Should You Upload Your Script on the Black List’s Website? Here Are Some Facts to Help You Decide
Surfing on the trend of the neat-infographic-that-helps-us-understand-companies-better, the Black List has revealed its first year numbers, from how many spec scripts uploaded on their website got attention, to how many days you should expect to wait before your script gets reviewed, to the most successful genres or tags associated with screenplays.
Before getting into data details, let’s make a small recap for those of you who can’t quite place the Blacklist on the map. The Black List first started as a list of unproduced spec scripts gathered by Franklin Leonard, who was then working for Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company and trying to find fresh and exciting new material. Leonard sent an email to his pals in agencies asking them to send back their list of top unproduced spec scripts and created The Black List with the answers he received.
The Black List quickly became a way for the industry to spot raw talent and for raw talents to gain attention. Up to a point where making it to the Black List became ‘political’ to help spec scripts get made, known names started appearing on it, scripts with almost signed deal too etc. As people started wondering if The Black List would just be absorbed by the establishment and become a parody of itself overtime, Leonard and his team came up in 2012 with The Black List’s website.
How does the site work and who is it for? If you are a screenwriter, you can upload your original screenplay, tv pilot or webseries on your profile. If you are a non-Guild member, you have to pay a monthly fee of $25 per material and you can either wait hoping that agents, managers, directors will download your work and gain interest, or you can pay an extra $50 and have someone from The Black List’s team review it. Depending on your score, you might better your chance to get attention. If you are a Guild member, the same rules apply but you can update your writing resume for free.
And so the trick is… it’s one thing to make a list of good to great unproduced scripts written by people who managed to put their script into managers and agents’ hands, but it’s another to pay for your script to be read. Everybody was wondering if the Black List was going to milk delusional ‘screenwriters’ or if it was going to become an real alternative opportunity for talented outsiders to get noticed.
Here we are now, one year after its launch and able to see what has come out from The Black List’s website. The report is long and includes a timeline and a recap of all the success gathered by screenwriters that were on the ‘traditional’ Black List at some point or the other. It also gives information on how the website works and what to expect from it. Here are some info to take into account:
You Don’t Need to Be Native to Submit Your Screenplay
7375 screenplays were submitted on the site, from 47 countries.
This to me, is one of the most attractive element from the Black List. Not only there is no deadline, but there is no geographical limitation. And even though the huge majority of screenplays uploaded on the site are from native English speakers, as long as you can write in English you can submit your work, no matter where you are. Not to spoil the conclusion of this article, but just for that, the Black List is an option worth considering.
The Industry Is Paying Attention
The other important question would be: is anyone that matters paying attention? Because, sure it’s great to be able to upload your screenplay from Greece or Taiwan, but if no agent, no manager and no producer is ever going to read them, might as well save those 25 to 75 box. Well, professionals are in the mix and they are willing to try find the next best thing on The Black List. In a year, 30 writers got signed by an agency or management company, and more than 20 scripts got optioned or sold. Now those 20 scripts are likely to be from 20 of the 30 writers who got signed, so the number is probably that 20 scripts out of the 7375 uploaded ended up with a deal. That can seem like a small number, but I find it to be a strong number for a first year. (and one of them was from a Swedish writer, i.e. not a native. here, here!)
You Get a Breakdown Of the Score You Obtained
Another interesting aspect from the Black List is that you get a breakdown of your screenplay’s score; how much your dialogs ranked , your premise, your character etc. I am guessing that you don’t get a three page detailed commentary, but for $50, this is already a good deal that can help you understand quickly what you need to work on during your rewrites. If you have tried to look into coverage price, you know that $50 is a drop in a sea of golden blood (and you’re probably familiar with the scandals of $700+ coverage that barely give any insights…).
You Get To Decide Who Can Download Your Script Or Not
You need to have an account to be able to access script on the Black List, and you either have an account as a writer, or you have an account as a professional. (And to have one of those, you need to make a request and get authorization). You, as a writer, get to chose if your peers can download and have access to your script or not. Which means that if you feel uncomfortable about sharing your work (and many people do), you can keep it as private as possible. Now whether or not it is a good strategy or it impacts your screenplay’s downloads, only the Black List’s team can say. But you have options, and options are good.
Drama, Comedy, and Dramedy… Your Ennemies
No surprise here, these three genres compose half of the total screenplays submitted but don’t a drastically higher number of readers dedicated to them. There were 48 readers for 1700 comedies submitted vs. 25 readers for 90 super-heroes scripts submitted or 3 readers for 9 spy-comedy. So you know what to do… nail it in a minor genre and raise your chances to get noticed. Or nail it in the main genre… Just nail it.
The annual report also gives you insight on the impact of good ratings on the number of downloads, the average budget groups, the U.S. cities the most used as settings (hello, L.A.!) etc. You can read it all here.
All and all, if you are a screenwriter and you do not live in one of the big cities (i.e. L.A. or NYC), know the Black List exists. It is not free, and for one successful story there are thousands that stay unnoticed -for now-, but if you believe in your project and/or are looking for feedbacks and a community to get better at what you do, I think it is safe to say that the Black List can provide you some of these elements and is in the business to make it work for everybody, with the right connections to make it happen. The rest is up to you…