Franklin Leonard & The Black List – Case 81

The Black List: A Script Pitch Empire of a Ripoff

The Black List, https://blcklst.com/, founded in 2005, calls itself an annual “survey” of Hollywood executives’ favorite un-produced screenplays. It claims that since then, more than 400 scripts posted to its service have been produced and marketed worldwide. It further claims that those movies won 53 Academy Awards from 262 nominations, including 4 of the last 10 Best Picture Oscars and 10 of the last 22 Best Screenplay Oscars.

What they don’t tell you is 97% of the screenplays are made because the scripts were seen outside of The Black List.  And that you would have a better chance of winning the lottery then having your script turned into a movie or tv show.

Currently, the company says it hosts over 3,500 scripts for consideration by over 5,000 film industry professionals ranging from agency assistants, to studio and network presidents, to A-list actors and directors. All unnamed. The above information is readily available on its website about page.

An agency assistant is like having the coffee-boy or girl taking a peek at your script and then using it to wipe up the spills.

By The Way.  To make you believe they have a lot more submissions then they actually do, they register a lot of dead authors such as Dalton Trumbo who wrote Spartacus. 

The service they offer is for writers to post their screenplay or teleplay for a hosting fee of $25 a month and between $50-75 per “evaluation”. An evaluation is paying to have a reader evaluate your script based on a number of criteria. The Black List says it has only top level people who used to be script readers for major studios evaluate your script, although it does not actually identify those people.

The Black List is not the only such service, but it is considered by many to be one of the top ones, perhaps because it was one of the first ones and they have good marketing.

What writers need to know is that, much like what actors go through on a daily basis to get seen and heard in this town without pity, is that writers have to pay and pay and pay to get read and at the same time hope that no one will steal their precious ideas in the process.

If you are a writer with no agency, be assured that no one will be able to actually find your script among the numerous posted to the service. The only way some alleged Hollywood executive may find your script is for you to pay for evaluations continually. But you could be in luck. If you get ten points out of ten, the Black List will generously offer a free evaluation. Of course the chances of that happening is very low since the company deliberately undervalues scripts posted to their service. Also, the whole thing is highly subjective. How can a single script get evaluated at a “2” and then magically get evaluated at an “8” or “9” when the same version is being read and how does a script with multiple evaluation points get a general score that is lower than the average of all the points combined. Anyone who has ever taken elementary school math knows how to do “averages”. Apparently the readers at the Black List do not.

So what is the Black List? Here are some possibilities:
1. A place for Hollywood executives to go to mine story ideas so they can hire their own people to draft different versions of the scripts they’ve seen or read, saving the studios lots of money by not having to pay the original writer who bled to craft his or her great idea.
2. A place for other writers to go to find story ideas to rip off from still other writers.
3. Just a company that profits off the hopes and dreams of desperate writers around the world.

Don’t expect to find consistency or fairness in this company’s evaluation process. Do be prepared to spend lots of money on an ongoing basis on the very slim chance that a miracle will happen with your script. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people who have massive connections in the industry and a large social media following, well, you already can get seen and heard in Hollywood and the Black List is just a surrey with a fringe on top to flout your greatness. Just like all the award shows where you get patted on the back for doing what everyone else is doing, sometimes even better.

Voting for guilty or innocent will begin on Sept. 15, 2018 and end at midnight on Sept. 30, 2018.