Thursday, November 14, 2013

A couple of Black List updates

There has been some recent news with the Black List that I'm sure will be of interest to many readers of this blog.

First, on Tuesday they released their comprehensive stats for the first year.  The massive data dump highlights one reason I really have a lot of respect for The Black List - the total transparency.  There's no smoke and mirrors here.  Here's the data, use it wisely.

Then yesterday, the Black List announced that they are now hosting TV pilots.  I know this is a feature that many have been clamoring for all year.  There's a thread over on Done Deal Pro where Black List creator Franklin Leonard regularly answered questions about the site and damned if he didn't get asked about TV pilots on every page.  In that regard, I can't blame the site for giving the audience what it wants.

On the other hand, I have reservations about how successful this new feature will be.  I suppose that it's possible that agents and manager will use these spec pilots as a way of discovering new talent, just as they have with the spec screenplays.  However, my gut tells me that we're not going to see many sales off of the site.  TV works differently from film and it's incredibly rare for spec TV pilots to sell from first-timers.  They're more frequently useful as writing samples.

My advice to those of you thinking of submitting pilots would be to calibrate your expectations accordingly.  Your goal should be to get repped. Don't expect to have a network knocking on your door looking to buy it or a show-runner inviting you onto staff based on your spec pilot.

Of course, I will be very happy to be proven wrong.

The press release follows:


LOS ANGELES – This morning, the Black List’s online script database ( launched its long awaited expansion into television and episodic scripted content. 

Beginning today, writers from around the world will be able to upload their original pilot scripts (and, optionally, their series bibles) to the script database, request evaluations by professional script readers, and make their scripts available to the Black List's growing membership of industry professionals, currently over 2,000 members. Writers will be able to categorize their scripts in a near infinite number of ways, including but not limited to multi-cam/single-cam, procedural/serialized, length of season, prospective number of seasons, and more than 60 genres and over 800 tags.

“Writers and industry professionals have been asking us about a television version of the site since we launched our feature script service last year. We’re excited to roll it out now in a way that can accommodate conventional television, miniseries and web series scripts,” said Black List founder Franklin Leonard. “The goal of this new venture parallels the mandate of the feature film script hosting service: make it easy for those making episodic content to find great scripts and writers, and help those with great scripts get them to people who can do something with them. I’m very optimistic that we can repeat the success we’ve had since our film launch: more than 13,000 downloads of uploaded scripts, more than four major agency and management company signings, one two-script blind deal at a major studio, one produced film, and more than twenty sales for writers living as far away from Hollywood as Ireland and Sweden.”

As with feature film scripts, writers will pay $25 per month to host and index each of their pilots (and if they so choose, the series bible at no additional charge) on the Black List’s website, accessible only by a closed community of industry professionals (and by their fellow writers if they choose to make them available.) They can further pay for evaluations by professional script readers hired by the Black List. Evaluations for pilots meant to be longer than 30 minutes will cost $50, just like feature scripts, and those meant to be 30 minutes or less will cost $30.

WGA East and West members will be able to list their material free of charge (without hosting it), just as they can with their film scripts.

Also, just like with film scripts hosted on the site, reminded Leonard, “writers retain all rights to sell and produce their work and are free to negotiate the best deal they can get. All we ask is an email letting us know of their success.”


Since 2005, the Black List has become one of Hollywood’s primary arbiters of taste in scripted material. Begun as an annual survey of several dozen executives’ favorite unproduced film scripts, the 2012 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,” the Black List blog - home of Scott Myers’ “Go Into the Story” and Xander Bennett’s “Screenwriting Tips… You Hack” - and the Black Board, the free online discussion community moderated by Shaula Evans.

225 scripts from the annual Black List have been produced as feature films grossing over $19 billion in worldwide box office. Black List scripts have won 35 Academy awards – including three of the last five Best Pictures (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, and ARGO) and seven of the last twelve screenwriting Oscars (JUNO, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE DESCENDANTS, DJANGO UNCHAINED, and ARGO) – from 175 nominations. It is also solely responsible for bringing undiscovered writers and new material to the attention of Hollywood actors, directors, producers and financiers in tens of thousands of introductions per year. 2013 awards contenders SAVING MR BANKS, PRISONERS, LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER, and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET were all once scripts on the annual Black List.

Since October 2012, the Black List’s membership community has generated over 13,000 script downloads, more than forty major agency and management company signings, more than twenty script sales, one two-script blind deal at a major studio, and one produced film.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Australian films can also be boring as bat shit though. The new Aaron Pederson flick Mystery Road is a case in point. Interesting premise for a short film and that's it.

  3. definitely agree about the rep thing versus selling a show.

  4. Umm, the end of the post mentions all of the successes that have been achieved through the Blacklist mentioning all of the produced films and academy awards. the issue is that The Blacklist and The Blacklist are different creatures. One is the list of the hot unsold scripts floating around Hollywood, the other is the site where people post for reviews. I wish their names were somewhat different to avoid propping one service up with the highlight real of the other.

  5. The stats for 2013: (you do the math.)

    A. More than 7000 scripts hosted at $25 pr. script pr, month
    B. More than 9000 evaluations (reviews) at $50 pr. script

    FADE IN:

    Franklin and his biz partner Dino pocket the money generated every month from A (minus web administration costs and wages going to their tech support team of one or two employees.)

    Franklin and Dino pay readers X dollars from the money generated from B, and split the rest between themselves.

    Franklin and Dino laugh all the way to the bank.


    Stop supporting this scam, people - play the Lotto if you insist on wasting your hard earned dough!

    1. You could apply that same attack to any capitalist enterprise. Founders of a company accepting money for a service, deducting their expenses and making a living off of the profit! I do declare!

      You really need to learn the definition of scam. The Black List is very upfront about what it offers and about the prices. There are no hidden fees, no fine print, none of that shit.

      Beyond that, the site is incredibly transparent about the statistics, both in real time for the individual writer's scripts. The regular release of stats like this, showing the overall results across the board is another factor in that transparency. Scammers are rarely so forthcoming with hard data like that. They prefer to operate behind smoke and mirrors, behind false names and vague promises.

      If you have taken a look at the site and decided it's not something you're interested in spending money, that's your prerogative. But coaching your displeasure in poorly-written comments like that doesn't do much to make your argument look intelligent.

  6. I have entered screenplay contests, queried agencies, spent uncountable hours and dollars between Chicago and Los Angles discussing different projects and "this is the one" scenarios. From the summer of 2001 to the fall of 2012 that investment of nearly every spare nickel resulted in zero options, sales and signings for yours truly. Then, in October of 2012 I invested $75 (a month of hosting and two paid reads) on the Black List and within a month had a manager (who read the logline on this very blog then downloaded the script on the BL).

    Still no sales, but holy shit -- I've since developed two new projects, all the while enjoying the in-the-trenches efforts of a motivated and talented manager based in LA. When I finally get my ass to LA there are several doors that will already be open. All kick-started for the price of a tank of gasoline. That's just my small potatoes personal story. I don't see how any sane son of a bitch can read the Year One data drop and call the BL a "scam."

    1. Your post reads like most of the crap in my spam folder.

    2. The Bitter Script Reader wrote:
      "You really need to learn the definition of scam. The Black List is very upfront about what it offers and about the prices. There are no hidden fees, no fine print, none of that shit."

      Whoa, dude - who took a piss in your cereal bowl? I never said anything about Franklin and Dino pulling the small print stunt - that'd be too obvious. But please don't insult my intelligence by claiming that raking in $25 pr.script pr. month for hosting more than 7000 scripts in a single year is not obscene. It is beyond obscene.

      Capitalism is fine IF the business delivers the goods. Franklin & Dino however are selling snake oil. And that ain't right. It not right to take advantage of people's dreams and hopes in such a brutal fashion. Do the writers who pay TBL deserve to be ripped off because they hope to find a way past the gate keepers? Absolutely not.

      Contests are just as bad by the way, even the Nichols Fellowship and Final Draft. The best way in is to know someone: your neighbor's mom's hair dressers' boyfriend's dad. Paying snake oil peddlers like Franklin & Dino is a waste of money, time, and energy.

      I don't know why you, Bitter Script Reader is so hell bent on playing the devil's advocate on their behalf.

      Btw: my comment was not poorly written - no need to insult my writing capabilities.

      There are many who feel the same way I do about The Black List - don't make it sound as if I'm the only one who sees through The Bull List.

    3. Why am I "hellbent on playing Devil's Advocate?" Because I don't appreciate my well-considered position and endorsement to be made out to be part of some scam. I have explained many times why I feel the Black List does have value and is superior to any other competition that exists. If you're unconvinced, that's fine, but I find many of the positions you take to be baseless and I'm really offended that you keep ascribing untoward motivations to the people behind it. I might as well turn the question around on you and ask why you're so hellbent and calling Franklin and Dino names that you only bother to comment on Black List related posts.

