Cassian Elwes independent screenwriting fellowship enters 2nd year with Black List

July 29th, 2014 by

From the Black List:

LOS ANGELES, CA (July 27, 2014) – This morning, producer Cassian Elwes and Black List founder Franklin Leonard launched the second year of the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship, wherein one unrepresented writer with lifetime writing earnings not exceeding $5,000 with a screenplay of indie sensibility will receive an all-expense paid trip to the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and mentorship from Elwes himself.

Inaugural fellow Matthew Hickman, a retail employee at the UPS store in Santa Monica selected on the basis of his script AN ELEGY FOR EVELYN FRANCIS is now represented by Circle of Confusion. “Winning the fellowship last year changed my life and attending Sundance was only the top of the iceberg. I now have representation and a writing deal, not to mention a script that Cassian himself is producing. I also know of several other finalists whose scripts he has optioned. The opportunity accomplishes very concretely what the Black List originally set out to do: level the playing field so that anyone with a good script has got a chance.”

Said Cassian Elwes, “I am so grateful to the Black List for their incredible work in finding last year’s fellow and the quality of all of the scripts I read. I was so happy with my experience with Matthew at Sundance last year. He now has a manager and a deal to write a new script. We have become friends, and I’m going to make the movie of ELEGY FOR EVELYN FRANCIS. I couldn’t be more excited to continue this Fellowship and look forward to meeting its next recipient.”

“Suffice it to say that Matthew was an ideal first recipient of this extraordinary opportunity from Cassian and the prospect of someone else finding similar success in this way has us even more excited for the Sundance Film Festival than we already are, which is remarkable,” said Black List founder Franklin Leonard.

For this year’s fellowship, writers with scripts on the Black List or who have had scripts on the site since its launch will be able to opt into consideration for the opportunity until November 7, 2014, at which time a short list of writers will be shared with Elwes who will decide on one writer to make the trip.

Cassian Elwes

After beginning his producing career with Oxford Blues and Men at Work, Cassian Elwes headed William Morris Independent for 15 years, where he arranged financing for 283 films including multiple Oscar nominees Sling Blade, The Apostle, and Monster’s Ball. Since leaving William Morris Independent four years ago, Elwes has been involved in arranging financing and distribution for 30 films including Lawless, The Paperboy, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Elwes also produced Lee Daniels’ The Butler and executive produced Dallas Buyers Club and All Is Lost, all presumptive 2013 Awards season contenders.

The Black List

The Black List is an online community where moviemakers find scripts to make and writers to write them and screenwriters find moviemakers to make their scripts and employ them. Google for screenplays, if you will.

Begun in 2005 as an annual survey of several dozen executives favorite unproduced screenplays, the Black List has grown to survey over 500 executives each year (virtually 100% of Hollywood’s studio system’s executive corps.) Over 250 Black List scripts have been produced into films grossing over $16 billion in worldwide box office. Black List scripts have won 30 Academy Awards – including three of the last five Best Pictures (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, and ARGO) and seven of the last twelve screenwriting awards (JUNE, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE DESCENDANTS, ARGO, and DJANGO UNCHAINED) – from 159 nominations.

In October 2012, the Black List launched an online database of every screenplay circulating Hollywood and all those submitted by English language screenwriters from around the world. Since its launch, it has hosted more than 7,500 screenplays and completed more than 10,000 script evaluations. More than 40 writers have found representation at major agencies and management companies and more than 20 writers have sold their screenplays as a direct result of introductions made via the site.

At any given moment, more than 1600 screenplays are actively hosted for perusal by over 2000 film industry professionals ranging from agency assistants to studio chairs.

And the beat goes on, the Black List continuing to open doors into Hollywood.

For background on the first year of this particular initiative:

“Cassian Elwes Endows New Indie Writer Fellowship Via The Black List” (October 29th, 2013)

Five questions with Cassian Elwes about the Black List Fellowship (November 5th, 2013)

Matthew Hickman: Reflections of an Independent Screenwriting Fellowship Winner (January 12th, 2014)

Matthew Hickman: Reflections on 2014 Sundance Film Festival (January 30th, 2014)

The complete roster of Black List initiatives:

Cassian Elwes / Sundance Film Festival – Black List

Hasty Pudding Institute Screenwriting Fellowship – Black List

Martin Katz/Toronto International Film Festival – Black List

TBS / TNT – Black List

Walt Disney Studios – Black List

Warner Bros. – Black List

WIGS – Black List

And don’t forget the 2014 Black List Screenwriters Lab. That submission period is now open and if it’s anything like last year’s session, which I was fortunate to be a part of, it should be another phenomenal experience for a select group of writers.

“Want to write a script in 6 weeks?”

July 21st, 2014 by

Screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe is up to something pretty damn cool. From his blog:

Starting 1 September 2014 – professional duties allowing, which I’ll qualify in a moment – I’m going to begin writing the first draft of a brand new spec screenplay. I’m giving myself six weeks to complete it. I want you to come along with me on the journey. But not just in the passive way that you might be thinking. Here’s the deal:

I want you to start a your own brand new spec too. The one you’ve always wanted to dive into but never did. The one that’s kept you up nights tossing around scenes and dialogue but that you never had the drive to actually crack. The one that itches and burns and crackles, but life has kept you away from. Actually, in that last instance you might have some bacterial issue rather than a creative one. Maybe check with a doctor and get yourself a Z-Pak. If ANY of those are the case, and you have your first masterwork banging around inside you like Dennis Quaid (INNERSPACE reference!), the last quarter of this year is going to be the absolute best time to kick your own ass into gear. And you know why?

