Andrea Learned

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Living Change: A Quest For Climate Leadership

Hollywood Goes Paperless with Steve Vitolo

As ever, Andrea has a lively conversation with this week’s guest, Steve Vitolo, as they dig into the glaring paper waste he saw during the script revision process on set, and how witnessing that daily process compelled him to be the solution and found Scriptation – a script revision app now used by industry leaders from Game of Thrones to SNL. Find out why this television writer/producer decided to create massive change in his industry, and how that led to an Emmy Award.

Hollywood Goes Paperless with Steve Vitolo Transcript

Steve Vitolo/Scriptation

Steve Vitolo (00:00):

We’re gonna release numbers to our users about their environmental impact. And I’ll bet you people have never considered this. They’re using Scriptation as a productivity tool, and they’re gonna feel good about it. They’re gonna be aware of it, and it’s like, okay, let’s not stop here, do more. So we’ll give them resources on, on what else they can do.

Andrea Learned (00:25):

I’m Andrea Learned and welcome to Living Change, a podcast exploring Unconventional Climate Leadership. I talk to people who’ve converted their personal values into business and policy decisions in a load of different sectors. The more we’re visible about these changes, the more we chart the way for other leaders wanting to create new social norms. Today I’m speaking with Steve Vitoloitolo, the Emmy Award-winning founder and CEO of Scriptation. Steve won an engineering Emmy for developing a script annotation tool, which saves film and TV production’s time and paper. It’s used by staffers on big name shows, including Saturday Night Live and Game of Thrones. Ever heard of those two? The idea for scriptation came to Steve early in his career.

Steve Vitolo (01:08):

I’m a TV writer. Um, I’ve written features before as well, but when I starting out, I started as a writer’s assistant. And when you’re a writer’s assistant slash script coordinator, you are putting out scripts for the production is one of the things that you do. You do a thousand things , but one of the things that you do, uh, is you get the scripts ready and looking good and production ready, and then you distribute it to the cast and crew. So I was, um, working on a pilot in 2013. We had a table read, and then two weeks later we started production. And the showrunner was someone that rewrote constantly. And every single night there was a 50 page script that would be distributed to a hundred plus people. So as a script coordinator, I was getting the script production ready, and then I was printing it out and then handing it to a production assistant to then make a hundred copies to then destroy the environment .


I was like, okay, here’s 50 pages that’s gonna result in at least 5,000 more pages getting printed, and then we’re gonna do it all over again the next day. Wow. So, you know, at least at that time, I, I wasn’t a person where you would think of, oh, you know, he’s a super environmental conscious person. So the fact that, you know, I was like, this is insane. Like, what are we doing? We’re destroying the environment. We could easily not do this. You know, how easy it is to not do this very easy . So people were feeling the same thing that I was feeling, but it’s, you know, someone needs to do something about it. And it was, it was the right time. And it also wasn’t as simple as, okay, let’s go digital. Because the big problem with getting all of these script revisions is a lot of people make notes on the pages. So if you have a 50 page script and you hand it out to everyone, you have a faction of people that are marking up the script and when they get a new draft, they have to rewrite all the notes that they did previously. So, you know, the big idea was what if you could do this digitally? Yes. You know, Adobe has been around since the seventies, eighties,

Andrea Learned (03:26):

. Yes. Yeah, very long time.

Steve Vitolo (03:28):

But what if you could make notes digitally and then transfer them in an intelligent way into the new version of the script? We had to figure out if this is something that could be done. Was the technology available to us? Could we do it? Was it practical for people? And when I was meeting with all these different departments, I said to them, would you be willing to go digital? And I got, sure, maybe, I don’t know. And then I said, well, what if we could transfer your notes into new script provisions? And then everyone was like, ding, ding, ding,

Andrea Learned (04:03):

Ding, ding, . I’ll

Steve Vitolo (04:03):

Figure out, yeah, I will figure out your software if you can do that, because it saves me hours of time every week. And there just has to be a practical component to this. And that, you know, coincided with the environmental thing. And then it’s like, okay, like now we really have something here and it’s something that is doing good for people in multiple ways and they could get behind and use it.

