Monday, June 24, 2013

Black List questions

Jerry asks:

I've got a Black List question that's been bothering me for the last weeks and I honestly don't know who to turn to for an answer. I'm so desperate, I've asked on the Done Deal forums and you know how that place is. I'm really hoping you can answer this, even if you make the question public. 

I uploaded a comedy script on the BL about a little over a month ago (3/8 to be exact) and I paid for two reviews: one came back an overall 7/10, the other a 3/10, which gave me the discounted read. I took it and the 3rd review came back an overall 9/10 with no component under a 9. I won't include the link because I'm not trying to get you to read it, I'd rather just have your opinion on the matter. The 7/10 also scored 8s on the character/dialogue and I was included in the Friday e-mail, I also was included twice for the overall 9/10 review and I ended up with 13 downloads. 

My question to you is: what is the time frame on getting a response? Should I now treat these downloads as any other read? Am I looking to wait 4-6 weeks like any other read? I also have to add that while I've received pretty good scores, I've also got an additional 4 rating from one of the industry folks and that my script has a top five standard deviation on the entire site, so I'm pretty sure it's polarizing. I am currently unrepped, but I've seen other folks who've scored high on the BL get signed within days of uploading. Am I just being impatient or should I get another read? Even if you can't answer this, thank you for at least letting me vent.

This email is several weeks old, so I doubt the advice is of much use to Jerry, but for others in this situation, read on...

I would probably suggest giving it a couple weeks after the email.  Some users might be intrigued by your logline, but a Black List script is probably going to end up being a lesser priority than, say, a CAA submission.   My gut would be to treat them like any other read.    Assume it's going to take a few weeks before you know anything.

With you having already paid for three reviews, I'm not sure what good a 4th review would do for you.  As you've noted, the ratings suggest the script is polarizing, so if your overall average is decent, is it worth the risk of drawing another low score?

And yes, it's completely possible to hear from someone within days of getting your paid review back - but I'd say those results are more likely when the script has appeared on one of the top lists. 

One thing I might suggest you try while waiting for replies is sending out queries to other potential reps.  Mention your strong review and perhaps you might get a few more people requesting your script.


  1. Being someone who also landed a 9/10 review on the Black List, I can tell you that while there might be some quick responses, as Bitter said it'll still take time.

    Even after I had some things in play as a result of the score - I kept the script up for exposure and have seen odd jumps of as high as 25 downloads in a day.
    You could always pause your script, develop it further and come back later with a new draft and test the waters as well.

    If people don't bite right away, it doesn't mean it won't come. There's a right time and place for anything to happen in film, and you'll rarely know when that is before hand.

  2. Hello.

    I would like to offer my experience. It may not be particularly relevant but I'll leave that decision to you and others.

    Like many creative types, I have some self-esteem issues and problems with self-doubt. I find it hard to put myself out there because of a fear of rejection and ridicule. Nobody wants to discover that everyone thinks their writing is awful, right?

    Well, I wrote two scripts in the last year, and I'm fond of both, although as always I assumed everyone would hate them. But I took a class recently and was required to turn in a completed screenplay. Rather than reinvent a wheel, I submitted one of the old scripts.

    The course instructor liked it and asked if she could show the script to her producer friends, but I declined, telling her of my serious doubts. The instructor persisted, but I stuck to my guns, so in the end she offered to pay for Black List assessments as a form of compromise: If the script scored well there, I agreed to let it be passed around.

    There were two readings. One earned a score of three out of ten, and the other scored only one out of ten. The comments were crushing and it was the end of it all as far as I was concerned, but my instructor wasn't fazed. She asked me to let her pay for two more readings for my other script, as she believed these low scores were an aberration.

    Unfortunately, she was wrong. The second scored two out of ten and three out of ten. The highest individual category score was a lone five.

    After that, I said forget it, no more, my ego couldn't take it. I was already practically suicidal as it was, and decided that I had no future as a screenwriter.

    Despite my objections, my former course instructor passed on one of the scripts to a producer. He showed it to a colleague. Two days later I had two offers of representation from which to choose. Now that first script is in preproduction, and I am doing a minor rewrite of the second for another producer.

    Make of this what you will.

    Do not think I am suggesting the Black List service is not valuable or worthwhile. However, please let me offer this advice: Don't automatically assume that any assessment is the last word. Just because Black List readers don't like your work, it doesn't mean your work is not good.

    1. Neela, it's great to hear that you have succeeded in commencing a screenwriting career despite enduring such tough struggles with self-esteem and your confidence as a screenwriter, plus the fact that a scripts are bought because producer's see a commercial opening for the type of story in question e.g. its genre, or that it's original and will have a sizeable audience of some sort.

      Keep going, stay positive, and I hope you have a long and successful screenwriting career!