Making it as a screenwriter is no easy feat. With a wealth of competitions, agents, and opportunities out there, it can be a wonderful yet overwhelming position to be in as an aspiring screenwriter.
However, initiatives like The Black List are fantastic avenues into selling your spec scripts or even securing your first writing job. Scripts such as Juno, The King’s Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire all started life on The Black List before being developed into the blockbusters we know and love today.
What Exactly is The Black List?
This all sounds well and good, of course, but what exactly is The Black List?
Launched in 2005, The Blacklist is a site that publishes an annual list of ‘most-liked’ unproduced screenplays voted for by over five hundred film industry executives. Any screenwriter can create a profile and upload their scripts onto the site for a monthly fee.
The top scripts with the most votes at the end of each year are listed in The Black List. Not all of these go on to necessarily be produced, but writers have secured agents, managers, and awesome writing opportunities from their feature on the list.
Another feature of The Black List is its feedback offering. Writers host their screenplays on the website and submit them for feedback from industry professionals with a view to editing their scripts to the best they can possibly be.
So, let’s dive into how to get your script on The Black List!
How to Get Your Script on The Black List
Firstly, you need to write a script. (Check out the Celtx Scriptwriting software for this)
Whether it be a feature or television pilot, it needs to be the best version of the script you have written. Ensure you have written several drafts and have sought feedback from peers, friends, or family; ideally, someone who is not afraid to be critical.
We say this because The Black List is a service that requires you to pay to use it. You could clearly waste a lot of money hosting half-finished and unpolished scripts, which could receive feedback you could have easily given yourself.
So, give your script the attention it deserves, and you will reap more of the rewards The Black List offers.
Make sure to check out our top tips for editing your script here.
When you are ready to go, sign up for an account on The Black List site and list your script. If you are a member of your country’s writer’s guild, such as the Writer’s Guild of America, you are eligible for a discount on your script hosting. You will need to keep up your monthly payments to keep your script live. This is another reason you should pick your best script to submit to The Black List.
Benefits of Your Screenplay Being on The Black List
|Benefits of Your Screenplay Being on The Black List|
|1. Networking Opportunities|
|2. Be Scored by Industry Professionals|
|3. Receive Valuable Feedback|
1. Networking Opportunities
Film is a collaborative industry where all talents connect, network, and join forces on projects. For new screenwriters, this can be a daunting prospect. The Black List is a wonderful opportunity for screenwriters to network with like-minded people and get their work seen by industry professionals whilst receiving valuable feedback simultaneously.
2. Be Scored by Industry Professionals
Industry experts also keep an eye on the site; scripts rated eight or above tend to gather more attention. Score highly, and you could have a knock at the door!
There are around 5,000 experts reading for The Black List, all of whom provide anonymous feedback on your script. They also cannot see any previous reviews made by other experts, so there is no potential bias on how they may score your script on their first reading.
3. Receive Valuable Feedback
Remember, even if you receive critical feedback you were not expecting, it’s a valuable insight you can take into improving your script on the next draft. As a screenwriter, you should always be considering how you can improve your work, so even if the score you are given for a script is lower than you would like, the feedback you receive alongside the score is absolutely worthwhile.
The Black List should not be confused with script coverage, however. The evaluations provided on the site are overviews as opposed to detailed notes and analyses. It is a site to get your scripts seen and to make ripples within the industry. If it is in-depth screenplay coverage you are looking for, seek it out through the many services out there.
How Does the Black List Voting System work?
Who Votes on The Black List?
The people who vote are all industry experts: agents, managers, and executives, and are currently active in the film and television industries. The Black List encourages these voters to be active within the site’s community and keep up to date with the content.
How is The Black List compiled?
Once you have uploaded your script to host on the site, you will then need to pay separately for an evaluation. This is $100 for feature scripts and one-hour pilots and $70 for half-hour pilots.
A paid Black List reader will then read your script and give it a grade between one and ten. The industry experts will then look at the scripts with the highest ratings before voting for their favourites. In essence, The Black List is those screenplays that are the ‘most-liked’.
The site collates all ratings, which are then organized, the top scripts listed monthly, quarterly, and eventually annually in the coveted Black List released every December. See the list for 2022 here!
What Else Does The Black List Offer to Screenwriters?
Since its inception in 2005, The Black List has developed some opportunities for its writers to build on their work and grow in their craft, from labs to residencies.
Let’s take a look at what is on offer for writers each year.
|What Else Does The Black List Offer to Screenwriters?|
|1. Annual Black List Lab|
|2. Black List X WIF Feature Residency|
|3. The Georgia List|
|4. Woolly Mammoth X Black List Playwriting Commission|
1. Annual Black List Lab
Each fall, six to eight non-professional writers are invited to a month-long. virtual writers’ residency. During this time, writers workshop one feature screenplay through various means. This could be one-on-one sessions with a mentor or with their peers.
Alongside this, writers are able to attend events with professional screenwriters, executives, producers, literary agents and managers.
At the end of the month, the writers all travel to Los Angeles for an intensive writer’s workshop for one week.
Of course, as with most labs, The Black List’s selection process is competitive. In the first instance, fifteen writers will be selected, based on the strength of their scripts hosted on the platform, to apply with a personal statement and writing resume.
A shortlist is then created for a Zoom interview before the final six to eight writers are announced.
Interested in the Annual Black List Lab? Click here for full details and requirements.
2. Black List X WIF Feature Residency
This residency is in conjunction with Women in Film, inviting six promising screenwriters of underrepresented genders to a one-year residency, with all the events taking place in Los Angeles.
Now, it is important that you live close to LA or can easily travel, as you will be required to attend various events throughout the year-long residency.
Participants workshop one feature screenplay through mentor sessions and peer workshops. Like The Black List Lab, up to fifteen writers are selected in the first instance to provide a personal statement and a writer’s resume before potentially interviewing for one of the six places.
Does this sound like something you would like to be involved in? Click here for more!
3. The Georgia List
The Black List does not just offer opportunities in the film and television space. Their Georgia List accepts features, pilots, plays and musicals and selects the top ten scripts with a connection to Georgia.
Supporting The Black List with this venture are Collective Moxie, Trilith Studios, 3Arts Entertainment, Fifth Season, Content Talent South, the Alliance Theatre, and Art Farm at Serenbe. Each of these partners has a say on whose scripts are collated on the final list.
Successful writers will then collaborate with representatives from the relevant partner that best suits their project, with the potential to develop their script into their chosen medium.
There are specific requirements; the writer needs to have a connection to the US state of Georgia. The exact details can be found here!
4. Woolly Mammoth X Black List Playwriting Commission
This is one opportunity for all the playwrights out there, specifically those who write comedy or high-energy plays.
The Black List has teamed up with Woolly Mammoth to award a $10,000 grant to one playwright towards commissioning their work for the stage.
You only have until the start of April to submit your play or musical script! More details can be found here.
As we have discovered, there are many pros to hosting a script on The Black List and exciting prospects which can arise from receiving high scores and evaluations.
But such high praise can only be achieved if you have submitted a polished script: your best work! Especially if you are submitting to other screenwriting competitions and lists, you will find the cost adds up very quickly.
Seek feedback from your peers first, rewrite as much as you can, and then when you know your script is ready to go, host it on The Black List.
You never know what could happen!
FAQs about The Black List
Can my Screenplay be on The Black List More than Once?
The Black List is published every December, following voting from industry experts. It is theoretically possible to have one screenplay feature twice if voted for two years running.
But we would argue that as screenwriters, we should all have portfolios showcasing many screenplays, the best of which should then feature on The Black List if that is the avenue you are keen to pursue.
We should also always be rewriting and polishing our scripts, so leaving a script dormant on a site such as The Black List for a long period of time probably is not going to do you any favours.
On the other hand, if you have succeeded with a script on The Black List, would you not be moving to the next level in the script’s development? Sure, you could resubmit your script on The Black List the following year, but if it has already gained traction, what other projects could you potentially “get out there” in front of the industry?
How Much Does it Cost to Host a Script on The Black List?
There are two different price points for hosting a script on The Black List. Generally, it costs $30 a month to host a script on your profile. You must have a script hosted on your profile to be eligible to submit your script for evaluation.
Unfortunately, The Black List does not accept email submissions for coverage, so you will need to sign up and host on your profile.
However, suppose you are a member of a writer’s guild, such as the Writer’s Guild of America or the equivalent in your country. In that case, you can take advantage of a 20% discount on monthly hosting and any evaluations. Plus, you can have a profile without having to host a script.
$30 per month can quickly add up if you host a script for months at a time. However, if you obtain five reviews with a score of eight or more, you will receive a lifetime of free hosting on the site. Therefore, we recommend uploading scripts that are as polished as possible.
How Does The Black List Compare to Other Screenplay Competitions or Lists?
As we have previously mentioned, The Black List has produced some award-winning films since its inception in 2005, so it is definitely one of the top accolades for screenwriters to aim for. Coupled with the 5,000 industry experts it has on its books, it is a fantastic way to be discovered as a writer.
The industry experts on the site are also genuinely looking for fresh talent, those who are not yet represented by a manager or agent or screenwriters early on in their career. Compared to screenwriting competitions, The Black List certainly has more opportunity by way of exposure, as opposed to winning a cash prize.
Having said that, the cash prizes that screenwriting competitions may offer could be exactly what you are looking for at this stage in your writing career. Some contests even offer contributions to producing the script. It is important to remember that all screenwriting competitions and lists have their own outcomes for winners and runners-up.
Above all, it depends on what your goal is for each particular project. If you are looking for exposure as a writer, The Black List is ideal. If you are looking to raise funds to produce your film or television pilot, a screenwriting contest offering a cash prize is better suited.
The other route is to approach directors and producers to attach to your project and go down the more traditional means of securing funding. Or perhaps you are looking to approach agents and managers directly to represent you.
If finding an agent is the route you’re keen to explore, make sure to take a look at our article on How to Get a Screenwriting Agent (The Right Way).
The key issue to always bear in mind is that every screenwriter’s journey and break into the industry is different, so there is never one right way to get your work seen. Embrace your journey!
Can Non-American Writers Submit their Screenplay to The Black List?
Yes! However, they do require you to use a credit card when paying to host your script.
If you are also a member of your country’s writer’s guild or equivalent, you can also claim a discount on your hosting and evaluation fees.
Is There a Deadline to Submit a Screenplay to The Black List?
As the list is published every December, you have the whole eleven months prior to get your script noticed. The website works on a rolling basis, so the longer you have your script hosted and the more reviews you have, the better chance.
Keep in mind that only the top 1% will be published on the list, but scripts are shouted out weekly in a newsletter to industry experts. So do not just set your sights on the annual list, but what the site can do to push your script and skill out for the rest of the year.