Andrea Learned (04:29):

So how does somebody in a totally different industry go, oh, I know who to call about the technology. How did you do

Steve Vitolo (04:35):

That? Well, I didn’t know who to call. I, I had no idea

Andrea Learned (04:38):

Ghostbusters Scott, I was,

Steve Vitolo (04:41):

I was techy in my middle school and high school, and I would make websites with using HTML and things like that, but this was like obviously way beyond anything I had ever done. So I just, I made a post on LinkedIn, Facebook, whatever was available at the time. And I said, does anyone know an iOS developer that can understand PDF documents? And luckily I found the right person at the right time and we worked on it together. And I still remember the meeting when he showed me we were in, you know, we were at UCLA and he’s like, okay, check those out, . And then he hit the button and it moved over. And I was like, wow, that’s amazing. That’s so

Andrea Learned (05:24):


Steve Vitolo (05:25):

That, and I was kinda like, okay, let’s, let’s make it better and then let’s put it out there and let’s see if people respond to it.

Andrea Learned (05:31):

So who, was it somebody that you were already working with? Was it a production team you were already working with that you, that you got to try it first? Or how did you do maybe a pilot or sort of start to test it? Who was game for testing?

Steve Vitolo (05:43):

Very brave . Early adopting, uh, beta testers. Uh, we had a director that won an Emmy for Modern Family and he was using, because the, remember, you know, at that point the iPad and script is primarily an iPad app. Okay. You can use it on your Mac and you could use it on your phone, but people are used to having a paper script and a, something like that size. So, okay. An iPad had come out around 2011. Oh, okay. So it’s like, you know, the technology needed to arrive at the right time and there was a lot of that. Okay. You know, there were PDF readers and annotators that had come out at that time and he was already somebody that was using them and wanted to go digital. So this clearly appealed to him. It’s like, wow, this is the biggest problem I have now, is I just have to highlight and redraw on everything. So we got him to do it. Was

Andrea Learned (06:40):

This somebody that you worked with directly or that you’d worked with in the past and you had a good relationship with? Or like, what was that first conversation like?

Steve Vitolo (06:46):

This guy was somebody I had never worked with before, but Oh wow. I worked with a line producer for a number of years. He kept bringing me back to work on shows, thankfully. And this guy is digital and he is like always on the cutting edge of stuff, so he might be interested. And he was using us on big shows at the time when he was the only one. And we were testing stuff out. I don’t think I would’ve done that. .

Andrea Learned (07:11):

Oh my gosh. I

Steve Vitolo (07:12):

Was like, okay. And I was saying like, here are all the caveats of using this. Right. Make sure you have a backup. Make sure you all . Because it, at that point there were so many kinks to iron out of the app and, but yeah, it was wow. He started using it. And then in 2016 we released the app in the app store as a download where you can get it for 10 bucks. Oh my

Andrea Learned (07:36):


Steve Vitolo (07:37):

We got so many early adopters that just wanted to like, okay, you’re promising this thing. Like, let’s see if it could perform.

Andrea Learned (07:44):

So I’m kind of curious, would that director be interested in being named and famed for this? Or do you keep directors name? Oh, sure. You know what I mean? Like who is this? No, no, no, because I think we need to cheer this person on .

Steve Vitolo (07:58):

I was just talking to him right before this call. Um, his name is Michael Spiller. Okay. He’s an Emmy Award-winning director for Modern Family. And he’s just done a ton of work since then.

Andrea Learned (08:08):

The reason why I wanted to emphasize Michael Spiller is because Steve needed an early adopter. And so by being game and taking a chance and saying yes to Steve’s app, Michael Spiller is also living change without a prominent name buying in early scriptation would’ve had a hard time getting enough beta testers to get off the ground. Steve tells us more about the early adoption of the app once Michael got on board.

