EXCLUSIVE: After using The Black List as a way to scout screenplays worth buying, Warner Bros has made the first alliance between a major studio and Franklin Leonard‘s screenplay evaluation service. The goal is to give opportunities to scribes who might not otherwise get a chance. Using the diversity guidelines from the WGA‘s Executive Summary that shows how far out of the mainstream minorities, women and some other groups are in the makeup of working screenwriters, The Black List will recommend a short list of five writers every six months who come from what the WGA identified as an under-served scribe demographic.
One of those writers will be offered by Warner Bros a two-step blind script deal worth around $93,000. The initial plan is for this program to run for two years, which will mean deals for four writers will get a foot in the door. The first short list of writers will be turned over to Warner Bros around Thanksgiving.
“For a black kid from Georgia, I’m acutely aware of the access issues the industry struggles with, and I’m excited to be part of a first step toward addressing this,” Leonard told me. “I’m optimstic that other organizations in the industry will access this also, both for the purposes of diversity, but also for the benefit of their bottom lines.” Leonard said the program will target “primarily writers of color and women, but also older writers as well, with pre and early baby boomers falling into that category.”
The aspirants can’t have made more than $25,000 from screenwriting fees over their careers, which eliminates scribes who haven’t sold a script in a good long time. “The intent here is to find new voices, and that ceiling is similar to the one used by the Nicholl Fellowship,” said Leonard, who added the relationship with Warner Bros is non-exclusive and came out of an overture from worldwide feature film production head Greg Silverman. The studio has had luck discovering talent through The Black List; most recently it gave a blind script deal to San Francisco ad exec Richard Cordiner after reading his script about the making of the film Jaws.
Leonard is a former exec at Universal, Mirage and most recently Overbrook before he left last fall to focus full time on The Black List with partner Dino Sijamic. The service serves two roles: annually, it canvases 500 development execs to cull a Black List of the best unmade screenplays. It makes money through its team of 40 readers who evaluated about 5500 scripts in the last nine months, and features the best of those submissions in a weekly report that is circulated to 2000 industry professionals who subscribe. WGA members can list information about their scripts free of charge, and outsiders pay $25 to have their scripts uploaded. A critical evaluation of the script costs $50. Those participating in that process can opt in to the Warner Bros program, with the information accessible through Blcklst.com.