Writers Guild West Partners with The Black List: Will Aspiring Screenwriters Be Affected?

Writers Guild WestHere at No Film School, we've written several posts covering the evolution of The Black List and its paid screenplay hosting service. Just last month, we analyzed the Black List success story of Richard Cordiner getting noticed on the service and signing a deal with Warner Bros. Now, The Black List has announced a major partnership with The Writers Guild of America, West, providing free and discounted services on The Black List to WGAW members. Originally, The Black List paid service seemed like a gateway for undiscovered writers to access industry executives, so this new announcement begs the question: Who really benefits from The Black List's services? The Black List founder Franklin Leonard offers some insight as he explained this new partnership with WGAW.

First, let's give some quick background info and data before we get into this most recent announcement. Since its launch back in October 2012, The Black List's paid service has allowed screenwriters with English language screenplays to upload their scripts for hosting on The Black List for $25/month with the option of getting an industry reader to read and rate those scripts for $50/rating. Approved industry professionals can then download screenplays from The Black List based on their preferences, and The Black List created an algorithm to push screenplays to particular industry professionals based on their preference profiles.

According to Franklin Leonard, The Black List now boasts almost 2,000 industry professionals using its site to find screenplays. Over 4,800 screenplays from all 50 states and over 40 countries have been uploaded to the site since its launch. The Black List's paid readers have completed more than 6,500 script evaluations, and industry professionals have amassed more than 8,000 screenplay downloads. Regarding success stories, Leonard shared the following news:

[S]everal dozen writers that we know of have found representation at major agencies and management companies, and there have been at least a dozen sales or options of scripts as a direct consequence of discoveries made on the site. Possibly most remarkably, the signings and sales weren’t limited to writers from Los Angeles or New York.

So, yesterday's announcement of a partnership of The Black List with WGAW (to match an earlier one made with WGAE) was curious. Why do represented writers need The Black List's paid service to get their work noticed?

The answer for those of us still working outside of the system may be surprising, especially as it came directly from WGAW in its press release:

While one of the major challenges facing many screenwriters is “getting read” – by agents, managers, producers, or industry executives – the Black List has emerged as a viable tool for writers, both aspiring and professional, to increase the visibility of their screenplays in the marketplace.

Just because a screenwriter has an agent and/or a manager doesn't mean that screenwriter's work is getting read by industry executives. Maybe industry executives and producers need more assurance than an agent or manager telling them that their client's screenplay is the next big thing before they read it. The Black List wants to be a clearinghouse for all screenplays, from both aspiring and professional screenwriters, to make those connections between great material and producers that haven't happened in the past.

As a result of The Black List's new partnership, WGAW members can now post script titles, loglines, tags, and representative information, plus track their work's ratings for free. WGAW members can post full screenplays for hosting and obtain screenplay evaluations at a 20% discount. So, does this mean that aspiring screenwriters will be squeezed out of The Black List altogether?

The simple answer is no: great screenplays will rise to the top, regardless of a writer's status in the industry. Will there be more competition on The Black List? Certainly, but guess what? That competition already existed in the real world outside of The Black List. If you want your screenwriting to get noticed and get you hired, write a great screenplay. That hasn't changed.

Here's how Leonard explains the impact of this announcement for unrepresented writers:

The list of top uploaded scripts will continue to be a marquee feature of our member’s home page, and we have added a list of top uploaded scripts by unrepresented writers in a similarly prominent position.

We have further expanded our ability to spotlight top scripts generally with a head to toe site redesign that features top lists (unproduced, uploaded, and unrepresented, separately) on our member home page in all eleven major genres.

We will also continue to include scripts receiving high scores from our hired readers in weekly emails that are targeted based on industry professionals’ specific tastes and preferences in genre, budget, etc.

Most importantly though, a deeper catalog will attract more industry professionals, and more industry professional means more possible eyes on your script, which has always been, and will continue to be, the point of what we do.

In the end, Leonard is trying to drive more industry professional traffic to The Black List, which will be good for all screenwriters with screenplays on its site. The Black List needs strong content to drive up industry professional traffic. As such, The Black List needs to cater to all screenwriters, aspiring and professional, to find the best screenplays and to demonstrate its value to the industry.

What do you think about The Black List's new partnership with WGAW? Do you think this improves The Black List for all screenwriters? Will you be submitting your screenplay to The Black List or have you already put your work on their site? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the Comments.

