Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What do you want to know about Black List 3.0?

As we approach the end of the first month of The Black List 3.0, Franklin Leonard has been soliciting questions via Twitter and Done Deal Pro.  The Black List is prepping their first data blast next week and Franklin really wants to know what data and figures would be useful to you.  We've had pretty good participation on some of the other Black List threads, so this seems like a good place to prod for feedback.

I've seen a couple of good suggestions, such as a comparison of how many reads a script that paid for coverage got versus a script that was merely hosted there.  Along those lines, I'd be curious to see more about how big a spike in impressions and downloads follows the script being singled out via the email blasts and placement on the "Top" lists.

You guys are smart and inquisitive - what data would be most useful to you?


  1. I'd love some data about women's participation! (

    1. It's a good question, but I've already seen Franklin respond to it on Done Deal Pro. Since they don't categorize the writer's gender, they can't compile those particular stats.

      Nice thought, though.

    2. I can pretty much tell you the answer right now - 15-20%, like it for all other screenwriting things.

  2. 1) Top 10 Impression-getters + their Titles/Loglines
    2) Top 10 Download-getters + their Titles/Loglines

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  4. The anonymous review policy is essential to the process, but I wish that the non-paid reviews provided slightly more information. Currently, the only thing I am able to see is the effect such a mystery review has on my overall score.

    It would be helpful to receive categorical ratings from these mystery industry insiders, similar to the paid reader reviews (which are broken down into simple, swift Premise, Plot, Character, Dialogue scores). This way the writer can track what is connecting and what isn't from every review, not just the paid ones.

    My script has been on The Black List exactly 3 weeks and in that time I've received 368 Impressions, 23 Downloads, and 4 ratings (2 paid BL readers, 2 non-paid). Remarkably, I received a 9 rating from a non-paid reader exactly one day after posting my log line to BSR's initial 10 pages contest. Great news considering I'd yet to receive a paid review. Three days later I received my hard-hitting paid review, nailing me on "excessive dialogue" which drove an otherwise favorable review down to an overall 6 for that draft.

    But the criticism had value, and was direct. I buckled down, evaluated my script's weaknesses as honestly and harshly as possible, busted my butt on a re-write of the 2nd Act (assisted by prescient notes from a manager), reposted, and received an 8 rating from my next paid review a week later. Still 8's on Premise, Plot & Character, but now a 9 for the previously docked dialogue.

    Thus far, I think the most crucial change Franklin has made is to allow writers to UPDATE their draft as often as they wish, for free, and as quickly as they can push themselves to polish their work. This is proof the BL is not out to juice starving artists. They want us to learn, and produce better scripts.

    Criticism, reading, it's as subjective as a writer's inclinations, but I believe the Black List is providing an extremely valuable service, and only wish the non-paid reviews pinpointed a little more clearly what was working for the reviewer and what wasn't. When a reviewer says my script is great and worthy of development, I want at least a sentence or two as to why.

    If they took the time to read the entire script and rate it, I think it would be fantastic if the BL provided a non-paid reviewer with at least a tab to add a sentence or two of notes. If there are concerns on the marketability of the genre, or the reader's personal preference for certain stories, that data is essential moving forward.

    An extreme nitpick, but I would also encourage the BL paid reviewers to refrain from detailing specific 3rd Act spoilers in their reviews. I would have loved to make my last paid review "public" due to its high rating, but the reader gave away the ending of the script in their notes.

    I am thrilled with the new draft I've developed due to notes received on the Black List in three short weeks. The script is beginning to go out and I never had to write or send a single query. Incredible. Kudos to the BL for their site, and to BSR for shining a light.

  5. I noticed "rate the reader" star icons above my paid review comments and checked off a rating. I haven't been able to find info on the website as to what will be done with that feedback. Is my rating posted made known to the reader? That could make people nervous about using that feature.

