It’s the question behind all questions from aspiring screenwriters, the subtext behind almost every conversation about the business: “How do I get my script in front of Hollywood reps and buyers?”
Here is an answer.
Franklin Leonard and the Black List have launched a service that gives writers immediate access to over 1000 Hollywood professionals.
Your script. Their eyeballs. From anywhere in the world.
An excerpt from a press release that went out today:
LOS ANGELES (October 15, 2012) – Hollywood’s annual list of most liked screenplays has expanded beyond Hollywood’s hallowed halls. The Black List founder Franklin Leonard and co-founder/CTO Dino Sijamic announced today the launch of a paid service that allows any screenwriter, amateur or professional, to upload their script to The Black List’s database, have it evaluated by professional script readers, and depending on its evaluation(s), have it read by as many as 1000 film industry professionals currently a part of its membership site. The Black List’s home on the web is http://www.blcklst.com
“For years people have been asking me how to get their scripts to Hollywood. Short of endless rounds of unanswered query letters and screenplay competitions that may, in the best case scenario, attract the notice of a few people, I never had a good answer,” said Leonard. “We built this to provide one. It’s essentially a screenplay competition with rolling admission, as many prizes as there are good scripts, and instead of a check, you may be rewarded with a career as a professional screenwriter. We’re delivering the best scripts directly to the hundreds of people who can help get them bought and made.”
Leonard and Sijamic described this new service as consistent with their mission of heralding great screenwriting in order to help moviemakers find great scripts to make. “We have an iron-clad ‘do no harm’ policy. A script’s evaluation will only be made public if a writer wishes to make it so. Moreover, the only time an industry professional’s attention will be drawn to a script is if it’s been evaluated positively or if our algorithm believes they personally will like it,” added Leonard.
Aspiring screenwriters will pay $25 a month to have their scripts hosted on The Black List’s website, accessible only by a closed community of Hollywood professionals. They can further pay $50 for evaluations by anonymous script readers hired by The Black List. Every read by industry professionals generated by those evaluations is entirely free.
Moreover, The Black List will not claim a commission, finder’s fee, or producer credit on business generated by their service. “Writers retain all rights to their work and are free to negotiate the best deal they can get. All we ask is an email letting us know of their success,” added Leonard.
Over 200 scripts that have appeared on the annual Black List of most liked unproduced scripts have been produced and released for the domestic market, making over $16BN in worldwide box office and earning 148 Academy Award-nominations and 25 victories, including two of the last four best pictures (THE KING’S SPEECH and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) and five of the last ten screenwriting Oscars. Among The Black List projects part of awards contention this year include ARGO, DJANGO UNCHAINED, THE IMPOSSIBLE, LOOPER, and HOPE SPRINGS.
I want to talk about why I think this initiative represents a big step forward in opening the door wider to Hollywood. First let me note this: I am not officially involved with this service and I make no money from it. My connection to it is three-fold: (1) Tangentially through GITS being the official screenwriting blog of the Black List. (2) A friend of Franklin Leonard and supporter of his ongoing efforts to find and promote great scripts by talented writers. (3) As a screenwriter, educator and blogger who has interfaced with aspiring screenwriters for 25 years. So please understand, my thoughts about this new Black List service are not about my personal gain, but rather as an interested observer always on the lookout for new ways for writers to break into Hollywood, and – hopefully – see better movies get produced.
In that spirit, here from my perspective are some of the highlights of this new service:
* Direct online access to the Hollywood script acquisition and development community.
* Low cost fee structure means service is available to everyone.
* Unparalleled quantity and quality of the site’s Hollywood membership (1,000+).
* Access to affordable script coverage by qualified professional readers.
* Writer controls whether script goes wide to readers or not.
* Writer retains all rights to their script.
* Since it is the Black List, it is legitimate.
* Bottom line: The content rules. If you write a great script and submit it, it will get noticed.
As I said up top, the main concern of writers outside Hollywood is access. How do I find representation? How do I get my script to a buyer? This online service provides an easy, inexpensive, and legitimate way to do that. Then it becomes all about the quality of the story concept, the popularity of the story’s genre, and the execution of the writing — which is where a writer’s focus should be anyhow.
A couple of other things about the service to consider:
* What if you can write a great story, but have troubles crafting loglines? If you get your script covered by Black List affiliated readers, they will write their version of your story’s logline as part of the coverage. You are free to use that instead of your own.
* All writers, even professionals, accumulate original scripts that for whatever reason do not sell. They become part of your catalog. If you think one of your backlog scripts is a worthy one, or perhaps the time is right for it to go to market now [as opposed to before], this is an easy, inexpensive way to test the waters.
Finally there’s this: I’m excited because now when people ask me how to get their script to Hollywood, I can point them to this new service. Also knowing some of the readers who are affiliated with this Black List initiative, I also have an answer about where to get script coverage for a reasonable price. And if someone asks about screenplay contests, I can feel confident in steering them toward the Black List because as Franklin said in the announcement today: “instead of a check, you may be rewarded with a career as a professional screenwriter.” And isn’t that the end game?
If you have any questions about this new Black List service, Franklin has agreed to answer anything on your mind. Feel free to post in comments.
Here are some news items on the launch of the service:
The Black List, this new Black List service, Go Into The Story, The Quest… these are all efforts to promote screenwriting, provide resources to help writers learn the craft, and create innovative ways for writers to access Hollywood.
What Franklin has done with this new initiative is a significant and positive step in the right direction, an opportunity for anyone anywhere to put their original scripts in front of legitimate industry insiders.
To get started with the new Black List, go here.
And the Bitter Script Reader does a terrific job here explaining the many upsides of Black List 3.0, a must-read for anyone who is interested in it.
UPDATE: Amanda P weighs in with her observations here. She makes a good point:
At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I’m not sure there are thousands of fantastic scripts floating around out there, just waiting to get read by the right people. I have always maintained that the path to being a professional film or TV writer is simple (though not easy): 1. write a great script, and 2. find someone important who likes it – and in my experience, most writers think that #2 is their problem when it’s actually #1.
Here is another upside to this new Black List service. With contests or other script hosting outfits, a writer can always have an out: “I know my script is good enough, it’s just the right people didn’t read it.” With the Black List community of professional script readers and industry insiders, that excuse pretty much evaporates. If a writer’s script doesn’t get picked up, the writer is more likely to confront a difficult, but necessary lesson: “You must get better as a writer.”