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The Black List was published today...
December 13, 2010 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Zombie Baby, Fucking Jane Austen, The Last Witch Hunter, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, American Bullshit, Better Living Through Chemistry... just some of the titles that made this year's Black List, a list of the best unproduced screenplays of the year as voted on by industry insiders. LA Times and Deadline Hollywood have pieces on it and here's an October audio interview with Franklin Leonard, creator of the Black List. In past years, aspiring screenwriters could find PDFs of the scripts online. It's gonna be a lot harder now.
posted by dobbs (42 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Metafilter: In an America of the future, young boys and girls are forced to participate in a televised battle to the death.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:55 AM on December 13, 2010


Two friends angry at Jane Austen for creating unrealistic romantic expectations among
women today get sent back in time to the nineteenth century. The only way for them to
return home is for one of them to get Jane Austen to fall in love and sleep with him.


I like how many of these are existing movies, but stupider and/or turned up to 11. In this case, Back to the Future.

A new recruit in a war against aliens finds himself caught in a time loop where he
wakes up one day in the past after having been killed on the battlefield.


Nope, never heard of this idea.

A gang of crooked cops plan a major heist that will require them to shoot a fellow
officer in order to get away with it.


After credits, camera pans to a movie screen showing Serpico and does not move for 120 minutes.
posted by DU at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Original ideas are over-rated. I have a million of them. I'll give them away for free, if anyone wants them. The hard part is actually writing the fucking script.
posted by empath at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


“A man whose family doesn't know he's an assassin must protect them during a cross-
country car chase when rival killers show up.”


I can't decide if the people who wrote these screenplays haven't watch enough movies or have watched too many.
posted by DU at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2010


“A young New Yorker falls in love with the daughter of his father's nemesis, setting
in motion a Romeo and Juliet-like forbidden romance.”


Well that shut me up.
posted by DU at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


"The dumb brother from Adaptation escapes into our universe and wreaks havoc on Hollywood."
posted by theodolite at 12:04 PM on December 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


I have always had a hard time understanding the point of this "Black List" (apart, that is, from pissing on the memory of the Hollywood Ten, at which it succeeds admirably). Are we really supposed to be incensed that such fantastic movies as Saving Private Groundhog Day or Honey, I'm Secretly a Hit Man aren't getting made? Does a single one of these have a one-sentence pitch's worth of originality in it? Because it sure looks from the outside like an indistinguishable pile of hack-work.
posted by RogerB at 12:06 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love how y'all are SO good at producing films that you can dismiss a entire script after reading a one sentence summary.
posted by spicynuts at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Two friends angry at Jane Austen for creating unrealistic romantic expectations among
women today get sent back in time to the nineteenth century


These guys appear not to have actually read Jane Austen, which I would think might be the first step in a project like this. Her view of love was quite as unrealistically romantic as they seem to have it.
posted by OmieWise at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


“A man whose family doesn't know he's an assassin must protect them during a cross-country car chase when rival killers show up.”

Immediately brought to mind this Simpsons bit:

Ron Howard [emotionally] ... and it grows, to a powerful, emotional climax when the father has to choose which one of his children will live ... and which one ... will die.

Movie Executive: Pass - what else you got?

Ron: Well, well, there is this one thing. It's about a killer robot driving instructor that travels back in time for some reason.

Movie executive: I'm listening.

Ron: Okay, okay, well, you see ... this robot, he's got a heartbreaking decision to make about whether his best friend lives ... or dies.

Executive: Eh.

Ron: His best friend's a talking pie!

Executive: Sold! Howard, you've done it again!

posted by ryanshepard at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2010


These guys appear not to have actually read Jane Austen, which I would think might be the first step in a project like this. Her view of love was quite as unrealistically romantic as they seem to have it.

Wait, you're criticizing a screenplay you haven't read by saying the writers haven't read the material?

Part of the reason the pitches sound like other movies is because that's what they're supposed to sound like. Hollywood execs want things that remind them of past successes. Though this is of course ridiculous, it's these "selling points" that get scripts read in the first place. It's then that the scripts originality can be recognized.

