Monday, November 23, 2015

Reflections a month away from THE FORCE AWAKENS

We are now less than four weeks from the release of THE FORCE AWAKENS. Less than four weeks until the STAR WARS saga finally moves forward into EPISODE VII, a chapter I honestly never imagined we'd get when I was a kid, and that's just the beginning. There are at least six further films planned at the rate of one a year, and all indications are that Disney is planning on milking that cow for as long as it will produce.

I've been thinking recently about how my age bracket is probably the last generation that will have experienced a childhood where STAR WARS was mostly a dead franchise. I was born just a little too late to see any of the original trilogy in theatres. In fact, I'm pretty sure my first exposure to the world of STAR WARS came not through the movies, but through MUPPET BABIES. That series often edited in stock footage from STAR WARS and other films, such as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. In fact, there was an entire episode devoted to the Muppet Babies making their own version of STAR WARS, complete with Obi-Rolf Kenobi and Animal Vader.

I'm pretty sure I first saw the original Star Wars in first grade. That would have been around 1986 or '87. I was getting into the franchise, just as it was on its final merchandising legs. Oh, you could still find the toys in the clearance aisles of the stores, but pop culture was moving onward. Star Wars had made its stamp and it was about to lie fallow. It's something akin to what AVATAR occupies in the popular consciousness now - it was a major hit and a massive technological leap forward, but it had faded from the cultural conversation.

I'm sure that some will dispute that claim, but they would be forgetting that the Kevin Smith CLERKS scene where Dante and Randall discuss STAR WARS and the contractors on the Death Star was so notable in 1994 because at that point NO ONE was talking about STAR WARS. People weren't walking into stores to buy Boba Fett T-shirts or Darth Vader coffee mugs.

That was pretty much the state of the franchise for my entire childhood. Sure, when I was in 6th grade, the first book in the Star Wars Extended Universe, Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, was released. Because that series of books was a trilogy set five years after RETURN OF THE JEDI, it was easy to accept it as Episodes VII through IX. Even then, the Extended Universe was a playground for the hard-core fans only. From 1991 to 1999, it was pretty much the only game in town for fans seeking new material, but you could never claim that had the same impact on the wider culture as the features. During that time frame, the sci-fi franchise that was really flying was STAR TREK. By the mid-90s, there had been three TV series in recent memory and a recently-launched feature series with the NEXT GENERATION cast.

The sixteen years between JEDI and THE PHANTOM MENACE represent a state that the franchise hasn't been in since. The prequels sparked a new generation of young fans who are now probably as old as I was when THE PHANTOM MENACE came out. (And actually, the time between those two films is equal to the time between THE PHANTOM MENACE and THE FORCE AWAKENS.) As I reflect on that, I can't help but feel like the films ahead of us might be too much of a good thing.

What made STAR WARS special when I was growing up was that those three films were really all we had. (Yes, I know about the Holiday Special, the Ewok films and cartoons and the Droids cartoons.) From the time I was seven until I was ten or eleven, I must have checked the films out of my local library at least two or three times a year. My library somehow had lost its copy of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, so I saw that less-frequently, while the first and third films were burned entirely into my memory by repeated viewings. I also regularly watched FROM STAR WARS TO JEDI, a behind the scenes video that I'm certain helped stoke my interest in filmmaking.

And then I remember taking a break from the films for a few years. I'm not sure how long, but it was long enough that when the USA Network started running the movies during Christmas of 1993, the novelty had returned rather than it being "just another viewing." I also found that because I hadn't worn out EMPIRE, it eventually shifted to being the superior film in my mind. Up until then, I'd preferred JEDI for its faster pace and awesome action. It has speeder bikes, that amazing three-way climax, which includes an intense lightsaber duel and an assault on the Death Star. Plus, the Emperor is one of the great villains of film and no man of my generation can deny the impact of Leia's bikini on our young minds.

Thanks to Kevin Smith, it became cool to rag on JEDI in favor of EMPIRE, and that's a side of fandom I've long grown weary of. EMPIRE probably is the better-made film, but JEDI's often more fun to watch.

And I can even enjoy the prequels. They're not perfect films, but I hold fast to my belief that anyone who believes they are "the worst films ever made" really needs to see more movies. Prequel-hate is something I find both fascinating and utterly irritating. Psychologically, it's fascinating to study how a viewer could have such a strong tie to a work of fiction that mere disappointment triggers a rage at the films and its creator that persists years after the fact.

The original trilogy made an impact on its audience in a way that none of the sequels or prequels possibly could. STAR WARS impacted so much of modern filmmaking that newcomers to the series now have likely already been exposed to media informed by and progressed from the original films. A gentleman I work with recently told me he showed the first film to his 7 year-old son and was shocked by how slow the film felt. That's quite a contrast from the original perception of the films pace, that it moved at a breakneck clip.

It was always inevitable that future audiences would come to STAR WARS more jaded than the generation that grew up on it. The fact that an additional six films will join the canon over the next six years also seems likely to rob the mythology of its mystique. We cannot miss something that refuses to go away, particularly something that has such a long merchandising reach.

I can't help but wonder of overexposure will rob the films of the scarcity that made them so coveted. The fact that audiences waited 16 years for a new chapter in the series is surely a factor in the passion that made the negative reactions to those films so intense. With other franchises that turn out entries at an assembly line pace, it's rare for feelings over a particular misfire to linger so badly years later.

And that's a concern when I find it hard to believe ANY film could satisfy the build-up that most fans have given it in their minds. I'm doing what I can to temper my own expectations, but I'm well aware that a letdown here will be more difficult to rationalize. At least with the prequels, they were distinct visually from the originals. Despite efforts at continuity, their aesthetic was unique enough that it was easy to accept them as something only tangentially tied to the originals.

But the new films will actually feature an older Luke, Han and Leia - the three characters and actors most synonymous with STAR WARS. As excited as I am about that reunion,I realize that by its very nature, it makes a misfire harder to ignore. JEDI sent them off with a happy ending and a galaxy of possibilities. THE FORCE AWAKENS is going to be in the position of showing us the trials they faced in the intervening years - and perhaps will even force a re-evaluation of how uplifting the future was at the end of the original trilogy.

As dark as the prequel trilogy got, it was clearly a tragedy from the start. We knew that the babies were going to be sent into exile, we knew the Jedi would be wiped out, we knew that Palpatine would seize power and we knew Anakin would be evil. If the new films break up Han and Leia and have one or more of the main characters become the villain of the series, will it taint the more beloved chapters?

I don't think the answer will matter much to the 24 year-olds who were eight when the prequel trilogy began. No matter what happens, I'll be fascinated by how the new chapters are received by fans in my age range as opposed to younger fans who came of age on the second trilogy and the CLONE WARS TV series. It also occurs to me that a viewer who was 12 in 1977 would now be pushing 50. This would have also put them in their early 30s upon the release of the prequels - still at the right age for the desecration of their childhood love to tap into the right rage. Is it so easy to get mad about these things when they're 50?

And as a 35 year-old fan who doesn't hate the prequels, will nostalgia blind me to any of the new movie's flaws? Or will it make me that much more unforgiving? I'm purposely trying to go in with tempered expectations, not because I think the movie will be bad. It's more about trying not to put the film on the screen in direct combat with some sort of idealized vision of how I think the story should go.

And we have less than four weeks until we'll know. Exciting.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Black List Live returns along with a new season of the Black List Table Reads podcast

Los Angeles residents! It's time again for one of my favorite local events - a live reading from The Black List!

I've blogged about Black List Live in the past, but for those who don't know what it is, several times a year, the Black List holds a staged reading of a script that appeared on one of the previous annual lists. I've been to all of the readings but one, and I have yet to be disappointed. Black List founder and CEO Franklin Leonard always does an excellent job of picking a script that plays well live, and casting director Lisa Zagoria consistently puts together a strong cast of actors.

