If you’re just getting to the party, this is the last of a three-part series about the The Blcklst.com site. Part 2 contained two examples of evaluations for scripts that I posted on The Blacklist site. Part 1 provided an overview of the site, and posed some questions I wanted to address: “Have you tried it?” “How were your evaluations?” and “Is it worth it?”
Herein I will discuss of that final question: Is it worthwhile to host (and/or buy evaluations) on the Blacklist.com?
First, to define terms: To me “worthwhile” would mean connecting with an advocate in almost any sense of the word. Being contacted by someone wanting to push a project forward would be a pinnacle, but a lunch, a meeting, an email from a manager who doesn’t like the project but likes the style, or an offer from someone in the industry to read a next draft or next script. For the purposes of this discussion, basically anything even vaguely career-forwarding or even self-esteem buoying garners the title of “worthwhile.”
Was hosting scripts on The Blacklist.com for two months and purchasing a single evaluation worthwhile for me? Using the above definition as a rubric, the obvious answer seems to be “no.”
But if you are reading this, your real question is probably whether doing the same thing would be worthwhile for you.
There are three circumstances that come to mind where the answer might be “yes.”
1) You already have advocates. 2) You are lucky with your readers. 3) You have an undeniable script.
1) Advocates: I think we already hit on this–if you know some folks in the industry who have access to the Blacklist site and are willing to give you some high ratings, that could generate buzz and be helpful. I’m just stating that again to get it out of the way.
2) Lucky with your readers: Industry folks at panels and in interviews will often talk about the right script finding the right readers: The one or two people out there who just happen to love what you do. If you pay for evaluations AND happen to land two perfect readers for you. That might be worthwhile.
3) Having a great / undeniable script.
My guess is that when you read the evaluations I posted for my scripts in Part 2, you probably thought, “Well, my script sounds better than that.” I get you. I’ve considered this too–what if my script were just better? If I rewrote? If I submitted a different script with a better concept? What if is were, as my husband says, “an undeniable script?”
Well, about that. Other people also talk about “the undeniable script.” This is a hypothetical script that has such quality and is simultaneously so accessible that its excellence is apparent to anyone –from exec, to unpaid intern script reader to guy on the street. No one can deny its greatness.
My feeling is that the undeniable script is a myth. You hear things like that Memento was passed up by like 30 distribution companies, Desperate Housewives was rejected by everyone who read it for like four years,* and that scenes written by David Mamet (turned in by Paul Thomas Anderson as his own in film school) received a “C.” Van Gogh paintings and Confederacy of Dunces were widely rejected and no one noticed they were awesome until after their creators were dead. The work didn’t change–people’s perceptions did. I’m pretty sure there are Blacklist readers who would give Citizen Kane an unenthusiastic “5.” This is because tastes vary, and even though a script is a blueprint for a movie, you can’t actually see the movie. And because the idea of an undeniable anything is bullshit.
But lets say that there is a spectrum, with the “undeniable” script as the Platonic ideal being the endpoint. The closer a script gets to that endpoint, the more readers–and these are individual readers, reading in a vacuum, uninfluenced by others–would reach the conclusion that a script was “great.” If your script is very close to this endpoint, then the Blacklist…plus some paid reads…would help you.
ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION ABOUT SCORING
If no script is “undeniable,” but your script is “great,” then, really, you still fall under circumstance number two–Blacklist.com has the potential to be helpful to you only if you get lucky and find the right readers, and will be disappointing if you do not.
Here is a POSITIVE post from the Bitter Script Reader, describing a success story from The Blacklist. He also lists some excerpts from the evaluation here. From reading the post it seems that just one high rating garnered attention from multiple parties. Note that this is from the site’s earlier days in the spring of 2013. It’s possible that the site was shinier and newer at this point.
Here is what I’d have to term a NEGATIVE post from a Screenwriting Goldmine forum poster (TheRangeMatters), which is pretty detailed and informative. He purchased three evaluations, which ranged from a 4 to a 7 on the same script, and notes that his friends have had similar experiences.
And finally, here’s a recent “featured script” that was sent to my inbox by The Blacklist.com.
I have no idea what the non-uploaded scripts and uploaded scripts lines are supposed to be telling me. But when I click on the little gray boxes for “this script,” I can see percentages, and calculate that with nine totals ratings, this script has received two 8s, one 7, one 6, four 5s and one 4. This guy has four other scripts on the site. He’s clearly no slouch–but there is still quite a range of opinions regarding the script. Just for interest, here are his public script reviews:
I’m not sure who controls choosing which reviews are public–the writer of the script, or also the writer of the review? Could he have chosen to show us all of the reviews, or is there a limit?
Its also pertinent to note, this guy has NINE ratings? Since it seems to be an anomaly for an industry person to randomly read a script that doesn’t already have evaluations, we have to assume these nine are either paid reader ratings (in which case he has spent $450 on top of the monthly posting fee), or industry ratings from people this person knew. Or perhaps some combination. Regardless, he’s managed to gather a number of readers, and the result is a RANGE of scores, from 4 to 8. The majority are 5s, which aren’t super enthusiastic (enthusiasm being defined as an 8), But, those two 8s were enough to result in an email being sent to some in-boxes, which I’m guessing the writer probably considers worthwhile for his time and/or money.
This is where pay-to-play “opportunities” like The Blacklist become a slippery slope. Maybe the guy in our example started off with low scores, but he just kept paying until he found those two enthusiastic readers? What if, with only one or two paid evals, my scripts just haven’t found those ideal readers yet? What if I decide to host for additional months? What if I pay for two more evaluations? What if I pay for six more? When you’re searching for luck in a haystack, it seems like you have to keep throwing hay until you find it.
*These are wrong, half-remembered ballpark numbers, but you can probably find the right ones by internet searching or reading Desperate Networks.