Category Archives: Tech Tip

Robert Greene: Mastery and Pop Drug Culture

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“In Western culture a particular myth has evolved that drugs or madness can somehow lead to creative births of the highest order. How else to explain the work that John Coltrane did while hooked on heroin – or the great works of the playwright August Strinberg, who seemed clinically insane. Their work is so spontaneous and free, so far beyond the power of the rational and conscious mind. This is a cliche however that is easily debunked. Coltrane himself admitted that he did his worst work while hooked on heroin.  It was destroying him and his creative powers. He kicked the habit in 1957 and never looked back. Biographers who studied the letters and journals of Steindberg discovered a man who was quite histrionic in public, but who in private life was extremely disciplined. The effect of madness created in his plays is very consciously crafted. Understand: to create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great disciple, self-control, and stability. It requires mastering the forms of your field – drugs and madness only destroy such powers. Do not fall for the romantic myths and cliches that abound in popular culture about creativity – offering the excuse and panacea that such powers can come cheaply. When you look at the exceptionally creative work of masters you must not ignore the years of practice, endless routines, the hours of doubt, and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these people endured. Creative energy is the fruit of such efforts and nothing else.”

A (Nearly) Free Kindle Workflow


While the Kindle Paperwhite is a great lightweight device with near-infinite battery life for reading anywhere (even walking or at the gym), you can also pick up a Kindle app for free…there’s no need to buy a dedicated Kindle tablet (although they are discounted during the “National Reading Month” of March and radically expand your reading opportunities):

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 6.36.32 PMBy using a kindle workflow it is easy to read, store, and annotate digital text anywhere on any device, forever, from your own personal archive, including such free books as this miracle from Amazon: translations of Petrarch’s sonnets by many different poets through the centuries…available here: 

91H8huPR5rL._SL1500_With the free ‘Send to Kindle’ app you can archive all of your eBooks and PDF scripts in the cloud (available for free from sources such as Lee Thompson’s Script Archive and

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 6.37.26 PMFinally there is also a ‘Send to Kindle’ browser-plugin for Chrome to permanently archive html (from sources such as Luminarium, Renascence Editions, and Elizabethan Authors):

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Scriptnotes Episode 120: “Stop Getting High”

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Craig: I think twenty-somethings just get way higher than we ever did. They just –

John: That may be true.

Craig: They just get high all the time. Our generation obviously got high and still gets high. And drinks. And drank and still drinks. But weed in and of itself, when we were in our twenties you could get arrested, you know? [laughs] Like I had to hide it. You really can’t now. There’s not a — and I actually like that. I believe that marijuana should be legalized.

However, I also believe that if you want to be — and this is what I told this person — stop getting high. If you want to write a screenplay, stop it. You want to get high Friday night through Sunday afternoon? Go for it. But this is a job that to me at least requires an enormous amount of sobriety. Even the famous writers who were notoriously drunk –

There was an interesting article recently. A lot of them found that they were most productive when they were writing through hangovers. It was in the aftermath of the drinking and the abuse. But, it’s romantic to think that you can get high and write the best stuff of your life.

I don’t think it works at all.

John: Well, in a general sense let’s talk about writers and drugs, because I think it’s actually a fascinating topic. The writers who get high because getting high reduces their inhibitions and makes the words flow or whatever, that was never me, and it’s not the experience I’ve noticed from any of my writer colleagues who sort of of my cohort. So, it’s entirely possible that this next generation that’s rising up to replace us, they are tremendously successful at writing while high and I’m just completely missing it. That same way that like I kind of didn’t understand why anyone would have a manager, then Justin Marks explaining why writers have managers.

So, it’s entirely possible that I’m wrong. But I kind of don’t think I’m wrong. Because my experience of being around people who get high a lot is that either you can do two things. You can use it as a crutch. Basically like, well, I can’t write because I’m not high, and I’m always high when I write. That’s tremendously challenging when you’re in any situation where you can’t get high. Where you’re actually in a room working on something and that becomes your thing. It’s like having this weird thing where you can only write when the sun is streaming through the window one certain way and any other way it won’t work. That’s bad. That’s not going to be useful to you.

The other thing I would say is that most of the people I know who get high a lot, their ambition just sort of dissipates a bit. And without ambition, I don’t think you’re going to be able to generate the quantity and quality of work it’s going to take to really make a screenwriting career.

Craig: I agree. I think that it’s important for me to point out that my experience of my cohorts is exactly the same as yours. I don’t know one single successful writer who has maintained a career who continues to abuse drugs or alcohol. I know some that have, and gotten over it, but I don’t know any that continue to do it as a matter of practice and can still function through it. I also think that the problem with writing while you’re high is that you’re not writing. The whole point of getting high is to alter your consciousness, which is fun.

It’s totally fun. Drinking is fun. And getting high is fun. I get it. But it’s about expanding your consciousness, and letting go of who you are for awhile, and when you come back from it, perhaps you can come back with something that you’ve learned about yourself. But then you’re not writing. There’s a you and it’s the sober you. I don’t know how else to put it.

John: I would agree with you. Writing is really hard. And so I think some of the instinct behind using something like pot or people who are using Provigil or Ritalin or other sort of stimulant things, helps them sort of focus in on what they’re doing, it’s an attempt to make something that’s inherently hard feel easier. But in making it feel easier, it’s unlikely that you’re going to find great success in that solution.

If you’re on one of these, if you take Ritalin or whatever, you may pile through more pages. The odds that they’re going to be awesome pages are very, very small.

Craig: Yeah. Yeah.

John: And I would also say the same with pot. You may write a few good sentences, but it’s unlikely you’re going to get the work done that needs to get done.

Craig: No, screenwriting is rigorous. It requires enormous attention. To me, writing while altered is right up there with directing while altered. Or driving. And I’m taking away even the aspect of how dangerous that would be for other people, yourself physically. I mean to say your just not very good at it.

It’s something that requires focus, and attention, and intention, and thought. And the whole point of getting high is to make some of that stuff go away. You know, beyond caffeine and, you know, cigarette, you know, if you feel like hurting your lungs.

But, yeah, just no. Don’t. I think culturally speaking I was a little taken aback, not in a judgmental way, but more in a, huh, I think this is probably going on more than you and I realize.

John: I would agree.

Craig: So, advice here is stop. I don’t think it’s going to help you.

John: Yeah. And so I want to phrase it as this is not a moral judgment about sort of whatever substances you want to consume. Just in my experience looking at sort of historical record of people I know who have succeeded and got stuff done, none of the people I know who have succeeded and really gotten a lot of stuff done have been using stuff frequently to do it.

Craig: Totally.

John: Beyond the exact examples that you list, which are caffeine, which is getting you up and getting your focused through that next bit. And some people do smoke. But not that many people smoke now. Even Craig Mazin doesn’t smoke now.

Craig: Yeah, it’s an occasional, you know. The guy that needs to smoke a cigar every day while you’re writing. Great. Worked for Mark Twain. And really caffeine and nicotine or sort of two peas in a pod. But, you know, totally agree with you. This is not judgmental. I believe all drugs should be legal. I’m very libertarian about that. And I don’t care what you do when you you’re not writing. But, I do want you to be writing, not high or drunk you.

John: Yeah. That’s very important. And I will also say that I’m not discounting the fact that some people have special challenges and their brains are not working right, and so this is really talking about an otherwise healthy person who is trying to write a screenplay.

If you are a person who is sort of not overall healthy in life and needs some other antidepressant or whatever else, go do that and take care of yourself first. So, that’s not like a blanket statement against all drugs or any medication that could help a person.

But specifically taking something in order to get yourself to start writing is not my advice to you.

Craig: Agreed.

Full transcript available here:

Tip…listen to Scripnotes at 2x speed or faster with their iOS app:

Exceptional Storyboarding Tutorial by Louie del Carmen (and ‘Incremental Save’ Script for Photoshop and Bridge Workflow)

(previz from Louie del Carmen’s tutorial)

Digital artists are generous: community forums for sharing tips in our evolving medium have become small industries. Whether for Flash, Photoshop, or Maya — or whatever the next program will be — all of us are ultimately self-taught; each of us has our own techniques and workflows — those who share, nurture our community and profit from feedback in turn.

Story Artists are generous but with such a complex workflow it can be difficult to ask the right questions. Boards included in “Art of” books accompanying the release of films often only highlight polished “Hallmark” shots; novice storyboards are notoriously overwrought. (For an informative discussion on production vs polished boards watch this video.)

Louie del Carmen’s comprehensive storyboarding tutorial changes the discussion. From script to sequence viewers are lead through production quality boarding in a straightforward, accessible manner. If you have been scouring the internet for tips this tutorial is a treasure.

Louie’s tutorial will pay for itself within minutes if you are not yet using Adobe Bridge. $25 is a gift…wish more Story Artists were as generous as:


Here’s a Photoshop script which works well with a Bridge workflow. The cool thing is it makes accidentally over-writing sequential files difficult: as you continue working from a single authoring file activating this script saves filenames in increments of 10. (At the very least it will speed up your workflow by eliminating the need to hand edit filenames.)

Paste the code below into a new file in ExtendScript Toolkit (part of Photoshop’s installation found here: Applications/Utilities/Adobe Utilities/ExtendScript Toolkit CS4 or /Applications/Utilities/Adobe Utilities-CS5/ExtendScript Toolkit CS5), save it as a jsx-file into Photoshop’s Presets/Scripts-folder.

After restarting Photoshop the Script should be available under File > Scripts and can be assigned a Keyboard Shortcut, recorded into an Action, used in a Configurator-Panel, or started from the ExtendScript Toolkit itself.