      Your issue with the price seems to be less about them charging $25 (which is the price of two movie tickets, basically) and more that a lot of people actually paid it. $25 a month is less than the entry fees for most contests. As far as the market value for screenwriting resources, it's pretty damn low. You might as well attack Robert McKee as a scammer because his book costs $25 and only a fraction of the people who buy it ever get as far as being repped. The Black List is very upfront about what the hosting fee offers, as well as what the coverage is. I don't see how you can get more reasonable than Franklin saying, "if the Black List is not helping you find traction for your script, please stop giving us your money."

      If your argument is that hosting should be free, I aggressively disagree with that. Suddenly you'd have writers tossing scripts up there just because they could. The place would become a cesspool of terrible scripts. It's in no one's interest that this site turn into the next Trigger Street. $25 is an incredibly reasonable price and again, it's not as if anyone is being forced to pay $25 to get something else. Taking advantage of their hopes and dreams would be if they said "Pay us $250 and we'll email your script to every agent in town." The business model is simple, you have a forum in which to post your script and if it is favorably rated, it can come to the attention of people in the business. And people in the business DO take the Black List site seriously, and that's due in no small part to Franklin Leonard's credibility.

      That credibility has gotten them the following partnerships with other well-regarded entities and individuals:

      * Black List Screenwriters Lab: 6 aspiring screenwriters spent several days in Las Vegas workshopping their scripts and mentored by Billy Ray, Brian Koppelman, Kiwi Smith, Jenny Lumet and Scott Myers. Total cost? Zip. Zero. Free.

      * Black List Warner Bros. Diversity Initiative.

      * Black List Cassian Elwes Sundance Fellowship.

      The site is also officially recognized by both WGA East and WGA West.

      I also take issue with your characterization of the Nicholl Fellowship. It certainly has launched careers in the past, and again, not for unreasonable fees.

      If you have ways you'd rather spend your money, by all means do so, but launching attacks on someone's character isn't going to win you many friends.

      If anyone's interested, Franklin had a fantastic post on DDP that deals with some of the issues that have been raised in these comments.

  7. I can kind of see your point, Candy Cane. Though I've been using The Black List for a few months now, it's just like any other 'lets make money off writers' business.' It's just dressed up nicer. They do have great customer service and Franklin is as transparent as he can be, but this is a business. The goal is to make money. Bottom line is that people who use it shouldn't put all their stock in it. They should be querying, trying to build relationships, etc. It's lazy and foolish to rely on just this one tool.

  8. I hate to be that guy, but...I realized I'd been duped when I saw the 'notes' I received from the BL reader. I should have just paid $75 to hear the opinion of my kid sister. On second thought, maybe I did?

  9. Yeah the notes can be brutes sometimes. I understand screenwriter is subjective blah blah blah - everyone gets that. But when you get 3 really good reader scores, then a ridiculously low one and they won't remove it, it's a little disheartening. I thought if there was a difference in like 3-4 points, they automatically wipe it. Heck, I didn't even want the money back. Just didn't want my score botched by the philistine who reviewed my script! And I still don't understand this algorithm. You get a high score and your average barely moves, yet you get a low score and you see a huge drop. But for half the price you can get another review! I'm rambling now...bye!

    1. Hi there George.
      The notes I received seemed as if they were written by someone who had never read a screenplay before, or maybe even seen a movie. I was left feeling puzzled by the almost totally nonsensical nature of the notes. I'm convinced that someone was not an industry pro of any kind. I guess it just has to go in the 'live and learn' pile. (It's getting darn big!)

    2. If you got a review that you believe to be sub-par (for reasons beyond "I'm upset they didn't give me an 8) please, please, please contact the Black List and alert them to the issue. If there's one thing the Black List takes very seriously it's the quality of their reviewers and if one of them has acted unprofessionally, they won't be in the employ of the site for much longer.

    3. Hi there.
      Thanks but it's not worth it. You got my $75 but I routinely blow more than that on any given night out. I 'lived and I learned'. :)

  10. Let's look at this logiocally.

    Q. What DON'T studio execs want?

    A. They don't want writers they've never heard of. The first thing they do when they read a great screenplay from an unknown writer is get a known writer to rewrite it. Only then will they be comfortable with the screenplay even if the known writer has screwed it up.

    What this means is they aren't interested in a website filled with screenplays written by people they've never heard of. I don't care what anyone says otherwise, studio execs are not interested in reading that stuff. It's like William Goldman said in 'Tales from the Script'... Nobody wants your stuff.

    And agents don't either. They already get a flood of junk through other channels so no way are they going to spend time they don't have trawling through just another wannabe screenwriter internet clubhouse.

    On another site I read an exchange between several excited teen wannabes who had convinced each other that Vince Gilligan was lurking and reading their screenplays and they were on track to a gig on his new shows! Exploiting this kind of amazing naiveté an gullibility is making some people a ton of money.