Because Franklin Leonard and the impossibly awesome people at The Black List have been kind enough to offer something at the end of this rainbow that you cannot afford to pass up. If you have the balls to find out whether or not you have any shot whatsoever as a screenwriter, that is.

It’s going to work like this:


1. On 18 July 2014, the email address you can find on the main page of this blog will be open for submissions. You will have ONE MONTH (that is, until 18 August 2014, for those of you who are idiots) to send me a one-page declaration of why you want to write the FEATURE-LENGTH (MINIMUM: 90 pages) script you are going to write. Your only job is to convince me as that you’re capable of great writing and that you’re going to finish this fucking thing in six weeks. That’s it.

2. I will pick ten of these submissions.

3. The Selected Ten will be announced on 20 August 2014.

4. The Selected Ten will start their scripts on 1 September 2014.

5. Once per week, the Selected Ten will submit a reaction to the last seven days of writing – their successes, their failures, their frustrations, their unfettered rejection of any higher power(s). These reactions will be shared on my blog, along with my own.

6. On 15 October 2014, the scripts must be finished, no questions asked, no exceptions whatsoever. You must literally write FADE OUT and be done with it. And when I say you must “literally” write FADE OUT, I’m not misusing the word “literally”. Those two words literally have to appear at the end of your script.


If all of these steps are completed according to the rules of this little game (which I will lay out in full below) then each of the Selected Ten will be given TWO months of script hosting on and FOUR evaluations from The Black List – free of charge, courtesy of the wonderful people at said Black List. Because you’ll have earned it. This means that, by 15 December 2014 at the latest, you will have not only completed the first draft of a screenplay but you will have been provided with four industry-level evaluations of your work at the cost of $0 to you. So if you play your cards right, you could have a nicely-polished second draft of your script to foist upon the world in any way you see fit by New Year’s Day 2015. Are you excited? I’m excited.

It is of UTMOST importance that you read ALL of the following if you’re up to the challenge of a submission:



This is an opportunity for NEW writers. That is to say: if you have ever previously been employed as a screenwriter, you are not eligible. For a studio, for a production company, for a producer, in film, in television, with a coat, in a boat, whatever. If you’ve been paid to write a screenplay, you’re out. And I will be verifying this independently.


1. All submissions must be in the form of a Microsoft Word document, 12 point font size, whichever font you like best. There will be no exceptions. Don’t have Word? Find someone who does. Can’t be that difficult.

2. All submissions must be limited to one page. No exceptions. If your submission is even one single character over a page, it will be deleted unread. This page should include both your full name and email address.

3. All submissions must be sent to the provided email address with the subject line “Why I’m Going to Write This Script Now”. Exactly like that, quotations and capitalization included. No exceptions. If your subject line does not read exactly as such, your email will be deleted unread.

4. Your submission will not contain ANYTHING related to the content of the script you are going to write outside of its chosen genre. I don’t want to know anything else. I do not care. I only care WHY you want to write it. If your submission contains any of the following, it will be deleted immediately and dismissed: the script’s title, logline, or any other identifying information whatsoever; discussion of any characters or locations; examples of any dialogue or voiceover; anything pertaining to details of the script that are not the script’s genre. To make it perfectly clear: YOU ARE NOT SUBMITTING AN IDEA FOR A SCRIPT TO ME. You are submitting an explanation of why you want to write it. Is that limiting? Absolutely. Be creative. That’s the point. To that effect, anything that I think violates this accord will be cause for immediate deletion and dismissal of your submission.

5. The cut-off for submissions is Midnight 18 August 2014 Pacific. No exceptions. Anything received even a second later will be deleted unread.

6. The Selected Ten will be determined by me and only by me and announced on 20 August 2014. No explanations will be given. No exceptions. If you don’t hear from me, you aren’t one of the Selected Ten. No I will not tell you why. It will just have to be left an unanswered question that will haunt you the rest of your life.


1. The Selected Ten may officially start their FEATURE LENGTH (MIN: 90 pages) scripts on 1 September 2014. This date shall be observed on the Honor System. I’m not your fucking mother. I will trust you to be honorable. Any time prior to this date shall be used for any necessary prewriting or for general pissing around.

2. The script ABSOLUTELY CANNOT have been previously completed. It is encouraged that you start a completely new script. It is DISCOURAGED that you throw out and start over on a previously uncompleted script; however, it will be allowed, begrudgingly. These rules shall be observed on the Honor System. However, it should be noted: if a script is uploaded to the Black List that has previously, IN ANY FORM, been uploaded to the site, that writer shall have their script deleted from the site and their allowances therein canceled. Also, I will shame the motherfucking shit out of you on Twitter. Relentlessly and with purposeful malice. This is to be a fun and communal experience. Don’t be a dick. You MAY adapt your own previously completed short script into a feature-length script. YOU MAY NOT adapt any pre-existing material that you do not personally own or have the rights to. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that but some of you are perpetually stupid.

3. Each of the Selected Ten will submit to me, every Sunday, a two-paragraph summary of their week. As few story details of the script should be mentioned as possible; these updates are to give other writers a look into your process, not to describe your story. Paragraphs need not be submitted in Word, just over email. I’m not a MONSTER.

4. The finished first draft of your script – FADE OUT BEING THE LAST THING TO APPEAR ON THE LAST PAGE, SIGNALING COMPLETION – shall be uploaded to The Black List ABSOLUTELY NO LATER THAN 11:59PM Pacific Time on 15 October 2014. No exceptions. That means that if you upload your script at exactly Midnight 16 October 2015 Pacific Time, you are fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked and all this will have been basically for naught. Them’s the rules. This really shouldn’t be a problem. If you complete your script early and upload it BEFORE the 15 October deadline, good for you! However, your two months/four evaluations package will start on YOUR DATE OF SUBMISSION, not 15 October.


