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> And the conventions were obviously not constructed for this purpose; they're relics of long-gone technological limitations

That's true of every single system that evolves organically, including software engineering. Or do you think all the cruft that accrues in every programming language is due to rational design?

The question isn't whether some new convention would be better, it's whether the benefit would outweigh the transition cost of either getting everyone to adopt it all at once or having crossed wires as people use different conventions at the same time.




Technical cruft usually only sticks around because cleaning it up would either be a monumental effort, or changing it would break other things that would be too much work to update. Either way, there are meaningful trade-offs that justify keeping around flawed systems.

Switching to a more readable font is a change that is trivially implemented now that nobody actually uses mechanical typewriters, and it would break nothing. Using a more readable font doesn't force you to include any more lines of text per page, so the dubious heuristic about page count and screen time wouldn't necessarily even be a casualty. There are no other substantive reasons to reject improvements to readability.

I certainly understand that there will be oddities of the film production process that are not worth fixing. But people who go out of their way to defend the pointless use of bad typography on printed documents that are meant to be read are in no position to be making credible arguments in defense of the less obvious flaws in their standard practices.


> There are no other substantive reasons to reject improvements to readability.

Inertia and information signalling are substantive reasons in an industry that is governed by convention and lots of networking.

Using a different font is a signal to the reader that you are ignorant of industry conventions, and hence less likely to have written a script that will follow acceptable norms--or perhaps worse, that you're a special snowflake who is willing to distract the reader from the content of the screenplay in favor of fiddling with form.

This is the same reason why most people don't make stunningly bold typographic choices when writing a resume -- they're not in a position of power, and they're either not confident enough in their own taste or the reader's taste to take any risks. Guides for aspiring scriptwriters basically suggest that you stick to the 'standard format' and not deviate from it [1].

Certainly, if you were writing and submitting scripts, feel free to implement your own suggestions.

[1] https://www.writersstore.com/how-to-write-a-screenplay-a-gui...

> Using a more readable font doesn't force you to include any more lines of text per page, so the dubious heuristic about page count and screen time wouldn't necessarily even be a casualty

So the heuristic would be a casualty, unless you jumped through hoops to make sure it still worked. Does this still sound like a cost-less switch to you?


> So the heuristic would be a casualty, unless you jumped through hoops to make sure it still worked. Does this still sound like a cost-less switch to you?

Unless somebody has actually done an analysis of how well script page count correlates to screen time with both fixed width and proportional fonts, the most you can assert is that the heuristic of unquantified accuracy might require adjustment. Conventional wisdom that hasn't been subjected to rigorous analysis shouldn't be presumed to be precise. The film industry certainly hasn't given itself much opportunity to accidentally discover it if proportional fonts turn out to yield a better estimator.

The typographic conventions for scripts were not constructed with the purpose of being used for this kind of estimation, thus it would be completely unsurprising if a study were to find it to be 30% off on average; the rule of thumb itself is the product of at least some rounding already. And there's no reason to believe that a re-calibrated heuristic based on more readable typography would need to have higher variance than one based on typewriters, either.

Computing the typewriter page count of a document is such a simple task that the feature could be added to any relevant piece of software in an afternoon. It would make sense to do so even if you're still going to print it out with typewriter formatting, because glancing at a footnote with those statistics is easier for a person to accomplish than counting physical pages.


I think we're talking past one another quite a bit.

Every organically evolved system has details in it that, in a vacuum, could be individually isolated, analyzed, and then improved. You're almost certainly right that Courier New 12-pt is not the optimal font for a screen play -- but is it worth the time and effort to 'fix' it?

> the most you can assert is that the heuristic of unquantified accuracy _might_ require adjustment.

Sure, but the onus is on the person suggesting the change. Nobody is going to make sweeping changes to long-established conventions based on little evidence that it will make a big improvement. And the industry is not going to do the study you suggested, for the simple reason that someone will guess that the cost of doing that study, plus switching to the new font, is probably less than the total benefits of having a new font. Is that an airtight 100% logical proof? No. Does that matter? No, because humans make subjective judgments when the cost of acquiring better information is perceived to be high .

I mean, what you're suggesting is pretty similar to going around and telling every team that should refactor their code base for improved readability.

Are there clear benefits to having better readability? Yes. Do they always exceed the cost of refactoring? Emphatically no. Is it easy to put a definite number on the cost or the benefit of refactoring? No. Therefore, we're left with heuristics and guesses. Sometimes it's worth it to refactor, but only when the code starts to really really smell. And neither of us are in a position to judge whether the process in the film industry has started to 'smell', because we don't work there.

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is an excellent meta-heuristic. Most organically evolved systems are sitting at a local fitness maximum. Finding and moving to a better local maximum is usually costly.


> But people who go out of their way to defend the pointless use of bad typography on printed documents that are meant to be read are in no position to be making credible arguments in defense of the less obvious flaws in their standard practices.

Screenplays are not meant to be read, they're meant to be understood and produced. Your argument is akin to saying that blueprints are too complicated for the average person, therefore they should be changed. They're not meant to be understood by the average person, they're meant to be understood by industry professionals. Just because you find it less than readable doesn't make it so. Those of us who know what we're doing with it think it's just fine.

I'm sorry you don't find them easily readable, but they're really not meant for you.


> Screenplays are not meant to be read, they're meant to be understood and produced.

That's nonsensical, unless you mean that they're meant to be mechanically analyzed—page counts, etc. that are obviously easier to accomplish without first printing them out. Even if they are not typically read in the manner of a novel, they're still intended solely for being read by human eyeballs, and for that purpose the typography is obviously deficient in ways that can be improved with no downside.

Repeatedly pointing out that the current system manages to work is not a refutation of the claim that it can be improved. Why are you so unwilling to admit even the most superficial of flaws in your industry's standard practices?


This. One only has to learn a bit of history of computing in the 60s and 70s to discover just how much crap we have to deal with because of tradition and popularity. We've taken lots of bad turns over the years - and that's beside the fact that today, most of the new things are simple rehashes of the old things that people don't care to read up about anymore.




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