Announcing The Black List Table Reads!

unnamed

It’s a big day at the Black List.

As you may have already seen, we’ll be launching the our new podcast, The Black List Table Reads on Wolfpop’s podcast network on April 16!

We’re sure you’ve got questions about what the podcast will be like, how we’re choosing scripts, who we’re partnered with, and when to expect new episodes. And as you might expect, we’ve got answers.

A Black List podcast you say, tell me more!

Our podcast, called The Black List Table Reads takes the best and most exciting screenplays Hollywood hasn’t yet made, and turns them into movies for your ears. Franklin will present a new script every month, read by a rotating cast of talented actors, along with interviews with members of the Hollywood screenwriting community and beyond. Our first four episodes will be devoted to the outrageous comedy BALLS OUT by Malcolm Spellman (producer of Empire) and Tim Talbott (winner of the 2015 Sundance Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award).

How will you be choosing scripts for the podcast?

In myriad ways. Though our first selection was chosen from the annual Black List, we’re happy to report that the three that will follow it were all identified via blcklst.com based on the responses they have received from our readers as well as industry members. We’ll be choosing scripts in many different genres in the coming months, so if one script isn’t working for you, you can always check back when we start our next script.

Who will be performing in the podcast episodes?

You’ll just have to wait and see! But really…we were incredibly fortunate to have an incredible line-up of comedic actors join us for BALLS OUT, and we think you’ll enjoy our cast as well. We’ll be changing casts with every new script.

Wolfpop, who are they? Do they have anything to do with Earwolf?

Launched in November 2014 by Midroll Media, Wolfpop is the digital media network redefining popular culture podcasting with a lineup of shows that digs deep into Hollywood and entertainment with wit and insight. Curated by actor, comedian, and podcaster Paul Scheer (The League, NTSF:SD:SUV:, How Did This Get Made?), Wolfpop features host-driven programs that give world-class and rising talent an unfiltered platform to share their passions and stories with humor and depth.

Both Wolfpop and Earwolf are a part of Midroll Media. Earwolf is the leading comedy podcast network, producing and distributing many of the most popular comedy podcasts available, including Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Podcast, How Did This Get Made, and Sklarbro Country. Earwolf, co-founded and curated by comedy mastermind Scott Aukerman (Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, IFC). Earwolf’s shows are downloaded more than 6.7 million times a month.

Midroll Media is a digital media company providing a 360-degree suite of production, distribution, and monetization services to artists, entertainers, and thought leaders. It is the parent company of Earwolf, the leading comedy podcasting network, the Wolfpop pop-culture podcast network, and the Midroll advertising platform.

Okay, so when can I hear the first episode?

Our first episode will launch on April 16, 2015, and the next three installments of BALLS OUT will then be available on the next three Thursdays following that. Once the four BALLS OUT episodes are finished, we’ll start a new script. Once you’ve joined us for the first episode, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!

Where else can I follow what’s going with the podcast?

We have a new Twitter account dedicated exclusively to The Black List Table Reads — find us @theblcklsttr. Additionally, we encourage you to subscribe to The Black List Table Reads on Wolfpop or iTunes: http://blacklist.wolfpop.com/ 

We are SO excited about this new way to bring the very best of the Black List to you, and look forward to growing with our fantastic partners at Wolfpop! If you have any other questions about the podcast, feel free to reach out on Twitter at either @theblcklst or @theblcklsttr. Join us on April 16 for the first episode!



500 Feminist Films: WE DID IT!

53b94b7f-f89e-4047-b6b7-15902e320a3bvolver_xlgA70-10546

You guys, I’m so proud of us! Over the course of a single month, your suggestions helped double the size of our list of feminist films to include a staggering FIVE-HUNDRED TITLES. I’ve been so encouraged by the community feedback putting together this list has inspired, and I really thank everyone who tweeted, emailed, or sent other messages with their recommendations, which came from as far as France.

If assembling this list has proven anything, it has once again shown that films made by, for, and about women are an essential, necessary part of the cinematic experience. We have films on this list that span a period of eighty-seven years, and cover every conceivable genre and budget range. Some of the films on this list have already cemented their status as part of the cinematic canon, while others haven’t received their just due yet. And thanks to this list, they can all now live together in one easily accessible list.

I do have one final favor to ask, of course. I want you to share this list wherever you can. I want you to share it with a woman in your life who loves film, but doesn’t feel that her story has been represented. I want you to share this list with some young women you might know as a primer for how delve into the world of female-driven films and filmmakers. I want you to share this list by sharing the films on it with people you know, whether that means showing your daughter Kiki’s Delivery Service for the first time, having an in-depth classroom discussion about the male gaze in Blue is The Warmest Color at film school, or revisiting and rediscovering a classic like All About Eve with your Memaw.

The more we can raise the profile of the films on this list by sharing them, the more we can share and understand the female perspective via this thing called movies we all love so much. And isn’t that what we ultimately want from film? To understand our own lives a little better by watching someone else’s?

And with that, here’s the list!

500 Feminist Films



Age Is Just a Number…Right?

I think for most of us, there’s a chunk of our childhood where we wish we could just speed up time and get through adolescence.

Being a kid sucks — someone’s always in the bathroom when you need it, all your birthday money goes into your stupid college fund, and e’erybody’s up in yo business all the time. Then one day you wake up and realize that Benjamin Buttoning isn’t a real thing and start to wonder why everyone’s looking like a Justin Bieber clone manufactured in a Disney sweatshop.

Like it or not, we have a fascination with youth and it’s reflected in the stars we place in our films. Though films like Amour and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel show us that there are worthy stories about older protagonists, mostly we want to keep AARP cardholders off the screen and quarantined in Boca Raton.

The Data of Age

I wanted to do a deeper dive into age as it relates to films, so I cobbled together the data I could to find out how old stars were when a particular movie was made.

First I wanted to look at the lead star in films and find out which age brackets were most represented. I looked at rolling 10-year brackets by both men and women. And the results weren’t surprising.

image

We get a nice normal distribution with the bulk of roles going to stars in the middle. But there were a few interesting things I noticed:

  • Males peak about 10 years later than females; female leads peak somewhere between 30 and 35 while male leads peak somewhere between 40 and 45.
  • Females have a slightly steeper rise and fall. The peak is higher, meaning those in “ideal age” bracket capture more of the starring roles. This means a female actor’s shelf life is a lot shorter.

I did the same thing looking across all the starring roles (top three billed on IMDB) and I got something not dissimilar:

image (1)

What I noticed was that the peak seems to be even more pronounced for females, which means when you include secondary starring roles, you’re really casting out of this “ideal age” bucket. And conversely, the peak is lower for men, meaning there’s probably more leeway given in casting secondary male characters. It may also mean that secondary roles written for men are more diverse in age than those written for women.

I wanted to see if there were any trends by genre so I put together these charts by each major genre.

The trend basically holds across most genres: women peak earlier than men. But there were some notable graphs:

  • Family movies don’t follow a normal distribution but an S-curve. This basically shows that they’re movies about kids and people who have kids, so you get a natural dip in that normally ideal age group.
  • Horror seemed to have the most disparate male/female graphs. Women had a much higher peak earlier, while men had a broader distribution of age.
  • Biography, history, and romance graphs aligned more closely by gender. Intuitively, it seems to make sense that true life stories dictate the actual age of actors and romance tends to have similarly aged male and female leads.

Thinking about gender and age, I also wanted to look generally at the split of male/female stars by age brackets. For simplicity I just graphed the percent of female stars (male being 100% less the female number):

Untitled-1

From the graph we can see that looking at top billed cast of movies, men outnumber women for most age brackets. There’s one segment where this wasn’t true, however (the shaded region) — basically where women were aged somewhere between 11 and 30. I wanted to take a look at the types of movies were being made in this space.

Where Women Outnumber Men

I took all the movies where there was a female star in this magic age group and dove into the data. I started by looking at budgets of these movies (movies with female stars in that age range compared to all movies):

image (3)

Unsurprisingly, films with these female stars tend to be lower budget movies. As you can see, those films are underweighted for films over $50 million.

I also compared genre breakdowns between the two sets:

image (1)

These female movies tend to be well overweighted in romance, horror, and music and slightly so in sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery.

Additionally, I looked at MPAA rating:

image (2)

Women overweight in G and R movies and underweight in PG-13 (generally the broadest rating category). The overweight in R-rated films seems to be due to the overweight in horror. The overweight in G-rated films seems to come from fantasy and family films.

I also looked the gender breakdown of directors.

Movies w/Female Star aged 11-30 All Movies
Male 92% 94%
Female 8% 6%

 

Female directors tend to direct relatively more of these films. Though obviously still a very small percentage, 6% to 8% still represents a 33% increase.

And finally for kicks, I did a word cloud for each of the groups to get a sense of what these movies are about.

As a base reference, here’s the word cloud for the entire set of films I had:

all films

And here’s the cloud for the female group (11-30):

women films

The big lesson for me from these two pictures is that “young” is just as prominent across the board as it is with the group of films with young female stars. It means by default, young is an important attribute of stories.

So it’s true that youth is very important for the stories we tell and thus the actors who help to tell them. But it is especially true for women.



The Black List Interview: Tasha Huo

For our third interview in the Black List Interview series, we talked to writer Tasha Huo. Tasha’s script BLACK BELLE (FKA THE DARKNESS) was the finalist chosen for the first Warner Brothers partnership on the site in late 2013. Today, we talk to her about how the past, present, and future have shaped her screenwriting career, and how the Black List helped foster his journey as a writer.

