Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why would a pro use The Black List site? An interview with writer/director Derrick Borte

Two weeks ago I put out a call for loglines from people who had placed their scripts on the Black List site.  My assumption was that everyone who replied would be hoping to attract an agent or a manager through the exposure.  Honestly, it never occurred to me that anyone submitting would already have representation.  I certainly couldn't have anticipated that at least one script would come from a writer who was not only repped, but who had also already directed a feature film, but that's exactly what happened.

Derrick Borte submitted H8RZ, a script he co-wrote with Daniel Forte.  The two are repped at ICM and Echo Lake Management.  Derrick also wrote and directed the 2009 David Duchovny/Demi Moore film THE JONESES.  So what does a guy with all of this going for him think that some screenwriting blog and the Black List can do for him?  To get those answers, I reached out to Derrick for a brief interview.

Most people who use the Black List site are amateurs hoping to get someone to represent them. Franklin Leonard has made some efforts at attracting pros to the site, but I suspect they're still a minority there. Can you talk a little bit about what you hope the Black List (and by extention, my blog) can do for you? 

The first script I saw on the Black List was by a friend of mine who is a far more accomplished writer than myself, so I thought if he was using it to get his work out it could be a way to get more eyes on mine as well. I think that sometimes people need to be told what to like, and the fact that others approve of certain material seems to carry some weight. This material seems to be a little difficult for some people and I thought that maybe this could help build some momentum/buzz that might uncover some production company that I'd like to partner with to make the film.

What had your reps' strategy with regard to this script been up until now? When did you first hear about the Black List, and what was your reps response when you decided to put the script up there? 

The script kind of got discovered on the talent side, where the response has been spectacular. I've been meeting with some great actors over the past few weeks and hope to have a few of the roles cast soon. My reps weren't really part of me submitting the script to the Black List, so I guess I'll know what they think shortly.

I know a young director who went wide with his own script many years ago and kept taking meetings with people who loved the writing but wanted someone else to direct. Has this been something that's happened with H8RZ? If so, is backing off from directing this an idea that you'd entertain? 

That actually happened early with my first film, THE JONESES, which I only wrote it so I could direct. I held on for 7 years to finally direct it. I can't imagine any scenario that would get me to sell H8RZ without directing it myself.

Was there any quantifiable reaction to my blog post? Using the Black List stats, can you get a sense if my review was able to drive some traffic over to your page, and did that traffic convert into downloads? 

The views went from 1 to over 70, and downloads popped quite a bit as well. Unfortunately the number of ratings hasn't gone past the 1.

Beyond plugging your script my page, do you have any other strategies for taking advantage of the Black List posting? 

It would be great to get some buzz from the Black List, and your page has been great for visibility. I guess we'll see where this leads. As always, I'm just stoked to get great feedback on the work that Danny and I have done.

Check out H8RZ on the Black List.


  1. Bitter, this is great stuff! Thank you! Dave

  2. A brief but awesome interview -- Derrick's strategy to get it up on the Blacklist is brilliant and underlies the most important lesson for any artist, I think: even with representation, you have to hustle to get your work in front of people.

    i work on the management side. this idea isn't new, but it's always worth repeating: the best way to get your rep to work harder for you is to work crazy hard for yourself. it's not because of laziness or poor intentions, it's a matter of incentive: representatives will provide the most support for clients that provide income (and a living for them and their families.)