I wish I knew enough about other fields so that I could create things like this. But my lack of in-depth knowledge in other topics prevents me and I don't know how to come across these things on my own.
Fountain, for instance, credits that seem to be pretty evenly mixed between people who make films and programmer types. Including a few who have a foot in both worlds. And it came in part out of a screenwriting app one of those filmmakers and one of those programmers was making.
I could see myself writing a screenplay using this - and a really positive thing is that it imposes a framework on how I should be writing one. (I've tried multiple times, believe me)
Am really curious: what's the plan to foist this onto the Hollywood screenwriters?
Yes, and this is exactly how a standard should be.
A markup language is the text equivalent of a user interface. It's well-known that good user interfaces for an existing task work with users' previous workflow, even to the point of including skeuomorphs as cues. A good markup language is one that makes minimal change to the user's existing workflow.
XML is terrible. It's not nearly as human-readable as it promises to be, nor is it as computer-readable as it promises to be.
Final Draft is the industry standard at the moment, and it has been for 20-odd years. To disrupt it, you could explore certain channels: dedicated websites and communities for writers; USC, NYU, and other film schools; or get studios and and agencies to accept it, which is ultimately where you need to win approval to get adopted as a standard. In any of these scenarios you'd probably need Final Draft import/export compatibility to get started and minimize switching costs.
The industry standard is .PDF. As long as you can get to .PDF, all is good. All modern screenwriting software supports the Fountain syntax, except Final Draft. Final Draft is the dinosaur of the industry, and they are dying. One man shops are making far superior software at a lower price and that are far less buggy.
One you get into production, Final Draft might be needed, but many places aren't updated their overpriced licenses.
The top "traditional" software packages for screenwriting now are either Fade In Pro ($50) or WriterDuet (free/$99 one time license for all the extras). Both support Fountain.
If you're only writing in Fountain and then to PDF, Highland and Slugline are the other options. They are both under $30.
I also like afterwriting.com. Bascially it's Highland in a browser that can sync to Google Docs and Dropbox for free.
The great things about Fountain is that you can just use any text editor you want and then import into a Fountain compatible package and that it's very readable.
The only "key feature" they have is that everyone in Hollywood uses FD. They say so themselves on their website! The "Key features" screen does not list any actual feature, it's just a list of variations on the concept that "everyone in Hollywood uses FD". In that sense, the main challenge is clearly political rather than technological.
Fountain was created by an A-list screenwriter, John August, who's written Big Fish, Go, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and many others. He's pushed it pretty hard on his podcast, Scriptnotes.
I don't think many people have written scripts in plain text since they stopped using typewriters.
Anyway, I doubt they have a plan to 'foist' this on anyone. It's another way to write screenplays that still produces what everybody expects to read: pdfs and final draft (fdx). There are a number of other formats that do this. I used a LaTeX extension at one point (but I don't recommend it).
Another thing: I wish I could work out a free, no-nonsense way of turning fountain into pdf on Linux. I've been going via html, which works OK but feels a bit dirty.
Re. your first point I think a lot of writers date their scripts as their version control. Final Draft does have a limited revision tracking system. At this point I think most screenwriters just pass on PDF documents rather than .fdx or printed pages.
textplay myscript.fountain > myscript.pdf
textplay myscript.fountain > myscript.html
wkhtmltopdf myscript.html myscript.pdf
My cowriter uses afterwriting (locally) to view them although we still use unformatted .docx for rough drafts, since he normally writes those and I revise.
My understanding is that they're not crazy picky about what you use to write the script as long as the output on paper/PDF is in hollywood standard format. (Layout, typewriter font, heading formats, etc.)
At work, we've written a system that parses scripts from PDF files that is being used for breakdown, script analysis, and sides generation by quite a few movies and tv shows.
Beware: PDF export is still broken.
As an outsider it looks quite ugly compared to even a standard setting in google docs or word.
I'm sure it's mostly historical reason.
Apparently Mad Max: Fury Road was written as something more like a storyboard than a traditional screenplay. There may be other exceptions, but not many.
Maybe there's a small element of cargo cultiness to it as well. And you can write any old shit and put it in The Format and from a distance it looks like a proper screenplay. But really, there's not much reason to do anything else.
Still have numerous scripts that I want to finish (who has the time?) but my hobby took a turn a bit and I created Moviestud.io (http://www.moviestud.io) to help me produce that film. It supports Fountain import. :)
National Novel Writing month starts tomorrow which would be a great time to scratch that screenplay itch!