Screenwriting : The Black List, Hotbed or Hyperbole? by Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

The Black List, Hotbed or Hyperbole?

As some of you may already know, I’m not a big fan of the Black List (BL) script service. So when I was reading my Facebook news feed and saw BL touting their success with this article from deadline.com, I knew I had to post this here at Stage 32 screenwriter’s lounge. The brief article says that: “Proving yet again that the Black List has become a hotbed for writers looking to sell their scripts, Roland Emmerich’s Centropolis Entertainment just scooped up the spec Scarletville from screenwriter Jason Young.” This article doesn’t follow up with any statistical data of any kind to support their assertion BL “has become a hotbed for writers.” I contend that sites like BL that have you pay to passively list your script and hope somebody discovers you are a statistical longshot at best. BL also encourages their subscribers to pay an additional fifty dollars to have one of their “professional readers” read your script and provide you with a review. My personal experience with BL was very unsatisfying and as far as their review, it was nasty and insulting. Additionally, though I’ve paid to list scripts on another popular website, I’ve found that it’s far better to spend your hard earned money doing proactive pitches using services such as Virtual Pitchfest and Happy Writers. The latter has actually been a pretty successful method for me, and I’d rather spend my money going after identified executives, as opposed to passively hoping someone discovers my talented ass. Let me break it down for you in dollars. Yearly membership at the Black List is three hundred and an extra fifty per each paid review. For three hundred dollars, you can buy 10 pitch sessions from Happy Writers and from choose their extensive pool of executives. If you buy bulk at Virtual Pitchfest, three hundred dollars will get you a minimum of 35 pitches from their large pool of producers, production companies and literary agents. Three hundred dollars will go a lot farther on Inktip, which offers both listings for scripts with a much more user friendly results tracking system. The Inktip Newsletter also provides approximately 8 to 10 leads each week for producers looking for scripts. Aggressively pitching to the newsletter pool has netted me some success, including a script read request last week. So my counsel is buyer beware because. Not every hotbed is a place where you want to sleep or spend your money. http://deadline.com/2016/11/roland-emmerich-scarletville-spec-jason-youn...

Centropolis Grabs 'Scarletville' Spec From First-Timer Jason Young
Centropolis Grabs 'Scarletville' Spec From First-Timer Jason Young
EXCLUSIVE: Proving yet again that the Black List has become a hotbed for writers looking to sell their scripts, Roland Emmerich's Centropolis Entertainment just scooped up the spec Scarletville from s…
Dan MaxXx

Guru Hardy It is what it is and it's show biz. No right or wrong. Black List, tracking board, stage 32- it is the same airplane. Some pay first-class seats, others business class section, or fly coach/stand-by. But you gotta be in the game. Insanity is doing the same shit and expecting different results.

Bill Costantini

Regardless of anyone's opinion about any commercial Internet listing site that tries to link buyers with sellers....MAJOR CONGRATS to screenwriter Jason Young for selling his screenplay to Roland Emmerich. Wow....that's quite an accomplishment for ANY WRITER - first-time or seasoned professional. Way to go, Jason!

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

DanMaximumTalent: I'm not disputing whether or not you should be in the game. My point is to illustrate the comparative value of the different services. Bill C: I didn't post this to diminish Jason's success. But as far as the effectiveness of The Black List, even a clock is right twice a day.

Stephen Barber

I'm going to give my two cents... I think Franklin Leonard (FOUNDER/CEO) of the Blacklist is too angry and political #Twitter to be concerned with running a successful business . I just don't think you can have a Platoon of Troops, looking downfield with you if you're unable to lead by example. Well, North Korea might be able, but their employees/citizens don't have the Internet to find another job if they wanted.