That’s it. That’s the whole kit and caboodle for you. A couple more things for me:

1. At no time ever – be it before, during or after the dates laid out in previous sections – will I ever be reading, analyzing or commenting on individual scripts. That is not my job here, nor is it my intent. So don’t ask. If you do ask, I will fire rockets at someone you love.

2. There is a chance that unforeseen professional writing obligations may cause me to be unable to complete and/or even start my own spec script simultaneously to the Selected Ten. However, should such a situation occur, at no point will anything be altered negatively for the Selected Ten. You will write your weekly reactions and finish your scripts by the said dates and be provided your Black List entitlements.

3. I reserve the right to extended deadlines and make changes to rules at any point as I see fit. In that way, I’m sort of like God.


And that’s about it. I good you bid luck. Now go ready those submissions!!!!

A few thoughts.

First, this is quite generous on both Geoff and the Black List’s part.

Second, I support this effort because it is very much in the spirit of The Quest initiative I ran in 2012 and 2013, along with Go On Your Own Quest which we run annually in conjunction with The Black Board. If one key to learning the craft is to Write Pages, initiatives like these which motivate writers to write are a good thing.

Third, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that there are many shitty people in Hollywood. However there are also a lot of good, even great folks. In my experience, some of the best are screenwriters and TV writers. What Geoff is doing — putting his own time and effort into play to inspire and help aspiring writers — is an example of the generous spirit that many Hollywood writers have.

So kudos to Geoff and the Black List for this latest idea.

And Geoff, I’ve whipped up a special batch of creative juju for you that I trust will bring you some eventual, if not instant karma:

Check out Geoff’s blog for the latest information. While you’re at it, follow him on Twitter (@DrGMLaTulippe) as he’s been doing updates there as well.

Good luck!

Interview: Barbara Stepansky (2013 Nicholl Winner, 2013 Black List) — Part 6

January 18th, 2014 by

Barbara Stepansky’s original screenplay “Sugar in My Veins” not only won the filmmaker a 2013 Nicholl fellowship, it also landed on the 2013 Black List, so I was excited when she agreed to do an interview to see what we could learn from this talented young filmmaker.

Today in Part 6, Barbara talks more about the craft of screenwriting, what it was like learning she had made the 2013 Black List, and what advice she has for aspiring filmmakers:

Scott: What are you thinking about when you’re writing a scene? Do you have specific goals in mind?

Barbara: Normally, when I write scenes, I want to make sure that it drives the plot forward. If it’s just two people talking and we’re revealing character, that’s great, but if it’s not doing something at the end of that scene that makes sense for why the next scene now needs to happen, then it’s not a necessary scene.

Obviously you have your characters, but now you need to actually tell a story with them, and that means need causality. If a scene doesn’t have a cause and effect built into it, it doesn’t make sense to have it. I’m very radical with my scenes. [laughs] You have to make it essential enough that without that scene, the next scene couldn’t exist.

If you’re doing a B- and C-plot, you can plot them around each other and you don’t see the track so clearly, but the tracks are there.

Scott: You talk about the rewriting process, and of course that’s that whole thing. Writing is rewriting. When you finish your draft and you’re faced with the rewrite, are there some keys that you discovered to rewriting a script? If so what are they?

Barbara: There’s no easy solution to rewriting. For me writing the first draft is much easier than going back and rewriting it. You see all your flaws of your first draft, and you actually have to sit down and think about what you did there. Whereas before, you kind of do the vomit draft and you give yourself the liberty of not thinking about it, just to getting it on the page to see what’s going on.

Then the second draft gets much more in depth and it takes longer, because now you’re really thinking. I never had a first draft that was perfect, but I had perfect sixth drafts. First I go back focus on the big picture problems. Then I do the drafts that focus on specific characters or a specific issue.

The script that I just wrote, I took the entire main location out after my first draft because it wasn’t working. It was a big picture rewrite, because I literally had to go into every scene and change everything.

I’m trying to think of techniques of rewriting, but it’s literally just like slave work for me. It’s sitting there and really figuring it out.

Scott: What is your writing process?

Barbara: I write every day apart from weekends. I do treat it a little a job, where you start it in the morning, and then you have lunch and then you write again until I’ve put in a good six to eight hours. I have an office, I work from home. I personally can’t work with complete silence, so I listen to music, sometimes even TV shows running in the background. HDTV is incredibly helpful.

Any binge-watching shows on Netflix, also very helpful. Part of my analytical brain gets distracted to a point where I can be actually more creative, because I’m not double-checking everything.

Scott: How about this: What’s your single best excuse not to write?

Barbara: What’s your single best excuse not to write? There is really no good excuse not to write unless you actually don’t want to be a writer. There is no excuse. Maybe it’s best to figure out early that as nice as it sounds to be a writer, maybe you’re not. Then why waste the time and energy. But if that’s what you want to do, you just have to do it.

Scott: What do you love most about writing?

Barbara: What I love most about writing is when I get into a Zen state of being in the moment with characters, and they suddenly do something I didn’t expect and it’s as if you’re taking dictation. That’s my favorite, when I can get into that zone.

These days, when I have trouble with a character, I’m always say, “She’s not speaking to me.” [laughs] Then I have to try and figure out what it is that’s not working. But I just love when they kind of spout out their opinions.

