How Does Fountain Work?

Fountain is not an app. It's not even really a file format. It's a simple set of straightforward rules for writing a screenplay in plain text. If you opened a text editing app, or even email, and started typing something that looked like a screenplay, chances are, you're using Fountain.

INT./EXT.  BLOOM HOUSE - (PRESENT) DAY

The front door opens to reveal Will and Josephine on the porch with their bags.  REVERSE to Will's mother Sandra (53), surprised and a little annoyed. 

SANDRA
How did you get here?

WILL
We swam.  The Atlantic, it's not that big really.

That's Fountain.

When you're ready to share or print your work, or move to another writing tool, use one of the growing list of Fountain apps to preview your screenplay with industry-standard formatting, export it to HTML or Final Draft .FDX, or print it to PDF.


Why Fountain?

Once you start working with plain text documents, you realize the power of their infinite portability and compatibility. You can edit them anywhere, on just about any device, and never break anything. It's addicting.

The popular Markdown syntax is valuable for text editing because it allows you to add formatting while maintaining this portability and compatibility. You might think that formatting text by typing special characters is nerdy and distracting. Nerdy maybe, but in practice it's quite the opposite of distracting. Markdown keeps your hands on the keys. It keeps you typing. Screenwriters know the value of this. It's the butt in the chair that gets the words on the page.

But sometimes the butt is on a plane, or in a lobby waiting for a meeting, or in line at the DMV. Fountain allows screenwriters the flexibility to make changes to their screenplays from anywhere, using nothing more than a cloud-enabled text editing app.


Syntax? I'm a screenwriter Jim, not a nerd.

Fountain is designed to "just work" if you simply typed some text that looked like a screenplay. You would only need to learn the syntax if you wanted to take advantage of the "power user" features, such as "forced" formatting, or emphasis. When you first look at a Fountain document in a text editor, you'll see some special characters, but it will probably be quite clear to you what they mean. Most importantly though, you can work on your screenplay without needing to know anything about the syntax. The next time you open that same document in a Fountain-compatible app, all the new work will be there, formatted as you'd expect.


Don't Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter, Celtx, and many other screenwriting apps import and export plain text already?

Yes, but this isn't enough. There's no support for text styles, dual dialogue, or centered text. These things are silently stripped out and lost.

Fountain is robust enough to be the primary working document format for your screenplay, not something you export to and lose a bunch of your work.


What about pagination?

Most screenplay file formats do not store pagination, except for explicit page breaks. Instead, the apps perform the pagination on-the-fly as you work. Fountain follows this standard, and only expects pagination on WYSIWYG preview or formatted output.


Why should Fountain support a title page?

One goal of Fountain is that you could write an entire screenplay with it, and easily export and/or print something that a colleague could read and provide feedback. A simple title page with contact information is required for this. The title page, like the rest of Fountain, is designed to read well in raw text as well, giving one the proper sense of a screenplay.

Fountain is also designed to be a smart archival format for screenplays, and a title page is necessary for that.


What exactly is the relationship between Fountain and Markdown?

Fountain, formerly known as Screenplay Markdown, is inspired by John Gruber's super cool Markdown language, and uses some of its conventions, but Fountain is not Markdown. There's no use in converting Fountain to Markdown or the reverse. Markdown simply pointed the way to a rich but simple experience of creating beautiful, functional documents using only human-readable plain text.


I like to put two spaces after periods. Because it is the right way to do things. Don't mess with me on this. I will cut you.

You are among friends. Fountain respects whatever your spacebar habits may be.


What file extension should be used for Fountain files?

Fountain files are UTF-8 text files with the extension.fountain, .txt, or .spmd.

See for yourself

The best way to explore Fountain is to look at the files. Compare .fountain, .pdf and .fdx versions of Big Fish.

Download Big Fish:



For a detailed explanation of Fountain's formatting, see our Syntax.