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Hollywood's popular screenplay Black List expands capabilities

October 15, 2012|By Nicole Sperling
  • Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List, creates a new forum for aspiring screenwriters.
Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List, creates a new forum for aspiring… (Frederick M. Brown / Getty…)

Beginning today, struggling screenwriters searching for a way into Hollywood will be handed a new opportunity courtesy of Franklin Leonard, the creator of the Black List, an annual compendium of the best unproduced screenplays.

The list, which has become a barometer for quality screenwriting and launched its own website last year, will now allow screenwriters to upload their scripts to the site hosted by Leonard for $25 a month. The scripts will be available to the 1,000 industry professionals who currently subscribe to the site monthly.

According to Leonard, subscribers run the gamut from agency assistants to studio presidents.

Should these aspiring screenwriters want more access to Hollywood insiders, they are able to pay $50 for an evaluation by one of Leonard's professional script readers. These are individuals who have previously read scripts professionally for major agencies, management companies, production companies or studios, essentially the people who have previously served as the first filter when a script lands at any of these places.

Leonard hopes this new initiative will further his mission of connecting moviemakers with great scripts.

"For as long as I've been doing this, amateur screenwriters have asked me how they can get their scripts to Hollywood, and I never had a good answer," said Leonard, who created the first Black List in 2004.

"You can always hope that your uncle's wife's brother works at an agency and maybe he'll pass it along. Or you can send a query letter to a production company or agency detailing your script and why you think it's great, but very few of those are even read seriously," he added.

"The only other real option is entering the endless list of screenwriting competitions, the vast majority of which don't even hit the industy's radar in a real way. We created this to address that need."

The success of the initiative will be limited to the quality of Leonard's filters and the material submitted, two issues the 33-year-old executive readily acknowledges. Leonard, who recently left Will Smith's production company, Overbrook Entertainment, has also let the major guilds know about his plans.

"I think the industry is always desperate for good scripts, which is why the Black List became the thing it did," he said. "The sad reality is that good screenplays are rare, so if this initiative can find them, everyone will be quite happy about it."

The site already allows industry professionals — such as presidents of production, like Warner Bros.' Greg Silverman and Sony's Hannah Minghella, and A-list actors and directors — access to the real-time Black List, which continually updates and offers these individuals scripts that are filtered and sorted to their needs.

The example Leonard offers is that a director can now log on to the site and generate a list of the most popular comedies with a producer attached (but no director) that are based on their tastes, which have been generated over time in similar fashion to how Netflix updates its personal recommendations.

Leonard said the site will take no commissions, finder's fees or producer credits for any of the scripts that are uploaded. The site also has a "do no harm" policy, whereby it's the writer's decision to make individual evaluations public to the industry membership. A script will only come to the attention of an industry professional if it gets high ratings on the site, either from one of the readers or from the other members who already subscribe.

"All writers will be able to monitor the volume of traffic to their script — views of their script page, downloads of their script, numbers of ratings, etc.," Leonard adds. "If their script gets reviewed poorly and is getting no traffic, we will encourage them to take it down."

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