Link: The Black List

[via WGAW & Go Into The Story]

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I remember looking at the WGA full member list a long while back - ~ 12,000 members and, of those, only about 400 working full time. Some of those 11,600 were retired, having tasted both fame and fortune. Others were in for a cup of coffee on something like "Punky Brewster" and have been trying to find work ever since. Many were with smaller agencies, whose staffs did not have Ron Meyer's secretary's number on quick dial, to say the least. Everyone unemployed kept writing specs. Everyone tried to get read.

June 26, 2013 at 2:15PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Well, the BL might be a good thing. However, I'd rather prefer to submit to a prestigious contest than to the BL. If your screenplay is worth anything, you should achieve something there too. I mean the end result is more or less the same. Your screenplay will be read by a script reader who will grade it afterwards.

I just wonder what do the WGAE people do?

June 26, 2013 at 4:53PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


i I believe most contests will binds your work to its sponsors. The Black List's stated main purpose is to get your work seen, if it's worthy. The agencies themselves rather poach an already established talent and dedicate scant resources to the unproduced writers. To some extent, the agencies are correct because the vast majority of scripts is unreadable and there's rarely a gem among them. On the other hand, it'd behoove smaller tenpercentaries - those lower on the food chain than CAA/WME/UTA - to pool some funds together for a similar enterprise, giving them first dibs on the new talent that appears unannounced every so often. Alas, this has become a "pay-for-play" market, similar to the old Sunset Strip rock clubs of the 80's and 90's.

June 27, 2013 at 9:31AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Over 4,800 scripts submitted.
"Several dozen finding representation" Let's say 40...that's 0.8%
"At least a dozen" got optioned. Let's say 15...that's 0.3%

Interesting odds.

June 27, 2013 at 1:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Well, hypothetically, there could be some writers - and odds are there are - who had submitted multiple scripts to account for some of the 4,800 total.

But, let's say the odds of a breakthrough are about 1%. As a late, great Hollywood film director Edward Dmytryk once said, "99% of all scripts are unreadable and 90% are complete crap". This just proves him right.

June 27, 2013 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


That's probably pretty good compared to the number of scripts that may get submitted to a studio every year. TIFF received approximately 4000 submissions and only screened 372 films in 2012. That works out to less than a 1 in 10 chance or 9.3% of the films submitted were screened. Of those finished, screened films, how many scripts did those individual producers/directors read or consider? Interesting thoughts though. Of those 372 films submitted how many will go on to make their money back? Wow that became a downer post pretty quickly.

June 27, 2013 at 7:16PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


In my experience with the Black List over the past couple months, I can say it's not worth the money. As MKay already stated, it's a much better idea to submit to prestigious contests where you stand to gain something, as opposed to just being read (barring the IMPOSSIBLY tiny chance of scoring a deal with a studio).

The quality of the reads I received were all over the map. The first review I got came from someone who apparently read 5 pages of my script and just guessed what happened for the rest of it. After that, I got a solid review where the reader seemed to commit a decent amount of time and thought to my review (which I'd expect at $50 a read). But the read after that was even worse than my first. The reviewer could hardly string together a properly constructed sentence (irony at its finest). I'd receive comments like "great character work!", and then proceed to get a score of 3 out of 10. It's like the readers would just pick numbers out of a hat for each scoring criteria.

In my opinion, while it's a great idea in theory, $25/mo is just too high a price for the little you get in return. Most contests nowadays offer a read with your submission anyway, so it's definitely best to save your money for the big ones, like Nicholl, Sundance Screenwriters Lab, Slamdance, etc.

Just my two cents!

June 27, 2013 at 9:21PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Is there a (direct) relation between the grade given by BL and an agent's interest in a script or a writer? What are the rumors on that?

June 28, 2013 at 12:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Basically, if you get a 7 or above, you make it onto a list that's sent out via email to industry pros saying something to the effect of "hey, these are the recently high scoring scripts!", which leads to more downloads and more reads. So if you're just some random schmoe with no agent (like myself) writing and uploading to the Black List, if you don't get those high scores, not many people are gonna download/read/rate your script, simply because there's no guarantee it'll be worth their time. This relation between scores and interest made it that much more annoying when it seemed readers gave about 5 minutes total reviewing a script I've spent years working on. Like I said before, you're taking a huge gamble with the quality of readers. It's a gamble I can't really afford to make at $25/mo PLUS $50 per read.

June 29, 2013 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM