The Black List, in the screenwriting world, refers to two things run by the same company.
The “real” Black List is an annual list of the best or most-liked unproduced screenplays that executives have read that year. That’s not quite accurate, though...in recent years, it’s more like the list of “most-liked writing samples pushed by lit managers to development executives.”
Obviously, the actual “best unproduced scripts”—by major creators and of major I.P.—are kept under lock and key and don’t get circulated.
While a few scripts on the list get produced, most do not, and there are a fair number of “stunt scripts” (e.g. a Harry Potter fan film script) that are never intended to be made.
But the list is a real thing, and getting picked for the it kick-starts the careers of young writers every year.
The website Black List is a commercial enterprise by the same company wherein aspiring screenwriters can pay to have their scripts “hosted” (listed/available for download) and evaluated online (by professional script readers in the film business).
There’s really only one thing that matters: if you pay for an evaluation and get an 8 or above (out of 10), you get your script tweeted about and included on a weekly list that’s sent to managers and producers.
For writers trying to break in, this is the the magic bullet that we think will cut through the clutter and get us noticed. And, I know for a fact, it does happen.
I have never, ever gotten an 8 or above. I’ve gotten maybe a thousand dollars’ worth of 6s and 7s. So, it’s frustrating, because it’s all so subjective. And, really, if your evaluation is a 7, you might as well print it out and use it as toilet paper.
I’m always curious...what is, in fact, getting an 8? And if I was one of those writers, would it really help me get a career?
I used a picture of a money printing press, above, because as far as I can tell, the company has a de facto license to print money.
I went through three weeks of tweets, which may be a bit skewed because of the holidays:
Racket (pilot). Smedley Butler, the most decorated man in U.S. military history, faces his greatest battle yet, thwarting a clandestine coup attempt of FDR by a group of wealthy businessmen. As he strings the dangerous men along, working to expose them, he transforms into an outspoken activist against the military-industrial complex.
Pilate Before Christ (feature?). Pontius Pilate, hoping to retire peacefully (and live) with his wife Claudia and Makara, is given one final assignment: while reluctantly serving as Governor of Roman Judea, he must quell the tr eacherous, bloody, violent, and political and reli… [this was pulled down; maybe it got a producer?]
The Pop-Up: “Grief Is a TED Talk” (pilot). Set against the lawless “gray market” of legal cannabis pop-ups at the dawn of Trump-era Washington D.C., a couple in transition are torn between their past and their future when an old friend returns to town with mysterious plans.
Oz Noir (pilot). A former Tin Man, the magikal law in Emerald City, gets jammed up when his latest case involves him with two eccentric criminals, a tabloid reporter, and their quest to solve the gangland murder of the Wicked Witch of Eastside. [this has a manager]
Eternal Interiors: Tethers (pilot). Three women -- designers of personalized, narrative-based casket interiors for the newly, dearly departed -- must navigate the contours of their existential dread as they search for meaning and connection in their own lives. Think SIX FEET UNDER meets DESIGNING WOMEN.
Eastern Son (feature). A mysterious stranger is forced into a small town when his motorcycle breaks down. He takes a job at a local sushi shop to pay for the repair. Little do the owners know, the stranger has skills. Specifically, knife skills. As he becomes more of a town mainstay, the secrets of the owner's family, and the stranger's own past, come to a head. Forcing a decision about his new community.
Song of Sana (feature). Told as a modern day fairy tale, a rebellious teenage girl kidnapped by Boko Haram refuses to accept her fate inside the evil but magical African forest imprisoning her. [this has a manager]
The Inside Parts (feature). After returning to her conservative hometown to make amends with the parents who kicked her out ten years earlier, a shy young trans woman battles monstrous demons, both from Hell and her own family.
The Truth (feature). When a teenage girl and devout Jehovah’s Witness accuses an esteemed church member of a disturbing crime, she’s forced to endure an invasive trial held by the congregation elders.
Paul Is Dead (feature). When Frank Simmons writes a satirical article for his school paper in 1969 claiming that Paul McCartney is dead he expects everyone to laugh at his hilarious wit. Instead, he gets caught up in a frenzy that sweeps the nation, a conspiracy theory that still persists to this day, and is thrust into the limelight, all because of a lie. Based on actual events.
Indie Darling Rian Johnson Robs a Bank (feature). Yeah, he fucking does. [quite obviously a “stunt script”]
Challenger (feature). After the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, two dogged New York Times reporters fight to uncover the truth behind the explosion and the possibility of an orchestrated cover-up.
The Crux (feature). When Carl, an ex-mountaineering guide with PTSD, meets Jack, an adventurous kid who wants to climb all of Colorado's 14'ers in a single summer, the two team up to tackle the most dangerous mountains in the state.
Ilopango (feature). The mysterious murder of a young reporter in war torn El Salvador leads a high-octane team of renegade journalists - and the courageous daughter of an ailing aristocrat - to discover an arms trafficking conspiracy and break the story that will soon be known to the world as the Iran Contra Affair.
