the idea of just you want to help people is so pervasive in this industry, like people do want to bring new writers, newer software, whatever along, as long as you’re trying to do it in a way that’s positive for the community. So, Craig is a great example of that. He continued to be, they shout us out recently, our new product, I tweeted at him or email them or whatever, and talked about that. So, they’ve been pretty cool when you make something innovative, that actually helps people.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So do you think running WriterDuet has helped you get any closer to seeing when your films produced? One of your scripts produced?
Guy: I’ve got so much farther, so much farther away from it, and not because I couldn’t have done both, but because it was just a choice, like you, you balanced? I think people who balance a non-creative job and a creative outlet, if that’s not as ideal because whatever, you know, people live their life. But that’s a way that you can kind of focus one part of your brain and take scale on one thing, and the other creative parts, something else. I’ve thought of WriterDuet as a creative outlet all these years, which makes it so hard some days, I’m like, I’m tired of creativity when I’m doing all this stuff. So, it’s been harder to make my own stuff. But that being said, I still try. I do both because I like the arts. And I like testing our software. I like just using it. So currently, I’m writing a webcomic. The goal of it, this is you know, one of those things that probably won’t work out anyway. But the goal is to build something that again, people like, I don’t care if it’s three people, but three people like yeah, I’m glad you said that. I’m glad you made some those funny, whatever. They’re just happy that it’s there. If that works out well, then I know there’s a lot of room to grow from that. So, I’m just going to try a simpler thing than all these years, I’ve written some features that are just, you know, not too expensive to make it a low budget, but they’re just not going to get made unless I do something, versus the webcomic. It’s a lower bar for making something that a person has a chance to say; Yeah, I love that or no pass. And that’s why I want to do more of like, faster iteration of my art.
Ashley: Yeah, gotcha, gotcha. How did you happen to end up in Austin?
Guy: It was just coincidence, I was literally just driving around the country, I got rid of everything I owned that did not fit in my car, and just drove out of Santa Barbara for 10 months. And this is like the artists I feel like I’m coming across as this like wild hippie and I’m really not much more boring than that. But I did that travel for a while. And Austin was just really cool. I was here for three months and that was just random, met a lot of great people. I got really into the swing dancing here. And just like hanging out, and prior to that happened, like I said, because of Austin, just because of South by Southwest, you’re not familiar is the mix of me. I know you are but you’re the mix of a creative in the art side, like film and music and of course, as a technology component. And just the intersection is so important. I think a lot of intersections of ideas is where, you know, innovation comes from and it’s a town that inspires that and I think that was really great accident that happened.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, what is the filmmaking community like there and would you recommend that especially if you’re like an aspiring screenwriter, would Austin be good place for a screenwriter?
Guy: A good place is where you’re happy. Like that’s what a good place for screenwriter’s is, where you feel creatively fulfilled, you have space and you can afford to live like that’s a good place for screenwriter. For a filmmaker, it has aspects that are good, I have not been a huge part of like the film community because honestly, I feel bad saying this as I’ve spent my time, you know, early, early days, like 100 hours a week for my laptop coding. Now a little bit more, you know, varied, but because of COVID it hasn’t really expanded my social horizons at all. So, I think I don’t know much about, I know they have the film community, but it’s not something that’s going to elevate you to a professional unless you just act, right. If you’re just that good, you become a professional from wherever you are. But in terms of screenwriting, I think it is a great place because there are other people who are interesting and interested. And if you can find a community that does that, then you’re going to be good no matter where you are, like, if you can find does that be talented people if they’re just people, naturally, talented, wonderful writers. Here are some very famous ones, some not famous yet ones. But if you can find people who just care that you’re doing something, and we’ll give you notes and tell you their thing is terrible are amazing. And they can be wrong, but they’re giving you their heart and their reasons why. That’s a great place to be a screenwriter. And I think you can find that almost anywhere. Austin is a place that different times I’ve definitely found that for my writing.
Ashley: Yeah, gotcha, gotcha. So that’s really excellent advice. So, let’s dig into WriterDuet a little bit and kind of talk about some of the things that offers. Maybe we can just talk about some of the features that you offer. Over the years, I’ve had a need quite often where I need a PDF turned back into editable screenplay. And for whatever reason, I’m just always found WriterDuet is the easiest one to do it. You can just upload your script. I don’t even think I have an account. I think I’ve been able to do it without even having an account on your, maybe I do I don’t quote me on that.
Guy: You’re right. You can, yeah.
Ashley: Yeah. So, in any event, so I’ve used it for that. But what are some other really useful features that maybe people wouldn’t necessarily know about that, that screenwriters would really find useful.
Guy: So, at a high level, the features that the people knows for is a real time collaboration, infinite revision history. And that’s just based on how we did real time where every single edit is stored to the cloud, which means we have like, you can just rewind your script to what was it like on Tuesday, you can rely on an individual line and see its history. You can, you know, be collaborating your friend and say, what did Janice changed yesterday. But what changes happened last two weeks, you can isolate those exactly. It’s kind of both a writer’s dream and a script coordinators dream, if they’ve ever had someone forget to turn on lock pages or forget to turn on revisions or something, you can always just go back, you know, verge and make changes. So those are kind of the main and then of course, that it’s mobile friendly works on any device works on your Chromebook, it’s a web, its desktop software, as well as mobile app, works offline. Whenever you’re not on the internet, you can make all your changes. As soon as you connect to the internet, it’ll send them out pull down any change that happened from other computers or other writers. So basically, trying to make screenwriting accessible and free and easy. Where even the infinite history you don’t have to think about, did I save a draft like oh, shoot, I had this really great line yesterday. But it’s gone now because I rewrote it when I was angry at something, that freedom to just cutting play and be able to recover. That’s like the first tier of features. And then the stuff that I kind of, you know, there are lots of little features within that as well. But the ones I love is more reports, stuff we do. I just think it’s cool. You can break down your script by locations, you can break it down by characters, you can like filter your script to just see one-character scenes or one characters dialogue just to edit that in one place and say; hey, does this actually work for this character’s journey? You can use cards and you can move things around, you have a mind map where you kind of visualize it as let’s go like a nonlinear way. If your story is interconnecting plot points and things, tagging plot points and it filtering to just those etc. statistics like that really, like I have this attitude of the more you know about your script, the more chances are for you to like, just be inspired. And that’s why I like looking at scripts differently. Like I like filtering to just the characters dialogue, or just the character scenes to see what’s it like for this one character? What’s their journey? And then statistics give you that same external perspective of what character you know, talks the most, what did their sentence structure look like? How many different times do I have these different people interacting in some way? So, trying to get people a perspective on the script that doesn’t happen just by reading the same 120 pages over and over and over again, in the context of reading. Something I love that a lot of people take advantage of is the read aloud feature where you can listen to your script read back by different character voices. And I mentioned that in the beginning that was originally what I created, readthrough.com for was to have a way of listening to your script and that’s a feature in WriterDuet now where you can listen to a different characters, or different computer voices for his character, and it does a few things. One thing it does for you immediately is it just makes you feel different. You absorb your story so differently when you’re listening, just to a computer reading it, you can have your friend record parts as well. But I really like that it also forces you to catch yourself when like things are overwritten, or you know, there’s just bulky like, you’re like, man, he just opened the door, why do they use three sentences to say slowly walked out, it just opened the door and makes you force yourself to condense. Because when you’re reading your same thing over and over again, you just kind of skim it anyway, but you can’t skip it when the voice is reading those words, one at a time back to you, and you’re so angry. So those are like some highlight real features.
Ashley: Let’s dig in. And I’m sure there’ll be more. But let’s dig into the read aloud feature, I’m still running a contest. But last year, I found on Microsoft Edge the browser, I could just drop the PDF in there and then use that read aloud feature, and it would read it but it couldn’t do what you’re saying, you couldn’t change the voices, you could change the speed. So, I could speed it up to like 2x. And I could really grind through some scripts. I’m a really slow reader so that for me that’s like a really important feature. What do you have? Do you have something like that? Can I drop a PDF and does it have to be like a written script?
