Monday, November 19, 2012

MCCARTHY's Justin Kremer signs with CAA after being discovered via The Black List 3.0!

Related: Read MCCARTHY on The Black List site!

[UPDATE: 7:40pm PST - see my update below the press release for my reaction to recent developments.]

Well, it happened.  About a month after launch, Black List 3.0 has its first success story!  Congrats to Justin Kremer.  What follows in the Black List's press release.

IN A TWIST, MCCARTHY BLACKLISTING IS SITE'S FIRST CONFIRMED SUCCESS

BLACK LIST WEBSITE DISCOVERY JUSTIN KREMER SIGNS WITH CAA LOS ANGELES

(November 18, 2012) – Only one month after launching its new online service allowing unrepresented screenwriters to have their work considered by industry professionals, the Black List can announce its first confirmed success story. Last week, screenwriter Justin Kremer signed with Creative Artists Agency. In a twist worthy of a screenplay of its own, Kremer's script chronicles the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist fervor, the same fervor that wrought the Hollywood blacklist that partially inspired the Black List name.

"I submitted MCCARTHY to the Black List site out of sheer curiosity, and entered the process with absolutely no expectations," said Kremer. "The script had been completed for some time and was collecting dust in a drawer. The response I've received has been truly incredible. None of this would have been possible without the Black List site. The avenue it has provided has been invaluable, and one that I expect to breed many success stories."

The script was uploaded to the site on October 19, four days after its launch. Kremer paid for a single read from a Black List reader, and the high score that resulted merited inclusion in the site's weekly member email highlighting its highest rated scripts. After dozens of downloads from Black List industry members and further high ratings from those who read it, it quickly became the highest rated uploaded script on the site.

"We're incredibly happy for Justin and even moreso for everyone who will get to read MCCARTHY and the screenplays that he will have an opportunity to write now that he is represented by a major agency. He's a hell of a writer whose great work simply hadn't been exposed prior to his uploading it to our site. This is, simply put, why we created it," said Black List founder Franklin Leonard. "Beyond that, the coincidence of its content is just remarkable. My personal interest in this period of Hollywood history is no secret. It's part of why the Black List is called what it is. I'd be lying if I said I didn't read the script as soon as the review was completed to be sure someone wasn't playing an elaborate practical joke."

On October 15, the Black List, Hollywood's annual list of most liked screenplays, launched a paid service that allows any screenwriter 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 1,250 film industry professionals currently a part of its membership site.

Since launch, over 1100 screenplays have been uploaded to the service, from 21 countries and 41 states.

Justin Kremer attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and is a graduate of the Dramatic Writing Conservatory at the State University of New York – Purchase. He formerly worked as an assistant at Teddy Schwarzman's Black Bear Pictures.

Over the last seven years, the Black List has become one of Hollywood's primary arbiters of taste in material. The Black List started as a survey of several dozen executives' favorite unproduced scripts, the 2011 edition surveyed over 300 executives, over 60% of Hollywood's studio system's executive corps.

The Black List, run by founder Franklin Leonard and CTO Dino Sijamic, now includes the annual list of most liked unproduced screenplays, the membership community and "real time Black List," and the Black List blog, home of Scott Myers's "Go Into the Story" and Xander Bennett's "Screenwriting Tips… You Hack," two of the premier and best-trafficked screenwriting blogs online.

Over 200 Black List scripts have been produced as films grossing over $16 billion in worldwide box office. Black List scripts have won 25 Academy Awards – including the last two of the last four Best Pictures (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and THE KING'S SPEECH) and five of the last eight screenwriting awards (JUNO, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING'S SPEECH, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and THE DESCENDANTS) – from 148 nominations. It is also solely responsible for tens of thousands of yearly introductions of Hollywood actors, directors, producers, and financiers to new material and writers they were heretofore unaware of.

Other notable Black List scripts include 21, 3:10 TO YUMA, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, ADVENTURELAND, BABEL, BLACK SNAKE MOAN, CEDAR RAPIDS, CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR, DIVING BELL & THE BUTTERFLY, DUE DATE, EASY A, FANBOYS, FROST/NIXON, HANNA, IN BRUGES, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, INVCITUS, JUNO, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, NO STRINGS ATTACHED, ORPHAN, RECOUNT, RENDITION, SALT, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, THE SOURCE CODE, STATE OF PLAY, SUPERBAD, THE BLIND SIDE, THE BUCKET LIST, THE FIGHTER, THE HANGOVER, THE IDES OF MARCH, THE KITE RUNNER, THE QUEEN, THE TOWN, THE WRESTLER, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, UP IN THE AIR, WE ARE MARSHALL, and ZOMBIELAND.

Update:  As The Site That Shall Not Be Linked has revealed, Justin Kremer had worked for the Black List briefly over the summer as an "intern."  Franklin Leonard has issued a statement that reads in part:

"From time to time, we put out calls for individuals to assist us with various tasks like transcribing interviews and alerting us to information about Black List scripts that comes up via the news. In exchange for such occasional assistance, we allow those individuals to call themselves interns though it is an “internship” in the loosest possible sense of the term."

Some people are alleging that this somehow is evidence of unseemly conspiracy.  I disagree, for the following reasons.

1) Even if Kremer had been a full-fledged intern, I don't think any of the Black List readers would know who he was.  I don't know the names of any of the interns working at the companies I read for.  What's more, I don't know the names of most of the READERS there.  My bosses like it that way, in fact, because it makes it easy for them to send one of us a script written by another reader and get unbiased comments back.

2) As I write this, MCCARTHY has 25 ratings on the site and has maintained a 7.7 average rating.  So even if we discount the Black List reader, that's 24 other ratings that have to be accounted for.  On Twitter, someone alleged that they had a lot of friends with access and if they wanted to, it would be easy for them to all rate the script a ten.  This overlooks the fact that if Kremer had 20-some friends important enough in the industry to have access, he probably could make use of those connections in better ways than manipulating a ranking algortihm.

Also, Franklin has indicated in the past that the algorithm is designed in ways that make this sort of ballot-stuffing ineffective.

3) Even if somehow Kremer pulled off the biggest con possible and managed to get his script to the top of the list undeservedly, CAA still had to make their own decision to sign him.  No agent is going to sign a guy who was a mere INTERN just because of his contacts.  Not possible.  I know guys who were actually employees of CAA who couldn't get signed there!  CAA signed this guy because he wrote a kick-ass script.  Period.

I also want to point out that it's not surprising to me that an aspiring writer would sign up to do free work for The Black List, or that such a person would be among the first people to roll the dice on a new service.

And it ain't like The Black List picked ONE script and only one script to single out.  The weekly emails generally push at least ten scripts, and the site generally lists the top 15 uploaded scripts on one of its main pages.  MCCARTHY was one of fifteen and it kept gaining momentum.  If in the face of all of that, someone STILL wants to allege "bullshit," I sincerely doubt it's possible to make an argument that will satisfy them.

41 comments:

  1. That's terrific! Congrats to Justin!

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  2. I just realized McCarthy made the idea of a "Blacklist" famous, and now this script sold on The Blacklist. It took me a while to catch that. LOL.

    Irony does sell...

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  3. I'm happy for Justin Kremer, but wasn't his script someway being signaled to the BlackList members before the site opened?

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    1. Ok, maybe I'm wrong. Good to know.

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    2. I would argue that the first BL heat for MCCARTHY came via this very BSR blog. Granted, his 9 rating and deliciously simpatico subject matter helped to unleash an avalanche of additional reads/ratings, but his first spike came via traffic from Bitter's recommendation.

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    3. Untrue. The script was pushed by at least one - possibly two - Black List emails sent to their membership the week before my review appeared. In fact, if you were to check the Black List thread on Done Deal Pro, you might even see some mild chatter about MCCARTHY from a couple of days before my review.

      I might have been in the chorus, but I don't think I was singing lead vocals on this one, though it's very kind of you to say so.

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    4. Mr. Kremer rocked lead vocals on this one, but you were definitely like a west coast Jon Landau with your blog contest: I saw screenwriting future and its name is the Black List...and its first headlining act is McCarthy!

      Sorry, I love rock and roll analogies.

      Thanks again for steering writers away from the shadow charlatans and toward the light of websites that reward sharp, strong work.

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    1. DHD commenters are among the dumbest wntities on the net.

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    2. Dammit! "entities" is what I meant to type. Damn phone.

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  7. Turns out the guy who got signed by CAA via the Black List was an intern at the Black List. Just updated on Deadline.

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    1. I'll update my post with this and Franklin's statement, but anyone who's trying to claim CAA only signed this guy because he was an intern instead of the fact he wrote a great script has zero understanding of just how low interns are on the food chain.

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    2. Yeah, I know, but it's still "convenient" that the intern got signed. But still, CAA isn't going to just going to sign someone they don't think has the goods, intern, or not.

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  8. Cool news.
    Confirms my belief that there are other great scripts "collecting dust."
    Thanks for helping to make a difference.

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  9. Yeah basically a non starter, I don't see the controversy here. Business is about who you know AND what you know, its good to have both but what you know is the one that gets you a career. All IMO etc etc.

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  10. If everything was so clear I don't understand why Franklin Leonard has waited for a DHD commenter noticing that Justin was an intern for The Black List to make this statement. He should have mentioned that detail before. Now this deal looks suspicious.

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  11. I find it ironic that a script about McCarthy is now engendering conspiracy theories.

    It's rather inconvenient for the intern to get signed for BL, because of this nonsense. BL works; a great script found its writer a great rep.

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  12. The problem rests in simple math. 1 out 1,100 scripts found a writer representation. And that one writer previously interned at the company running the website. And we praise this a successful venture?

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    1. But it's not as if (a) the Black List is the one representing him and (b) that the Black List chose only one script out of that 1,100 to push to industry pros. In the first month, they have spotlighted DOZENS. It just happens that Kremer's script was the first one snatched up by a completely independent third party.

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    2. Don't get me wrong. The Black List provides a terrific service to amateur writers, but I think the problem is with the readers (no offense). Writers are basing months of effort (hopefully) on the word of someone making $30/script.

      Yes, you hope integrity plays a role and that these readers, whether recent grad interns or seasoned pros like yourself, put a faithful effort into their review.

      I've worked with a reader who was recent grad intern at a top management company. She was paid to read, etc. She wants to be a screenwriter and her work needs significant improvement. IMO.

      The difference is in terms of experience. I've studied the craft for 7 years and struggled everyday writing to get better. To learn more. I don't think it's presumptuous to think that a 35-year old with 10+ years experience in screenwriting knows more about story than a 22-year old recent grad. Yet, the 22-year old holds the gavel.

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    3. But what if that 22 year old grad has a better hand on how to tell a damn good story than a person with +10 years experience who only knows how to tell a competent story at best?

      It's great to know the rules and see different structures, writing styles and such. But it doesn't always mean you "know" how to tell a great story. That's an innate skill.

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  13. This sounds like a person who competed and won in a singing contest only to have a backlash because they received singing instructions from famous trainers beforehand. Like people think the underdog/cinderella stories are the only credible success stories to tell.

    Who cares? They were a nobody before and through hard work and extreme natural talent, they became a somebody. Who cares where they worked or who trained them? Their work should speak for itself.

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  14. Doesn't matter if he's an intern. Possibly helped him, but at the end of the day, someone needs a million dollar idea with great execution. The guy did it and got the deserved accolades. Good for him and Black List.

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  15. So, I wasn't totally wrong.
    I'm sure the script is great and Justin deserves what he's getting. But I still smell fish.
    "Dead corps" is still stuck at two ratings despite of your efforts; Gary Sangha had to pay for three reader's review to get attention on Tutankhamen, which now has 10 ratings; Shadowtrail has only two paid ratings and an average of 8.
    Probably Justin's script had a little push to get 27 ratings, not because he was an intern there, but because the Black List needed a success story to justify their monthly fee.

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    1. DEAD CORPS also has zero pro reviews and it hasn't been pushed out to subscribers via the email blast. You can't compare it to MCCARTHY. The only thing the two scripts have in common is that I spot-lit both of them and as I have said many times, I am NOT the reason Kremer got representation.

      TUTANKHAMEN is an expensive period piece that is going to be a hard sell commercially even with a Black List endorsement.

      Thanks to my contest, I've read the first ten pages of several of the scripts in the "Top Uploaded Scripts List." The simple fact is that MCCARTHY is better written than all of them.

      Also notable - some of the new additions to that list have very positive reviews. Not only did this push them to the most recent email blast, but the algorithm is now predicting I'd rate several of them at 7.5 or higher.

      The holiday weekend is undoubtedly going to slow down reads and downloads on the pro side, but I'd say there's potential for at least two, perhaps three scripts in that list to gain some momentum in the coming weeks.

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    2. There's also a clear distinction to made between securing representation and selling the particular script that earned the management contract. Please correct me if I am wrong, but from what I have read MCCARTHY hasn't actually sold. Granted, that would be remarkably fast if it had.

      For "difficult sell" scripts that may be disadvantaged by period elements or genre labels that scare the marketing-minded, it's not just about your particular script; it's about the command of craft and the ability to engage a reader that comes through (particularly the first ten pages). It's subjective, but bottom line, it better smell of money (whether you associate that with awards, box office or both). Will a movie about McCarthy set ticket sales ablaze? Possibly, but highly doubtful. Clearly, CAA has vetted Kremer and see more than one script in him.

      We can debate until we're blue in the face whether MCCARTHY represents the best writing of the uploaded bunch (we sensitive artist types might as well debate the best and worst movies of 2012 while we're at it). What can't be debated is box office. And according to the algorithm numbers (the BL's closest approximation to box office), a drama with rich characters and marketability (read: you can see the one sheet, tagline and social relevance) is the big winner thus far.

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  16. Hey guys...I'm happy to answer any and all questions as far as McCarthy goes. Fortunately, the discourse here is 100x more sane than what I've seen at Deadline, which I can't bring myself to look at any longer.

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    1. Welcome, Justin! This is a safe place. Someone once told me that the first lesson you learn as a professional writer is to never read the comments on Deadline.

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    2. Thanks for making yourself available for questions, Justin. I have one (if it is safe, some details can hurt a sale):

      Is McCarthy going out to the usual suspects in the CAA rolodex, or being carefully packaged with specific director/actors in mind? His is an interesting story but a sell will most likely hinge on just the right actor falling in love with the part.

      If you're into "star casting" as you write, I'd be curious if you had any actors in mind as Joe McCarthy is a character I've been keen to see explored on screen in greater detail. The right actor could magnificently mine the tragic hubris is such a man's soul.

      Also, very wise move diverting your eyes from the negative brigade. Sensitivity is inherent with writing, so bravo on focusing on the constructive feedback.

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    3. Appreciate the question, T.A. Honestly, it's too early in the process to say. Although I'm a fan of the method, I didn't envision a particular actor throughout the writing process. Joe isn't particularly attractive, which makes it harder to draw an immediate connection to Actor X or Actor Y. I certainly agree that it's an interesting role! Thank you for the kind words.

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    5. Thanks for the response, Justin. May I humbly suggest one?

      Kevin Spacey. Should he gain some weight, he shares a passing resemblance. And more importantly, could dig deep into McCarthy and breath a little sympathy into the man. I assume the meat of your story begins sometime around the Wheeling Speech, so Spacey (though a bit older than Joe when he died) could still play a hard-drinking man in his early 40's. The role could return Spacey to his previous awards-season glory.

      You may have already considered such an option, but Spacey's producing connections could also prove of value. Though the movies he has starred in of late haven't burned up the box office, McCarthy should be a relatively low budget.

      ** And there's also James Gandolfini, who could bring a stronger physicality to old Tail Gunner Joe.

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    6. My hunch is that physical resemblance will be less of a consideration. Leo didn't exactly look like Hoover before he had the makeup applied. I like the idea of casting a character actor who could disappear into the role, but to pull that off, it's probably gonna need a big director.

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    7. True. Clooney was clever to let McCarthy play himself, which of course isn't an option here.

      Bennett Miller has shown an affinity for directing films on historical characters, and would probably crush a movie on McCarthy.

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    8. I don't want to get too much into second-guessing any casting choices, but if I was directing I'd love to explore the possibility of Bryan Cranston as Joe, despite the fact he too is a bit old. Alas, he's at UTA.

      Kyle Chandler is another one I'd explore, but he's not with CAA either. It'd be a bit of a departure for him, which also would excite me as a filmmaker.

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    9. Chandler is an inspired choice; free of the excessive movie star baggage could burden the performance by some bigger name actors. I'd watch Cranston tackle any role. Make-up and digital age augmentation can be a beautiful thing.

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  17. Oh man, Cranston is amazing. His work on Breaking Bad > everything.

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  18. Congrats to Justin and I hope he does well. Franklin has gone to great lengths to be transparent, and he was quick to modify the press release.

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