New Black List feature for aspiring screenwriters

October 15th, 2012 by

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:

Deadline

The Hollywood Reporter

Variety

TheWrap

Script

TechCrunch

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.”

18 thoughts on “New Black List feature for aspiring screenwriters

  1. I just read this post and the post on the Black List site.

    I’m a little unclear how it all works.

    You pay $25 / month so that industry insiders can view your screenplay?

    But will/can industry insiders view your script if you don’t purchase an evaluation?

    Suppose your script gets a negative evaluation? There would be no point to continue paying the $25 / month at that point, right?

    It sounds like a great service but the details seem a little fuzzy to me.

    1. zxcvb says:

      “But will/can industry insiders view your script if you don’t purchase an evaluation?”

      That’s what I’m wondering. I’m sure the script would be *available* to read (searchable by title, logline, genre, keywords, etc.). But is it *likely* to be read without a paid evaluation? Or will it sit there for months with maybe one or two looks?

      And is that really any different than sending query emails? I suppose it would save a writer some time and effort, but I’m not sure it’s worth $25/per month.

      Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely see the need for charging a small fee. And this sounds like it’s being done with the best possible intentions. I’m just curious as to how it actually turns out.

      (I love the “do no harm” idea, though)

    2. zxcvb says:

      Franklin answered our question at the Done Deal Pro forums:

      http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=69183&page=6

      “It is entirely possible, though admittedly not probable, that one of our members could stumble upon your script via a logline or genre search and decide to read it.

      If you have a kick-ass concept and log, you’re welcome to query individual companies with it. The advantage of the Black List is that a positive read here results in exposure to hundreds of companies and over one thousand industry professionals instead of just one.”

  2. Sounds like a good deal. In fact, the $50 fee to get a read is a bargain, even with the $25 per month script hosting fee. My concern is that it’s too inexpensive and they will be inundated with scripts forcing them to hire many more script readers. It could be difficult to find enough experienced readers to handle a potentially enormous workload.

  3. I’m wondering – is it possible for a repped writer registered as an “industry professional” to upload an available script of theirs? Right now the site seems to redirect you to the registration page – and if you’re already a member, it further redirects you to the industry professional members dashboard.

  4. Scott says:

    Update from Franklin. Obviously he has been getting a lot of questions on a variety of forums. He is copying the questions here and combining them with others, will answer them, then I will do a blog post here with his responses.

    Another thing about Franklin: He is totally unafraid of criticism, in fact WANTS to hear your critiques in order to make things, and specifically in this case the new Black List online service, the best utility possible for writers.

  5. I wonder how many industry professionals will actually use the service to look for scripts. I suspect many who do will use it minimally – take a brief look, be disappointed, and not log in again.

    I’ll wait for the service to prove itself before I dive in.

  6. animationy says:

    Its also $25 per month PER script which is probably a deal breaker for some. Still, will be interesting to see how this plays out.
    Cheers
    Inger

  7. nayan1875 says:

    This is a fantastic idea. The cost is minimal, and the rewards for a great script are very high. The pre-screen evaluation is a great idea, there are just too many bad scripts (even with representation) that don’t even have proper / basic formatting. The cream will rise to the top – hopefully.

  8. This may sound pollyanish, but … I think this is nothing short of awesome.

  9. As a guy who has been ‘staring at’ this goofy business for over 25 years now, always on the fringe, outside-looking-in, I can tell you that, outside of The Quest, this is one of the most revolutionary things I’ve seen.

    As in any act of revolt, there’s bound to be hiccups along the way but, like anything in life, things will shake out accordingly, in time. Dare I say this is a GREAT TIME to be a spec screenwriter?

    Now if I could just get this draft of my script into some sort of damned readable shape…grrrrr.

  10. I agree with Teddy. I’m worried that so many scripts will be thrown at this, that it will get bogged down.

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  12. Lee Gabel says:

    I know from previously answer questions that if you take the script down, “ratings data is retained to identify similarities in taste between members.”
    Here’s a few questions that stems from that.

    Say an uploaded script is highly rated, but it hasn’t been picked up yet (as many Black List scripts fall into this scenario). Even though the script is good, the traffic on the script dwindles and for whatever reason, the writer can no longer afford to pay the $25/month (perhaps they have a new script to post and can’t afford more than one). Will that script ever make it onto the yearly Black List, which I understand is a separate entity? Is crossover ever possible?

    I’m guessing no one will know that there was a highly rated script on the site after the script is taken down (much like listing a house).

    If a writer were to relist the same script at a later date, do they need to build an all new rating, or is history taken into account?

    Does a writer build a reputation based on past script ratings that can also affect a future script’s rating? Or perhaps not a reputation rating, but something like a confidence rating, based on past performance, that stays with the writer at all times?

    Thanks.

  13. A question about ratings: Are reviewers given a rubric to help determine a rating or do they just pick a number from 1-10 (“This feels like a 5″)?

    Also, can you provide more detail on what the rating numbers mean? For example, what makes a script a “5″ versus a “6″ (or another number)? Sharing a rating rubric would be great.

    Thanks!

  14. 7LDR says:

    Oh one other thing, you need to get 2 ratings for your script for it to make it onto the black list search engine or any of the lists.

    So you’ll need 2 paid reviews (most likely) or 1 paid and 1 industry review.

    I think it’s better then querying if your script is good. It will have a rating so people can see before requesting the script whether or not it’s at the level it needs to be to turn into a movie.

    At the least it’s helping provide us writerly types with some good feedback on what level we are at with our writing.

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