By Chuck Hustmyre
Five years ago, in an act of desperation, I submitted my script GUNFIGHTER, which I had written two years before that, to the website The Black List for a paid evaluation.
The way The Black List works, you pay to “host” your script on their site for $25 and you have to buy at least one “professional” script evaluation for $75.
The reviewers are selected randomly from the website’s pool and their evaluations are done anonymously. If your script gets a good rating from the evaluator, the website will promote your script to industry professionals. If you don't get a good evaluation... you pretty much just wasted a hundred bucks.
After two years, I had been through several drafts of GUNFIGHTER and was pretty confident I would get a good review; after all, I had already had one movie released by Lionsgate.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the anonymous reviewer slammed GUNFIGHTER, giving it an overall rating of 4 out of 10, and the plot an anemic 3 out of 10. My dialogue got the highest rating, a whopping 5 out of 10.
The reviewer went on to write:
“The script never hooks the reader before launching into its 100+ page bullet- ridden rampage. Characters are cliché to the point of comedy, particularly Diablo, the resident supervillain. However, the nature of the writing suggests the script is meant to be taken seriously, for thrills rather than laughs. Thus the reader is dropped into a thematic limbo where the material elicits neither.”
Needless to say, I was pretty unhappy with the review, and naturally my script didn’t go anywhere with The Black List.
But I kept trying to sell it on my own and get it made. Two or three producers liked it enough to buy options on it, and eventually one of them started pushing to get it made, and as of today (May 11, 2018) it was publicly announced in the Hollywood press that Guy Pearce—he of Memento fame, and L.A. Confidential, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Time Machine, etc.—is going to star in the movie, now called DISTURBING THE PEACE, which begins filming this summer in Alabama.
One of the things that infuriates the hell out of me is when people who’ve never written anything of note themselves take such care to rip apart your work.
So my advice is to ignore them. If you believe in your work, make it your mission to find a producer or a publisher who also believes in it, and remember what Theodore Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming...who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
And as for that anonymous reviewer for The Black List? Fuck him.