Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking a look at the stats of the Black List 3.0

Last week, some stats were released about the first month of Black List 3.0.  If you want to take a look at the data, you can find it here.

A few things jumped out at me:

-Over 50% of all USA submissions came from California; 45% overall

- the most numerous uploads by genre were Drama, Comedy and Thriller.

- the mean of all ratings of uploaded scripts is 5.26 with a standard deviation of 1.90.  The fact that the mean lands right in the middle of the ten-point scale is a pretty good sign that there likely are as many good scripts on the site as bad ones.  That'll be a figure that will be interesting to observe in the coming months.

- In comedy, the drop in ratings is far more steep than any of the other categories, once outside the range of standard deviation (and it's a pretty steep slope even before getting outside that range.) Contrast that with the less severe slope on Drama.

- Very interesting that plot had the lowest Mean Component. Actually, I find the ranking of the Means on all of those interesting. Premise was the highest, so you could infer that the numbers are telling us that people have a lot of good ideas, but they're really falling down on execution.

 - I'll be curious to see how the figure of 13.9% of uploaded scripts being rated holds over the next few months. I saw some reaction to these figures last week, with people being concerned that such a small number of downloaded scripts were getting rated, but that actually feels right to me.  You have to assume that most of the industry pros are only going to read the script so long as it has their attention.  If they get 60 pages in and it's clear that they're not responding to the writing or the plot takes a turn that it can't recover from, or the tone is all wrong, or whatever, they're probably not going to finish reading the script just so they can rate it.

And that's a good thing for the writer.  It suggests that they'll get fewer bad reviews simply because the people responding most negatively to the script aren't going to be in a position to pass judgement on the writing if they decide to bail out early on.

- Also interesting to see that "Most Downloaded" scripts pretty much cut across all genres.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with what I see here.  There aren't any immediate red flags in the data that have me concerned.  For me, the most interesting thing will be revisiting some of these figures six months in and see if there are any unusual shifts.


  1. One concern to me is that every one of the scripts in the 'top lists' section is from a writer with representation, which would suggest that the age-old model of you-have-to-know-somebody is still in force here.

    I would prefer anonymity in script rating (i.e. the reader does not know who the writer's name). Otherwise the true democratization of talent that Leonard seems to be shooting for will never happen.

    1. I dunno. Is it really so hard to believe that writers who have already attracted the attention of those in the business would be writing stronger material than those who haven't? Also, the vast majority of the "Top Uploaded" list is unrepped writers.

      I doubt any reader is giving higher marks to a writer just because they're already repped. Everyone in the business passes on several repped writers a day.

  2. To cheer up my fellow writers, I'd like to question an assumption of Bitter's and the BL: that the BL ratings are an objective measure of script quality.

    A script of mine received an 8 from a paid reader. A member rated it 3. So is that script good or bad? We can average the numbers and say the script is mediocre, but is that any more objective than the 8 or 3?

    The BL does not require or even allow members to explain their ratings, so I have no idea why one gave me a 3. Maybe he disliked the script's message, or thinks good scripts should have no message (as Samuel Goldwyn allegedly said). Several paid readers asserted that a message film "might have trouble finding an audience." I wish they would check out a film called AVATAR.

    Overall, I'm quite disappointed in the quality of the paid readers at BL. And this type of quality is more objective. For example, one reader said my script was a "referendum" on a social issue. Clearly this reader did not look up "referendum" in the dictionary. So my writing was evaluated by someone who wrote a word without understanding it. Other readers made comments that show they didn't read carefully enough to understand things that are quite clear on the page. As I said before, I think $50 is not enough to pay to get a careful reading and thoughtful evaluation.

    So take heart, writers, and study a little film history. You'll find that everyone in Hollywood turned down STAR WARS and PASSION OF THE CHRIST and other colossal hits. As William Goldman said: "Nobody knows anything" in Hollywood... especially not illiterate readers being paid $50 a script.

    1. This is true. Sometimes hits are not based on any trends and some even start them. They are rare occurences though.

      Plus Lucas had American Grafitti before his magnum opus, which was a big hit made for a relavitely low budget. Sometimes you need to tuck away your quirky space opera epic fantasy adventure and put all your effort into something economical, and make that as good as you can not to mention commercial. Then you'll be in the position to whip out you highly ambitious passion project.

  3. The one red flag that concerns me rejoins Peter A's comment above: assumptions re BL's ratings. I had tested mine on two consultants and in two contests offering feedback (Fresh Voices & Creative World) before BL 3 began. I got 8 or 9 in nearly every category in those contests and a 'Consider' from both consultants. So I bought a read, assuming it would do OK and possibly help me get reads.

    Instead, I got some very low grades (averaging a 5 overall) and the BL reader was 'confused' over things that hadn't confused a soul so far (which includes, beyond the four cited, 2 agents, 2 producers and a fellow working scriptwriter). I joked to FL that perhaps his reader had been fielding too many phone calls while reading it. He said he'd look into it. But all the follow-ups were uniquely about letting the reader justify herself.

    By way of comparison, a first reader at FrVoices, despite giving the writing a good score, wondered why there were so many comic strokes. Well, it was because it was a comedy, I pointed out! - surprised that hadn't been apparent from pg 1, or even from the logline (posted elsewhere here). But there, one of the organizers did take the trouble to look into it - apologized, and gave me a 2nd read - for free.

    Considering all this, I was toying with buying a 2nd read from BL - until I saw the low deviation in scores between them on the report. Sorry but that does sound like more of what I've experienced there already - i.e., justifying the first 'take'. Even just considering subjectivity, as we've been discussing. That's a disappointment - and a red flag to me.

    1. Confusion over things that everyone else gets can have only two causes:

      1) Low intelligence (which seems less likely than...)

      2) Inadequate attention to the script.

      Hey Bitter, I'm curious about your opinion on this, since your blog and videos indicate you are intelligent. Do you think $50 is enough to pay someone for a careful read and evaluation?

      If not, I wish you would express that opinion to Mr. Leonard, who seems eager to make his service the best it can be.

    2. Considering that most readers are only making $50/script at agencies and prod cos where they are expected to write full synopses and detailed coverage, I don't find the Black List fees to be underpaying for the heavy-lifting the writers are asked to perform.

  4. I just got my rating back from the BL and it was very low. I found it odd sense other script readers rated my script highly. The one thing that bugs me is that the reader actually pointed out something in the script that DIDN'T happen. He literally talked about another scene that's not in the script. He also talked about the structure being poor when every other reader liked it saying "I did a great job with the pacing and characters. Writing an ensemble script is hard to do but you were able to capture all the characters and not make it feel congested. Great job!"

    I feel as though the reader didn't do his job or he just didn't like my script. For him or her to mention a scene that never happened in the script is a big red flag. I'm weary about paying for another read. I hope all the readers aren't this bad.