Bill Costantini

I look beyond personal opinions/convictions/histories when an Internet listing site has documented sales - 1, 10, or 100. A sale is a sale, and any web site that helps writers sell scripts provides hope and value. Jason Young certainly got value from the Internet listing site in question. If any writer feels differently, you are certainly entitled to your opinions. Any business/organization/religion has bad rappers and good rappers...value to some, no value to others. Such is life.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Somewhere in an earlier thread on just this topic (of maybe via goodinaroom.Com) there was a great expose on how the blklst is really only 'winnable' if your spec already has traction (like it's won other contests). Me, I just know it's too expensive. I have received half decent feedback when I buy notes....

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

PS, that was a good breakdown of the various services out there, Phillip. I almost forgot about ink tip....that's where I started. There's also the ISA....loads of jobs posted there, mostly for low budget projects.

Dan MaxXx

Is $350 too much to pay? There are folks paying $240K for a USC film education. Zero guarantees. BL worked out for Jason Young and for stage 32 member, Laurie d. She is in the BL writers lab. I dont think frankie Leonard is a crook. He was simply at the right place, at the right time in his career (with Industry relationships) to start a website for aspiring Writers.

Eric Christopherson

Well I'm beginning to think Script Revolution is worth it, CJ! (Especially 'cause it's free!) Got an email today from a quite legit film company based in Toronto to let me know they're reading the script I posted there and to make sure it hasn't been optioned yet.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

I don't know about good rappers or bad rappers. I'm just not that into hip-hop. What I do know is that some businesses have good customer service and others, not so good. When I had a beef with Happy Writers, their response more than remedied my issue. However, when I posted a criticism on Twitter about the Black List, instead of taking my offer to provide him with legitimate feedback, Franklin instead tried to goad me into a Twitter war. That formed my opinion of his lack of concern over how his business operates. I believe in capitalism, let the buyer beware and Black List can operate how ever they want. I'll never use them again and will continue to voice my opinion about that to anyone who will listen.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

CJ: You're doing a great job with Script Revolution and I look forward to your future growth and continued success.

Anthony Cawood

Congrats Eric (and CJ), fingers crossed!

Brian Walsh

Great discussion. I agree with Phillip in regards to Caveat Emptor, and I've often said that you have to do your due diligence when signing on to things. I haven't listed a script yet (though I'm approaching that stage in the very near future I believe) and so I take great interest in these threads and the opinions of those I respect, such as Phillip and C.J. (but not limited to them :)) I'm very happy for Erik and consequently C.J because there is nothing more inspiring than the success of those you are shoulder to shoulder with.

Dan Guardino

Personally I would never pay the kind of money BL charges because posting a script online seldom pays off. What I found out what works for me was attaching directors with credits and using their credits and contacts. The reason most people don't succeed is because they don't have any credits or contacts and having someone with credits and connections attached to your script is next best thing.

Ted Westby

I wish everyone success, no matter where they find it, but joining the Black List gym for writers, and paying monthly for the "privilege" of simply being on the site, not to mention the steep fees to have someone actually look at your work, just isn't for this struggling scribe. I sincerely hope that didn't sound as scathing as I believe it actually did.

Patricia Poulos

Hi Ted, How nice of you to wish us all success. But I must agree, my experience with the Black List was discouraging as a thriller/horror script was read as a comedic.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

CJ: Thanks for your well thought out contributions to this thread. And, I'm taking full advantage of Script Revolution's free service and upload another screenplay last night.

Stephen Barber

I put a script on there two days ago and have been notified three times since that it has been downloaded.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Phillip- You did a great service to each and every "Happy Writer " on Stage 32 by posting this. As a new screenwriter with just (3) copyrighted scripts so far, I have to be very careful where I spend my hard earner dollars. Thank you once again, Sir.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Stephen Barber: Congrats my friend and I hope you get some action from the downloads Steven Harris: Thanks for the kind words and always glad to help. Thivanka: I've never seen Franklin Leonard post at S32 and there have been frequent discussions about the effectivity of the Blacklist. He only uses social networking sites lije Facebook and Twitter. S32 is in competition with the Blacklist because it also sells services to screenwriters. I think I provided some good alternatives to spending money at Black List and the brilliant Mister Walley offered some sobering statistics on why the Blacklist is at best a dicey proposition and to my reckoning, a bad investment for those with limited promotion budgets. I'd be delighted to see Mister Leonard post supporting statistics on success stories for his clients. In it's present state, it appears the Star Bellied Sneetches controlling reviews for Sneetches without stars. And most of us know how well that works out.

