Several readers emailed me, curious to know more, so I sent some questions to Black List founder and CEO Franklin Leonard. Here they are with his responses:
Scott: First off, congratulations. Yet another innovative way to spotlight talented writers and great scripts. Let’s start with this: You have the Black List Live! series which thus far has produced four successful live shows in Los Angeles. How does the Black List Table Reads initiative differ from Black List Live?
Franklin: The Black List Live staged script readings will be, at least for the time being, exclusively scripts from the annual Black List performed by actors for that audience on that night. They’re never recorded. They’re not livestreamed. It’s just for those who can make it to the theater to see it.
The Table Reads scripts will come from a variety of sources. Some will be from the annual Black List, as our first script is, but most will be selected from the website, where there are a number of strong scripts that we think will make excellent audio entertainment.
Most importantly, they’re available for everyone, anywhere, any time.
Scott: How did the idea for Black List Table Reads evolve and how did Midroll Media become involved as distributor? Why a podcast?
Franklin: These questions can probably best be answered together. I’ve become a big podcast listener since the Black List became my full time job, probably because I had so much more time in LA traffic between meetings. One of the podcasts I’ve become a particular fan of – at the Black List’s own Kate Hagen’s suggestion – is How Did This Get Made?, Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas’s podcast on the Earwolf network that discusses the finer points of, let’s just say, less than fine cinematic works.
Long story short, we heard that Paul was interested in participating in our live staged script readings, and that begat a meeting that coincided with his launching Wolfpop as part of Midroll’s podcast world.
Since we started the staged readings last year, I was struck by the number of tweets and emails we received asking if the readings would be recorded or livestreamed for folks outside of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something we could do for a number of reasons, but it did increase our desire to find a way to do something similar for audiences around the world.
Fortunately, when I sat down with Paul and Midroll CEO Adam Sachs, they were just as excited by the idea as we were.
Scott: The script for the first podcast, which debuts April 16, is Balls Out, written by Malcolm Spellman (producer of Empire) and Tim Talbott (winner of the 2014 Sundance Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award). The formal announcement listed it as Episodes 1-4. Will each script reading be serialized?
Franklin: They will. We’ll record each reading in one session, but they’ll be broadcast in four episodes, one episode each week, which each four-episode cycle beginning with an interview with the screenwriter(s).
Scott: How long will each podcast be?
Franklin: Still putting the finishing touches on the first episode, but I’d guess between 30 and 45 minutes.
Scott: How will you determine which scripts to feature for the podcast and will scripts posted on the Black List website be eligible for consideration?
Franklin: Scripts from the Black List website will definitely be eligible, and right now, it looks like scripts two through four will all be scripts we identified via the site. By and large, we’ll be looking at scripts that have a bit of legendary status in the industry and scripts whose performance on the website indicates that they’re exceptionally well done and likely to fit well with the audio format, likely scripts with particularly strong dialogue and plenty of it.
Scott: The announcement mentions “interviews with members of the Hollywood screenwriting community and beyond”. Could you tell us more about what you’re envisioning here?
Franklin: In the short term, that means interviews with the writers of each script that we choose. What the future holds, who knows?
Scott: Where will people be able to download and listen to the Black List Table Reads podcast?
Franklin: Best place for that information is the podcast’s page on the Wolfpop website: http://blacklist.wolfpop.com/
Scott: Final question: Imagine you are an aspiring screenwriter living thousands of miles away from Los Angeles. What benefits can that writer derive from listening to the Black List Table Reads podcast?
Franklin: So many things, but three spring to mind as most important:
1. Education. It’s a rare thing, especially living thousands of miles away, to be able to read a screenplay and then hear it performed. Those are two very different things, and there’s a ton to be learned as a writer about what works and what doesn’t on the page in hearing a script make that transition. In every case where we reasonably can, we’ll be providing the scripts for download so that our audience can follow along.
2. A standard of excellence. All of the scripts that we’ll select for the podcast will be those that have already attracted or will likely attract the interest of industry professionals. It’s one thing to watch a movie and say “okay, that’s what I’m working toward.” It’s quite another to read a script (or in this case, hear it performed for “radio”) and do the same thing.
3. Entertainment. Like our live staged readings, we have every expectation that this podcast is going to be a hell of a good time to listen to. So even if you’re not an aspiring working screenwriter (but maybe especially so if you are one), it’s a great way to spend thirty to forty five minutes every week being transported by a great, well-written story.
I love the idea of being able to read the script while listening to the staged reading. But beyond that, this is a great way for people from anywhere in the world to gain exposure to some of the best of the best screenwriting in Hollywood today. Hugely valuable in terms of getting a sense of what works relative to tone, style, voice, and so on.
Thanks, Franklin, for your time, and your continuing efforts to promote talented screenwriters and great screenplays.