Guy: You just put a PDF in there because you know, right away imports from basically anything reports, a final draft document, PDF, whatever. And you can just listen to your script, it automatically will detect age and gender of your script, it’ll figure out gender based on cues and names and all these things. It’ll try to figure age, if you put parentheses 20s, it’ll read that. So, it’ll try to cast it and then you can adjust the cast if you don’t like it. And that’s the feature inside WriterDuet, I have to like now talk about you didn’t know this was coming but we have a new product that we just recently launched. Amusingly, this whole thing is coming back, it’s called ReadThrough. So, we reuse the original name of that old thing that’s why it’s not ironic twist, but a fun circle of life. And it has that feature as well. And I think that’s actually the best place for people to listen to their scripts now because WriterDuet, if you’re using our software, it’s great. But it’s just an unnecessary step. If you are just you know, writing a file, draft, or just have a PDF of someone else’s script, you can just throw it in this thing. It’s ReadThrough is the app, it’s readthrough.com. And you can use any mobile web, whatever. And it not only has the listening feature, it has recordings, you can have like an actor record some pieces, you can speed it up, you can change the whatever, all those different settings on the listening to it. And then the other fun thing about ReadThrough, which is totally free, by the way, we just made this thing free to get it out there and get people using it. So, you can just upload your script, listen, and you know, have a nice day, you don’t have to sign up for an account, you can just do it for free without ever…
Ashley: I’ll be using this a lot.
Guy: Yeah, please, please do. Give us your feedback, because that’s how things get great. And that’s why like, honestly, the reason we’re making it free, it’s just because I want to make something cool and good that people love. And I don’t want barriers. Like WriterDuet, you have to make paid at this point, because you have a full-time job of 10 people at a company and you can’t run that for nothing but ReadThrough, I looked at as we’re profitable, and I’m doing fine in my life, this is just something I want to be successful, we’ll find ways of making money off it down the line, but I’m just trying to get people using it. And I forgot to mention the other killer features, in my opinion, reading scripts is kind of a bad experience on mobile, because you know, the PDFs are not the correct view size, essentially, if they pinch and zoom or whatever. And so, it just reflows your text, it’ll still keep your same page counts. So, page one is page one, page seven is page seven. But it’ll make it look like an appropriate script on mobile, they’ll just make the pages long to make the match data feature alone makes it just a wonderful experience to read scripts from because I take my phone everywhere, I take my computer, you know, I try to take you to places like the gym, I can listen I can read on my phone. And then you can make your notes right there and just put them in the documents on like a PDF. It’s kind of hard to like, you know, scratch your annotations on top over uses Annotation Tools. On your phone or on your computer, you just tap a thing, you just write a comment it’s there in line in your script. And on any device, you go to now you have all your comments. And then if you want to you can share in the case of, you’re not the author, you can actually share your comments back with the author in this program, so I can share my scripts, my 10 friends instead of him 10 Different people give me their 10 different emails with their notes written handwritten or whatever they do on their PDF. I just say; hey, here’s my link. All the people go to it, they read their comments, I get all the people’s comments in one place that they chose to share with me. So, that’s a new thing. I think we’re going to do.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s cool. And so, we’ll share this link and then they’ll not only be able to read it on their phone, but they’ll actually be able to just press ‘read aloud’ and then it’ll get cast just exactly what you’re saying, and it’ll actually be read to them.