Stephen Barber

Thanks, Phil!

Dan MaxXx

BL is hosting a coast to coast Happy Hour event next week. Get intel from real people attending. This entire argument for or against BL was biased to start.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Anytime I render an opinion based on my empirical experience, and an aggregate of reviews and other shared experiences by writers I know, there's going to be a certain amount of bias. But there's also valid information in these posts. And if you love the Black List, shout it to the heavens. Personally, I reviewed the link CJ posted and I was appalled to read anonymous people talking about paying $75 a pop for reviews from Blacklist Readers. Some of them paying for 8 to 10 reviews to the tune of $600.00 to $750.00 plus membership. And that Franklin's trying to "help the writing community", really? The Black List is in business to make money and that great for Franklin and his wallet. Again, the beauty is that we live in a capitalist society and the Black List is free to operate however they like. They just won't get another dime out of me. CJ posted that Franklin Leonard is now one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. To me that is a frightening thought. I can't stand the Hollywood that seeks to exclude new talent and proliferate a modified caste system where talented people are excluded because they've never made a studio or successful indie film. By the way, I don't see that Franklin has ever made a major film, he's merely created a list of what he and his associates believe are the best spec scripts. God bless them and those that follow their list. I'm my not so umble opinion Mister Copperfield, CJ was correct. You're asking BL readers, that you may be competing against to be subjective with your script. That's like asking a junkie to watch your ounce of heroin.

Anthony Cawood

I've never used the Blacklist, though have used other paid services, so have no axe to grind any which way round with BL and have heard good and bad things about the service, but... Writers are looking for ways of connecting with people who are looing for scripts, there are many sevices out there that we, as writers, can pay for to try and achieve that goal, none of them come with any guarantees at all. I pesonally believe that writers are a pretty smart bunch and if they feel that it's worth taking a punt with a paid service then it's for them to investigate the service, it's charging structures and just how much it could help them. If after carrying out their due diligence they decide to spend their money, I wish them every luck in the world because ALL of the services are a long shot. I think (hope) that the majority of screenwriters already understand this and it is factored into their thinking. Of course on this basis you can make a strong case that you should be using the Script Revolutions and Simply Scripts of this world before anything else as at least they do not charge you for your longshot! I would point out that BL does have a great feature called Earmovies http://www.blcklst.com/earmovies/ where scripts are table read as podcasts by professional actors, there's some great material here, and it's free!

Dan MaxXx

Mr Leonard is NOT or even close to a power player in Hollywood. Ask people who make a living in Show Biz.

Eric Christopherson

I noticed once that someone who works in the office at the BL got a highly rated script that was later chosen as a "feature" on the site and emailed to all members. They only feature 24 scripts per year, so quite a plum for in-house writer. But what bad policy, smells of cronyism, brings into question the integrity of the blind reads.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Sir Anthony Cawood. Good post my friend. Particularly this bit "Writers are looking for ways of connecting with people." Your statement is the key in the equation. Being a writer or what the mob calls "This thing of ours" is a long term venture. For those among us that think they're going to write one script and set the world on fire, they may be bound for disappointment. I look for every opportunity, particularly free ones to get my work out there. For example, this week one of my writing buddies put out the word that a producer was looking for sci-fi and horror screenplays that can be made for under five million. Like several other writers I know, we've both done each other good turns. My friend passed my information on to the producer and that gentleman reached out to me this week. Consequently, he's reading my screenplays along with several others. The second thing that happened to me this was week Inktip giving me good press, which didn't cost me a dime. Additionally, an Inktip producer requested a script and another one downloaded one of my listed two scripts. However, I do continue to pay for Inktip, which has been very instrumental in connecting me with people. The third thing was 13HORROR.COM published Tales From HP Lovecraft on Amazon as a prize for being one of their winners. https://www.amazon.com/Tales-H-Lovecraft-Phillip-Hardy-ebook/dp/B01NCE2P... So I say do everything humanly possible to let the world know you're serious about making movies, writing books or whatever gets your art out there. And if the Black List can open a door for you, then use them too.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Dan MaxXX: I tend to agree with you on your last post: Or let me say this: "Damn boy, I hope you're right!"

Eric Christopherson

FYI, CJ, it wasn't Justin Kremer I was thinking of, but another employee ...

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

CJ: Thanks for the kind words. Here's my favorite Black List Success Story about them naming "Catherine The Great" the best script of 2014. And apparently, there's a scene where the Czarina has amorous relations with a horse. Though Barbara Streisand is attached as director to the project, I doubt this movie will ever see the light of day. http://files.blcklst.com/2014_black_list.pdf http://wegotthiscovered.com/movies/barbra-streisand-to-helm-catherine-th...

Dan MaxXx

Philip 100% correct . The real players are white dudes Who run Studios or agencies. Leonard is a service provider-- the Help.

Anthony Cawood

Thanks CJ/Phillip. And congrats on the Inktip mention Phillip, saw it on the email this week ;-) Inktip is great and a service I gladly pay for, I alternate with the script listings, paying for half the year or so, but I always pay for the preferred newsletter and have had some interest. The free shorts listing is great, have sold a number of scripts via that route. They also have contest listings and other free resources. Nothing but good things to say about it! Phillip - If I remember my history, the story about Catherine and the horse is meant to be true, be interesting to see how they film that sequence ;-)

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Anthony: As long the horse isn't injured during the filming.

Dan MaxXx

Hey Phillip You do know the Black List Industy script top 10 list and the Blacklist website are not the same

Anthony Cawood

@Phillip - assuming they'll use a stunt horse, maybe animatronic ;-)

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Dan M: Here is the Blacklist list I'm talking about which is from the script listing site: http://www.slashfilm.com/the-black-list-2014/ http://files.blcklst.com/2014_black_list.pdf Catherine the Great was their top unproduced script for 2014.

Dan MaxXx

Philip Im just saying the Industy's black list top scripts have 0 to do with Leonard's blcklist website. But i think leonard's website is the "official" host site for nominated Black List scripts (the Industry list).

Beth Fox Heisinger

Hey Phillip, I believe the link you posted is the actual "Black List" from 2014—the one that circulates around "Hollywood" and is compiled by polling 250 execs, not TBL listing website. ...Or now am I getting confused? Lol! Anyway, personally, I steer clear of the website. I tested it for one month, and that was it for me. I don't care for casinos; the house always wins. ;)

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Beth: The list I posted was off the Black List website. Am I missing any crucial point here? Again, here is main website of lists from The Blacklist. https://blcklst.com/lists/ PS, if anyone has a copy of the Catherine the Great script by Kristina Lauren Anderson, I'd love to read it. Here is review from Script Shadow http://scriptshadow.net/screenplay-review-catherine-the-great/

Beth Fox Heisinger

Ummm, sure, but the list you posted is the actual Black List from 2014, the one that circulates around the industry. Those scripts were handpicked by executives, scripts that landed on their desks, so to speak. They were not compiled nor chosen from the listing website. Perhaps others can comment, help clear this up? ...This is the other reason I find TBL listing website so crooked. It is that illusion/deception/confusion that makes them money. Many writers think they are one and the same—the listing website and the Black List. They are not.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Beth: okay, I see... that the Black List is worse than I originally thought.

Stephen Barber

☝️️

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Thanks to one of my terrific S32 pals for emailing me the Catherine the Great screenplay.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Any chance the Catherine the Great screenplay could be emailed to me too? Pretty please? ;)

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Beth: yes, I'll send it to you.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Thanks, Phillip! :)

Dan MaxXx

The real "Black list" (Industy people) has been floating around early 2000s. It was a "word of mouth" of the best unproduced scripts from REPPED writers. I never heard that story about David Fincher/Sorkin via Black List (Industry list) connection. (But yes, Sorkin scripts dont find Buyers too).

Dan MaxXx

1940s? you are seriously delusional about show biz writing and a website. Nobody cares where a script comes from- website, friend, mom.

Beth Fox Heisinger

I care. Writers care. How are facts delusional? What is wrong with being well informed? The perspective of this specific discussion is from that of an amateur/aspiring screenwriter. We're on this side of the table. Writers in large numbers are being taken advantage of by these opportunists. This is far more complex. Why be so reductive? Dismissive? Sure, it's the capitalist way. Sure, others may feel differently. And everyone is more than capable of making their own decisions and choices, but as someone who has given much of my time to Stage 32 I certainly feel the need to inform — buyer beware. Knowledge is a good thing. So thank you very much, CJ, Phillip, and everyone who has helped shed light on this topic.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

I'm strongly in favor of capitalism and live and let live. However, I'm not some politically correct automaton that follows the other sheep bleating the praises of some new self help fad, mystical religion or any outfit selling success. Particularly when a guy like Franklin Leonard and plenty of others have never personally made a film I give a shit about. And that goes for his readers and script consultants that are short on success and long on bullshit. When I began writing scripts, I had many so called industry mavens tell me I can't write the way I do, I can't be as prolific as I am, I can't use the kind of marketing I've used and I can't speak my mind the way I do. I've proved these individuals are incorrect in more ways than I can count. If I ever achieve the level of success I'm seeking it will be because I'm a free thinking creative maverick that's believes in my own instincts but that's not afraid to take counsel from someone I trust and respect.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

The Hollywood Blacklist began in 1947 as a result of the investigation by the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC) and reached it's zenith during the mid-fifties. It was a kind of partner to the Joseph McCarthy phenomenon. That Blacklist effectively ended when Kirk Douglas hired Dalton Trumbo to write Spartacus in 1959. The biggest case brought by the HUAC was against the Hollywood Ten identified as: The 10 individuals who defied HUAC were Alvah Bessie (c. 1904-85), Herbert Biberman (1900-71), Lester Cole (c. 1904-85), Edward Dmytryk (1908-99), Ring Lardner Jr. (1915-2000), John Howard Lawson (1894-1977), Albert Maltz (1908-1985), Samuel Ornitz (1890-1957), Robert Adrian Scott (1912-73) and Dalton Trumbo (1905-76).

Dan MaxXx

I thought the discussion was about the BL website, not the Agent/Industry BL of unproduced scripts and definitely not the Black list era of the 1940s. Hardy- you will get Writing opportunities and it wont be a website or Haters of material - u will get the job because you didn't quit.

Anthony Cawood

@Dan... CJ means (as detailed in his link) that the original use of the term Blacklist in relation to Hollywood screenwriters is from the late 1940s where it was a list used to prevent perceived communists from being employed by the Studios. Watch the film Trumbo for an excellent examination of the period and one of the great screenwriters affected by the mis-guided communist witch hunts paralysing the land of the free at the time. Franklin then re-used the phrase when he came up with the idea of putting the'best' unproduced screenplays each year into a list that he and other development execs had voted on.

Anthony Cawood

Ha, we all fell over oursleves!

Anthony Cawood

@Dan - agree, not quitting is important as it's easy to become demoralised with the nature of the business and difficulty in breaking in BUT perseverance and continually writing are key. On those terms Phillip will be just fine!

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

DanM: Thanks my friend; and for your assistance this weekend.

Dan MaxXx

Hardy- you will be fine. You got the right attitude and you carry a big jar of vasaline. Take it like a Pro and ask for another. Don't stress over a website.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Dan: no stress here, only disdain.

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