    As a suggestion, I would like to see a tally of individual reader ratings compiled anonymously (assign them a number) for all of the scripts that the individual reviewed. For example, if the paid reviews by Reader #37 averaged 5.4 for 30 scripts on their evaluation scores and mine was much higher, I would be pleased. Conversely, if that person averaged 7.2 and mine was much lower, I'd be in a better frame of mind to check my ego and make script revisons.

  6. I would really appreciate a rework of the member review system.

    If anonymity is a requirement, then the member has to do a bit more work.

    You can't just leave a score of 4/10 and seriously reducing an average rating (as happened recently with our script), then be on your way, without contributing some potentially useful feedback/criticism in return.

  7. On the writer's script page, the chart shows impressions but not downloads (as far as I can tell). I'd like it to show when downloads occurred.

    Also, I'd like a field where I could write comments about a paid reader, in addition to rating with stars. I gave low ratings to several readers because they said things that were objectively untrue (not just matters of taste), indicating that they didn't read with full attention. For example, one said a character motivation wasn't clear, even though many non-BL readers found it perfectly clear on the page. Another said a script has gore, but it doesn't.

    Finally, I agree with T.A. that spoilers in the review are unnecessary and harmful. Maybe $50 is not enough to pay to get a thorough reading and thoughtful review. I'd pay more if it would motivate the reader to do a better job.

  8. As of today one of my scripts has 15 impressions with a paid review pending. Do other writers create impressions even though they can't rate the work? If so, I would like to know the difference between impressions created by writers and impressions created by those able to rate your script.


  9. Does it count as a download when the paid reader downloads your script? Or, does that mean the download was from somebody in the industry?

  10. Put up a little library of scripts. Like Black List Scripts from the past: 2008/2009, etc. Lots of those were made into movies already, so what would be the harm?

    Maybe a classics section too, or Oscar nominated scripts that are posted every year for free by the Academy Awards. Just a nice library of clean PDF scripts would be cool.

  11. A time stamp on a reviewed download would be nice as well. In regards to the new "update" script's great to be able to update my script for free, but 90% of the downloads I have received were before I made crucial changes to my 2nd Act, and updated my script with a new draft. So, it would be nice to know if the reviews (paid or member) were for an earlier draft, or the new one.

  12. Two thoughts which I actually posted in "feedback" section, but which seem unread so far:

    1. Give unmade and uploaded scripts distinct community averages. I have to imagine the unmade section scores waaaaay better than the uploaded section. And that makes the existing average seem waaay too high! How can the community average be OVER 6???

    2. Define budget ranges: Don't know if "medium" means 5 mil or 40 mil.

    And finally, to those who want real "Hollywood" readers to have to post more than just a score, a counterpoint: If you had the chance to have a Hollywood person read your script, knowing all you were gonna hear was a "yes" or a "no", would you really balk?? This is coming from a writer who had a script in the uploaded top ten, but whose first "Hollywood" rating dropped him down a peg after his purchased reads got a 7.5 average. I'm fine not knowing the specifics. I have plenty of fellow creatives who give me notes to make my writing better. What I don't have is reads from people who can say "yes". I'd hate to have fewer of those reads because new rules require those readers to fill out a form for coverage. And T.A. Snyder: 23 downloads???? I've had 3. Again, wah.

  13. HMIG makes valid points regarding member reads. A distinct and simple Pass, Consider, Recommend "note" may be the only additional word I'm seeking to differentiate those insider scores. Granted, a 8 or 9 definitely implies "Pass" or "Recommend," but I've encountered "7s" that could apply to either category depending upon matters large and small. Without a doubt, just receiving feedback of any kind (I'll gladly take a 9) from gatekeepers or dwellers inside the Hollywood realm is thrilling. I'm certainly owed nothing, and cringe at the thought of discouraging Hollywood readers by requesting a form or score card.