Guy: Yeah, exactly. So they can listen to it, they can read on the phone or you know any device on their computers whatever they can write their notes in line if you have an update like; fuck, I forgot something on page seven it’s all fucked up because I did something. You don’t have to send them a new PDF, you just push your change and instantly everyone is on the script is going to get that new version when you choose to send it and you get multiple different versions like okay, I got my producers version that I have my close confident version where I’m sending them the updated draft as I go and I think it’s trying to change the way people read scripts is kind of my new like mission like writing has improved so dramatically since WriterDuet started like first of all other web software exists, other Desktop software exists, like the innovations have happened. I don’t think we caused all of them. But I like to think we were part of pushing the industry forward. And we’re still doing that we’re still improving it. But no one’s really improved the process of reading scripts, like we read things about the same way we read them 20 years ago. And that’s why ReadThrough is this the new thing I’m passionate about, because if we can help people actually read and give feedback to each other, we’re going to make a better creative community.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, when I was in high school, there was this thing called MLA formatting. I’ve never heard of it outside of high school, it was some sort of like standard format for like term papers or research papers, and the teachers would make us use that. And I’m just curious, like, what is the ultimate style guide for screenwriting? And it’s like, if you guys, you’re creating software, where do you guys look? If you guys have sort of an obscure use case, where do you guys look like, what’s the authority for you guys to say; Okay, this is how it actually should be done, or this is the right way to do something, because I don’t know that there really is that in screenwriting, and it’s more of something that just came out of it was a practical thing where it came out of producing movies, and it was a certain practicality to how screenplays are laid out just so you could shoot them properly. But what do you where do you guys look, if you guys have a question about formatting?
Guy: To be totally honest, and it’s going to sound funny saying this, but final draft. And the reason is, if that’s what the industry standard is, and it is, like I always said that writers the new industry standard, and we’re pushing the boundaries, and I think we are, and it’s completely compatible with final draft, so you can use it in the same way. But if that’s what people start with, and that’s what people expect, just make it look the same. And there’s sort of a thinking about this uniting read, and I’m sure a lot of other communities, this is pushed back to well, why write things in a certain way, you should write in whatever way tells your story the best. And I actually really appreciate that viewpoint, like you are there to tell your story, you are not there to fit someone else’s rules. But if the way they’re going to absorb your story is different, if you write it 16-point Arial font, it’s just not you know, maybe that’s not going to be good for the reader. And you have to like, you can write it for yourself, and that’s a great starting point. But if you want this to be something that other people absorb, you have to write the way they’re going to do it. I think just doing it the way they’re used to is a huge advantage, like finding the things that are unique about your story and the way you tell it is probably more important than saying, I have to use you know, zero-point margin so it goes to the edge of my page, do I need you to feel trapped? Because you’re in an elevator? Well, yeah, maybe you feel trapped, and you reading your script. So, I’m going to stop. So, I think that’s my personal take on it. In terms of what the real standards are, it doesn’t matter, like no one, like there are things that actually matter, right? There’s locked pages actually matter for production. Because when you have a script, and you have people do like to print it out, if page, changing one line on page one pushes all the pages down. So, you get a whole 120-page copy, and you have to hit 100 pages and that sucks. The lock pages matter. The way asterisks work and colored pages and all that stuff matters. The way people do those in a very technical sense. But that’s not the like art of the format. The actual intricacies of is it, I don’t even know dialogue four inches. I have no idea, something like that. Does that matter? No, not really.
Ashley: Yeah. So, are there some things that you think maybe screenwriters don’t understand about formatting? And I just noticed, like you guys have a little lyrics thing, and it’s labelled mostly in musicals. And that almost feels like you’re telling the writers; don’t use this a lot. This is not just to like willy-nilly things. Dual dialogue is something that always seems to get a little bit messed up. All screenwriting software seems to have it these days. But are there some things that you think maybe screenwriters don’t fully understand about formatting?
Guy: The joke we have, I think transitions and shots we say rarely used were like pretty calling people out if they’re going over the top with these things. I think the people… the idea of self-directing on the page is good for one reason, right? It’s good if that’s the way that actually conveys your story. Like if that’s the way a human experience do you think but I think people get overly like even paraphrased, but the ‘show, don’t tell’ idea kind of gets overblown or be like shit, I have to show everything I have to tell them, she slowly sipping her coffee and the wind rustles or whatever, like, you don’t have to say everything about the movie experience. You have to tell people enough that conveys a story and gets people in the emotional state that you want them in. And I think the thing that people miss is not like necessarily what line types to use. It’s what is the simplest way to convey an emotion? Or what is the best way to keep someone feeling the way you want them to feel? And overriding takes me away from that. Like if I’m reading a screenplay that has the intricate details like I don’t even know what you want me to focus on, like, sure all these things happen, but why? And I’m kind of guessing like, I’m guessing like, okay, it’s going to be really important that he smoked a cigar. No, that was just a character effect that you thought was interesting. Like okay, well cool. I’ll never remember that he did. I think that’s the one of the things that I think on the flip side, people who underwrites I think there’s actually a beautiful style. I think one of the alien cuts did their screenplays did where they were, like, single words on each line. And that’s a style that works is that style works, like you want someone to feel a certain way, like jarring and empty, you give them one word at a time and make them feel that way. But if you just do that for an effect of a style, and it doesn’t actually make sense for your store, if you’re writing a romantic comedy, and it’s one word at a time, I’m going to be so pissed. Like, we like, you may feel this tension, but just having a nice dinner. Maybe my lesson is, make the writing fit your town, like feel what the audience is going to feel and make your like word pattern just kind of adjust to that.
Ashley: So, you talked about the paid version. What is the pricing of this? How does pricing work? And is there a free version? I know, there used to be a free version of WriterDuet.
Guy: Yeah, we are pretty aggressively generous with our free stuff. So, WriterDuet has a free tier where you can write up to three scripts on it, no page limit, no watermarks, nothing that annoys you. Like you don’t really do any advertising, every now and then level will pop up reminding you why you might want to pay but that’s it, so just close it. And so, the free version, we try to keep people writing it does have has a limited collaboration. So, the way the free version works, you can share your script in read only mode. So, you can let people make comments on it, they can read your script, if you want them to actually be able to edit with you, then you have to have a paid version. But your collaborator doesn’t, you can join the script for free and co-write with someone else who has it. So, if you have like a writing team, at least one person does need the paid version. Then some of the reports stuff I mentioned, like breaking down your thing by character location, or the analytics stuff, that’s in the paid versions as well. There are a few different tiers. So we have like monthly honestly, it’s too complicated even tell you but there’s like monthly and there’s plus which gets you unlimited scripts and the collaboration and then yearly version and get up to the premium tier, which includes features like the read aloud and stuff like that, which by the way, I’m always advertising it by premium has read a lot we’re giving a read-aloud away now, and the new read-through products so just going to use read-through instead and you’ll be happy.
Ashley: You are very generous, under-selling your own products.
Guy: The funny thing is I’ve never wanted money from someone who didn’t want to give us money. Like I’d never thought about is this the way to make money. I’m like, I created this free for the first year and a half. I’ve no idea if it ever makes sense. I just thought this was cool. And like at some point, I was like I’m going for, okay, start charging for this. And then eventually it was you know, a little bit of investment money. So, you got to owe some people their money back but relatively small. So, it’s not a big deal at this point. And then hiring employees and wanting to be able to run a real business, you have to charge and we try to balance that with never asking for money for someone just to write a screenplay, just to tell their story. Like we make our outlining free. All the formatting tools are free, like you can do so much. And I never asked for a cent. And the funny thing is, we’re talking about being overly generous. I’ll lose my entire company if everyone switches to this. But we made our WriterSolo product, which is a completely offline desktop or web version. It’s offline even that’s on the web, amazingly, you can go and import your script and save it back to your computer and use the desktop version, WriterSolo is completely free. Like you can’t pay us for that. And it has all…
Ashley: Where is that at?
Guy: Just writersolo.com. And the reason we could make that one free, and we haven’t gotten a business since doing that is because the efficiency and effectiveness of the cloud, it goes beyond co-writing. It’s when you want to just be able to open it up from any computer, any phone, never think about did I save it? Did I have a backup, whatever? Like that’s what WriterDuet gives you that infinite history that cloud based, of course, the real time syncing with your co-writer, or not real time, like you’re co-writing separately. And you want to you know, just make sure that you show up next day, and you see all the work that they did the previous day. And you can see exactly what that was. So, we made WriterSolo free just to be the best offline single person screening software possible and never have like someone say; Hey, I can’t afford $120 screenwriting software. No, sure, just use this. It has all the features you need to be an effective screenwriter.
