Related: Brian Scully's review of TOBY IS NOW FOLLOWING YOU
[UPDATED at bottom - 5:25 pm PST - with FAQ]
Here it is, gang. The big one.
On a number of occasions, I have used my site to promote unsold scripts that have really impressed me, often by unrepresented writers. It's something I've been happy to do, especially since the nature of the Black List website has made it possible for me to vet those unrepped screenplays as well as inform people in the industry of where they can find these scripts. A number of those people have seen good fortune find their script subsequently.
As I've said many times before, having seen the Black List process up-close and through the eyes of readers who have benefited first hand from it, I absolutely think there's value in it. I really think of a site or service marketed to amateurs that has a better method (and believe me, there are a LOT of them.) I don't speak highly of the Black List because I'm paid to promote them, I speak highly of the service because I consider my blog a resource for amateurs looking to break in as writers and in my honest opinion, the Black List is the one site worthy of your money.
And now I'm putting MY money where my mouth is.
Right now, my script TOBY IS NOW FOLLOWING YOU is up on the Black List website.
Logline: After a chance encounter, a young man becomes infatuated with an attractive woman and is determined to become the perfect man for her. His curious voyeurism turns obsessive as he exploits her online footprint to insert himself into her life. And the more success he has in manipulating her, the greater the temptation to go further...
It's a low-budget thriller that is essentially a stalker story from the point of view of the stalker.
I have had this script vetted by a number of fellow writers and other folks in the industry - many of them with professional credits. The enthusiasm they had for the writing convinced me that it was ready for the Black List and the eyes of its professional members. I have asked those individuals who liked the script to please rate it accordingly on the site.
And industry professionals who lurk around here, I hope that you will be interested in checking out the script, as well as spreading the word to reps, producers, filmmakers and actors who might be interested in reading it. It's a brisk 90 pages so hopefully it won't take up too much of your time unless you read slowly.
And just in case a little audio/visual pitch might grease the wheels a little bit....
Honestly, my inclination is to keep the pitch brief, but for those who are interested in knowing a little bit more about the screenplay...
I wrote this script in part because I wanted to write something low-budget enough that it wasn't entirely impossible to direct it myself, should I scrape together enough money. Most of my other scripts have tended to land in the mid-budget range. I didn't have a writing sample that was achievable on less than a $1M dollar budget, at least not without vastly compromising the quality.
After struggling with a few contained thriller ideas, I decided to tell a story with a little more scope but could still be done micro-budget under the right circumstances. The basic concept of TOBY IS NOW FOLLOWING YOU grew out of my desire to tell a story about how much easier it is to dig up information on someone now than it was 10 years ago.
Facebook didn't exist when I was in college, so if there was a girl in one of my classes who I liked, I had to actually talk to her. I didn't have easy access to a self-generated stream of her thoughts. There was no site I could go to to look up the photos she took at wild parties or on the beach. When these existed as physical photos, you mostly only saw them when people publicly displayed them in their homes, or let you browse their actual photo albums.
I'm drifting, but my point is that it's become more normal it's become to keep tabs on your friends (or people you might not even know) without actually having to interact with them to get that information. And that means that behavior that might have once made one feel like a stalker no longer seems as dirty.
I wanted to tell a story about a man who's gradually taken over by his worst impulses. One small step leads to another, and another. Yet no matter how small the steps may be - they still are leading in a particular direction. I've read a lot of thrillers about psychopath stalkers - guys who are just straight-up nuts. I think those stories are less scary because the bad guy is often unrecognizable as a normal person. This is not a story about a deranged madman. This is the story of a very normal guy, a guy we might even sympathize and identify with, who makes some very disturbing decisions.
For now, I'm not able to put together the money to make this myself, but the very positive reactions I got from my trusted readers has made me think that the Black List might be the right place to take it first.
I like that the Black List makes it possible for me to publicize my work without having to make it available to everyone on the internet. I want their users to access it, and so this will be the only place to get it. I'm not posting it anywhere else and if it does surface publicly outside of the Black List, I can assure you it is without my permission.
Regular readers, I know that might be frustrating to you, but one thing I will promise is to be as transparent as the situation allows. I will be updating you regularly on the traffic to my script and perhaps use this experience to give you even more information about what it means to have a script on the Black List site. If you have questions about the experience, please leave them in comments and I'll do my best to be as open as possible.
