Tuesday, January 7, 2014

TOBY IS NOW FOLLOWING YOU is one of The Black List's Top 50 Most Downloaded for 2013! Also, a look at the site's data.

I got some very exciting news this weekend.  Despite behind hosted on the Black List site for a mere three weeks of last year, my script TOBY IS NOW FOLLOWING YOU was one of the site's Top 50 Most Downloaded Scripts for 2013!

As I did not purchase a review from the Black List, none of the traffic to my script came from official Black List emails.  This accomplishment is entirely due to my publicizing the script here and on social media, as well as the many strong rankings from Black List members.

Because of several high ratings of 8s and 9s, the script is currently in the 1 or 2 positions on several of the site's feature lists, including Top Unrepresented, Top Uploaded, Top Horror, Top Mystery & Suspense.

If you're new here and need to know more about TOBY IS NOW FOLLOWING YOU, check out this post.

Or you can watch this short video pitch.

For Black List industry members, the script is available here.

I'm already taking meetings about TOBY and as this week is really the first week back from vacation, I'm optimistic that I will be hearing from more people this week.  My assumption is that a number of people downloaded it to enjoy over their holiday breaks and that the coming weeks will see them reaching out if they liked it.

As some people have asked, I intend on doing a more complete data dump about my Black List experience as I approach the end of my time hosting the script there. 

The complete Top 50 Downloaded List is available here.

There are a couple of interesting finds here. Five writers each have two scripts on the Top 50 Downloaded List:

Dennis Luu - ON THE RUN and MOTHER

Conor Healy has three scripts on the list - CLEAN, BLACK AJAX and EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN.

As I'm a Black List member I went through and looked up each one of these scripts and gathered some data with regard to their ratings and paid reviews.  In cases like this, it's Black List policy to not share private data on individual scripts, but I am allowed to share non-identifying data.

I also want to caution that the data here only measures the Top 50 scripts against each other.  I don't have the information to stack these findings against the rest of the site as whole.  So what we're dealing with here may be a lot of correlation of data among the scripts in the Top 50 rather than determining the causation of how they ended up in the Top 50.

Having said that, these people succeeded in at least drawing traffic to their script so that at least suggests they figured out the salesmanship aspect of the goal.

40 of the Top 50 Scripts had a paid review of 8 or higher.  Some individuals had hidden their paid reviews, but by going by through my Black List emails featuring all scripts rated 8 or higher, I was able to at least identify scripts that met that threshold.  This means that only 10 scripts, or 20% of the list were able to draw traffic to their page by other means.  So it's not necessary to pay for a review on the site in order to get downloads, but it certainly improves your odds.

20 of the scripts (40%) had only a single paid review visible.
14 of the scripts (28%) had only two visible reviews.
3 scripts had three visible reviews
1 script each had four and five visible reviews, respectively.
1 script had seven paid reviews visible.

Does the number of paid reviews peak at 1 because 1 review is effective? Or is it because most people don't want to pay an additional $50 for a second review?  Or could those writers have paid for two reviews and only gotten one review to their liking?  There's no way to know for certain.  But you can say that 60% of the top downloaded scripts may have spent only $50 or less on reviews in order to attract their audience.  Pay to host it for two months and get one review and you've only spent $100, which is only slightly more than your typical contest entry fee.

What this also suggests is that a few writers employed the strategy of paying for reviews as a way of ensuring multiple appearances in the weekly emails.  Each paid review of 8 or above merits a mention in the weekly releases.  So if you purchase a review every other week and all of those reviews come back 8 or above, for the price of four reviews, the script will be pushed out to the membership every other week for two months.  Note that this strategy only really works if your script is good enough to get strong reviews.

16 scripts (32%) had fewer than 10 total ratings. (This includes both ratings from paid reviews and ratings from Black List members.)  One script had 2 ratings, one script had 3 ratings, three scripts had 4 ratings, one script had 5 ratings, three had 6, four had 7, two had 8 and one had 9 ratings.

Only ten scripts (20%) had 20 or more ratings.  Six scripts did not make this information available.

The other thing I wanted to take a look at is to see what percentage of the Black List member ratings were 8 or higher.  This is where it gets tricky because writers have the option to hide this information.  In fact 29 of the 50 scripts chose that option.  Of the remaining 21 scripts, only 11 had more than 50% of their ratings come in 8 or above.

I know, the numbers in that last paragraph can make your head swim.  What I want to get at is this.  Though you have to understand we are dealing with a VERY small sample size, it's not necessarily the end of the world if half of your ratings are below 8.  It's still possible to attract attention even with lower scores.  10 out of 21 scripts still got downloaded frequently even though more than half of the scores were less than 8.

Two things can probably make the difference here - having an irresistible logline, and having a strong review from the Black List reviewers.

I had also pulled the data with regard to how many of these writers were represented.  Here's where it gets tricky.  Since all of this information is self-reported and not mandatory, a writer doesn't have to identify themselves as repped.  Indeed, there were a couple writers who didn't have rep info listed even though I knew they had an agent or manager.

Additionally, I recognized a number of the repped writers as people who found representation only after uploading their work to the site.  But there's no way to know for certain who among these writers might have had an agent or manager before coming here.  So if I were to conclude "X number of writers on the Top 50 found their rep through the Black List," that would be impossible to confirm.

However, I suspect someone will go hunting for that data and might not put it in the same context that I am.  Between the information on the Black List site as well as public announcements about representation, I can state that 19 of 50 scripts had a rep attached.  Thus, (and I'm stating this again just so there's it's clear) going by the information available on the site and what has been publicly announced, we might conclude that 38% of the Top 50 have representation, but I urge against taking that as hard data. The actual number could be even higher, and we should not assume that 38% only encompasses writers who found their reps through the site.

And to think I swore off math once I got to college...


  1. And be sure and mention that Texas is a GREAT place to shoot movies! We would love the work.....but if not here---we have a bunch of production peeps in Atlanta, so that would also be an excellent choice!


  2. Congrats on getting meetings for TOBY! That's exciting. So far I've found the Black List to be a helpful tool, but writers need to know some of these stats. You have to get a gaggle of strong reviews to appear either in this list or even in the "Top Lists" section of the site, and even then you're lucky to get a handful of industry member downloads.

    Mine has been in the top 10 of the current "Top Lists" link (usually 7-10 places behind TOBY), and it appears 6 times in the "Top Film Scripts" page, and so far I've had 6 pro views and 2 pro downloads.

    I'm not complaining, however. From my experience this is the best way to get pro eyeballs on your screenplay by far. The strength of the system is that the cream really does rise to the top, and if your stuff is good enough you can get some attention. But it does take some time!

  3. That's a great analysis. And where you speculate about motives, your guesses match my experience. Thanks. - Bob I "Possum," "Poker Face."