Steve Vitolo (08:30):

So scriptation note transfer is very demonstrable. So imagine one person on a production, they’re in the middle of shooting, shooting is, you know, 12 hour days and you don’t want script changes coming down while you’re in the middle of doing something. It’s really hard, . And, uh, so, so, you know, script revisions just make things harder for everyone. So imagine someone on set, say a director, there’s, you know, 10 revision pages that come down and, and film and tv. It’s different colored pages, blue, pink, yellow, green pages, and there’s 10 revision pages that come down. So you have one person that has gotten it digitally over email and they hit a button and all of their notes get transferred into a new draft. And they’re like, okay, this took me 30 seconds. I looked at everything, I understand it, I’m ready to go in five minutes. And then everybody else is collating their pages in their binders, and rewriting notes. Yeah. And then they’re, they go to the person that, you know, use scriptation. What, what was that ? What did you do?

Andrea Learned (09:38):


Steve Vitolo (09:39):

Cool. I wanna do that. Oh my gosh. So it spread that way because we didn’t have, you know, we weren’t, we’re not VC funded. I mean, if you think about this space, it’s a, it’s a niche product and a niche industry. So we, you know, we had to grow slowly and we had to grow organically. So, um, something that happened to me when I was working on shows, which is I’d be on a show and it would get canceled and then I’d have to go to a new show. Right. This actually worked in our favor, , cuz you had, you had somebody working on a show and they would spread it to a few people that show would get canceled , and then two people from that show would go there and three people from that show would go there and then it’d spread. So it was, it was very organic and that was really the only way that we could, it was the best way to do it for us at the time, cuz we couldn’t handle a ton of users at the time.


And we, it was also great cuz we had the small group of early adopters and we kept having to make the app better and they were so invested and we would get a bunch of data in terms of like, this is how you make this better and this is what users really want. And okay, we thought we were gonna build this, but they really want that. So it, it really worked in such a nice way. And really the only way that I, you know, not a business person, a film and TV writer could really do it.

Andrea Learned (11:06):

I was so curious. What were the downloads like and what was the equivalent in saving Trees, CO2 emissions, waste water.

Steve Vitolo (11:14):

Just last year, the 2022, we’ve done 133,000 note transfers. Mm. That equates to almost 7 million pieces of paper that weren’t used, which is, you know, almost 15,000 reams of paper. And if you want to calculate that over tons of wood and BTUs and all that, I mean the numbers are crazy , it’s the equivalent of, you know, 600,000 pounds of co2, over 700,000 gallons of water, almost 40,000 pounds of solid waste. So it’s real numbers and the that are using it. I mean some are for environmental reasons and I wanna get off paper, but a lot of people are for productivity reasons and a byproduct that is that they’re saving a ton of CO2 emissions that don’t have to be made.

Andrea Learned (12:10):

I love Steve’s term byproduct. One of the reasons I was so eager to speak with Steve is because he is not running around saying he’s a climate leader and yet he’s influencing change through innovation and smart business and climate action is this huge byproduct. I wondered if environmental concerns had always been at the forefront for Steve.

Steve Vitolo (12:28):

I didn’t get really into environmental issues until after college. Um, I started scriptation and then I sort of understood the impact of all of this. Cuz when you’re, when it’s paper, it’s not just the amount of paper and, but it’s the delivery and the ink and the toner and the printing and the brads and it’s, it’s all of this. So, you know, I wish I had a better background environmental impact story, but I came to it late and I guess it, there’s, as long as you come to it,

Andrea Learned (12:59):

Steve makes an important point and one that’s really hit home. As I’ve developed this podcast, I initially thought these conversations were going to be about people whose personal values have led them to make change. But what I found is that often enough people make these shifts when a realization hits while doing their work, suddenly they start connecting the dots and leadership thinking flows from there. Corporate sustainability leaders often get nervous when they’re asked about how they’ve changed their own transportation modes or food intake for example. But they love talking about sustainability efforts generally. I think Steve is a great example of someone who focused on his own work, who identified a need for an efficiency and productivity tool and saw the climate impact emerge energized by the technical side. He pushes this whole initiative forward. His work backed him up into living change. And I think that’s more common than I initially realized. I love spotlighting it.

