My Black List Experience

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • My Black List Experience

    As most of you know, in 2020, I was working on two screenplays. An action adventure titled AMERICAN SLAVES and a teen romantic comedy.

    I don’t like to send screenplays out to contests, the Black List web site, or the Hollywood marketplace unless I know that the screenplay is strong and written at a professional level, though there are certain exceptions. The way I make sure my screenplays are strong is by using feedback and performing the relevant needed rewrites. No matter how many rounds to achieve the ultimate goal.

    Midway through 2020, I completed the rewrite of AMERICAN SLAVES and sent it out to professional readers. It had problems, such as from the following notes:

    ”While the concept here is clever and offers so much opportunity for action and thematic exploration, in this draft there are some big-picture pieces that aren’t quite in place.”

    ”We have two storylines that run parallel and converge in Act 3, which is great, and offers plenty of opportunity to create compounding levels and layers of conflict. But right now each storyline has some challenges in creating a sense of really strong, meaningful conflict.”

    ”Both characters start out the story well-adjusted, whole, self-actualized, etc. Neither has some deficit or flaw that’s directly tested by what they go through in this series of plot.”

    Because professional people that worked in the industry told me this would be a tough sell because of its big budget and the political time of the day with Black Lives Matter, I didn’t continue with the rewriting. I wanted to focus on finishing the teen romantic comedy, which I thought I had a better short because of its low budget, strong fan base and the abundance of streaming platforms looking for material.

    Since I wasn’t gonna send it out into the marketplace, I decided to enter it in contests to see how it would perform. I entered AMERICAN SLAVES into four contests and it advanced in two of them, but only to Quaterfinalist. One being the Austin competition. I didn’t complete the draft in time to make the Nicholl and Page deadlines. Since this screenplay advanced, even when there were problems, sometime in the future I may dig it out of the drawer and work on it, addressing the notes, then enter it in the top three competitions.

    I sent my teen romantic comedy out to professional readers for its first round of feedback and rewrites. At the end of 2020, the feedback and rewrite process was done. The professional readers had no more notes. They said the script was strong. Some members might say, oh, they were soft on you because you pay them and they want repeat business. This is not true. The readers gave their honest opinions. The AMERICAN SLAVES feedback proves it.

    Just to be sure, I e-mailed a professional writer, who was an “A” list writer during his active career days. In this e-mail to this person, I said the following:

    ”The attached screenplay has been through a couple of rounds of feedback and rewrites. I would like your opinion on whether this draft is strong enough to compete in the top screenplay competitions.”

    This person’s reply is the following:

    ”I think your script is very accomplished and impressive and that it checks all of the crucial boxes - it has a strong narrative; it’s structurally sound; the characters are believable, interesting, and each has his or her own voice; it’s very well written and conceived; it’s actually very funny, a rare commodity these days; and while it ultimately has ‘heart’ and emotional resonance, it never becomes sentimental and subjects the reader/viewer to unearned group hugs.”

    “Christie, Kurt, and Bella are consistently just as superficial and supercilious throughout as they are upon first meeting them. A ‘studio note’ might well be to somehow make them less cliched and more nuanced/sympathetic but I’m glad that you resisted taking that path - teenagers can be and often are cruel, selfish, and myopic.”

    “To answer your question regarding whether or not your script is strong enough to compete in major competitions, my answer is a definitive yes. ... in my opinion, not only make the final but might well win. So you should certainly submit your script to whichever competitions you feel would be appropriate.”

    (I've edited and removed the screenplay link.)

    I’ve paid for three evaluations. I was hoping to get a couple of 8s to get on the marketing e-mail list to the industry people, or at the very least a 7 to be posted on the site’s Top List. My overall average score was a 5.

    As for individual scores, you had the usual extreme subjective opposites: Reader #2 gave character and dialogue 7s and Reader #1 gave character 4 and dialogue 3.

    I’ll post the readers comments. First, the readers’ comments on the title:

    My original title was YOU GOT THE LOOK. After the rewrites, my rating changed from a PG-13 to an “R.” It’s a soft “R,” not a hard “R” like AMERICAN PIE or SUPERBAD. Even though the main targeted audience is females 25 and under, I didn’t want to turn off the male demographic audience with a sweet, PG-13 sounding title. I wanted an edgy and provocative title. A title that would POP off a reader’s reading list, or off the subject line of a query letter to an industry person.

    I came up with two: LOVE SUCKS ASS, and the one I went with, HE’S MY MAN, BITCH!

    READERS TITLE COMMENTS

    Reader #1: “The title could (again, in this day and age) be off-putting to industry readers, so changing it would help the script’s chances too.”

    I guess this reader is implying I’m not being politically correct, where I’m insulting females. It’s not like this is coming from a male character. It (”He’s my man, bitch!”) comes from dialogue said by the female protagonist to herself.

    Reader #2: “As provocative as it is, the title “He’s My Man, Bitch” might be rethought, as it is distracting and doesn’t convey the sweetness and emotional insight the script is capable of.”

    READERS COMMENTS ON WEAKNESSES

    Reader #1 (lowest score giver):

    “it tends to be too predictable to draw us in. ... The predictability wouldn’t necessarily be such an issue - romantic comedies can be quite predictable, after all - if the script’s humor were more successful, but the humor tends to feel quite flat, and the dialogue generally sounds stilted or artificial. ... Ronnie herself feels like a type or a broad outline for a character rather than a fully-developed creation, so we don’t care enough about her or her quest to get Brandon. ... And while the script calls Ethan out for being creepy, that doesn’t change the fact that he is indeed rather creepy, and we can’t like him or find him amusing in the way the script seems to intend us to.”

    (This reader hit the character of Ronnie, but the other readers had an extreme opposite opinion: “Ronnie is such a multifaceted protagonist written with such empathy and insight it’s easy to stay engaged. ... Ronnie especially is complex and compelling enough that she could be the breakout role for the right young actress.”)

    Reader #2 (highest score giver):

    ”Ultimately Kurt is a one-dimensional antagonist with little depth or function beyond his stock role as stereotypical jock and bully.”

    (Reader #2 didn’t have much to say in the weaknesses paragraph because this person gave it the highest scores. I do want to point out though that it’s Christie who is the main antagonist. Christie is the obstacle that stands in the protagonist’s path to her goal of scoring Brandon. Also, I knew that Kurt would be considered a one-dimensional jerk. I had hoped that the readers would understand why. This is his character and function in the plot momentum. He’s not the main antagonist. Christie is, so I softened her character by not making her the cliché mean girl.)

    Reader #3: Mentions the predictability and would like to see more subtext with the dialogue.

    Obviously, the road I took to Hollywood using the Black List route has hit a dead-end, so I now must pivot to another route, which will be contests. Meanwhile I’ll keep writing.
    Last edited by JoeNYC; 01-23-2021, 02:07 PM.

  • #2
    I guess this reader is implying I’m not being politically correct, where I’m insulting females. It’s not like this is coming from a male character. It (”He’s my man, bitch!”) comes from dialogue said by the female protagonist to herself.
    Thanks for sharing your BL feedback. I have to agree on a title change. "He's my man, bitch" says "this is a catfight movie" (to employ a sexist trope) which is very far from a romantic comedy. It doesn't matter where it comes from in your script. It's the first thing anyone sees when they pick up the script or look at the movie poster.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by MoviePen View Post

      Thanks for sharing your BL feedback. I have to agree on a title change. "He's my man, bitch" says "this is a catfight movie" (to employ a sexist trope) which is very far from a romantic comedy. It doesn't matter where it comes from in your script. It's the first thing anyone sees when they pick up the script or look at the movie poster.
      The "catfight" marketing confusion is a good point, but I really like "He's My Man, Bitch!" because it's edgy and it really pops. There are alternatives: "Love Sucks Ass" is edgy. There's "Friggin Love." There's "Little Miss Breakup," but this might cause marketing confusion also because it sounds like a safe, sweet PG sounding title, when the material is R-rated. There's my original title: "You Got The Look."

      Do any members have any opinions on these titles?

      Comment


      • #4
        I have to agree with MoviePen. The title is an immediate turnoff for me.

        "My Best Friend's Wedding" is very much a "He's My Man, Bitch" concept, but that title would have killed the movie. Most of the movie Julia Roberts sabotaging the other woman to get what she wants even though it isn't what her best friend wants.Takes her the entire movie to come to terms with losing her best friend to another woman.

        Thanks for sharing your Black List experience. I'm interested if you're going to rewrite it before submitting to contests? Are you still going to submit it to a ton of them or just one or two?

        It's your script. Do what you want. But it might be a mistake to ignore the comments you're receiving all together.
        "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

        Comment


        • #5
          The current title with bitch is 1995 not 2021. It sounds dated Joe. Also is your spec edgy or is it like most romantic comedies? Would you want Can't Buy Me Love to be called Hot Girl For Money or something else. That would change how the film feels, you know?

          Comment


          • #6
            [QUOTE=finalact4;n1199043 I'm interested if you're going to rewrite it before submitting to contests? Are you still going to submit it to a ton of them or just one or two?[/QUOTE]

            Thanks for you input on the title. I really did love that title, but maybe since there's a lot of resistance, I should rethink it. Maybe to "Love Sucks Ass." Expresses theme, story and attitude.

            I'm not doing any rewrites from what was mentioned in the Black List evaluations. One person gave it high scores, one low scores and one in the middle. I did the rewrites from my professional reviewers.

            Of course, if anyone gives me a note on the script that resonates with me, I have no problem in doing more work on it.

            I've already been entering the script in contests as they open for entries, such as, the Page. How many contests depends on the script. For example, if I ever address the notes to "American Slaves," I'll just enter it in the top three contests. Usually I would enter a script in the top five or six contests, but since I'm gonna post a thread on contests at the end of the 2021 contest year, I'll enter the top nine.
            Last edited by JoeNYC; 01-17-2021, 01:46 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Bono View Post
              The current title with bitch is 1995 not 2021. It sounds dated Joe. Also is your spec edgy or is it like most romantic comedies? Would you want Can't Buy Me Love to be called Hot Girl For Money or something else. That would change how the film feels, you know?
              Yeah, It's a landslide against. I tell ya, I'm more upset about my title not getting any love than Reader #1's shitty scores.