Scott: What were you doing when you discovered you made the 2013 Black List?

Barbara: I was in Germany and it was already quite late in the evening, when looked down at my iPhone and I noticed I was getting all these new Twitter followers. I couldn’t figure out why. Then I checked my emails and realized what was going on. I don’t think I slept much that night.

Scott: What does it mean to you to make the Black List?

Barbara: Making the Black List is a huge honor. My script made the rounds quite late in the year so I never thought it would be possible. My name is on the same list as Tom McCarthy’s and that’s cool. You’re sharing the space with screenwriters who have worked professionally in the industry, whose work you’ve already admired, and so it’s a wonderful, warm, fuzzy feeling. And now, well, now I just have to do it all over again!

Scott: Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? In an ideal world, what are you doing?

Barbara: In an ideal world I would have made “Sugar.” I would have moved on to other critically acclaimed movies. As a filmmaker I would like to establish myself as a writer-director. I would like to go to Sundance. I would like to see myself making movies that I admired other filmmakers making in the past.

Any time I walk out of a cinema thinking that, “Wow, I feel like I just read a really good book.” That’s what I want. I want to make those kinds of movies.

Scott: Finally, what advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters about learning the craft, breaking into Hollywood?

Barbara: Of course you need to do your writing by yourself in a room or coffee shop, but I think what I’ve learned, is that writing in a vacuum for a long period of time isn’t healthy. Especially for screenwriters. I don’t know about novelists. I’ve never written a novel.

I feel like sharing the work with a group or supportive readers has helped me tremendously to not be so precious about the material. It can always be better. People are smart. They give good advice. Generally, they have your best interest at heart. I think you can grow you craft significantly with the help of other people around you.

For Part 1, go here.

Part 2, go here.

Part 3, go here.

Part 4, go here.

Part 5, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Barbara for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Barbara is repped by ICM Partners and Hertzberg Media.

Top 13: Go Into The Story and The Black Board

January 1st, 2014 by

Franklin Leonard did something cool yesterday: Tweeting the Top 13 items posted at this blog and The Black Board in 2013 in terms of site traffic. Here they are:

Go Into The Story

#13: Keys to Low Budget Filmmaking

#12: Spec Script Sales Analysis 2013: The First Timers

#11: Everything you ever wanted to know about specs, Part 1

#10: 30 Days of Screenplays, Day 1: The Sixth Sense

#9: 115 words for “walks”

#8: Interview with Julia Hart (@JuliaHartowitz) (The Keeping Room)

#7: 30 Essential Movies for Screenwriters to Watch

#6: Jeff Lieber’s (NECESSARY ROUGHNESS) showrunner rules

#5: Gender as represented in spec script sales

#4: 30 Things About Screenwriting

#3: “Girls” as a horror movie

#2: If you’re about to write your first (or 500th) screenplay, read this

#1: Where can you download 37 award contending screenplays legally and free?

The Black Board

#13: The Trouble With Sex Scenes

#12: Should We All Be Writing Spec TV Pilots?

#11: #BeTheChange

#10: What the Bechdel Test Is and Isn’t

#9: The Whiny Kid Technique

#8: An Easy Trick to Fix on the Nose Dialogue

#7: The Two Things about Screenwriting

#6: Creating Complex Characters with Rodrigo Garcia

#5: Viktor Shklovsky on moving from storyline to plot

#4: Making the Most of @theblcklst

#3: How to generate story ideas

#2: @JeffWillis81 Live Q&A

#1: Playing with Tropes

Thanks, Franklin. A lot of great content there.

If you are not following us on Twitter, you really should:





“Twas the night before Black List…”

December 15th, 2013 by

Screenwriter Chris McCoy has made the Black List three times (Get Back, Good Looking, Good Kids), so he knows of what he speaks when he composed these four tweets earlier today:

“‘Twas the Night Before Black List and all through the LA / Writers were nervous – could this help them get pay?”

“Their loglines were sharp and polished with care / In the hopes that St. Franklin soon would be there.”

“The writers were ambien’d all snug in their beds / While visions of having a sustainable future danced in their heads.”

“The agent in Prada and the hopeful in Gap / Had just settled their brains (with pot) for a long winter’s nap.”

That’s as far as he got before heading out to see Her this afternoon. But thanks to Chris, an opportunity arises!

Who wants to finish the poem? An ode to Black List Eve! The best one receives a free script read and a free month for their script hosted on the Black List website.

To help you out, here is the original poem:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Here are Chris’s original tweets:

Know this: At 10AM Pacific / 1PM Eastern tomorrow, all eyes will be on Twitter as the screenwriters who made the 2013 Black List are announced. Why is this such a big deal? In nine years time, the Black List has become a prominent force in Hollywood by recognizing and promoting screenwriters and the best unproduced scripts as rated by studio execs.

As proof to the impact the Black List has in filmmaking circles, all you need to do is ask any screenwriter whose script has made the annual list, what an impact that achievement had on those projects and their career. Here is a sampling of comments from interviews I have conducted:

David Guggenheim (Safe House): “The first time (Safe House), I couldn’t’ believe it. I thought it was just the coolest thing, because as an up‑and‑coming writer, you want to get on the Black List. You should aspire to write a script that people really love and that they remember. When I’d heard, I couldn’t believe it. Then with ‘Black Box,’ it was just really special as well because I really love spec writing, so it’s nice to get acknowledged for that.”

Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks): “Both (producer) Alison (Owen) and I will tell you that The Black List was a MASSIVE part of helping get this film made. It was being on that list that brought people’s attention to SMB. After the Black List, a whirlwind of attention arrived and very quickly built a hype around it. We all owe a great deal to Franklin and everyone involved in the Black List, and I cannot underestimate how important it was in the process of getting Banks noticed and into the hands of the people who would eventually give it life.