This time, Oscar and Emmy-nominated actor Don Cheadle heads a cast that includes Melanie Lynskey, Jaime Camil, Roselyn Sanchez, Judy Reyes, Stephanie Beatriz,  Diego Boneta, Natalie Martinez, Anthony Mendez and Ben Schwartz.

THIS Saturday, November 21
7:30PM Doors, 8:00PM Show
The Montalban Theater in Hollywood
Tickets available online

Schwartz, who co-stars with Cheadle on House of Lies and might be best known as Jean-Ralphio on Parks & Recreation, wrote the screenplay, EL FUEGO CALIENTE. The blurb describes the plot as "In this hilarious remake of SOAPDISH, telenovela icon Penelope (Sanchez) desperately dreams of Hollywood stardom. But when a jealous co-star (Reyes) and scheming producer (Schwartz) bring back the ex-lover she had killed off (Camil), suddenly her life is a soap opera crazier than the show that made her famous - El Fuego Caliente!"

Ben and Franklin announce the live reading in this video.

Franklin also interviewed Ben on a recent installment of the Black List Table Reads podcast. This one might be my favorite of all the interviews that Franklin Leonard has done so far. Ben shares a lot of stories of getting started in comedy, submitting jokes to Weekend Update, getting his first writing job on Robot Chicken, and much more!

This is also a good time to announce that the Black List Table Reads begins its second season today! The first script is Jared Frieder's THREE MONTHS. THREE MONTHS was a Featured Script on the Black List website last year and won the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Contest. In an interview with IndieWire, Frieder said the script "tells the coming-of-age story of Caleb Kahn, a queer Ziggy Stardust-loving teenager from Miami who is exposed to HIV the weekend of his high school graduation and has to wait three months to be tested for the disease. It's a comedy, it's a love story, it's a tale of resilience, and it's a deconstruction of how people in crisis sludge through great periods of waiting."

Unlike season one, which broke screenplay reads into four serialized episodes, season two's episodes will contain the complete screenplay in one shot. There will be a new script every two weeks!

You can find the Black List Table Reads Podcast on iTunes here. The podcast's site on Wolfpop can be found here

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Saluting the end of Amanda Pendolino's blog

I'm already almost three weeks late with this, but I wanted to give a belated salute to friend and fellow blogger Amanda Pendolino. Last month, Amanda essentially shuttered her old blog, The Aspiring TV Writer & Screenwriter Blog, which had been operating for over 8 years as a resource for aspiring writers. The archives will remain, and so I shall continue to link to that blog down the side of mine.

Her new online home is, which is where you can also find her notes service. As I've said before, Amanda is one of the few readers who I personally recommend without reservation. She's got the right experience, her rates are fair, and having personally gotten notes from her on at least three or four scripts, I can attest that I found her take valuable and insightful. She makes no promises about getting your script to agents, producers or managers, but if you're looking for evaluation and suggestions, she's the reader you want.

I'm not too surprised to see Amanda move on from regular blogging. I'd had a number of conversations with her over the last few years where we both discussed how we felt like we were running out of things to say. It's no secret that my own blogging has become less frequent of late. Some of that owes to work and other obligations, but at least twice in the last year, I've gotten halfway through writing a post before realizing that somewhere in the previous seven years, I'd already given that advice.  One reason most of what I've posted of late is movie and TV reviews is that it's a lot easier to write something that's a reaction to something else, rather than try to find a new angle on a general question I've probably covered at some point.

I don't plan on shuttering my blog any time soon, but posts will probably continue to be less frequent.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The wrongness of "No one knows anything"

Out in the screenwriting blogosphere and Twitter-sphere, you'll find a lot of great people, but you'll also find a non-zero number of complete idiots. After nearly seven years at this, I've gotten good enough at recognizing the signs of the worst of those people and I tend to just not even engage them. One thing I've found to be rather consistent among my least-favorite members of that population is their tendency to respond to any counter-point with "No one knows anything."

You'll generally find that William Goldman quote applied in a variety of ways, most of them wrong. The most common context I'd run up against tended to be its application as complete dismissal of any notes I'd given. It's no secret that a lot of writers are confidant in their writing and themselves. That is not a problem in and of itself. Greener writers tend to overestimate their own brilliance - my pet theory is they're still ignorant enough of what it really takes to last in this business as a writer that they have no context for what TRUE brilliance constitutes.

From time to time, I'd end up reading a script for one of these types and more often than not, they'd need a lot of work. These are the sorts of scripts that would be riddled with issues like tonal inconsistencies, completely bonkers structure, implausible dialogue, and so on. And yet, when I would point these out to the writer, they'd go on the attack. Deep down, they weren't coming to me for notes, they were seeking validation. In their mind, my role in this little drama was supposed to be limited to a pat on the back and a promise to hand the script to someone who actually mattered. In this writer's mind, how dare I stand in the way of a door he was entitled to?

And so, my talk about all the reasons why the script didn't work for me fell on deaf ears, as did my efforts to impart all the reasons why this script would be a hard sell. Instead, I could usually count on an angry diatribe telling me how wrong my opinion was, invariably invoking some form of "No one knows anything."

"No one knows anything" was never intended as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for notes, but somehow that's what it turned into. I've been meaning for some time to put that quote in its proper context and last week on the Scriptnotes podcast, John August and Craig Mazin did just that.

First, I want to quote the relevant portion of William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade:

"Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for certainty what's going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and if you’re lucky, an educated one. They don’t know when the movie is finished. B.J. Thomas's people after the first sneak of Butch were upset about their clients getting involved with the song Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. One of them was heard to say more than once, 'B.J. really hurt himself with this one.' They don’t know when the movie is starting to shoot either. David Brown, Zanuck’s partner has said, 'We didn’t know whether Jaws would work but we didn’t have any doubts about The Island, it had to be a smash. Everything worked. The screenplay worked. Every actor we sent it too said yes. I didn’t know until a few days after we opened and I was in a bookstore and I ran into Lew Wasserman and I said, 'How are we doing?' And he said, 'David, they don’t want to see the picture.' They don’t want to see the picture may be the most chilling phrase in the industry.

"Now, if the best around don’t know at sneaks and they don’t know during shooting, you better believe that executives don’t know when they’re trying to give a thumbs up or down. They’re trying to predict public taste three years ahead and it’s just not possible. Obviously, I’m asking you to take my word on this. And there’s no reason really that you should because pictures such as Raiders of the Lost Ark probably come to mind, which I grant was an unusual film. Why did Paramount say yes? Because nobody knows anything. And why did all the other studios say no? Because nobody knows anything. And why did Universal, the mightiest studio of all, pass on Star Wars, a decision that just may cost them and all the sequels and spinoffs and toy money and book money and video game money totaled over a billion dollars because nobody, nobody, not now, not ever knows the least goddamn thing about what is or isn’t going to work at the box office."

 And now I just want to quote part of John and Craig's discussion because they nail it better than I could. You can find the whole thing here on Scriptnotes, or the transcript here.

John: Well done William Goldman. So I want to focus on what this isn’t saying. So this isn’t saying that decision makers are ignorant, that they know nothing. It’s not saying they don’t have taste. It’s not saying they don’t have experience. They truly do have the wisdom of crowds. They have sneak previews. They have all of these things. They have experience. They have, you know, their own taste. They have crowds. But they don’t have perfect knowledge of the future. And you instinctually did exactly the right thing was emphasizing the word no is that, you know, William Goldman is saying like you may have very good reasons to believe something but you can’t know with certainty what the future will hold. And anyone who does tell you they know with certainty what the future will hold is lying because you cannot predict all these things.

And so, what I get so frustrated about is they’ll use nobody knows anything as excuse for, “Well, why don’t we just try something wild because nobody knows what’s going to work.” Well, people actually may have really good sense of what’s going to work but they can’t predict things perfectly.

Craig: That’s exactly right. It’s a little bit like that exchange where someone says, “You think blah, blah, blah…” and someone says, “I don’t think, I know.” That means something, right? It means that it’s not in the realm of opinion, it’s a fact.

John: Yes.

Craig: What Goldman is saying is that essentially all this stuff boils down to opinions so you can’t know it and therefore you have to make your peace with an uncertain world.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And so, of course, people are going to make mistakes but they’re not mistakes at the time. They’re only mistakes in retrospect. That’s the thing. You just don’t know. And he even — it’s interesting, he even italicizes the word know. There’s no — so we actually know that this is what he means. We don’t think this. We know that.

John: Absolutely.

I want to add one further point - if you come to someone specifically for their opinion, having asked them to invest time and effort in a read so they can formulate that opinion, it is the height of dickery to immediately dismiss that with, "Well, that's just your opinion." OF COURSE IT IS, ASSHOLE, BUT THAT'S WHAT YOU CAME TO ME FOR.

When someone tells you something and you brush it off with "Eh, no one knows anything," that's what you're doing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Supergirl makes a solid debut that shows a lot of potential.

Longtime readers of this blog will be aware that I am a massive Superman fan, so there's pretty much no power on Earth that was going to keep me from the premiere of Supergirl. The funny thing about TV adaptations related to the Man of Steel is that while I've often watched them regularly, I often found them difficult to like.

The syndicated Superboy series in the late 80s and early 90s was a living testament to how low budgets and often-unimpressive writing produced the mediocre results one used to expect in a superhero show. Lois & Clark started strong, but by season three was almost embarassing to watch as a Superman fan and an intelligent viewer in general. That show's greatest strength was the writing of the Lois/Clark dynamic the first two years, and while Dean Cain will never be my favorite Superman, his Clark was a lot of fun to watch.

Smallville has the distinction of being a Superman show where Clark himself was often my second least-favorite character. There were a lot of talented actors there and some decent episodes, but I rarely recognized "my" Clark in there. I eventually took to watching the show as a sort of alternate timeline where everything had gone wrong. Through that lens, it became incredibly entertaining, though surely not in the light its creators intended.

The most important thing about Supergirl is that I recognized "my" Kara in there. Supergirl should be a fun character. I've always preferred her as a light-hearted, bubbly, well-meaning contrast to Superman's more paternal tone. Some recent incarnations of Supergirl have piled on the angst and made her a moodier character. I suppose that's as valid an interpretation as any other, but I've always had a soft spot for the sweeter, innocent personality. The 1984 movie staring Helen Slater was kind of a debacle, but they absolutely got the characterization of Supergirl correct, and it's good to see this show casts her in a similar vein.

Melissa Benoist is a worthy successor to Helen Slater and Laura Vandervoort. I like that the insecure, slightly nerdy Kara is the "real" her when we meet her. When we meet Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent, the ultra nerdy act is clearly a put-on, a performance that Superman gives. When we first come across Kara as Cat Grant's assistant, she has no need for such an act. She hasn't yet created her superheroic alter ego, so there's no need for a geeky deception to "throw people off the scent."

Instead, the script - teleplay by Ali Adler, story by Adler, Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg - crafts events so that the Supergirl guise is empowering for Kara. It's the incentive to make her grow out of her shell. One of my favorite running gags in the pilot is the sheer joy and amazement on Kara's face when she demonstrates a power for the first time. Look at her reaction when bullets bounce from her chest while stopping a bank robbery. There's a brief "Wow! This is so cool!" reaction that reminded me of the moment in THE INCREDIBLES when Dash looks down and realizes he's running on top of the water.

I suspect that a LOT of young girls will be rushing to find Supergirl Halloween costumes this week. The show gets the look right and Benoist looks as good in her outfit as any other superhero has on film. The show is wise to simply embrace the superhero look and not try to make it appear "realistic" or "functional" with leather suits, black colors, and any of the other tricks we become used to from shows and films wary of putting their heroes in spandex. You look at a picture of Benoist in costume and you think "That IS Supergirl." I almost want to give special credit to the cape, which looks even more majestic than Brandon Routh's and Henry Cavill's did.