Steve Vitolo (13:52):

Right? And so, so something that we haven’t done, and I mentioned this a little before, is that we’re gonna release numbers to our users about their environmental impact. And I’ll bet you people have never considered this. They’re using scriptation as a productivity tool and they’re gonna feel good about it. They’re gonna be aware of it and it’s like, okay, let’s not stop here, do more. So we’ll give them resources on, on what else they can do,

Andrea Learned (14:17):

Do more. Yes. The influence that Steve has here is incredible. And it’s an example for leaders in any business. And like Steve said, the data helps people visualize and comprehend their climate impact, even small amounts of data. I wondered how climate awareness is starting to be integrated into the entertainment industry

Steve Vitolo (14:35):

There. I know there has been a big push there. This isn’t my area of expertise. I am, you know, I’m a writer. Yep. I haven’t written climate stories, but if I’m writing, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a climate story, but just in the background, just no paper cups and just reusable. If, if we’re seeing this on screen and, and these things are so easy to do. I think that’s the thing that gets me on a lot of this. You know, here’s an example. I was on a panel with another app creator, uh, he’s a director. Um, he created an app called Shot Lister. He was on set and people were, had lunch and they were using the single serve utensils and, you know, we all know how bad that is. And so what he was doing was he brought a lunch pale from home and utensils that he could wash and he got in line, had it, and was like, okay, this is what I’m doing. And then everyone saw that and they’re like, wow, I’m a bad person.

Andrea Learned (15:34):


Steve Vitolo (15:34):

Yeah. So then he eventually got a ton of people to start doing that and having reusables and bringing their own stuff from home. So we just need to see it. Someone needs to do something small and then other people will be like, oh, well that’s really easy to do and I’m gonna do that. Mm-hmm. , I’m, you know, I was never pressured, you know, into going vegan. It was just something that my, my wife didn’t eat meat forever. And so I was like, okay, well we’ll move in together and


, why am I gonna have meat in my apartment? I’m not gonna cook two separate meals. Mm-hmm. . So that’s an easy way to eliminate stuff. So it it, it’s just kind of this, and then, you know, I, the more research I do, I was like, okay, what actual environmental impact is this and how bad is it on my health? And then it’s like, okay, I’m gonna cut this out and if I’m writing on a show, if I have my own feature, if I’m directing, that’s how I want the background of my film set to be. I don’t want to shove it in people’s faces, but I just want it to be there so it’s normalized and that this is a better way of doing it. And it’s not hard. It’s really not hard. I think going in terms of going vegan, you know, 20 years ago is really hard . Um, now there are so many options and so many companies, uh, that are, you know, have vegan products that taste really good. It’s almost hard not to do it. Oh,

Andrea Learned (17:04):

I love

Steve Vitolo (17:05):

That. Um, keep

Andrea Learned (17:06):

Talking ,

Steve Vitolo (17:07):

, I say as I still am not a hundred percent vegan

Andrea Learned (17:10):

and it’s okay not to be a hundred percent vegan. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Steve should feel great about all that he’s doing for the climate. I wanted to hear if others in the entertainment sector are getting louder about climate action.

Steve Vitolo (17:24):

Yeah, there’s a ton of people in this space right now and it’s refreshing to see young entertainment activists. Earth Angel is a company that we’ve started around the same time and their mission is to limit waste. And they have people on set, they have eco PAs that help you understand how to be more sustainable and what products and services to use. And they have a whole package and they’ve been growing at a crazy rate. So great. They’re on productions all over the place.

