Black List Opens Doors for Screenwriters

Great scripts find their way into the hands of industry professionals with hard work, luck, and The Black List. The fourth and final installment of Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television’s “The New Storytellers with Katie Ford,” with Megan Halpern from The Black List mapped the path. Halpern talked to students Oct. 24, 2019, in the Mayer Theater, about how to submit scripts to The Black List and use it as a resource for young screenwriters, along with advice to young writers in general as they attempt to navigate and enter into the film industry.

The Black List is an online community of screenwriters and filmmakers that comprise an annual survey of the most liked motion picture screenplays that have yet to be produced, according to the Halpern, who serves as the director of events for The Black List, noted how the organization has greatly changed how scripts are found and produced in Hollywood, saying, “if you are a good writer, there are so many ways in 2019 to get your script out there.”

Franklin Leonard, then a junior executive, created The Black List in 2005 in an unofficial effort to crowdsource the best as-of-yet-unproduced scripts. The list gained momentum when the top two screenplays from that very first list, “Juno” and “Lars and the Real Girl,” went on to win Academy Awards just two years later. The website was launched in 2012 and has since become a place where scripts can be uploaded and evaluated by members of the film industry, with many scripts eventually being produced.

The near-capacity crowd, mostly students from the School of Film and Television, asked Halpern questions about what they as young writers can do in order for the scripts to stand out and get noticed on The Black List. When asked by a student what the most important quality she looks for in a script, Halpern replied that she looks for scripts that “say something about the world we live in today, without directly saying what that thing is.”

Matt Shaffer, a sophomore production and screenwriting double major, asked about the types of people who frequently use the site, the specific kinds of scripts that generally attract the most attention, and what the best methods were to use the site most efficiently.

Host Katie Ford opened the evening by saying that while filmmaking has recently been a director’s medium, “The Black List revived the role of the screenwriter … Screenplays are an artform, and The Black List reminded us of that.” Ford’s notable credits include “Miss Congeniality” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Halpern and Ford agreed that the human element of screenwriting is something the young writers in the room should not lose sight of. With Ford concluding the night by saying that good writers, “have to have a love of people.”

Reporter David Stein is a senior communications studies major.