The Game Changer
One of the biggest things to impact screenwriters in the last several years is the new Black List 2.0. The original Black List is the brainchild of Franklin Leonard, a producer in Hollywood who saw a number of really good scripts that hadn’t been produced as films. He polled his colleagues for their favorites and that list became the annual end-of-the-year Black List of unmade movies. It was a cool idea and has given deserving scripts buzz through the holidays when managers, agents and producers catch up on their script reading. It also gave Franklin a load of credibility in the business.
Last month he introduced the Black List 2.0. BL2 is a list of scripts that also haven’t been made into movies. But they are raw scripts, coming straight from writers submitting them, not people discovering them. To filter these, Mr. Leonard has contracted script readers to rate those films and compile a list of the best of the bunch. For $25 a month to join the site and another fee to pay the readers, writers have a conduit straight into the Hollywood studio system.
This is a Herculean task. Every bartender, waiter and busboy in the greater Los Angeles Southland has a script waiting to be discovered. If your script sucks they tell you and the world. You can rewrite it or go back to pouring that Margarita for table number 6. If your script is great… well a couple of talented writers have already signed with agents, and at least one script has been optioned for a movie.
Now for the Law of Unintended Consequences. I see two industries that are going to be heavily impacted by this. First, are all the screenplay readers and consultants in the world. There are a lot of these folks who charge way more than $125 to read, rate and give coverage on scripts. They are about to see business dry up and blow away as writers look to BL2 as a means to be seen and a shot at the big time in one move. 95% of independent script readers can’t offer this because they don’t have the pull the Black List does.
The second group will be more interesting to watch – Screenwriting contests. For years, the best way to be seen was to win or place well in a contest. The Academy’s Nichol Fellowships, the PAGE awards, the Austin Screenwriters Conference and a few others; do well in those, the right people saw your name and recognized the quality of your work. This only happens three or four times a year with a huge run-up and writers sweating blood at the deadline. Pay your entry fees and wait weeks or months for the results.
Not anymore. BL2 means those same scripts get seen everyday. They get rated on a daily basis in an ongoing contest of the best work. Now there’s only one contest. And the winner doesn’t get a trophy, they get a career. Why waste your time trying to be the best amateur out there when BL2 makes you a professional? Last year the large contests received 6-7000 entries each. I bet that number drops to a fraction as writers figure the return on investment.