Ashley: Gotcha, gotcha. So, we’ll circle back with all those links at the end for the show notes. So, you’re in the tech space in Austin, maybe I can get your thoughts and I started to mention this on a couple of my podcast episodes, just talking about crypto and how it’s going to impact the entertainment industry. And I got absolute crickets. Usually, I mentioned something and I’ll get some emails from listeners, I got absolutely no email. So, I don’t think a lot of my listeners are at all up on what this even really is going to mean for the entertainment industry. But maybe you can talk about just web 3.0 sort of in general and then crypto, like where do you see that impacting screenwriting entertainment industry? And is there any thoughts? You know, how does that going to impact ultimately something like WriterDuet?
Guy: It’s a good question. People are doing startups related this I hear from them every now and then sometimes I see stuff they’re making. The reason I think it hasn’t caught on is… first of all, Hollywood is a trailing industry. Like we didn’t have, you know, Google Docs was for the mainstream. And then, however many years after Google Docs, WriterDuet was for this market. And I think that’s going to be the case not only because it’s a small market, but because it’s a market where the industry doesn’t want to be the tech forward place. They want to be the creativity forward place, they want to build beautiful and commercially viable art. They’re not here to prove every technologic concept like startup game, and then we have to. So, I think it’s always going to trip a little bit. And will people have to do and I think it will eventually, I think. I’m not going to say everything will be blockchain someday. But the idea of like, technically WriterDuet is oddly blockchain in its own stupid way. Like the way we keep the infinite history of all the edits, we have a ledger, like we got to do all these things, we resolve things and there are multiple versions of it, we have a algorithm that decides what’s the right version. And all these things are very valuable technology concepts. The ways that we’ve applied them to the industry are not yet essential. And until they are, the industry will not adopt them, I think. I think the industry is waiting for a problem that they’ve had for many years that can be solved by crypto or by blockchain or whatever. And then they will like as soon as that problem is actually sounds like people that I think this is a good concept maybe, it’ll actually be amazing when they when they do it, like launching copywriting, you know, detection and stuff on blockchain because you can verifiably prove that things were done certain times. And I don’t know that the industry thinks that’s a problem right now, maybe an individual person thinks that’s a problem. But does the industry saying; hey, we need to verify every single step of the thing or do we just have someone sign a contract that says they wrote it? And that’s as much as the industry has asked for so far. I think that’s why it hasn’t been mass adoption. But at some point, the industry I think, will demand this, usually about making this up, but 10 years after the rest of the world kind of adopts it, and then you’ll start seeing that, maybe not, maybe it’s two years, maybe…but I think it’s going to be a trailing.
Ashley: Yeah, I mean, one of the things that I’ve heard the whole web 3.0 is this idea of being able to control your own data. And one of the examples I saw was, you know, instead of Facebook owning your data, you own your data. And then you can take that data and plug it into Facebook, or some other competitor of Facebook. And it seems to me that could be valuable. I mean, you could plug it into Facebook, maybe you could also plug it into writers duet, maybe all of this data becomes sort of part of your set or part of your grouping or whatever.
Guy: I think that’s a really fundamental, that’s super important, which is like humans should control not necessarily their own data, because data is an ambiguous thing. But they should control the things that are meaningful to them, like they should not, I should not trust Facebook to be the like arbiter of what content I consume, or who gets to know things about me or whatever. Like, that’s just a bad model, even if I liked the company. So, I think you can say that that’s the important piece. Is it so important that it can go anywhere? Yeah, to a degree, but the key is that like the human ownership of it, and with art as an example, you should have a way that you control whatever it is. And I actually shout out to John Augustine, and I think, I’m not going to say his name, right. But Stu and his last night, I can’t say unfortunately, without looking it up… they did fountain, the fountain syntax. And that has been a really good screenplay tool, because it’s just a way of saying, hey, just export your script as a TXT doc, and every program, you know, in the last 14 years can open TXT file or whatever. So, no one’s going to argue that that’s not yours, if you have it in that thing. So, I think that’s a really important piece. The interpolation of stuff like will there be 12 social media apps that all absorb data the same way? Probably not. Like, I think it’s too hard. And there’s no real cost advantage from doing it. But with things that are important to you, just make sure you could export that you can download that, like demand that of whatever resource using WriterDuet like from the beginning, one of the things that made us not special, but made us important was that we import it from any program we exported to any place, because I never wanted someone to feel they were locked into anything. Like, I didn’t want there to be a problem on our site. And you couldn’t get your script like now it’s like it bearable. So, we like maybe we used to charge for our backups. Like you had to have a paid program to backup to Google Drive or Dropbox, could download for free, but had those cloud ones? And like; No, we just made that free. We’re like, no, it annoys me to think that a person might ever lose the script. So, I was just like; No, we have to make sure. So, it’s kind of I use it the exact right thing. I said no announcing the exact thing you said which is you should have the ability to have whatever is important to you in a ubiquitous format. And you control that, that’s really important. A blockchain, I actually don’t know that it is necessarily what blockchain is. I think blockchain offers that idea. But for most people, they just want a text file or something, they can just group onto their computer and store and put it you know, back it up to their cloud service that they choose. And that’s good enough, I think for most use cases.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, as we wrap up the interview, I always like to end the interviews just by asking the guest is there anything you’ve seen recently, that you thought was really fantastic? Anything Hulu, HBO, Netflix, that maybe screenwriters could check out?