Arash Amel (Grace of Monaco): “Everybody was talking about the Black List, and the script being on the Black List – we landed number 12 if I remember right. I also had pre-booked studio meetings that went from generals to ‘We really want to be in business with you.’ That’s huge, for a writer who’s struggling and making it and working up the ladder. For them to go from leaning back, to sitting forward now … that’s what the Black List played into, a sign of quality. That’s what I view it as. I felt like I didn’t have to explain myself so much anymore.”

Thus a lot of nervous and excited screenwriters (and their reps) today on Black List Eve. So let’s get the celebration started early with your conclusions to the beginning of Chris McCoy’s ode “Twas the Night Before Black List…”

Entry deadline: Monday, December 16 at 10AM Pacific. That’s precisely when the 2013 Black List begins its unveiling. Contest winner announced Tuesday, December 17th.

Follow the unveiling of the 2013 Black List tomorrow at 10AM Pacific: @theblcklst.

Hashtag: #BlackList2013.

You can follow Chris McCoy on Twitter: @thatthere.

You can also watch the short film “The Bicycle” Chris recently wrote and produced along with Adam Neustadter, the film a Vimeo pick and has been receiving lots of attention. Go here to see it.

And in the spirit of the season, here is some virtual egg nog for everyone, flavored with a special spicing of creative juju!


“Cassian Elwes Endows New Indie Writer Fellowship Via The Black List”

October 29th, 2013 by

Breaking news:

LOS ANGELES, CA (October 29, 2013) – This morning, producer Cassian Elwes and Black List founder Franklin Leonard jointly announced the creation of the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship, wherein one unrepresented writer with lifetime earnings not exceeding $5,000 with a screenplay of indie sensibility will receive an all-expense paid trip to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and mentorship from Elwes himself.

Writers with scripts on the Black List or who have had scripts on the site since their October 15, 2012 launch will be able to opt into consideration for the opportunity until December 1, at which time a short list of writers will be shared with Elwes who will decide on one writer to make the trip. The Black List and Elwes plan to award the fellowship annually.

Said Elwes, the force behind 2013 awards contenders DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, ALL IS LOST, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, and LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER, “Behind every great independent film is a great writer. While it’s been my honor to work with some of the greatest filmmakers ever I have never lost sight of the fact the words were as important as the images. I love what the Black List is about, and I’ve been privileged to work on a number of films that have appeared on it. My hope is that Franklin and I will find the next wave of new voices that are the lifeblood of independent cinema.”

“Two weeks ago we celebrated the website’s first birthday, and it’s difficult imagine a better way to celebrate. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many great independent films Cassian is responsible for over the last two decades,” said Black List founder Franklin Leonard. “His contribution of money and time in alliance with our work is an honor and yet another reason to be hopeful about the state of American independent cinema. One writer is likely to have an amazing experience in Park City this January, and hopefully many more will be inspired to write great human stories without an explicit focus on their commercial viability, though every year I think we’re reminded this time of year that great human stories are explicitly commercial.”

Cassian Elwes

After beginning his producing career with Oxford Blues and Men at Work, Cassian Elwes headed William Morris Independent for 15 years, where he arranged financing for 283 films including multiple Oscar nominees Sling BladeThe Apostle, and Monster’s Ball. Since leaving William Morris Independent four years ago, Elwes has been involved in arranging financing and distribution for 30 films including LawlessThe Paperboy, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Elwes also produced Lee Daniels’ The Butler and executive produced Dallas Buyers Club and All Is Lost, all presumptive 2013 Awards season contenders.

The Black List

The Black List is an online community where moviemakers find scripts to make and writers to write them and screenwriters find moviemakers to make their scripts and employ them. Google for screenplays, if you will.

Begun in 2005 as an annual survey of several dozen executives favorite unproduced screenplays, the Black List has grown to survey over 500 executives each year (virtually 100% of Hollywood’s studio system’s executive corps.)  Over 250 Black List scripts have been produced into films grossing over $19 billion in worldwide box office. Black List scripts have won 35 Academy Awards – including three of the last five Best Pictures (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, and ARGO) and seven of the last twelve screenwriting awards (JUNE, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE DESCENDANTS, ARGO, and DJANGO UNCHAINED) – from 190 nominations.

In October 2012, the Black List launched an online database of every screenplay circulating Hollywood and all those submitted by English language screenwriters from around the world.  Since its launch, it has hosted more than 7,500 screenplays and completed more than 10,000 script evaluations. More than 40 writers have found representation at major agencies and management companies and more than 20 writers have sold their screenplays as a direct result of introductions made via the site.

At any given moment, more than 1500 screenplays are actively hosted for perusal by over 2000 film industry professionals ranging from agency assistants to studio chairs.


Franklin Leonard –

Yet another terrific initiative from The Black List. There is the partnership between The Black List and Warner Bros. to promote diversity and the Black List Screenwriters Lab (I’ll be posting on that later this week). Now this effort aimed at indie film writers with one of the most well-respected producers in that arena, creating yet another crack in Hollywood’s wall, offering a new way in for writers outside the system.

I just spent several days in Austin at the Film Festival and can tell you first-hand the respect professional screenwriters have for The Black List is deep and abiding. No wonder both the WGA East and WGA West have officially provided their seal of approval for The Black List online database and script hosting service.