Andrea Learned (17:58):

It’s interesting because this is all kind of, it’s not like the famous or the fancy stuff, it’s all the stuff around the sides, right? It’s like how does the actual operation or the work in the entertainment industry get done? It’s what you’re doing right? And how do you clean things up and kind of take care of food and do all these things? It’s all the stuff on the edges that’s making a huge impact.

Steve Vitolo (18:18):

Yeah. It’s, it’s from people starting companies that have worked in the entertainment industry and they see something they don’t like and something they could change. And now they have platforms on social media to get out there and young people starting companies that are affecting change and it’s trickling it’s way up to the top. Not some celebrity telling you what to do and shaming you when they’re on their jet. It’s people that are actually living this, that are poorer than you . Yes.

Andrea Learned (18:50):


Steve Vitolo (18:51):

That’s like, if I, if I can do it, then we should all be able to do it. Yeah. And you’re finally getting studio buy-in too. And this has happened just recently. I, you know, had meetings with people in the green departments at studios as early as 2015. Wow. And it was, you know, like I mentioned before, one person and it was largely a figurehead. There was, uh, one sustainability person that I met with a bunch of times, came really friendly with, used the product and just could not get the studio to like even have meetings on it. And, and she eventually left and went to a studio where she actually could enact change. But it was like this, it, it’s, it was the most obvious display of just having a person there just to have a person there. But that has changed recently. And because of that change, it’s helped all of these companies started by a lot of, you know, younger people to actually become real businesses. And it’s just been good for them. It’s been good for the people, um, on the production and for the studio. So it’s, it’s all a benefit. And I don’t know what eventually, you know, made that shift there, but we’re, we’re there now and we’re, we’re constantly moving and pushing and pushing the studios and thankfully they’re actually listening this time.

Andrea Learned (20:23):

That’s great. Now I’m wondering, my one wonder there is, does the studio that you had built this whole relationship with in this time with, have they crossed over to the light yet? Or are you still seeing them kind of lagging on this? No, . Wow. That’s fascinating. That’s fascinating. So they’re looking around at all these other studios that are doing something and they’re still not acting.

Steve Vitolo (20:44):

It’s hard to shame them, right? Yeah. Because then I’m out there shaming and

Andrea Learned (20:47):

Oh yeah, it’s, yeah. The other thing that I wanted to say is there’s a pledge. We’re talking about this paperless pledge. So tell me a little bit about that. And I think there was a, there’s a 2030 pledge to make Hollywood paperless. So tell me a little bit about where you are on that and what that pledge is about.

Steve Vitolo (21:02):

2030 is a pie in the sky number. Even though it could be done today. , we could all stop it today . Um, but I, I understand the speed of how everyone, you know, like I said, gradual change. Yeah. Um, but yeah, I mean we’ve had people come to us specifically, a lot of people are on the productivity side, but we have some people that, you know, Valerie Weiss, a director for example, who heard about us and is using us because of the environmental impact and she directed a feature called Mixtape on Netflix, which came out. It’s great. Watch it.

Andrea Learned (21:39):

Oh, okay.

Steve Vitolo (21:40):

So she’s part of the 2030 Coalition with Bradley Whitford, Gloria Callone, ket. We’ve, you know, made it our goal to try and get the industry paperless by 2030 and we hope it happens. It’s, you know, an aspirational feat, I guess . But hopefully the idea is that we get enough people to join this coalition. We make it known that that’s where we want to go. We set a goal and we try and connect with studios to make this happen. What can we do to work together? We work with Guild, we work with celebrities. Hey, you’re on the show, so let’s talk to the studio and see what we can do and try and get people off paper scripts cuz it is so easy. And not necessarily using scriptation either. Yeah. If they don’t wanna use scriptation for whatever reason, that’s fine. But why do you have to print a paper script where we all have computers, phones, devices, iPads, we can go digital today. Mm-hmm . Yeah.