 

The Past:

What was the first film that had a major impact on your life?

TOP GUN is competing with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK in my memory timeline. They both literally altered the way I did things in my everyday life — the glorious uniqueness of great movies.

The first one made me obsessed with fighter jets and air shows at all of four years old, and left such an impression that in college I nearly joined the Marines to fly fighters. The other drove me to study History and fostered my love for all things ancient and mysterious. To this day, I’m sure Indy is why I write adventures. And Maverick is why I love character-driven action, volleyball, and never eat goose.

Was there a single film that made you want to be a screenwriter? How else did the decision to pursue that career evolve?

I wish I could say it was a deep, complex, and critically compelling work of film art that made me want to be a screenwriter, but sometimes the switch is clicked on in the most random of places. Like, say, GLADIATOR.

To be fair, Disney was my gateway drug into film addiction, but it was really when I broke down GLADIATOR for a history class in college that all the pieces fell into place for me and I had my Ahah! moment. A paper forced me to watch Russell Crowe’s silent hero kill and mourn frame by frame until I saw how intricate film could be. I was a prose snob at the time, but Ridley Scott’s precision in conveying emotion through visuals, blocking, sound design, careful and specific word choice, an expression…It was the first time I really grasped how refined and effectual film could be, and that the themes, subtleties and emotions I wanted to work with in writing novels could be wielded just as effectively in film, if not more so. Until then, I never saw a movie and thought — someone wrote this. After that, I couldn’t stop seeing the writing.

Also, DOGMA. It was the first movie with an on-the-nose point of view, like one hilarious thesis paper, that it lifted the veil for me on how movies could be written.

Most writers have to have “day jobs” in order to stay afloat. What was the strangest job you ever had before becoming a writer?

That’s a toss-up between running a homeless shelter on Skid Row in Los Angeles and working as an assistant in Hollywood.

 

The Present:

How do you find ideas and how do you choose which ones to work on?

I don’t really actively seek out ideas. I envy writers who can just pull an idea out of thin air and you think, Damn. That’s a movie.

At least the way my brain works, doing that usually leads me to disingenuously follow a lead and build a story from the wrong place, i.e. a concept, rather than from a place of meaning to me. For example, I once sent my rep two pages of loglines to figure out what I should write next. I knew when I sent it that none of them had any heart behind it, because I didn’t feel like I couldn’t live without telling any of those stories. They were just…ideas.

No surprise, he shot them all down and told me to go back to the drawing board.

After that, I stopped trying to find ideas. I’m a notoriously bad on-the-spot “idea generator” anyway. I will fail the elevator pitch 11 times out of 10. To know if an idea is something I can write, I usually need to put a lot of thought into it first. Ideas take work. So I overwhelm my browser and hard drive with saved articles or photos that fascinate me, make me think, make me wonder, make me feel like a little kid, or scare the holy hell out of me. And when it’s time to find that new script idea, I’ll peruse them. Usually one or three will stick out at me immediately. Then I’ll focus on those and figure out why they fascinate me right now, at this present moment. Why now? Usually there’s a story in that answer alone.

I’ll also read a lot and watch movies lingering on my Netflix list; it’s new inspiration, a passive intake of what inspired other good writers. Often this all happens subconsciously, at least at first. That’s probably why most of my ideas start with a feeling or a scene or a tone. Then, I just build out the idea from there until, after lots of thinking and notes, I can snap off an “elevator pitch” like I grabbed it from thin air.

For instance, the idea for my script that got notice on the Black List came from an image I had of the main character, debating whether to leave the wilderness to enter a civilized town. And the script became my attempt at answering the question of why the character had to debate that.

I used to think I had to be a super snappy idea girl to be a truly great screenwriter. But I’ve come to realize, at least for my brain, that the ideas only come after a lot of hard work and hours of careful thinking, and that’s totally okay.

Walk us through a normal day of writing for you. Any special habits to keep the muse happy?

I’ve been writing full-time for a little over a year and I still haven’t figured out what a normal writing day looks like. All I really know is that I literally write more than I do anything else. Check back with me in a couple years, and maybe I’ll have figured out a healthier routine.

But right now, I typically get up between 6:30 – 8AM, make a cup of coffee, plop on my sofa and start writing. This means re-reading what I’ve written the previous day in order to get back into the flow — sometimes re-reading the entire script, depending on how much warming up I need. I’m rewriting as I do this, and then flow right into new pages.

I never count pages, but I will count scenes. Especially if I’m on a deadline, being at a certain part in your story at a certain date becomes critical. This sometimes finds me writing 18 hour days, just to get to that spot because, as we all know, some writing days are more difficult than others.

But, if I’m not on a strict deadline, I write until my brain shuts down. A good indicator is when I start writing utter garbage just to fill pages (which inevitably means more work tomorrow when I have to delete it all and start again), or I come to a scene that somehow makes me feel like Sisyphus. Nine times out of 10 I’ll wake up the next morning and that scene will not appear as daunting as it did yesterday, so stopping when a scene feels daunting has become a good indicator for me that I’m done. “Done” usually means hopping to another project, which can give my brain a second wind, or if that doesn’t work, I catch up on movies, TV or video games (research!).

Which films are keeping you inspired at the moment?

At the moment…JANE EYRE, the Cary Fukunaga film, is something I’ve been playing almost on loop of late. His use of POV and his ability to create a tense character drama out of rather plodding source material is something I find incredibly inspiring. Not to mention, that script hits all the plot points they teach you in film school and you never feel like it’s formulaic for a second.

MAN FROM NOWHERE, this Korean film by Jeong-beom Lee. It’s a character-driven revenge tale that takes that over-done, mostly stale trope and just amps up the heart so much it sometimes feels like a drama that just so happens to be extremely fast-paced. I write a lot of action, and I’m a firm believer you don’t have to lose deep, complex characters in the process. This film reminds me I’m right, and pushes me to do better.

INHERENT VICE, and really anything from P.T. Anderson. His movies continue to push me to be better, write smarter, and take more risks. It can sometimes feel like everyone is telling you to do less of all those things because less is what will sell or make sense in a room, but P.T. Anderson motivates me to at least try not to disappoint my higher standards.

 

The Future:

If you could make one film, with no restrictions in place, what would that film be?

There’s a fantasy series that I’ve loved since I was a teenager, and I can already perfectly see the movie. But it’d be a huge Lord of the Rings-style movie of a book series nobody’s ever heard of with a female lead. Sadly (and rather disturbingly), all those are elements that frighten people right now.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

I pretty much have zero skills beyond writing and reading, and talking about writing and reading. So if I wasn’t doing this, I’d have to be a professor. Unless I could find a way to make a living off horseback riding and making macaroni and cheese.

Dinner with three of your favorite writers and/or filmmakers, dead or alive. Who’s coming to dinner? Who picks up the check?

I have no idea why this question is here except to rub it in how my fantasy will never come true… But, in no particular order, Joss Whedon, Ernest Hemingway and William Shakespeare. That reads like a really weird list, but hopefully at dinner I can, through osmosis, absorb Joss’s ability to tell a better screen yarn and wield ensembles effortlessly (and also get Nathan Fillion’s number); absorb Hemingway’s skill with sparsity and silence, and how to knock out a bull with a single right hook; and grill Shakespeare on, well, everything? Also, I could die happy after hearing Joss and Will discuss their versions of Much Ado About Nothing.

Oh, and I’m sure I’d feign for the check, but Joss would insist on paying because, by all accounts, he’s a much nicer person than I am. Plus, by now, I’ve spent my life savings on time travel equipment.

 

The Black List

How did you first hear about The Black List?

I’d been working in features at Universal Pictures for a while, and every year the publishing of the Black List was (and still is) a big to-do. Every year, we’d read all the scripts and watch as a ton of them — considered unmakeable before the Black List — suddenly got interested buyers and filmmakers. It very quickly became this seemingly democratic place where quality rose to the top, not bureaucracy or money or popularity.

Since using The Black List, how has your career been impacted?

The Black List’s partnership with Warner Bros. is 100% responsible for me being able to leave my day job and embark on a concrete writing career. Through that partnership, I got a two-step blind deal with the studio after they read one of my scripts hosted on the site. I am officially a working writer.

Any tips for writers interested in the site?

I’d say, don’t just throw all your scripts up there and hope one will stick. The site is engineered through its rating system to help the highest quality work rise to the top and get seen. Put your best foot forward, and you’ll likely yield greater results. This isn’t about how many times your name is on there, it’s about how many people read your script and think it’s exceptional.

Also, as with all aspects of writing as a job, don’t expect the Black List to do all the work for you. It can’t be the only basket you put your eggs in. Keep writing even though one of your scripts may already be hosted. Cast a wide net with your scripts, explore other fellowships and festivals to bolster any notice or laurels you get from the Black List. If you’re using it as the only tool in your tool box, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

And finally, apply to all the partnerships the Black List has to offer if you can and as often as you can. There is no other site out there as democratic as this one, meaning that anyone, if they are a good writer, can get their start from obscurity through one of the Black List’s partnerships. But, remember, after that “start”, you’ll have to be doing all the work. I feel some people have a misconception that once they get success from the Black List, they’re coasting. If you’re not writing other scripts, if you’ve been passive outside simply hosting a script on the site, no matter how many partnerships or ratings you get out of the site, the career will stop at the door.

Thanks so much Tasha!