I am a big fan of InkTip, a website where screenwriters can post their scripts to be read by industry professionals. I have received offers of commissioned work as a direct result of posting some of my older scripts on the website. A producer, and budding screenwriter, at the Discovery Channel recently asked me what I thought about The Black List. The Black List is a similar but more expensive site that allows industry professionals access to your script. However, this website gives users the opportunity to rate the scripts they read. You are also required to purchase at least one professional evaluation when you list your script. They charge $50 per evaluation. A bargain. I decided to get two of them. It seemed only fair. At the time, I was judging scripts for the Baltimore Film Office's Screenplay Competition. I could dish out the criticism, but could I take it?
I offered up my newest script entitled "Life-Like," a coming of age romp loaded -- in my opinion -- with laughs and heart. I normally wouldn't post a fresh, new script which hadn't been extensively marketed to agents and production companies yet. However, I thought, who knows.... Perhaps I will gain some insight that will help me improve the script. So I submitted it.
Here's the first evaluation: (I apologize if the evaluations are hard to understand without reading the script.)
Overall, a pretty good evaluation. I have to admit I liked it -- despite the fact that it uses the words "elderly husband" in the logline. In reality, the husband is essentially the same age as his murdered wife. However, that is a small point. Perhaps the reader was confused by the fact that the murderous husband Gabriel always carried a cane as an affectation (and weapon.)
Obviously, I have to agree with all of the strengths. Needless to say, I was less happy but not entirely surprised with the listed weaknesses. The film is first and foremost a character study. To me, what goes on inside the main character Andy Watson is much more important than the external "action." Throughout the story, Andy evolves from a likable but ineffectual slacker into a man capable of risking everything, including his life, in pursuit of justice. His journey follows the beats of the "Rites of Passage" genre, as defined by the late Blake Snyder, who, despite his death, currently remains the most popular screenwriting guru in Hollywood.
That said, the evaluator makes one excellent point. The emotional action of the story plays out against the relationship between Andy and his college sweetheart Holly. The two of them have been drifting apart since graduation. Andy's main motivation is his desire to earn back her respect. In this original draft, however, the two never actually break up. That was definitely a mistake on my part. Having Holly leave Andy when he finds himself in jail at the end of Act Two would make the obligatory Big Gloom even blacker and more hopeless. I immediately made the change and improved the script. That was a fifty dollars well spent!
Here's the second evaluation: