To continue from Part 1
Have I ever tried the blklst.com site? Why yes, I have. Toward the end of May, I uploaded three scripts on the Black List and within a few days I ordered one evaluation for each. Some suggest that if you order one, you should go ahead and order two, but my budget for such things only stretches so far. Who Has Read My Script? Blklst.com doesn’t actually tell you who has read your script, but they do give you a head count. It looks like this: As I write this at the beginning of July, one person has downloaded The Invisibles, and that is the paid reader. Two “pros” or industry people, have looked at the description page for the script and chosen not to download it, and one peer–presumably another writer–has also looked at the description. Something I just learned is that you can set your script to be available to other writers. I had not realized this. The default setting is “unavailable” and not that obvious, so my one peer who looked at my description page did not have the option of downloading at that time, whereas now he or she could. To summarize: 1 download, which was the one I paid for.
My other two scripts are similar. Ribbit! garnered 4 peer views of the cover page, 0 pro views and one download by the paid reader. My Zombie Parents: 5 peer views, 0 pro views and one download by the paid reader. Who has read my script? In each case, the paid reader.
Full Disclosure: Although I have a kinda handshake deal with an agent at a recognizable agency, I did not list that on the questionnaire. These scripts have made it to later rounds of the Austin and Page competitions, one got to the interview stage for a fellowship. I also didn’t list any of these things on the questionnaire. I didn’t figure any of it was that impressive, or that someone would say, like “OMG, Quarter Finals of Page, I’ve gotta read that one!” But we can acknowledge the possibility that maybe knowing that “someone else liked it,” or that I can list an agent might have subconsciously influenced the reader and raised the evaluation up a notch? Doubtful, but possible, so I’m noting it.
And now, speaking of Evaluations: Did You Get Good Evaluations?
If, by “good” we mean high-ranking, the answer would be “not so much.” Here is the numerical breakdown and feedback for My Zombie Parents:
Dark Comedy, Family Comedy, Horror Comedy, Monsters
After her mother and father are killed in a plane crash, ZOE finds a way to magically bring them back from beyond the grave. Zoe finds unexpected consequences when her zombie parents start to act like zombies.
Zombies are a very familiar trope, but the script brings several amusing and original touches. The best is Alabaster, Zoe’s stuffed rabbit, which she manages to bring to life with surprising result. Though they mostly play as a non-sequitur, the “LARPERS” are also a funny addition. We don’t get much emotional insight into her character, but Zoe is an solid and endearing protagonist. There is something amusing, even touching about a kid going this far to bring back her parents. Bully may be the ostensible antagonist, but he actually comes off as one of the most sympathetic characters in the script. He is understandably frightened by the zombies- to comedic effect, and does what he can to try and stop them, despite only being a school boy.
“My Zombie Parents” has an amusing premise, but does not quite live up to its potential. The plot is thin and feels dragged out. After Zoe brings her parents back from the dead, the script doesn’t do much with them for the longest time. The pacing is off, lagging and going into a repetitive, episodic feel. Though the concern that the zombie parents may start to partake of human flesh is present, it doesn’t feel like a driving force of the plot, a serious conflict for most of the script. The plot thread of Lou in the Netherworld is confusing and distracts from the main plot. Tonally, this is a dark comedy, so the issues of life and death are not to be taken too seriously, but for Zoe’s case some emotional response may still be warranted. What should be the most powerful moment of the script is ruined by Bruce’s garbled zombie talk. It’s unclear how to take this scene, as it is neither funny nor dramatic.
Zombies have been in so many movies that to get attention, a spec has to have a very strong high concept. “My Zombie Parents” has a funny premise, but the execution is too flat and underwhelming to stand out.
(Sidenote: In the interest of science, you can compare these to the Austin Film Fest reader comments on this same script here.)
These are the numbers with feed for The Invisibles:
Comedy, Dramatic Comedy, Musical Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Comedy
A group of high school students are physically invisible because of their inability to stand out, but one invisible girl attempts to gain visibility by seducing the most popular boy in school.
The story’s representation of physical invisibility as a metaphor for feeling invisible is unique and particularly appropriate for high school students who are particularly sensitive, socially aware, and self-conscious. The musical subplot and original songs add depth and invention to the characters, and have a lot of potential to be emotionally resonant with a teenage audience. There is a lot of subtext with Brad’s character and his insecurities and vulnerabilities. There’s a lot of opportunity to have a very unique subplot by developing his emotional dilemma and layered identity instead of focusing on his stereotypical jock qualities and minuscule attention span.
The script spends too much time explaining the principles of invisibility, and it would be more effective if the rules were portrayed concisely and cinematically through interesting action instead of discussion (ex. “He has to see you for others to see you. And that requires a strong emotional attachment, which obviously you wouldn’t–” … “-You’re saying if he fell in love with me. If Brad Hodges was in love with me, I’d be visible.”). The climax could be more dramatically compelling by increasing the tension and suspense of who Laura will choose to perform with at the variety show. If Laura has a genuine moral dilemma about what to do, it will make her decision and the betrayal more emotionally powerful and tragic. It is potentially offensive to assert the idea that Laura’s existence is essentially determined by if her popular boyfriend remembers her and cares about her emotionally. The ending would be more empowering to show that visibility is achievable through self-acceptance instead of just social approval.
The story is relatable and interesting, but the premise is derivative of many teen movies that revolve around an outcast trying to seduce a popular student in order to gain social acceptance. In order to be marketable, the script would benefit from a rewrite that would ground the story in authentic teen culture and add some element that would make this high school story boldly stand out (like the memorable comedy of Mean Girls or the quirky realism of The Perks of Being a Wallflower).
Is it worth it to pay for a listing and evaluation on the Blacklist.com?
My conclusions coming soon in Part 3.