Haunted Heart (feature). When a struggling ghostwriter for motivational speakers is haunted emotionally (then literally) by a lost love, she must find the closure and optimism to move on so that her ghost lover can do the same. [writer attached as director]
Undetectable (pilot). Reeling from a breakup, an addiction therapist with a massive TikTok following and addiction problems of his own contracts HIV.
How to Say Goodbye (pilot). An aging death doula and a much younger, queer professional cuddler are brought together by a shared ability to manufacture closeness. Together, they must make sense of their own solitude and mortality while tending to the needs of others.
Bodice Rippers (pilot). While running away from their unhappy lives and searching for love in the Scottish Highlands, a secretive romance writer and a closeted princess uncover a government conspiracy and spark a revolution.
No Road to Nome (pilot). After escaping their moonshine-dealing, sex trafficking father, a teenage Yup’ik hooch runner and her younger sister journey through the Alaskan wilderness to find their missing mother.
Incarnations (feature). An agnostic biologist discovers startling scientific evidence revealing the fate of his deceased four-year-old son, launching him on a spiritual quest where life meets death.
Mimi and Saad: An American Love Story (feature). When a Muslim immigrant is threatened on a subway train in a racially charged Portland, a white, punk rock activist intervenes on his behalf—an act that ignites a passion for each other they struggle to sustain in the face of modern American violence and racism.
Michael (feature). A deaf, struggling, black, impoverished father tries to revamp his MMA career in hopes to reunite with his 3 year old son. [this has a manager and a prod. co]
Before She Was Joan (feature). A teenage dancer from the Midwest risks it all to flee from her abusive home and chases her dream to the mean big city streets doing whatever she can to survive, ultimately landing center-stage on Broadway ... and the attention of a talent scout from Hollywood. This is the true story of Joan Crawford's rise to fame and why the demons that followed her...did.
Fiesta (feature). A eunuch suffering from PTSD makes a trip to Spain with the woman he loves, succumbing to the hedonism and despair consuming post-war America in the 1920s.
Two Roads to Riva (feature). A World War II story, "Two Roads to Riva" features dual protagonists, one a lieutenant in the U.S. 10th Mountain Division bent on redeeming himself for having accidentally killed his fraternal twin. The other is an Austrian corporal forced to serve in the German army but determined bring his boyish recruits safely home.
The Fool (feature). When a down-on-his-luck American charms the King of Tonga into giving him two jobs—financial advisor to the Crown, and the only royal fool in modern history—he inadvertently sets the stage for a bloody revolution that topples a 1,000 year absol… [this was pulled down]
Men’s Magazine (pilot). An old school men's magazine hires a hotshot cancel culture warrior to revamp its image in the ever-shrinking world of magazine journalism.
The Rise of Zorro (pilot). Once upon a time in 1800s California, the native Mexicans were oppressed! America pushed in from the east. Spain pushed out from within. The people needed a hero! You know him as Don Diego De La Vega, the man who wore the mask of Zorro. But now, allow me to introduce you to his brother, a mute; his father, a Spanish Hidalgo; and his mother, a Native American warrior, who all together signed the name Zorro!
Identity (feature). Desperate to take care of her sick father, a liberal woman reluctantly agrees to pose as her ailing estranged twin sister – the incumbent Republican mayor of San Diego – in the midst of a contentious re-election campaign.
Redwood Falls (feature). Two years after a camper disappeared over a waterfall, a traumatized camp counselor's attempts to move on are thwarted when the ghost of the missing young boy invites him to come find the body.
Tenderfoot (feature). The codependent bond between a mother and her troubled son is disrupted when a mysterious man arrives to their small fishing village in anticipation of an impending storm. [NOTE: This has a manager, and one of the cowriters is attached to direct.]
Song of Sana (feature). See above. This is from a second positive evaluation.
Triumph (feature). In this AFF quarterfinalist, the eternally rotten Leni Riefenstahl succumbs to her selfish desire for stardom when she’s recruited for a life-changing opportunity: creating the infamous image of Adolf Hitler.
Pinky Swear (feature). After a lovelorn Jewish teenager loses the number of the Jamaican girl he sleeps with at a party, he must figure out a way to find her - while their family, friends, and the racial tension in their city conspire to keep them apart.
Bad Romance (feature). A paperback romance fanatic who strives to pen a novel of her own but has no real-life experience to draw upon recruits a playboy Casanova for a crash course in hot and heavy. [this has a manager]
The Next Santa (feature). When the American Santa retires, unappreciated gift-givers from all over the world compete to see who will take his place.
Wild Animals (feature). When a mysterious wild animal attacks a young child in an insular and devout 19th century farming community, Frances upends her family and life in an increasingly obsessive search for what she believes to be a mythic beast. NOTE: This has a manager, and is the second script to be tweeted about by Audrey Rosenberg, who cowrote Tenderfoot, above.]
Open World (feature). Two friends discover, whatever they do in a video game, happens in real life. NOTE: What a great concept! The script’s ratings are all over the place, however, from a 3 to an 8! So it’s probably a messy script with a totally fantastic concept.
Michael (feature). See above.
That’s it. I’ll type up some conclusions tomorrow. What do you think?