Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Quick Breakdown Of The Black List

First, I’d like to congratulate everyone who made the Black List. Despite all the bickering that accompanies the selection process as well as the lobbying that goes on with the list, it’s still a prestigious compilation. Somewhere between 30-40% (a ridiculously high number) of these scripts will be turned into movies, and a produced credit can lead to a long career for a writer, so to say this list doesn’t matter is ridiculous. I spoke to some of the writers who made the list and they are thrilled beyond belief. Because the list comes together so fast, it’s difficult to know if you’re really on it until it’s released. So the writers are finding out at the same time we are. I know of a few instances where the writers didn’t even think they would make the list, and they ended up finishing near the top. Talk about a nice surprise.

The only bad news that accompanies the list is how few women made it. Last year, only 11 women out of 107 scripts made the list. This year, only 10 out of 97. Yikes! I know there are more male screenplay writers than female, but it would be nice if we could get this number up in future years.

There’s always a lot of noise about how the big agencies dominate the list, and oh how they dominate. But it may be less of a conspiracy than you think. The reason these big agencies dominate is partly because they have more contacts, so when it comes time to send their scripts out, they send them to more people than, say, a smaller agency has access to. But the “main” main reason they dominate the list? Their scripts are better. I can’t tell you how many times I checked the agency representing the great script I just read and it rang up either WME, UTA, or CAA. Those companies’ standards are so high, that they just don’t have a lot of bad material. It isn't often I read a great script that doesn’t come from one of the top six agencies (not saying that doesn't happen though). So which of those agencies finished tops in the Black List awards? That would be mega-agency William Morris Endeavor. In 2008 the formally separated company had 47 entries on the list. In 2009, it had 36. Next up was UTA, with 28 entries in 2008, and 23 in 2009. CAA was third with 22 in 2008, and 13 in 2009. ICM, Gersh, and Paradigm rounded out the 4, 5, and 6 positions in both years. Only a smattering of smaller agencies and non-represented writers made the list.

But I guess the biggest question is, what *kind* of script should you write to make the list. Well I did some breaking down of this year’s and last year’s list. This is what I found out. Best shot at getting on the Black List? Write a comedy. Comedies dominated both the 2008 and 2009 list with 25 scripts on each. If you’re not a comedy guy, write something in the cop/crime genre. There were 15 cop/crime related scripts on this year’s list, and 13 on last year’s. Thrillers are a good bet as well, representing 13 and 12 scripts on the last two Black Lists. And even though it pains me to say it, find your life to chronicle people. Biopics/true stories are always represented well on the list, with 12 this year, and 10 last year. For some more detailed information, I’ve listed all the genres from the past two Black Lists below. Keep in mind, on tricky to tab scripts, I split up the genres. For instance, on something like “L.A. Rex,” I would label it both a book adaptation and a “cop/crime” flick. There were also some entries where the genre wasn’t clear, so I had to take my best guess. So this is by no means a perfect breakdown, but it should give you a good idea of where everything lies.


1) Comedy – 25
1) Cop/Crime – 15
2) Thriller – 13
3) Biopic/True Story –12
4) Dark Comedy/Quirky Independent – 9
5) Book Adaptation – 9
6) Period – 6
7) Sci-Fi – 4
8) Horror – 6
9) Love Story – 3
10) RomCom – 2
11) Action/Summer Movie – 2
12) Family – 1
13) Straight Drama – 2
14) Political – 1
15) War - 1


1) Comedy – 25
2) Dark Comedy/Quirky Independent –16
3) Book Adaptation –13
4) Cop/Crime –13
5) Thriller –12
6) Biopic/True Story –10
7) Action/Summer Movie – 8
8) Period – 6
9) RomCom – 5
10) Love Story –3
11) Sci-Fi – 2
12) Horror – 2
13) Straight Drama – 2
14) War – 2

So, like, go write that comedy you’ve been thinking about and stalk that UTA agent you know. We could be talking about your script next year. Let me know if there's more information you'd like to know. Or heck, do some breaking down yourself and e-mail it to me. If it's relevant, I'll put it up.