TV Writing Contest: The Black List (Part 5)

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So here I am again, checking up on my account like an obsessive compulsive writer. I figured now would be a good time to fill you in on how it works. After paying $25 you give have your screenplay uploaded but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone will read it. (In theory, since I only did it for a TV writing contest at the ATX festival, it should get consideration, but who knows). What if there wasn’t something specific you were submitting to? How do you get recognized?

Well, according to this nifty page, those-in-the-know can do searches and access the most highly rated scripts. The blacklist readers are minimum 1 year experienced in the biz and act as a filter of sorts for the slush pile. When I searched for TV pilots submitted in the month to date category (top left) it pulled 29 scripts with at least “2 required ratings.” The average score was around 6. Not too bad I guess if you want to get noticed with one rated script a day being too much.

I then searched for the quarter and it as basically the same. There were 82 scripts with at “least 2 required ratings” with an average of around 6. So to me, for a nominee fee, anyone can get at least a shot at having their script read and possibly passed on.

I then clicked around and saw some interesting stats based on ratings given. It turns out Tuesday seems to be the big ratings day. I am assuming they read scripts submitted over the weekend on Monday and rate on Tuesday. What was the lowest for ratings? Friday though Sunday. So maybe my pathetic numbers so far doesn’t mean much.

I read through a few blogs and quora and reddit feeds and the general gist is the Blacklist website does the best they can due to the volume of submissions and the varying quality of reviewers. Most scripts score around a 6. If you want to get a noticed, you need it around 8 or above. If you get a 9.5 or a 10, then you might get direct contact on the material. If the reviewer totally messes up (Like bashing the script for not being funny enough when it was a drama) then a new reviewer will be assigned for free.


TV Writing Contest: The Black List (Part 4)

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It’s Saturday. I grabbed a cup of coffee and checked up on my blog comments, twitter feed, and status of my submission. Do you see what has changed? I know, it’s pretty hard to see, but on the top right, it shows I got 1 view. Woohoo!

Now for the bad news. There was no review or rating. Maybe this was a misclick, or maybe they read about the fire breathing dragon incinerating a legion of leprechauns on top of a floating castle over the planet of Darg’ostalah’meshon. Damn. I knew that would turn off a few people. (But don’t worry, the story is in fact dystopian, and stars a 16 year old girl in a love triangle with mysterious dudes but can’t seem to know which one to pick because both are hot and only have eyes for her because only she has the power to save everything)

Then panic set in. Did I submit the right script? Did I send in nothing but 60 blank pages? After sweating for 60 seconds, I double checked, and yes, the pages were filled with something.

Sorry the update isn’t more exciting than that.



TV Writing Contest: The Black List (Part 2)

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So I did it. With a day left I finished my first TV pilot. It was called “No Returns Allowed” and is about a thief. After the blacklist contest time period, if enough people comment or request it, I’ll just post it on the blog for free. The contest is for the ATX festival in Austin, TX which I live near, so I figured it could be a good opportunity (maybe they want local voices). I heard about the contest relatively late (around 3 weeks prior to submission). I asked myself “Hey, remember back in college when you wrote that screenplay that never went anywhere?” I shook my head assuredly and said “Now that you’ve written a few novels and know about plot structure and design, couldn’t you try this again?” I nodded my head again. Okay, I was game.

I came up with the new plot in 30 minutes. Unlike a movie, a TV pilot has to introduce all the characters and the setup to the show and give the hook. I figured out a way to do it, in order for it to be clear what every following episode would be about. I then wrote an arc to what the first 3 seasons would be, with a cliffhanger at the end of each. This gave me a sense of the nuggets I had to put in the pilot.

It took me 4-5 days of actual writing to get it done. I had one person copy edit it for me, but I’m sure there are errors. I didn’t use Final Draft to format it, only the established guidelines of screenplay writing. I also read the pilots of Lost, Breaking Bad and the screenplay to Birdman to see the tricks in those stories. I sensed a trick early on. It seems actors get direction on the manner in which they play their character, and then later on in scripts less direction is given so the actors can run with it. I tried to do the same besides adding pause beats here and there. If you want to read a crazy pilot, try LOST. Dang, J.J.Abrams really gave a sense of the chaos in the pilot. Pretty amazing.

I went on the blacklist website and simply registered and paid my $25 to upload my teleplay. Then there was an easy to find option to opt it into the contest, which technically ends the 15th of April, however the contest stipulated it needed to be in at least a week. I can only assume there is an inherent advantage to submitting early. I would have paid $50 for a reader to critique it, but due to timing, I figured it would be dead money. I just have a hope and a prayer at this point.

If it did get consideration for the top “5-10” then that would be a good story in itself based on the long odds and having zero contacts in the TV business (The signup for the blacklist has a bunch of blocks for guilds and production history and other TV associations which made me go “um … uh oh Matt.”)