It’s that time again. The infamous Hollywood “Black List” of unproduced screenplays has been released. The official site is here.
I just wrote about The Beaver script, which was the winner of the 2008 Black List and will soon be released as a movie directed by Jodie Foster and starring Mel Gibson. Several other titles from previous Black Lists have been produced, such as Juno and The Social Network. Those films weren’t produced because of the Black List, but for some of the writers and projects that make the list, it can boost their visibility in the industry.
It’s important to understand that this is not a screenwriting contest, per se, although we talk about the scripts that get the highest number of votes as “winners.” The majority of these writers (in fact, maybe all of them this year?) are repped by major agencies and their scripts have already been optioned or purchased. The list is compiled from votes by industry development professionals who are judging the best scripts that came across their desks in the previous year. And since we assume these are studio-based production companies with the firm “no unsolicited submission” rule in place, then they’re almost exclusively reading repped scripts and they will probably most remember those scripts that were sold.
Everyone in Hollywood likes to hitch their wagon to success, which is why I always wonder if some executives and d-people vote for scripts that are big success stories even though they haven’t read them. Trust me, I’ve seen many a person say “Oh, the script is amazing,” when I know damn well they never read it. It sounds great at cocktail parties to claim you’ve read that week’s hot script.
From Deadline Hollywood, the first news source to announce the list…
A screenplay titled College Republicans by Wes Jones based on true events about then aspiring politician Karl Rove running a dirty campaign for national College Republican Chairman under the guidance of Lee Atwater, his campaign manager, tops 2010’s THE BLACK LIST.
There’s a lot of political material on the list, which is ironic, considering that almost every politically themed movie to come out of Hollywood in recent years has bombed. But no one likes to sound politically-savvy more than Hollywood movie people, thus they vote for political scripts even though they have no intentions of making them (or if they make them, no intentions on seeing them!).
Okay, I probably sound jaded, so I should say that, ultimately, The Black List is a good thing in that it promotes good screenwriting. We could use more of that, right? (not more good screenwriting, because that’s definitely out there even if the studios aren’t choosing to option or produce those scripts, but the promotion of good writing as a vehicle to box-office success, so the young industry execs who came of age in the era of “board game movies” make the correlation between quality writing and a quality movie that can turn a nice profit.)