As for the rest of the show, I'm intrigued by their take on Jimmy, sorry... JAMES Olsen, who we're meeting at a much later point in his career. He's probably my favorite member of the supporting cast so far. I'm iffy on Wynn. He's not given enough time to be set up as much more than "the platonic friend." Calista Flockhart's Cat Grant is off to a good start. It'll be interesting to see if Kara's blossoming confidence carries over into her work life too. I'll be interested in seeing how the workplace setting develops in subsequent weeks when it's gets a little more screentime.

That does speak to one of the pilot's flaws in that it has a LOT of ground to cover. There's a part of me that wishes this either could have been a two-hour premiere or perhaps paced a few of it's developments across the first few episodes. Moments definitely feel rushed, particularly after a montage of Kara's public heroics. That was a point where I kind of wanted a few moments to savor the public's reaction to the new hero and get a some of those soul-searching character moments that the Berlanti shows are so fantastic at. I have no doubt we'll get those in subsequent weeks, though.

The aspect of the show I'm most wary of is the DEO, the government agency that Supergirl is first captured by, then working alongside. Part of my concern is that if the pilot wasn't tasked with laying so much pipe on them, it would have given everything more room to breathe. Their early capture of Supergirl felt FAR too easy and I'm wary of making Kryptonite this obtainable so early in the series. The rushed pace also meant that Supergirl's foster sister Alex isn't much established before she's shown to be working with the DEO. I wish the Alex/Kara dynamic had a little more time devoted to it before these secrets got blown. There's also the fact that the DEO delivers a LOT of convenient exposition about Fort Razz, a Kryptonian prison that arrived on Earth when Kara did. Right now, I trust these guys about as much as I trusted The Initiative on Buffy.

(Also, how sloppy was Superman? He not only left behind Kara's ship without going back for it, he apparently also never noticed an entire prison followed her. I wonder if there's more to the story that we haven't gotten yet.)

Supergirl working regularly with the DEO is also a concept I'm going to have to be sold further on. I get that Arrow and The Flash have cemented the idea that today's heroes have entire support teams around them, but Supergirl doesn't need that. The moment where she's practically answering to Hank Henshaw felt wrong to me. Why does she even care what this guy thinks of her? Why does she have to ask him for a chance to bring in the bad guy? She's Supergirl, she should just go and do it! It would be logical for future eps to mine this dynamic for conflict.

My non-geek wife is a great control group for these sorts of shows. She loves The Flash and it's fun seeing how a show so dense in the comics mythos plays to someone who has zero connection to all the continuity and Easter Eggs that creative team throws in. Her biggest reaction after Supergirl was, "It's weird that Superman didn't show up at all in this. I thought he'd at least be there to pass the baton." That's definitely a fair point. I had assumed that Superman would be out of action or missing as part of the storyline. That doesn't appear to be the case, as all references to him indicate he's active. I'll be curious to see how long the show can keep him off-camera without it seeming weird that he and Kara don't socialize.

Last year, two DC superhero shows launched - The Flash and Gotham. I still think The Flash is probably the best superhero pilot yet, while Gotham's debut left me with mixed feelings. I abandoned that show ten episodes in because nothing in that incarnation of the mythos appealed to me. Supergirl doesn't manage to dethrone The Flash, but it's certainly a worthy companion and has a lot of aspects I already enjoy quite a bit. I feel optimistic about the show after this pilot, and I'm very eager to see what a "normal" episode feels like now that all the groundwork has been laid.

The show gets the most important aspect right - Supergirl herself. This is a Kara Zor-El I want to see each week and I don't think they could have found a better successor to the cape than Melissa Benoist. Supergirl - along with The Flash - seems poised to make superhero TV fun again, without being juvenile. In an era of "grim 'n gritty," it's good to have an antidote in the form of a girl from Krypton with a beaming smile.

(Also, if you're looking to catch up on Supergirl comics, comiXology is running a Supergirl Sale this week, with a lot of single issues for $.99 and trades for $4.99. The run by my friend Sterling Gates has a lot of elements similar to the pilot, and it stretches from Issue 34 to 59 of this series. This run is also reproduced in the trade volumes 6, 7, 8 and 9.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Repost - The Long, Troubled Future History of Back to the Future Part IV

October 21, 2015 - the day the internet will never let you forget.

This is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to in Back to the Future part II. Befitting that landmark, there are plenty of screenings and BTTF celebrations, many of them listed here. By the time you read this, there's a good chance you've already reached your limit on BTTF content.

Too bad! I'll never let a good opportunity to recycle content pass without observance. About two years ago, I wrote a piece for Film School Rejects, detailing "The Long Troubled Future History of Back to the Future Part IV." It was a look into the future where production of a long-anticipated sequel went so bad that a mysterious key player went back in time to prevent it.

Read the whole piece over at Film School Rejects.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Black List announces 2015 Participants for three Screenwriting Mini-Labs

The Black List just announced the participants selected for their screenwriting mini-labs in Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco, and I notice a familiar face among them - Timothy Visentin. I read Timothy's script WHERE DEATH FOLLOWS a couple years ago and gave it a favorable review in a spotlight post on my site. It was good to see his name in the Toronto Mini-Lab roster. Hope he gets something out of it!

Full press release below.



LOS ANGELES, CA (October 6, 2015) - The Black List released this afternoon the names of the participants for their fall Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco Mini-Labs. Submissions remain open for their Los Angeles Mini-Lab until midnight on October 8, 2015.

The 12 chosen participants are:

Toronto Mini-Lab at TIFF 2015
Timothy Visentin // WHERE DEATH FOLLOWS
Mary Goldman // UNHOLY TOLEDO
Stephen Davis // GLASLYN
Erin Cardiff // RAISED BY WOLVES

Chicago Mini-Lab at Columbia College
Anna Hozian // ANCHOR BABY
Brian Trapp // POST-HUMAN
Maggie Clancy // THE OVEN

San Francisco Mini-Lab at SFSU
Elizabeth Oyebode // SEXTON
Rachel Bublitz // GIRL FRIEND
Joe Rechtman // THE ENCAMPMENT

The Black List’s final Mini-Lab of 2015 will be held in Los Angeles on November 20-22, 2015. Submissions are open until midnight on October 8, 2015. The Black List will invite four promising non-professional writers to Los Angeles. Each writer will workshop one screenplay through a peer workshop and one-on-one sessions with working professional screenwriting mentors. Travel and accommodations will be provided by the Black List.

The selection process will work like this: ten writers for each city will be invited, based on the strength of their scripts as evaluated by the Black List screenplay evaluation service, to submit a resume and one-page personal statement. From those personal statements, four writers will be selected to participate.

Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco mentors included Derek Haas (CHICAGO FIRE); Pixar’s Victoria Strouse and Matthew Aldrich; Go Into the Story’s Scott Myers; DePaul professor Brad Riddell; and Black List Founder and CEO Franklin Leonard. Mentors for the Los Angeles Mini-Lab will be announced in the weeks leading up to the workshop.

The Black List recently released new drafts from the writers of the screenplays that were workshopped in their May 2015 New York City Mini-Lab with mentors Beau Willimon (HOUSE OF CARDS), Leslye Headland (SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE), Michael Mitnick (THE GIVER) and Jessica Bendinger (BRING IT ON). Those scripts are now available for download by industry members on

Submissions are also currently open for the recently announced inaugural Athena Film Festival Black List Mini-Lab in New York City. This Mini-Lab (February 18–21, 2016) is open to female writers with scripts focusing on women's leadership. As with the other Mini-Labs, ten screenwriters will be picked, based on the strength of their scripts, and invited to submit a one ¬page personal statement. Four writers will be selected to participate. The deadline to purchase an evaluation is November 1, and the deadline for submission is November 21.