The Blood List

bloodSo, I was all cavalier about reviewing what I wanted to review and consequences be damned, but that was back when I assumed that a script with representation would be, you know, a decent script. And then I started reading from this year’s Blood List. My beliefs about an arrow of causality between a competently written script and representation have been… torpedoed. The Principle of Sufficient Reason has found a counterexample not even Hume could dream up—screenplays with Big Name Agents attached.

I will not, therefore tell you my true opinion of A Man Called Death and Bird Box because doing so [in the necessarily fierce way that becomes me] would ravage these scripts. Since they are in development and since I [also necessarily] prize writers above agents, I will let my refusal to review them count as commentary enough. Should anyone want to discuss the merits and demerits of these scripts through the non-public forum of email, I will [with enthusiasm] indulge.

Reading two scripts without being able to post a review would ordinarily count as a negative withdrawal from my free time. In this case, however, I feel I can salvage a partial victory by posting something about the most important thing I learned from my 2014 Blood List experience.

You see, I have been diligent in learning the tricks of the writing screenplays trade. I have on my hard drive scripts that are well written and would make great movies. I would put at least two of my scripts up against either A Man Called Death or Bird Box (1) in a competition of cinematic value. I tell you [without conceit] my scripts are actually better than these [represented] scripts. I can also tell you that I have read at least a dozen scripts from unrepped amateurs that are, objectively, better than either of these two entries from The 2014 Blood List.

After thinking about that disparity for a while, I realized that the part of the craft I have [until this weekend] neglected is the “marketing” of my scripts. It is not the fault of either Matthew Kennedy or Eric Heisserer that [offhand] I can think of 14 unrepped scripts which outperform their repped scripts. The fault lies with me [and the other twelve writers].

We haven’t tried hard enough to find the representation that our well written scripts deserve. We have waited too patiently, hoping that eventually someone would read our scripts and see that we are reliable makers of better than average stories.

Speaking for myself, I think I fell into this trap by over-reading scripts from really great authors. If one studies the Coen’s, Terry Gilliam, Nolan, PTA, or Lorene Scafaria, then one is likely to feel that one’s own work lacks polish. If one reads great specs like, Source Code, The Matrix, Draft Day, or The Numbers Station (2), then one is even more likely to feel one’s own work doesn’t merit attention.

This idea of mine was wrong.

It’s not my scripts which were lacking; it was always my confidence. All of which brings me to my latest Chief Joseph pledge:

From this day forward, I will query one agent, manager, or Production Company, per day.

Footnotes:

1 To be fair, Bird Box is well-written. I am not blaming the writer of this script for the thinness of the story—I’m quite sure he did the best he could with what was available.
2 These specs all have problems. I’m not saying any of the scripts in this bunch is as good as any one script from the author’s in the previous bunch. Almost without exception, they are not.

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4 responses to “The Blood List

  1. I feel compelled to mention that I wrote this short article directly after getting home from work. Then I checked my email.

    The very first query I sent out yesterday was answered with a request for the script.

    Perhaps I am on to something here :)

  2. Nice Barish!

    Interesting about Bird Box — I’ve read the book but not the script — from following Heisserer on Twitter he seems like a lovely, capable, and knowledgeable dude — and if you look up his r/nosleep stories on reddit one cannot doubt he’s a talented writer too.

    I think it’s a common misconception that it’s a one step process of — Step One: Write a great script. Everyone always forgets Step Two: Find someone who agrees.

    I have a script that was top 50 in this years Nicholl and scored a 9 overall on the Blacklist and is currently being packaged at one of the biggest management companies in LA — it also didn’t win a Nicholl, went unrecognized in other competitions, scored some 5s and 6s on the Blacklist, and got turned down by numerous producers I queried who did in fact read it and found it wanting.

    This was not a narrow, personal script really…it’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi road movie with robots. Action and so on. And yet No’s a plenty. Who’s to say. Once you think it’s great, the journey is far from over.

    • Great comments. I agree about Heisserer– he seems like one of the good guys.

      The writing in that script was more than capable, created suspense, etc. My issues with Bird Box were with the story. I can’t hold the adapter responsible.

      Really great news about your recent success. I am rooting for you– you seem like one of the good guys too.

      I think the eureka moment I had after I finished A Man Called Death is summed up by your statement:

      “One: Write a great script. Everyone always forgets Step Two: Find someone who agrees.”

      Because, IF your script is good THEN you will EVENTUALLY find someone who agrees. You just can’t give up until you do.

      I hope your script gets made– I want to review it!

  3. Read another one. Possession: A Love Story. Competent writing, so-so story. I was underwhelmed again. Much better than AMCD, not quite as good as Bird Box.

    Saw “the twist” coming from 12 miles away. Other than that twist there wasn’t much story to drape over the plot holes which naturally arise when one writes Demonic Mumbo-Jumbo: Another Occult Story.

    At least the reading still leaves me inspired by my gross appropriation of Chief Joseph.

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