Andrea Learned (22:37):

So that leads me to tell me the hashtag

Steve Vitolo (22:42):

Pledge paperless.

Andrea Learned (22:43):

Who makes the decision ultimately, who do we need to impact with that pledge paperless call

Steve Vitolo (22:49):

Top line people. It shows. Okay. Honestly because the, you know, the way that scriptation succeeded is by being used on shows that are very popular. Um, because those people on the shows

Andrea Learned (23:03):

Give me an example of shows that use it. Really big name shows that you think are especially gonna move average Joe TV or movie viewer to go, oh my gosh, how cool. Right? And then they can celebrate that.

Steve Vitolo (23:16):

So a lot of the big shows I can’t name, but I will name some of the ones that are possible

Andrea Learned (23:21):

That you can’t name.

Steve Vitolo (23:22):

Okay. The big show that we worked on, you know, this is our first big account was uh, game of Thrones.

Andrea Learned (23:26):

Well that’s pretty

Steve Vitolo (23:27):

Big, so obviously Yeah, that’s a big one. um, one that we’re working on now is Saturday Night Live.

Andrea Learned (23:33):

That’s pretty big too.

Steve Vitolo (23:35):

Wait, so here’s what happens. , , um, when you have, when you have big shows like that, those are the ones that can say I want to use this product and studio. You have to figure out how to pay for it because it is, the big shows are the ones that call the shots, right? Yep. With the high powerful people on those shows. We want to use this, we want to use that. And then, you know, the higher ups or like whatever you guys wanna do cuz you make us a ton of money.

Andrea Learned (24:04):

Okay. That’s the bottom line. I love that. Is there anything else that you’re working on in the climate sphere or is it just mainly refining this product, which I think is is enough, right? But is there anything else that you’re working on?

Steve Vitolo (24:16):

You know, in terms of the company, it’s just branching out into different production departments. There’s a lot of areas that we haven’t explored yet. You know, actors is one of them. We are mostly a production app, but we wanna move into, um, line learning features for actors and you know, that way there can use it on their phone instead of printing up their paper sides for the day and casting teams. Cuz there is an enormous market there. An enormous amount of waste from sides being printed. Um, another thing we wanna do is get into more colleges and universities because they’re more receptive towards this type of thing. Yeah. Not necessarily script revisions cuz that’s like a, a television production thing, but for sure the process of, you know, reading and annotating a script and they’re also already on their devices, so Right. If we start there and we do some, you know, teaching of this is the benefits of it and the environmental impact and we have those two pieces just like we have in our professional space. I think in, you know, colleges, universities, and we have some high schools and middle schools.

Andrea Learned (25:20):

Wow. You

Steve Vitolo (25:21):

Know, these expectation as well. Right. Um, I think those are, you know, places for us to focus.

Andrea Learned (25:25):

Well, just to close this out and say the climate influence of what you’ve done and what you’re continuing to do is unbelievable. So thank you so much for taking the time.

Steve Vitolo (25:36):

Thanks for having me. This was fun.

Andrea Learned (25:39):

Learning about sustainability in the entertainment business was energizing and new for me. Our conversation makes me with my social media minded brain wanna tag every production company on Twitter about scriptation. It’s pretty cool that Steve was recognized for his work with an engineering Emmy. I’m almost certain this conversation has already inspired you to think about small changes you might be able to make in your sector. It doesn’t have to be an Emmy worthy app, but all of us can be sending an example and getting louder. Identifying, building and leveraging your leadership is something few may feel prepared to do, but climate influence can’t wait. If your organization is ready to make the shift, reach out to me. I’d love to help. Find me at I’m also easy to find on Twitter until it is no more. And LinkedIn. Living Change is produced by Larj Media. That’s l a R j Media. Special thanks to Tina, Joel, Jeff, and Maria. Until next time, pedal safely.