Guy: One of my favorite shows lately has been Peacemaker. I really liked that show at HBO, James Gunn, and it’s just really fun. One of things I loved about it is, it’s an action thing. It’s, you know, fun to watch, like as engaging thing. But all of the character development and growth I saw on it happens through comedy and action and stuff happening around it. And so, they don’t take like, a five-minute beat to make you say; wow, this character is really going through something. They show you something interesting happening to the character, having involving multiple characters, they’re interacting, and they let the character growth happened really organically. And like, it’s I’m not saying it’s the greatest art piece ever, maybe it’s supposed to be, but I think it’s its own thing. Like you can’t say, it’s brilliant in the way it delivers art. But it’s so fun. And it’s so engaging, and you get to like, capture a little moment of brilliance along the way. So maybe, I don’t want to say it’s not brilliant. I feel bad because no one’s go, James, please don’t listen to this. I like it. So yeah, just think about that show. And there’s some other stuff back in the day. A funny one other than watching the old show, but Fresh Off the Boat. And I really enjoyed that. Because they have conflict. They have stressful situations. But it’s all done with heart and love. And something that I think another show I really liked back then it was King of The Hill. I always thought it loved the characters, it would make fun of them. But it still really appreciated who they were it wasn’t just saying these are bad people because they’re doing something stupid. It said, they’re stupid people are doing something stupid. We still all kind of love something about them. They’re real humans. I think that’s a really great way to tell a story.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So, what’s the best way for people to kind of keep up with what you’re doing? And we can mention all the links. That sounds like writersduet.com, or witersolo.com. You can mention all those links. If you have a Twitter blog, anything you want to share here, we’ll round up for the show notes.
Guy: Yeah, so those ones are WriterDuet writersolo.com. Readthrough.com is our new app for listening and reading your scripts. I’m on Twitter at WriterDuets. Just you know, my personal text number obligation you have that you can just call me and have those kinds of things like we want people to engage with us. If you’re chilling on the Reddit of screenwriting, and you use WriterDuet or you don’t or whatever you got a question, we kind of respond there. Being like a community place I think is important. Yeah, whatever group you’re on @GuyGoldstein and you’ll probably are at WriterDuet, depending on which channel it is, you’ll probably find be popping up saying; Hey, what’s up?
Ashley: Well, perfect Guy. I really appreciate this very, very interesting interview. It just I really love what you’re doing and can’t thank you enough for coming on talking to me today.
Guy: I really appreciate you having me. It’s a great show. And I really enjoyed this. Thanks so much for having me.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
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On the next episode of the podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Wes Miller. He is a lawyer turned filmmaker, really smart guy who just quit being a lawyer to pursue being a writer director. And he’s now written, directed and or produced more than half a dozen feature films. We talk about his move from lawyer to filmmaker and how he was able to make that transition as smoothly as possible. And then we talk about his newest film – action film called A Day to Die starring Bruce Willis, Frank Grillo and Kevin Dillon. We talked through that film and how he was able to get that one produced as well. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.