If you've liked any movies to come out of Hollywood in the past 5 years, chances are their scripts were once on the Black List. Off the top of my head, these recent productions were all on past years' lists:

Juno
The Town
Superbad
Adventureland
The Wackness
No Country for Old Men
The Road
Burn After Reading
500 Days of Summer
Inglourious Basterds
State of Play
The Duchess
There Will Be Blood
Easy A
Slumdog Millionaire
Never Let Me Go
The Queen
The Hangover
The Beaver
Babel
The Social Network
Salt
Scott Pilgrim
Recount
The Wrestler
Doubt
In Bruges
Lars and the Real Girl
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

(apart, that is, from pissing on the memory of the Hollywood Ten, at which it succeeds admirably).

This statement is ridiculous. The choice of name is perfect--the point of the list is to empower the writer and turn that phrase on its head.

The lives of just about every unproduced writer on this list changed when it was published today. Leonard's Black List is one of the best things to happen to screenwriters in, well, forever.
posted by dobbs at 12:25 PM on December 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


Most of the scripts on the Black List have been developed by Hollywood studios so they inevitably reflect Hollywood tropes. These are not the 'top 100 spec screenplays' of the year. Not that spec screenplays really exist any more except as writing samples.
posted by unSane at 12:26 PM on December 13, 2010


ryanshepard: you totally stole my Terminizer script which I, in turn, stole!
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:27 PM on December 13, 2010


I love how y'all are SO good at producing films that you can dismiss a entire script after reading a one sentence summary.

There are people in the industry whose whole job is dismissing entire scripts after reading a one-sentence summary. If you can't write a decent one-sentence summary, you're not going to sell a screenplay.
posted by steambadger at 12:29 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Not to mention The Diving Bell Vs. The Butter Glider.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:35 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


THE EVER AFTER MURDERS sounds suspiciously like a Jasper Fforde novel. Paging Jack Spratt ...
posted by PsychoTherapist at 12:37 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read the script of Source Code and really loved it - now Duncan Jones (Moon) is doing it.

This is all good, I loved Moon, but the trailer (second link) didn't excite me at all. Reading it, the movie just popped off the page, but the bits I saw in the trailer seemed... off.

Possibly the problem is that the script is such a complete, tight little scifi thriller. Doesn't seem like there's much for a director to add.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


THE EVER AFTER MURDERS sounds suspiciously like a Jasper Fforde novel. Paging Jack Spratt ...

It sounds even more like this comic book.
posted by steambadger at 12:41 PM on December 13, 2010


The choice of name is perfect--the point of the list is to empower the writer and turn that phrase on its head.

So if someone equates a shitty action-movie project not getting made (fast enough), on the one hand, with more than a decade of political persecution, on the other, that doesn't suggest they have a fundamental disrespect for the latter, or seem like a joke in questionable taste, to you? Those really seem like two different kinds of the same "disempowering"? It sure seems like a pretty strong indicator of screenwriters' careerist narcissism to me.
posted by RogerB at 12:44 PM on December 13, 2010


"All You Need Is Kill?"
"Welcome To People?"

Is Bucky Katt naming scripts in real life now?
posted by anthom at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be honest, a lot of the Black List movies aren't super great. "The Hand Job" was written by Bill Hader's wife and is slated to be shot with Aubrey Plaza (of Parks and Rec Fame), and was kind of "Meh" I mean I love Plaza, but the script just felt like it was American Pie for girls, a concept I had pitched just months earlier under the way more offensive title "Eager Beavers".


I was feet away from the guy that runs the black list (and I was coincidentally sitting next to fellow mefite danajo) but didn't have the nerve to talk to him. I wanted a job :(.

Some douche bag did ask him in a round about why "why am i not on the black list" and i have this feeling he never will be now.
posted by djduckie at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2010


Dobbs and other folks in the know: I'm confused about how this isn't just a pre-promotional list of stuff that is coming out from each production company/agency. Is there something about the selection process or the guy who makes the list that makes these somehow special?