    In addition, I'm not certain if you were referring to my script or yours regarding an Uploaded Top Ten script being bumped down by a paid read to 7.5, but that's precisely the case I'm drawing personal experience from, and I definitely don't want to sound like sour grapes. Remaining a Top Upload for the moment or not, 23 downloads makes the eyes pop with possibility. However, it would be nice to know, should those downloads result in reviews, whether the script reviewed is the draft from two weeks ago, or the leaner meaner and ready to roll draft uploaded a week later.

    In the end, it's all spitballing prompted by a direct request by the creator for a perfect world and all that. It's uncharted territory and bottom line, The Black List is THE playing field for screenwriters who feel their work is ready for the black, white and blue realities of primetime.

    I must concur regarding a clear definition of the budget ranges. One individual's "Medium" is another's "High." Those estimates could ring the trouble bell for reader's seeking scripts in the $20-40 million sweet spot.

    1. I was referring to my script getting bumped down.

  14. The idea to have some downloadable scripts would be good. I know we can likely find oscar winning scripts online anyway but it would be nice to have them all in one location.

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  17. Lots of excellent suggestions here I don’t need to repeat. However, there is one problem I'd like to know about that was mentioned elsewhere on this site: We can't know how many times a script's been read online? Only downloads show? It would be great if we could know how many times the script’s been looked at online (though, of course, nobody can know if it’s been ‘read’ – in either case) to help determine whether it's worth continuing to have it posted.

    Another question nags me re the paid reviews. Although we’re free to not post it, isn’t that in itself a red flag, putting anyone else off from bothering? I’ve asked Franklin and I think they may be looking into that. I hope so, but I'd guess yes and would love to hear why is anyone disagrees.

    Just as a case example (we’re all more than familiar with subjectivity issues), I definitely felt mine was analyzed as something it wasn't meant to be at all, which of course gave it a very middling rating. (I've gotten enough spot on notes elsewhere to see the difference.) To Franklin's credit, he did have his reader reply to my 'concerns' - but only in self-justifications that rather increased them, to be brief and honest.

    The main reason I hid the review, however, was that she drew attention to a recent dud in that 'genre' -saying mine would draw no interest because of it. As she’d also referenced an older much loved film in the same genre earlier on (as being very like it), the comparison was highly unwelcome! The explanation I got was that she thought I should know this recent dud would pose a problem. Indeed, it was helpful for ME to know, but pointing at it in their review was staggeringly unhelpful: first, because others may not have thought of it otherwise (especially after the first more positive reference); and secondly, because it does of course give the impression mine reminded her of 'that bad film', despite the private explanations.

    No genre, obviously, is devoid of bad films that lost money. But the case was obviously closed, whatever I said and that experience seemed inconsistent with a 'do no harm' principle to me. I don’t think for a minute it was done in deliberate malice, but the end result's the same. I now have just one mysterious review I haven’t posted... which brings us back to the start of this discussion!

  18. Not sure what Black List 3.0 is rating.
    The "writing" or the scripted movie.
    I have been under the impression that:
    Great execution + fair concept = pass
    Fair execution + great concept = consider
    (Maybe the rating should be two numbers instead of one.)

    Many contests use a score card that breaks a script down, rating different characteristics. The total score might reflect the writing, or might reflect some script that has a good overall rating -- but, in reality, will never become a movie.
    Not sure if the same will happen here. If it does, the scores risk becoming meaningless.

    The ratings will also be only as good as the readers. A fast reader could confuse a complex script with a total mess. Simple scripts are more likely to be given the green light.

    And finally, there's the "forest for the trees" syndrome. The risk that your script will only be rated by those parroting the rules. They won't be able to see the script for what it is. They're too distracted by what they think are hard and fast rules. As Scott Frank said recently -- when he was 24, he knew all the rules. Now after working on nearly 40 feature films, he's forgotten what the rulers are.

  19. One thing that would definitely 'help the scriptwriters' would be to have at least the option of buying a read BEFORE having to post it. The system doesn't allow that, which struck me as odd from the beginning. Obviously, it would no doubt reduce the amount of monthly fees raked in... but who then is it really meant to help?