              Comment


              • #8
                Stop the presses! I just heard the U2 song: "All I Want Is You." This title or the edgier "Love Sucks Ass"?
                Last edited by JoeNYC; 01-17-2021, 02:08 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I don't think I'd try to go edgy in the title, because you don't seem to be describing an edgy movie. "Fvckbuddies" was a good title for that spec, because it fit the tone. "Love Sucks Ass" is not a winner, IMO.I'd pick something descriptive and neutral and quickly move on to focusing on other issues.

                  At least two out of three said "predictable," which is what some people here have been saying as you've described the script. My criticism has always been that when you pitched it, I could guess every plot point and the ending. I think you really need to find a modern clever twist on "why won't my best friend realize that I'm the right one for him?" I've never thought it was derivative of any one specific movie - I think as a plot in general, it's just well trod territory. Mix it up, use the fact that the reader will have expectations to surprise them.

                  ETA: "All I Want Is You" feels like a much better title.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

                    I think you really need to find a modern clever twist on "why won't my best friend realize that I'm the right one for him?"
                    I've always been open, always brainstorming for a unique angle, but it always came down to the natural feeling of taking her for granted. They've known each other since they were 10. She was always there, until one day she wasn't. He didn't realize his feelings for her was love.

                    I'm entering the screenplay in contests, but I'll stay open to the possibility of a clever twist popping into my head, while I work on another screenplay. If it doesn't do well in contests, then I won't query the industry with it. Thank you for taking the time to give me your opinion.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post
                      Stop the presses! I just heard the U2 song: "All I Want Is You." This title or the edgier "Love Sucks Ass"?
                      Sorry The Edge won't sign off in letting you use that title. Also Larry feels it's not right for this project. Adam doesn't care either way. -- Bono

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post

                        I've always been open, always brainstorming for a unique angle, but it always came down to the natural feeling of taking her for granted. They've known each other since they were 10. She was always there, until one day she wasn't. He didn't realize his feelings for her was love.

                        I'm entering the screenplay in contests, but I'll stay open to the possibility of a clever twist popping into my head, while I work on another screenplay. If it doesn't do well in contests, then I won't query the industry with it. Thank you for taking the time to give me your opinion.
                        See I think writing a new romantic comedy would be 100% easier than trying to fix up an older one that I believe you first wrote many years ago. If you think of a new angle on a romantic comedy -- write a new story to go with it. Not one that's been in your head for many many years as it's hard to break free and write fresh.

                        Blank page is scary, but it's also sometimes the only way.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post
                          Stop the presses! I just heard the U2 song: "All I Want Is You." This title or the edgier "Love Sucks Ass"?
                          Better.

                          Love Sucks Ass, well, it sucks. Why? Because no one says that. They may say, "Love Sucks."

                          One opinion.
                          "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bono View Post

                            See I think writing a new romantic comedy would be 100% easier than trying to fix up an older one that I believe you first wrote many years ago.
                            It’s not like I’ve been working on this script for ten years. When an opportunity comes around for a past completed script, pros and non-pros will dig that script out of the drawer.

                            For example, when Kevin Williamson moved to LA in 1990, he took a screenwriting class at UCLA where he wrote “Teaching Mrs. Tingle.” A decade later, when he had success with “Scream” and “Dawson’s Creek,” he took advantage of that by taking “Tingle” out of the drawer and using it as his directorial debut, but unfortunately for Mr. Williamson it was a critical and commercial bomb.

                            When Netflix with their “Summer of Love” and other streaming platforms came about, I thought this would be a good opportunity for my teen romantic comedy, but I had to give it a -- as Warner Bros.’ marketing department would say, “modern update.”

                            I’ve had a set back with two of the three Black List readers calling the predictability issue problematic, which I really don’t get. The majority of successful romantic comedies are predicable. It’s their nature.

                            Sure, you’d like to write a unique, not predicable romantic comedy, such as, “(500) Days of Summer,” but that wasn’t the type of story I had the inspiration and passion to write.

                            I’m hopeful about this script because of the professional readers’ feedback and the fact that the earlier, original version, which was a weaker draft, was a Quarterfinalist in the Page Competition.

                            Now, what has been dashing my hopes is the fact that a successful working professional writer, Jeff Lowell, tells me the predictability factor could possibly turn off producers. Jeff, suggest to improve my chances brainstorm for a twist that would surprise the audience, which is sound advice and which I will certainly be looking for, but if it doesn’t happen and this screenplay doesn’t attract a buyer, it’s okay.

                            The rejection will wound, but not kill. I’ll live to write another day. (Too melodramatic?)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by finalact4 View Post

                              Love Sucks Ass, well, it sucks.
                              Damn. I so wanted an edgy title. I guess I better keep my targeted audience (females 25 and under) in mind and go with the romantic title: "All I want Is You." (I already sent out the script to two contests with the "He's My Man, Bitch!" title.)

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X