Why We Paid $1250 To Validate Our Film

My greatest fear is that I don’t know what I don’t know.

The voices in my head go something like this:

“What if you’ve spent the last year, full time, writing a script, raising money, attaching actors, and producing a teaser, only to end up making a movie that sucks, and everyone around you saw it but you…”

That is seriously my greatest fear. Lucky for me (and for you), there’s a way to avoid this sort of outcome.

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Validation, in simple terms, means checking every single assumption you have regarding your project.

“It’s good” — Validate it.

“It will make money” — Validate.

“This decision is the right one” — Validate.

Yesterday, while at lunch, a friend called me “the most tenacious mother ****er [he’s] ever met.” While I laughed and smiled at the comment, the reality is that I’m equal parts driven and afraid.

By last August, I had done three drafts of the script, and submitted it to The Blacklist (check out their blog on Medium) for an evaluation. For context, a 7/10 on their scale is “good” and an 8/10 is “great”.

So, you can imagine how I felt when we got these scores back:

 Eval 1

But your assumptions are probably wrong. I was ELATED to get back scores like this. Not because I didn’t want a 7 or an 8 (I probably would’ve freaked out if that happened), but because it meant that I now knew something I didn’t know before: how to make the script better.

After a few more drafts we resubmitted and, as we had hoped, our scores went up.

Eval 2

Nearly two points, if you average all the scores…(4.6 to 6.4).

Off that draft — and because of my constant, never ending fear — we did even more work.

  • We did a live read with actors paid with (delicious) pizza and treats.
  • We filmed it, edited it, and took more notes.
  • and we wrote another draft…

…and boy, we were really starting to feel confident about the script.

So we submitted to Slated.com (Team Slated). Now, we had waited on this one because where The Blacklist costs $50 per evaluation (recently increased to $75), the Slated analysis costs $495 if you rush it. We did it in tandem with a financial analysis, so the rush was included in the $1000 price tag, but still…pricey.

We waited with anticipation for the 5 days it takes to get the analysis back. I ran out of nails to bite. It’s not pretty.


Screenshot 2016-05-16 15.09.17

A script score of 64 (!), and a financial score of 91 (!!!).

I about lost my s***.

I was walking in to get a burger at a drive up joint in Fillmore, Utah when I got the email and forwarded it on to my business partner Alan.

He lost his s***.

It’s HUGE. While the script score is a little lower than we were hoping for, the financial score blew us away. We had hard data showing that the film has a very good chance of being profitable.

(The financial bit is deserving of its own, separate post, but needless to say, they’re projecting a 7.5x return for our investors. That’s a huge validation for all the work I’ve put in on the business plan for this film…)

The thing about Slated is that they’ve analyzed over 10,000 films. From their site:

Slated Analytics’ financial projections have been derived by analyzing — in minutest detail — the performance factors of more than 10,000 released films. By arming yourself with the most meaningful comparative data, you and your team will have the earliest intelligence on what to expect from the marketplace at every stage in your project’s development cycle, from packaging to financing to sales.

Also, if you look at their sample analyses, it’s crazy how good their algorithm is. Their average over/under is 16%.

Screenshot 2016-05-18 15.06.13

What’s more, we got an INSANE amount of feedback from the three different readers with super actionable notes on how to go about improving it. This week we’re spending all of our time (besides writing this blog post) on improving the script.

We adapted their notes and ended up with a list of 48 things to do to improve the screenplay, and we’re knocking out about 10 a day. It’s hard work, but it’s incredibly exciting and easy to stay motivated because the fear is gone.

We now know what we didn’t know before and we can move forward with confidence.

Some people that know me would probably say that spending nearly two years of my life on this project, being constantly reminded that the state of the project is sub-par or merely “good”, raising not-enough money, then having those investors back out, raising more money that isn’t enough, and letting my bank accounts go to zero more than once is insane.

They’re probably right.

But, rather than being crippled by that, or by the constant reminder that there’s so much I don’t know, I can, instead, push forward because of the ability to validate, even if it costs more money than we have in the bank.

We can take confident steps based on this actionable feedback knowing that by doing so the project will improve and we will get closer to turning this idea we’ve been working on for years into a reality.

It’s worth it, and I’d do it again, every single time because now I know what I didn’t know I didn’t know.

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10 thoughts on “Why We Paid $1250 To Validate Our Film”

    • No problem. Glad it could help a little. My guess is that you’ll have more luck going a more traditional route for funding but there’s some value in the assessments if that’s what you’re looking for.

  1. Daren,

    How many people (and in what roles) did you have formally attached to your film on Slated when you paid for the financial analysis? I’ve been debating it, but right now, it’s just me and my screenplay. I’m just curious to see how it stacks up in the Financial Score and Script Score at this point.

    Also, your title says you spent $1250. In reading through the post, I see the $1K for Slated and 2x $50 for Blacklist evals, so where did the other $150 go?

    Thanks for your posts. So far, you are the only one I’ve seen who has done the Slated process and written up their thoughts.


    • At the time we had a few actors attached including one b-level (I hate categorizing actors into levels…) actor that’s been in a number of studio films and is currently starring in 2 different TV shows, one on a major network and one on Crackle. Didn’t help, since he was deemed “unsellable” overseas. Not sure exactly what our scores were when we submitted, but I believe the package was around 50. With the total spend, I’d have to go look at the books to see where the money was spent, but I feel like it was either accounted for with add-ons through Slated, or the cost of hosting on the Blacklist, which is the base cost of hosting your screenplay there, then the evaluations are extra.

      Glad you were able to find the post, hope it was helpful in some way. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Thanks for the quick reply. A few short followups:
        1 – Do you agree that Slated is still undervaluing TV actors and writers who don’t have a lot of film work?
        2 – You mentioned that one of your actors wasn’t verified in your other Slated post. They advertise that you can use the “Verify Later” method to tinker with the people in your package. How effective was that for you, and were you worried at all that the actors/crew you were “attaching” but not verifying would somehow find out through Slated?
        3 – It looks like it’s been almost a year since this post went live. Any further reflection on the value of Slated for you? I’m in a somewhat similar career place as you (I’ve directed 2 <$300K films and produced 3 in the same budget range) and trying to develop 2 screenplays in the under $3M (to take advantage of some of the low budget agreements with the different guilds and still be able to pay myself something reasonable), so any advice you can share is valuable.

        • 1 – still not sure if the real problem is that Slated is undervaluing them, or if Slated as a platform is just ineffective for people in our situation. That said, yes, TV actors – in my opinion – are still undervalued on that site, especially in the genre space.

          2 – never had a concern, I trusted slated to keep that hidden, and honestly wouldn’t you be flattered if someone wanted you in their movie? I just don’t see the downside there.

          3 – we pretty much gave up on the slated route until myself or my business partner/director has some more weight to add to the package score. Until that point we really couldn’t find a combination of people that would be in our price range and help us get into the 70/75 range and allow us to qualify for the executive producer services, so we went back to the fundamentals. Worked on the script, attach some actors, find some development money, try to get a sales agent on board, etc. Still working on it, but better than waiting around for the Slated magic bullet.

    • I know that feeling. Every project has to look at the desired outcome and the best way to get there, so it’s not a path I would recommend for every project. But at the time, it’s what we thought was worth it given everything we knew.


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