And Black List members - it's your move.
UPDATE: Since this is the post that's getting all the traffic, it seemed prudent to add the FAQ here rather than create a new post.
The following are some common follow-up questions I've gotten today:
How was this timed so perfectly? You hit 1000 posts, quit reading, and announce this JUST as you top the horror charts on blcklst.com. Did you post the script in secret at first under a fake name or something?
It was serendipity for a lot of it. I had been planning for a while to quit reading by the end of the year. (For tax reasons, I didn't want 1099s for the following year, so I knew I'd be ending by the start of 2014.) I had passed the script around to some friends in the industry who also have Black List access, and they were reacting to it well. I realized that if it was on the Black List, they'd be giving it pretty good ratings and that in turn could draw other eyes to it.
I had been thinking of doing something big for my 5 year blog anniversary in January, and I briefly considered posting the script then. Once I realized I was coming up on 1000 posts, it occurred to me that I might benefit from pushing the script out as the year winds down, before the yearly Black List release. I posted the script to the Black List site on Saturday and alerted my industry readers (well, the most effusive ones at least) that it was up and asked them to rate it. Two of them did so before the blog post went live. Two ratings is the minimum to be visible on the site's top lists, provided the scores average out at a certain number. In this case, my first two ratings gave me an 8 average, which was high enough to qualify.
Will you make the script available to Black List members who are fellow writers?
I have to admit, though I remembered the announcement that writers could choose to make their script downloadable to all, I had completely forgotten about that feature. I won't be using it, though. Right now, this is targeted at the industry pros who can rate it. Frankly I don't see the advantage for anyone giving that open access to their script. If you were looking to workshop it, sure, but I don't think the Black List site is a place to put a script that you're still contemplating major revisions of. I'm aware that there are plenty of people in the industry who read this site, though, and so it stood to reason I could get a lot of downloads from them by publicizing it here. (Early numbers seem to back me up on that supposition.)
Honestly, I don't see any benefit to making the script available to people who can't rate it. If there are industry pros who are not a member of the site who are interested in reading it, they can contact me directly.
The more exclusive a script is, the more valuable it is. Remember that when you upload your own work to the site.
Will you be purchasing reads from The Black List?
Not as of yet, for a number of reasons. Because of this, I realize I am forgoing certain benefits. Since I have not purchased a read from one of their readers, then my script will NOT be featured in the weekly email announcing the scripts that have been rated highly. Also, I believe that this means I will not show up in the Top Uploaded List, even though I will show up in the top genre lists.
Part of this is simply due to timing. It can take 10 to two weeks to get back coverage. Because I wanted to upload the script as close to the 1000th post as possible, it meant I didn't have much lead time. This also means that any review would probably come back during Christmas week - a completely dead period of the year. It just seemed like it would be a waste to appear in that email. And if the Black List decided to hold off on that weekly email until the following week, then there would potentially be twice as many scripts pushed in that first email of 2014. It seemed like it could be lost in the shuffle there.
Knowing the people who frequent my site, as well as those who follow me on Twitter, I gambled that I'd be able generate a fair amount of traffic to the page based on my own visibility. (Also, by not promoting my script through the site's reviews/emails, this means I can really get a good idea of how much influence my blog carries - how many people in the industry I really have lurking here. There's a part of me that really likes the opportunity to study this.)
So we'll see how things go over the first month, which will then give me a good idea if it's worth it to continue for a second month, and possibly purchase a read from the site.
With all your industry contacts, if the script was 'great' wouldn't they just have passed it on to their reps?
I know writers and people in the biz, sure. But even counting everyone I know with access to agents and managers only gives me a direct line to a very small fraction of available people. With the Black List, I'm casting a much wide net. It's always good to have options, you don't have to dance with the first one who asks, yada yada...
Also, though some of my professional contacts may have passed the script on to reps, some of them cautioned me "My reps take forever to read stuff." I understand that. Even with some of my friends' scripts I put off reading for a few weeks jut because I don't feel any kind of ticking clock. By putting TOBY out there publicly like this, I've added some urgency.
Before I had a few reps who had this great script on their To-Read list and as far as they knew nobody else had it. Now, everyone who's seen this post knows that if the script is really good, someone else might beat them to it. Never underestimate the value of urgency.