Kudos to Franklin for his continued passion to discover and promote new writers to Hollywood. And for those of you who are writing original TV pilot scripts, look for news soon as The Black List expands its coverage into that area.

Exciting times as the old closed paradigm continues to crumble, replaced by a new one, lending even more credence to the saying, “If you write a great script, Hollywood will find you.”

Q&A: Franklin Leonard

June 28th, 2013 by

Recently Franklin was in Toronto to participate in the TIFF STUDIO program and gave an interview with Toro magazine. A few excerpts:

Is the Black List more useful for getting film projects off the ground, or helping to fund / promote those that are already in pre-production?

Both of the above, to an unknowable extent – I say unknowable because I don’t want to overstate the influence the Black List has.

My perception of how movies get green-lit is almost entirely clouded by Robert Altman’s The Player, which might be the best movie about making movies told from the studios’ perspective. But is it accurate – do movies really go into production on the whims of businessmen uninterested in creativity or originality?

The people who run studios are in a very precarious position. Their economic reality is that the cost of making movies on their level is skyrocketing. Revenue has recently dropped significantly because of the fall of the DVD marketplace. So if you have a family, kids in private school, and a mortgage, and some guy comes to you and says “I have a screenplay about a guy who buys a sex doll and treats it like a real girl. Give me $25 million.” So they can (approve) that, or the next Superman movie. Which would allow them to keep their job? It’s an economically rational decision. The Black List provides a certain amount of cover for movies that do have great scripts, have a reasonable chance of finding critical and financial success, but may not have the most obvious commercial appeal. In an industry with a cover-your-ass mentality, the (executive) can say, if the movie (wasn’t a success) “I hired the best director I could, with the Black List support it was reasonable to think this could have been a good idea.”

We’ve explored this dynamic before, how difficult a position studio executives are in, trying to make decisions about creative projects (movies) when everything gets reduced to financial bottom lines. It’s one big reason why they adopt a ‘similar but different’ approach to most movies they green light.

For the rest of the interview with Franklin, go here.

UPDATE: Franklin also made TheWrap’s inaugural Innovator’s List: 12 Who Are Changing Hollywood which was just released today. You can see that list here.

Black List news!

June 25th, 2013 by

Exciting news today about the Black List. Here is an explanation from Franklin Leonard:

Just over eight months ago, the Black List launched what we hoped would be the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way screenplays are discovered by people who make movies.  To mark the occasion, we published The What, The How, and The Why of the Black List: The Long Answer.

The basics were relatively simple.  After seven years of surveying Hollywood studio and production company executives to create an annual list that had yielded hundreds of success stories, we created an online infrastructure where great writing could be recognized more efficiently and promoted within an industry that is highly subjective and desperately in need of good screenplays.

Essentially, a real time Black List.

Approved industry professionals could rate the scripts they’d read. Those ratings would aggregate to create real-time, filterable, and sortable lists of the best-liked scripts in town and could further be used to make individualized recommendations based on our members’ tastes. In practical terms, if you were looking for a comedy with a producer attached and no financing yet in place, we could deliver, with a single click of your mouse or trackpad, a list of the industry’s best liked scripts by that description and another list based on the tastes of the member conducting the search.

We further expanded the site’s capabilities by allowing almost any writer in the world with an English language screenplay to upload their script to the site, have it evaluated by an experienced industry reader, and be contacted by our industry members (now numbering almost 2000) to discuss representation or involvement with their script if it caught someone’s fancy.

I am very pleased to report that thus far it’s been very successful.  More than 4800 screenplays have been uploaded to the site from all fifty states and forty countries.  Our readers have completed more than 6500 script evaluations, and there have been more than 8000 downloads of hosted scripts by industry professionals.

As a result, several dozen writers that we know of have found representation at major agencies and management companies, and there have been at least a dozen sales or options of scripts as a direct consequence of discoveries made on the site. Possibly most remarkably, the signings and sales weren’t limited to writers from Los Angeles or New York.

Far from it.  Richard Cordiner, an advertising executive from San Francisco, is now a professional screenwriter and former advertising executive with a two script blind deal at Warner Brothers.  Declan O’Dwyer sold his script BROKEN COVE to Basil Iwanyk from his home in Ireland, and Ryan Binaco, who currently lives in Sweden, sold his script 3022 to BCDF Pictures and optioned another as well.

Today the only real gap between being an aspiring professional screenwriter and a working professional screenwriter is being a good screenwriter, which is as it should be.

This morning we take another major step forward toward that paradigm shift with the announcement of a strategic alliance with the Writers Guild of America, West, a relationship that follows a similar one forged with the Writers Guild of America, East in November 2012.

For obvious reasons, this is a big deal for us.  We’ve always believed that writers were a sorely underappreciated part of the Hollywood movie making process and have sought to advocate on their behalf. Initially, it was by celebrating working professionals who had written much loved work, then it was by providing access, guidance, and community for those aspiring to that status via the site and our work with Scott Myers’s Go Into The Story (our official screenwriting blog) and the Black Board (our online screenwriting community run by tireless administrator Shaula Evans. Check out their work on gender and the spec script market for but one example of their extraordinary work).

An official relationship with both East and West is great validation of the work we’ve done thus far and an extraordinary opportunity to engage in ongoing conversation and develop additional programs in support of the writing community in general.

As for the specifics, they’re largely covered in the press release published by the WGAw this morning, but I’ll repeat them here for good measure:

  • The Black List will feature WGAw related resource information in the Education section of our website and a link to the WGAw registry as part of our uploading process (as we already do with the WGAe).
  • WGAw members will receive a 20% discount on all Black List paid services, which currently include script hosting and evaluations from our hired readers. (WGAe members already receive this discount.)
  • For the thirty days immediately following this announcement, all scripts uploaded to our site by WGAw and WGAe members will be hosted for one month free of charge.

The most important component of these relationships, however, is big. Very big.

Beginning today, all Writers Guild members, East or West, will be able to add their script titles, loglines, tags, producer and financier attachment status, and representative information, as well as monitor their work’s ratings and user traffic, and they’ll be able to do all of this entirely FREE OF CHARGE.


As the Guild has said, “while one of the major challenges facing many screenwriters is ‘getting read’ – by agents, managers, producers, or industry executives – the Black List has emerged as a viable tool for writers, both aspiring and professional, to increase the visibility of their screenplays in the marketplace.”

If you’re a writer with representation, think of us as supplemental; driving incoming calls to your agents and managers’ phone sheets with requests to read the scripts you list on the site.

In addition to that increased visibility, we’re aggregating information about the industry-wide conversations about your script, delivering it to your browser, and giving you – and only you – the choice about whether to share it with the industry.

To paraphrase what we wrote in October, we have an explicit DO NO HARM policy:

The only ratings that might be visible on the site are the individual ratings of our readers and the aggregate distribution of the ratings a script has received, and they are only visible if the writer wishes them to be so. The default setting for all ratings is invisible.


There may be a fear that more scripts in our database – particularly those of high quality by working professional writers – may make it less likely for unrepresented writers to join the dozens of those who have found representation or sales via the site.

In fact, it’s very much the opposite.

The list of top uploaded scripts will continue to be a marquee feature of our member’s home page, and we have added a list of top uploaded scripts by unrepresented writers in a similarly prominent position.

We have further expanded our ability to spotlight top scripts generally with a head to toe site redesign that features top lists (unproduced, uploaded, and unrepresented, separately) on our member home page in all eleven major genres.

We will also continue to include scripts receiving high scores from our hired readers in weekly emails that are targeted based on industry professionals’ specific tastes and preferences in genre, budget, etc.

Most importantly though, a deeper catalog will attract more industry professionals, and more industry professional means more possible eyes on your script, which has always been, and will continue to be, the point of what we do.


In short, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for.

Scripts on the Black List are indexed by attachments, production status, representation status, 11 genres, 65 subgenres, and 770 tag descriptions.  While the number of combinations you can theoretically search isn’t infinite, our best back-of-the-envelope estimate is that the number has at least 1500 digits (25 * 76! * 770!). Quite literally more than you could search in many, many lifetimes.

Looking for an action script with a producer attached set in China with a car chase, a foot chase, and a love triangle? A microbudget romantic comedy set in a New York City high school that passes the Bechdel Test? A WWII thriller with a female protagonist between the ages of 35 and 44, a healthy dose of moral ambiguity, and a budget in the $20-40MM range?

If it exists, you’ll find it here, and you’ll be able to download it on the site or we’ll be able to tell you whom to call in order to get a copy.

As we hope is clear, this is a tide that can raise all boats, especially those carrying writers. It was explicitly designed to be exactly that.  As we’ve said before, quibble with our methodology as much as you like, we welcome the opportunity to explain why we’ve created what we have in the way that we have and to hear the ideas and concerns of those who might be affected by what we’re doing. We will almost certainly incorporate many of these suggestions in order to improve the Black List.

To that end, on July 9, the WGAw will be hosting a members only educational event, where I’ll be demoing the site and answering questions. I have no plans to leave until the last question is answered. Very much looking forward to seeing you there.


Franklin Leonard

This is exciting news on multiple fronts and I’ll be exploring that in a future post.

You may read Franklin’s original post and leave comments for him here.

You may visit the Black List site here.

A reminder: I do not make a dime off the Black List. My recommendations re it are based strictly on the value I think it provides to writers, the vision and commitment Franklin has to expand opportunities for writers, both inside and outside Hollywood, and because I know Franklin to be a truly quality human being.

Bottom line, now more than ever, writers have an unparalleled access to industry insiders in a transparent, cost efficient way that puts the emphasis precisely and solely where it should be: the quality of your writing.

News articles on today’s news:




Here is the WGA, west press release.

Onward and upward!

Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting deadline: 2 days

April 29th, 2013 by

A quick reminder the deadline for the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is in 2 days (May 1). If you go here, you can see live-time stats comparing the number of entrants this year to last. Unless there is a mad rush of submissions over the next 60 hours or so, it appears there may be fewer entrants in 2013 than 2012.

I am in no way affiliated with the Nicholl, but having known many winners including my interviews with all of the 2012 honorees, it’s safe to say this is the most influential of all screenwriting competitions.

That said I continue to look for alternate ways for Hollywood outsiders to break into the business through their screenwriting. That’s why I created The Quest Initiative, a chance for a select group of writers to go through a unique 24-week screenwriting program, theory and practice, ending up with an original screenplay and a chance to have it sent out to reps — all for free.

That’s also why I’m quite interested to see how the Black List script hosting service plays out. To be clear: I receive no benefit from that, my support for it is based on how it’s constructed and how it works, perhaps the most transparent and cost-efficient way for a writer from anywhere in the world to get their completed script in front of potentially 1,500 industry insiders. It worked for Ireland-based writer Declan O’Dwyer who recently set up his script “Broken Cove”. Plus at least a dozen more writers I know of who have made deals and gotten representation by using the Black List site.

The Nicholl. The Black List site. The Quest Initiative. It’s an exciting time, more opportunities than ever for screenwriters anywhere to access Hollywood.

The key as always: Write a great script!