Default installations of Photoshop leave the Keyboard Shortcut ctrl+command+shit+S unassigned. By assigning this or another shortcut key you can then map a button on your Cintique to activate the script.

// saves psd copies in rising four digit numbers appended to the authoring file’s name;
#target photoshop
if (app.documents.length > 0) {
// get properties;
var thedoc = app.activeDocument;
var docName =;
var basename = docName.match(/(.*)\.[^\.]+$/)[1];
var docPath = thedoc.path;
// psd options;
psdOpts = new PhotoshopSaveOptions();
psdOpts.embedColorProfile = true;
psdOpts.alphaChannels = false;
// change this to true if you want all the layers in the copy;
psdOpts.layers = true;     
psdOpts.spotColors = true;
// get neighboring  psdf iles;
var theFiles = retrievePSDFiles (Folder (docPath));
// collect numbers;
var theNumbers = new Array;
for (var m = 0; m < theFiles.length; m++) {
     if (theFiles[m].name.match(basename+”_”+”[0-9]{1,4}”+”.psd”)) {
          var thisNumber = Number(theFiles[m].name.slice(0, theFiles[m].name.length – 4).match(/\d{1,4}$/));
// get largest number;
if (theNumbers.length > 0) {
     var number = Number(theLargestNumber(theNumbers));
     var theNumber = bufferNumberWithZeros(number + 10, 4)
else {
     var theNumber = “0010”
// save copy;
thedoc.saveAs((new File(docPath+’/’+basename+”_”+theNumber+”.psd”)),psdOpts,true);
////// buffer number with zeros //////
function bufferNumberWithZeros (number, places) {
     var theNumberString = String(number);
     for (var o = 0; o < (places – String(number).length); o++) {
          theNumberString = String(“0” + theNumberString)
     return theNumberString
////// get from subfolders //////
function retrievePSDFiles (theFolder, theFiles) {
     if (!theFiles) {var theFiles = []};
     var theContent = theFolder.getFiles();
     for (var n = 0; n < theContent.length; n++) {
          var theObject = theContent[n];
          if ( == “Folder”) {
               theFiles = retrievePSDFiles(theObject, theFiles)
          if ( == “.psd”) {
               theFiles = theFiles.concat(theObject)
     return theFiles
////// function to get the biggest number;
function theLargestNumber (numbersArray) {
     var x = new Array;
     x = x.concat(numbersArray);
     while (x.length > 1) {
          if (x[0] >= x[x.length-1]) {
               var a = x.pop()
          else {
               var a = x.shift()
     return x

Feedback welcome: Twitter: @oceanbluesky

Tech Tip: iFreeMem (Free RAM During Intense Photoshop Sessions)

This FREE little app has saved weeks of my life. When working in Photoshop you may notice your computer slowing down. Hit iFreeMem, step away for a minute, then return to a refreshed, invigorated computer. Open up ‘Activity Monitor’ (on a Mac) to see how much free memory has been created. This is the best little program I use. Lifesaver. From their website:

If you are in the middle of using an application and the system becomes unresponsive for several seconds it could be the memory manager recovering cache memory for your application. 

iFreeMem optimise feature is a quick and easy alternative to either a reboot or RAM upgrade to get defragmented free memory.

Tech Tip: Wacom Settings for Storyboarding in Photoshop

Set the end of the toggle switch closest to the pen’s tip to trigger Photoshop’s “step backward function” Command+Option+Z  This is the function you will use most often.
Set top of the toggle switch (in the direction of the ‘eraser’) to trigger the “Option” key. This allows easy sampling of colors from your image when using the Brush Tool by activating the Eyedropper.
Finally program a touch strip to step between brush sizes (on the left side of the tablet if you hold the pen in your right hand)…one direction of the strip should be set to “[” the other to “]” (left and right hard brackets).  By sliding your finger across this touch strip you can adjust brush, eraser, and many other tool sizes on the fly.
Add shadows on separate layers with a dark ‘soft’ brush (0% hardness) set to opacity of 20%…adding more shadow with each stroke.
That’s basically it. Be sure to work in layers and Smart Objects (lines, shadows, highlights, etc on different layers; finished characters and references in Smart Objects)…use the lasso tool and jump selction function ( J+Shift+Command) to cut a selection into its own separate layer.
 It is very rare that you would ever need any other brush than the standard default hard brush with “template pen pressure.” Most other settings and exotic brushes will waste your time. Most concept artists draw with standard photoshop brushes. Feng Zhu for example spent years using only the default hard round brush — now his favorite is the default chalk brush with opacity turned off. Nothing fancy. If you want a special effect, draw it. ; )
Try to work in 16:9 ratio canvas dimensions to condition your composition skills. For storyboarding these settings will keep file size manageable: 960×540 px, 72 dpi, 8 bit greyscale ; )