Monday, October 15, 2012

The Black List Launches Service For Aspiring Writers

By now you've probably heard about The Black List's new service for aspiring writers. From their press release:
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
“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.” 
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.
I was going to do a more in-depth post about this, but The Bitter Script Reader has already covered most of what I was going to say about how it compares to other script coverage and script listing services out there. (BSR also did an in-depth interview with Franklin Leonard, so check that out!) One question that's already popped up: will the Black List will accept TV scripts? "Not yet, but soon," says The Black List's official Twitter account.

Many writers tell me that they don't know how to get their scripts to the right people, and now we have a new method to add to the list of usual ways writers can get noticed (win a contest/fellowship, meet people through an assistant job, etc). In many ways, Hollywood is resistant to change - but why shouldn't we be utilizing the Internet and new technology in our industry?

I really do believe that Franklin's goals are to A) utilize new technology in Hollywood and B) champion good writers. I met Franklin back in 2008, after he contacted me about this blog; I think he's simply interested in anyone who's exploring the insider culture and methods of the entertainment industry on the public platform of the Internet. But he's not just a technophile, he's also a film industry professional - and one way this service differs from some other services is that The Black List is a respected brand within the industry, led by an experienced executive.

Will The Black List's new service actually change the way aspiring writers get their scripts noticed? Maybe. Two things need to happen: enough industry professionals need to use The Black List site (which is now free for them), and the scripts uploaded need to be good.

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. I have read scripts by both repped and unrepped writers for agencies, production companies, contests and coverage services - and the quality of the scripts is often disappointing. ScriptShark offers affordable coverage and scouting services - but is upfront about the fact that only approximately 5% of its submissions earn positive enough coverage to qualify for scouting. I wouldn't be surprised if The Black List yields similar results.

But if your script is truly good, then this new service can only help. Getting your script read is still hard even after you've secured representation, so I'm excited that there's one more way to connect with people looking for scripts.

To save yourself some money, please read professional scripts, study proper script formatting, outline extensively, write at least a second draft and proofread your script before sending your script to any service, contest, agent, etc.


Matt McManus said...

I agree the larger problem is that most writers perceive their subpar scripts to be quality material. I interned for a literary manager this summer, and a majority of the scripts I read from professional writers were laughable. And that would have been great if they weren't dramas.

However, I can't help but be cynical about this service. I'm sure it will open some doors to a few truly talented writers who would have otherwise languished while trying to get their top-notch scripts read by some power players, but what about those lesser writers who have no business submitting material to agents and producers? Is doesn't take a lot of imagination to envision this service stringing them along, so they can milk them out of a $25 monthly fee, for as long as they want to support these writers' pipedreams and line their own pockets.

Amanda said...

Matt - your concern is certainly a possibility. Franklin addresses it as such:

"If your script is getting consistently poor reviews, do not continue to give us your money. Please."


I guess we can only hope that people take the ratings seriously, and take their scripts down if they only get negative results.

kiyong said...

" 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." - yes. agree.

Unknown said...

Could not agree more that a writer who has the chops (as a reader once told me) and who writes great scripts can only be helped by getting access to people who can start a career. The Black List is being completely straightforward about what it offers and the small cost is also a deterrent to a YouTube like tidal wave of awful stuff. I can think of a lot of more things and a lot more ways that aspiring writers are milked out of $25 e.g. Star Wars 7, 8, 9 on 3D & IMAX :)