Interview: Justin Kremer (2012 Black List) — Part 5

March 1st, 2013 by

No matter what other good things happen to screenwriter Justin Kremer, he will always have this fact as part of his personal history: His script “McCarthy” was the first one to generate enough interest in the new Black List script-hosting site to land the ‘new’ writer representation — with CAA and Madhouse Entertainment no less. The heat generated off that resulted in “McCarthy” circulating rapidly around Hollywood, leading to it making the 2012 Black List.

Justin was kind enough to do an interview and we had an extensive conversation. Today in Part 5, Justin talks about some aspects of the screenwriting craft:

Scott: How about some craft questions here, Justin?

Justin:  Sure.

Scott:  OK, let’s start from the very beginning. How do you come up with story ideas?

Justin:  There’s rarely one concrete way. I find myself consistently attracted toward source material, not just because there’s stuff already there for you. I think it’s just the most rewarding to crack.

With “McCarthy,” obviously, I had at least some structure and some narrative already in place, but it can really come from anything.

There are a bunch of sites I like to read every day that just kind of stimulate the mind and get you thinking about stuff.One of those that has been an invaluable resource is a site called Longform, which posts these amazing long‑form articles about everything from crime to science. It has everything from that initial “Wired” article that inspired “Argo,” to the more contemporary stuff. It really gets you thinking about character and story in a different way.

Scott:  What’s your take on high concept?

Justin:  I’m more character driven, but to be able to pitch your idea in a really concise and concrete way is something that is unbelievably important.

I know, for example, that when John Logan was trying to figure out his next spec would be in the mid to late 90s, he told his agent that he wanted to write “King Lear meets football”, That became “Any Given Sunday.” If you can very simply describe exactly what you’re trying to do and give someone else a clear sense of that, that is so valuable.

Scott:  How much time do you spend on prep writing, like brainstorming, character development, plotting, research, outlining?

Justin:  I’m heavy on research. I spend as much time researching as I do outlining, normally a couple weeks for each. “McCarthy” was particularly heavy on that front, because I had to figure out exactly what time period I was trying to tackle. To figure that out, you have to know exactly where Joe was in each part of his life and what best encapsulates McCarthy’s arc as a character. I had legal pads full of notes, creating a timeline of Joe’s life and trying to figure out what was most suitable for adaptation.

It’s so clear when you’re reading scripts what’s well researched and what has had less thought put into it. The scripts that tend to amaze me are so detail‑oriented. It can be the littlest detail that grounds me in the world of the piece.

Scott Myers:  In terms of outlining, are you one of those three‑by‑five inch index card guys or do you have some sort of sophisticated software you use to wrangle the plot?

Justin Kremer:  I’ve tried index cards, never really fell in love with them. I’m more of a big Microsoft Word document kind of guy. “McCarthy” was interesting because I didn’t outline nearly as much as I did on other projects. It was more research heavy. With “McCarthy,” I gave myself three to four major points to hit in the first act, six in the second, and another three in the third, to know “This is where I need to go”. The rest is up to you. I left a lot of room to play around in between those beats.

It was interesting to work like that. On one hand, it’s frightening, but on the other, it really gives you a lot of room to play and be creative.

Scott:  For years, I’ve had the same approach, where I figure out 10 Plotline points. That gives enough structure. You have these sign posts where you know where you’re going, but then that also allows you the freedom to have the story emerge in a more organic fashion. Is that what I’m hear you’re saying, a similar approach that you did with “McCarthy”?

Justin:  Totally.

Scott:  How about character development? Now, this is a little different because you’re adapting a biopic here, an actual historical figure. Yet, you’re opening up a side of the figure that the world had not quite seen. How did you go about developing the characters in your script “McCarthy”?

Justin:  I think each character had a very distinct arc from the jump except for Don Surine, who was Joe’s confidant. Don is a creation of a few staffers that Joe was close with. He required quite a bit of creative license. I think Joe and Jean, their arcs were very clear. Part of what fascinated me about Joe, and this is eventually something that I took creative license with as well, was how unrepentant he was. I decide to present him with a climactic choice in the third act – a chance to apologize for his actions.

What happens is that Joe is essentially given two choices. He can be censured by the Senate and publicly disgraced, or he can stand up on the Senate floor and he can say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong,” and this venom will go away.

Joe didn’t have that choice in real life, but I wanted to give him that choice. He’s presented with this decision and ultimately, he unleashes on his colleagues…ranting and raving. Telling them-  “I’ll never apologize for what I did. How dare you try and criticize me when I’m trying to protect the country?” I thought it was a great character moment, and I think it was really crucial for him to be presented with a choice.

Scott:  Are some of the projects you’re considering now, are they completely fictional, not based on historical characters?

Justin:  Yes.

Scott:  What lessons will you take from “McCarthy” in terms of developing entirely fictional characters, or have you thought about that process?

Justin:  I’m not sure that I have. I think what’s most important to me is entering with an understanding of exactly what the arc is, because without that, I feel lost. Knowing where our characters are starting up and where they’re ending reigns supreme for me. The impotence of providing your protagonist with a climactic choice was one of the bigger lessons of this script. Some of my writing unfolded with this banal inevitably prior to McCarthy. My protagonists didn’t always have to be active – to make a crucial decision. That has changed now. When it comes to the idea of the climactic choice, I always think of “Apocalypse Now” – which is one of the greatest examples of how much tension can be derived from that moment.

Tomorrow in Part 6, Justin talks about more aspects of the screenwriting craft.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

Justin is repped by CAA and Madhouse Entertainment.

Twitter: @Kremsicles.