Thanks in advance.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:06 PM on December 13, 2010


The lives of just about every unproduced writer on this list changed when it was published today. Leonard's Black List is one of the best things to happen to screenwriters in, well, forever.

Yes, because lord knows, Cormac McCarthy and Quentin Tarantino (just two of the names behind your list of past scripts) really needed the publicity.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:07 PM on December 13, 2010


I would rather watch every single one of these movie ideas than anything about secret assassins or modern-day Romeo and Juliet stories.
posted by Copronymus at 1:07 PM on December 13, 2010


I read a great script about a hitman husband with a wife and kids who were in the dark, and then when the husband dies, the wife has to finish his last contract. The climactic shootout took place in a bulletproof glass factory.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:20 PM on December 13, 2010


There are people in the industry whose whole job is dismissing entire scripts after reading a one-sentence summary. If you can't write a decent one-sentence summary, you're not going to sell a screenplay.

And the number of those people in this thread are??
posted by spicynuts at 1:21 PM on December 13, 2010


Screenwriter with IMDB credits to his name (not bragging, just giving my bona fides) says:
the list is a lot of fun. You've got to remember that this used to be a list of the best/most interesting UNSOLD scripts of the year. Now, it seems like all of them have 'sold' at the bottom.
It wasn't really an honor to get on this list, believe me (I've never been on it). These were almost warning signs-'this great idea was out there and still didn't sell'.
I think it was a cool attempt to create a 'meritocracy' in a town where so much, SO MUCH, based on what T-shirt you wore to the pitch or how cute you are. My buddy is totally motivated by her desire to get on the Black List. I'd rather sell my scripts and move on to the next ones.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 1:28 PM on December 13, 2010


Most of the scripts on the Black List have been developed by Hollywood studios so they inevitably reflect Hollywood tropes. These are not the 'top 100 spec screenplays' of the year. Not that spec screenplays really exist any more except as writing samples.

True enough.

The Hit List may interest some people.

Potomac, the list is voted on by hundreds of execs so theoretically is difficult to rig. In my interview link Leonard explains why he created the list and how it's voted on.

In addition, here's an interview with Kyle Killen, who wrote the about to be released The Beaver, which was on a previous list. ("You absolutely go from begging and borrowing to just meet with people to the phone ringing and everything going the other way.")

Yes, because lord knows, Cormac McCarthy and Quentin Tarantino (just two of the names behind your list of past scripts) really needed the publicity.

Which is why I said the lives of unproduced screenwriters changed today. No, the Coens and Helgelland, and others who have careers don't need the help of the list. But the alternative is for the readers to make that judgment call, which they've opted not to do and just vote on the scripts themselves. This is a good thing. The fact that unknowns are on the list along with writers of this calliper is part of the point.

Those of you interested in screenwriting should also check out the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcasts on iTunes. There is a phenomenal amount of great information there. There are a few former Black List writers there. Most comment on how their lives changed overnight. I even recommend listening to the interviews with writers who scripted films you didn't care for as the interviewer covers careers, rather than films. The McQuarrie and Helgelland interviews are interesting even though the "topics" are their lesser films (Valkyrie and The Taking of Pelham 123 instead of Way of the Gun or LA Confidential, for instance).
posted by dobbs at 1:33 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The story of one woman's struggle for redemption as she fights to stay alive and unite with her mother and youngest daughter, all while staving off vicious attacks by a ruthless army of Yakuzas who have trapped her in her apartment."

Zooey Deschanel and Yo Yo Ma.

"Two guys drive to Mexico to rescue their best friend who is broke and without an ID."

Jack Klugman, Roger Moore, and Mickey Rooney.

"An unconventional romantic comedy between a thirty year old magazine writer and the subject of his newest piece, a witty, wise beyond her years teenage video blogger."

Jesse Eisenberg and Jessi Slaughter.

"An ambitious legal aide working for the Timothy McVeigh defense team tries to get to the bottom of what really happened during the Oklahoma City bombing."

Reese Witherspoon with Carrot Top as Timothy McVeigh.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 1:45 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I read a great script about a hitman husband with a wife and kids who were in the dark, and then when the husband dies, the wife has to finish his last contract. The climactic shootout took place in a bulletproof glass factory.

I WOULD TOTALLY PAY TO SEE THIS CRAP. IT SOUNDS LIKE EVEN BETTER CRAP THAN SHOOT-EM-UP.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:49 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


HEY! All I'm saying is the day after we watched Shoot 'Em Up, my wife marched right out and bought it on DVD. I love that woman.

Fortunately, she did not do the same the day after we watched--oh, yes, we watched it--Donkey Punch.
posted by Skot at 1:55 PM on December 13, 2010


Potomac--from Nikki Finke:

"Compiled every year from the suggestions of hundreds of film executives, each contributes the names of up to ten of their favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2010 and will not be released in theaters during this calendar year."

Some people are A-list, some are connected, some are nobodies. I've heard lots of talk about NEZ PERCE by Nick Mariani.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:35 PM on December 13, 2010


"The dumb brother from Adaptation escapes into our universe and wreaks havoc on Hollywood."

I'm okay with that.

Charlie Kaufman: There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window. You were talking to Sarah Marsh.
Donald Kaufman: Oh, God. I was so in love with her.
Charlie Kaufman: I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was being really sweet to you.
Donald Kaufman: I remember that.
Charlie Kaufman: Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were laughing at me. You didn't know at all. You seemed so happy.
Donald Kaufman: I knew. I heard them.
Charlie Kaufman: How come you looked so happy?
Donald Kaufman: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn't have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
Charlie Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago.

posted by byanyothername at 3:14 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do believe Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is getting produced, with Timur Bekmambetov (the guy responsible for those Night Watch movies and Wanted) directing. It's on IMDB.
posted by alexoscar at 4:40 PM on December 13, 2010


Remember when, for years, "Avatar" was in these sorts of lists? And then it finally came out? Was it worth it, really?
posted by John Shaft at 5:42 PM on December 13, 2010


John Shaft: "Remember when, for years, "Avatar" was in these sorts of lists? And then it finally came out? Was it worth it, really"

Avatar was never on the Black List. It was never sent out as a spec script because James Cameron had a deal in place with Fox all along. AFAIK, the screenplay never even leaked until after the movie was released because he had such tight control of the production.
posted by sharkfu at 6:07 PM on December 13, 2010


alexoscar: "I do believe Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is getting produced"

I honestly don't understand the need for Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter when we already have Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter ("The Power of Christ Impales You!").

Maybe there could be a sequel with a team up?
posted by meehawl at 6:14 PM on December 13, 2010


Remember when, for years, "Avatar" was in these sorts of lists? And then it finally came out? Was it worth it, really?

No, I don't remember that at all. The first I heard of Avatar was in early 2007 when Cameron announced it as his next picture.

sharkfu has it right--the screenplay was highly guarded.
posted by dobbs at 6:17 PM on December 13, 2010


Here's the LA Times earliest mention of Avatar--January 2007. Surely if you what you're suggesting is true, John Shaft, the lists it was on would have been mentioned.
posted by dobbs at 6:20 PM on December 13, 2010


meehawl: "Maybe there could be a sequel with a team up?"

Or a future midnight double feature...
posted by alexoscar at 7:12 PM on December 13, 2010


Apparently the scripts were all up on Mediafire. Anyone manage to get them before Fox had it yanked?
posted by dobbs at 9:51 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Original ideas are over-rated...The hard part is actually writing the fucking script.

It doesn't matter. * As anyone can tell, they don't have a rat's chance in hell of making it into film or TV anyway.

*NB: the usual exceptions-that-prove-the-rule clause applies.
posted by Twang at 11:19 PM on December 13, 2010


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