The Black List Becomes a Website. Is this Netflix for Scripts?
The Black List: the Birth of a Tale
The story says that in 2005, Franklin Leonard, then development executive at Appian Way, Leornardo DiCaprio’s production company, wrote an email to relevant friends in the Industry asking them to send him a list of the 10 best scripts they had read during the year and that hadn’t been produced or picked-up.
From the ranking and answers he received, Leonard then created a list, the famous Black List, that he sent back to those who deigned replying his email. And what happened? These scripts gained visibility, some got picked, some got even made.
The phenomenon grew over the years and became a tradition. The second Friday of December each year, a Black List was published and shared.
Today, being on the Black List is a big thing. Juno, Crazy Stupid Love, Lars and the Real Girl or Margin Call were all Black Listed scripts that gained visibility and found producers -partially or fully- thanks to their good ranking.
It is a Hollywood fairy tale, a light in the lambda screenwriter’s tormented ocean of competition and what makes the Black List particularly attractive is that it is now the ultimate filter to find out spec scripts.
Spec Scripts are scripts that have been written by a foolish screenwriter who did so without having been asked to by a studio or a producer, (i.e. without knowing if he/she would make money out of it). Only few years ago, spec scripts received their fair share of attention but during these hard times where adaptations and franchise are the only products that reassure Studios, getting attention for a spec proves trickier.
The Black List Returns
The Black List is now a website where, if you are a member, you can access a giant library -that’s what I assumed from the video below- of unproduced scripts in all genres. You can edit or add information about a particular scrip. You can also rate the scripts you read, and the more scripts you rate, the more reading suggestions you get.
It does sound like Netflix for scripts with a V.I.P access (it’s not clear on what criteria you’re judged worthy of becoming a member, although being famous and powerful shouldn’t hurt).
I’m just hoping that:
a) the rating system is not used to create ‘suggestions’. Even if a producer rates 5/5 an action-packed movie, it doesn’t mean that he/she wants to keep reading action/packed movies.
b) the rating system is very well controlled so people involved in any way with a script cannot rate it. I don’t know how doable that is, but this is a business, and a harsh one, so let’s not be naïve and not see that if this Black List turns out to have the same power than the annual Black List, people will try to find a way to promote it, no matter how good the script really is. If you look at the 2010 Black List only, you can see how things have changed in 5 years; many scripts ranked in it were already in picked and in pre-production. (Margin Call being one of them)
The question being: can the Black List remain relevant if it only picks obvious and already chosen scripts?
Watch the promotional video and see for yourself if you’d like to be added to the waiting list:
The Black List: Redemption
Don’t be fooled by my cynical tone though, I did send a request to become a member. I will let you know if that ever happens. I sure hope so but for now, I’ll just dive in the dark, with my cape, my not so high-speed Internet connection and my laptop.
To Be Continued…