The Black List 2011
The film industry's favourite scripts this year feature zombies, Grace Kelly and Chewbacca.
The Black List for 2011 has been released and the results feature plenty of soldiers, a handful of zombies and a sprinkling of Star Wars thrown in for good measure. The list, which ranks the most liked screenplays in Hollywood that have not yet been produced, was started by Franklin Leonard six years ago when he was working as a development executive at Leonardo DiCaprio's production company. Frustrated by the lack of quality scripts arriving on his desk, he polled seventy-five industry assistants and executives to list their ten favourite unproduced scripts for the year. Leonard tallied the results and emailed them to everyone who voted. By the time he returned from his two-week holiday, the list had gone viral. Two of the scripts from that list went on to earn Oscar nominations in 2008 for Best Original Screenplay - Lars and the Real Girl (written by Nancy Oliver) and Juno (written by Diablo Cody), which won the golden statue. Check out this year's list (spot Tarantino creepin' in at number 26) and read about the Black List founder below.
1. THE IMITATION GAME by Graham Moore
Based on the true story of British mathematician Alan Turing. Turing decrypted German Morse-coded radio communications (arguably leading to the Allied victory of WWII) and poisoned himself after being criminally prosecuted for being a homosexual.
2. WHEN THE STREET LIGHTS GO ON by Chris Hutton and Eddie O'Keefe
Set in the early eighties, a town suffers after the brutal murder of a high school girl and a teacher.
3. CHEWIE by Evan Susser and Van Robichaux
A satirical behind the scenes look at the making of Star Wars through the eyes of the man who played Chewbacca.
4. THE OUTSIDER by Andrew Baldwin
Set in post-WWII Japan, an American former prisoner-of-war is accepted into the yakuza.
5. FATHER DAUGHTER TIME: A TALE OF ARMED ROBBERY AND ESKIMO KISSES by Matthew Aldrich
A man goes on a crime spree with his eleven-year-old daughter.
6. IN THE EVENT OF A MOON DISASTER by Mike Jones
An alternate version of the APOLLO 11 mission that imagines what might have happened if the astronauts had crash-landed.
7. THE CURRENT WAR by Michael Mitnick
A story based on the real inventors Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.
8. MAGGIE by John Scott 3
A family helps their eldest daughter as she comes to term with her infection, which is slowly turning her into a flesh-eating zombie.
9. THE END by Aron Eli Coleite
Four people have six hours to try to make peace with their lives before an interstellar event brings about the end of the world.
10. BEYOND THE PALE by Chad Feehan
After their father is buried, two siblings witness the town undertaker digging up the grave and taking something sending them on an investigation into his necrophilia.
11. EZEKIEL MOSS by Keith Bunin
A mysterious stranger with the power to channel the dead changes the lives of everyone in a small Nebraska town.
12. GRACE OF MONACO by Arash Amel
Grace Kelly, now a princess, uses her new-found political power to save Monaco.
13. HE'S FUCKIN' PERFECT by Lauryn Kahn
A girl finally finds the perfect guy and decides to use her internet research skills to turn herself into his perfect match.
14. BETHLEHEM by Larry Brenner
A group of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse make a deal with a vampire, trading themselves as food in exchange for protection (since zombies don't eat vampires, duh).
15. POWELL by Ed Whitworth
Based on the true story of Colin Powell questioning the Bush administration prior to appearing at the United Nations to explain their case for going to war with Iraq.
16. THE THREE MISFORTUNES OF GEPPETTO by Michael Vukadinovich
A prequel to the story of Pinocchio in which Geppetto endures a life of misfortune, war, and adventure so that he can be with his true love.
17. THE KNOLL by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher Roger
A rookie cop and his potential flame witness JFK gunned down from the grassy knoll on November 22, 1963. Within hours, they're on the run from the murderers who desperately need them silenced.
18. BASTARDS by Justin Malen
Two brothers hit the road to find their real father after finding out their mother slept with a lot of famous and powerful men in the seventies.
19. BLOOD MOUNTAIN by Jonathan Stokes
After his team is ambushed in Pakistan, a young soldier must escort the world's most wanted terrorist over dangerous terrain in order to bring him to justice.
20. CRAZY FOR THE STORM by Will Fetters
The true story of Norman Ollestad, who was thrown into the world of extreme surfing and downhill skiing at age three and later survived a plane crash amidst a blizzard in the San Gabriel mountains.
21. DESPERATE HOURS by E Nicholas Mariani
A young girl shows up on a rancher's doorstep covered in blood during WWI causing the townspeople to face major moral questions as well as a brutal invading force.
22. FLARSKY by Daniel Sterling
A political journalist courts his old babysitter, who is now the United States secretary of state.
23. HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY by Ed Soloman
A child prodigy tries to take control of his life away from his demanding parents.
24. A MANY SPLINTERED THING by Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair
A charming heartbreaker finally meets a girl he can't have and discovers the true meaning of love by living out other people's love stories and writing his own.
25. THE SLACKFI PROJECT by Howard Overman
A hapless and broken-hearted barista is visited by two bad-ass soldiers from the future who tell him mankind is doomed, and he alone can save them.
26. DJANGO UNCHAINED by Quentin Tarantino
A German dentist trains a freed slave to become a bounty hunter and helps him find his enslaved wife.
27. THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS by Natalie Krinsky
A young curator at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art is sleeping with her boss and starts a "break up" blog after he dumps her.
28. ST VINCENT DE VAN NUYS by Ted Melfi
A twelve-year-old boy moves in next door to a misanthropic aging retiree with a penchant for gambling, hookers and drinking and then they become unlikely friends.
29. THE ACCOUNTANT Bill Dubuque
The Treasury Department pursues a brilliant, autistic accountant who doubles as an assassin and "problem-solves" with precision in more ways than one.
30. SAVING MR. BANKS by Kelly Marcel
The story of how Walt Disney got the rights for Mary Poppins.
31. THE BIG STONE GRID by Craig Zahler
A cop is pulled into an underworld organisation that brutally murders people to extort money out of others.
32. BRIDGES ON THE FORT POINT CHANNELL by Chuck Maclean
Set in the seventies, an Irish family decides to blow up every bridge in Boston after the death of their father and the arrival of black kids into their neighbourhood.
Upon its inception, the list had a reputation for being underground and having the real potential to unearth new talent. These days, over three hundred executives from Los Angeles, New York and London contribute to the list (each one anonymously submitting their ten favourite screenplays, unranked) and most writers who make the list are likely to already have representation. Leonard emphasises that the list is not a "best of" but rather a "most liked", cautioning against reading too much into the final ranking or the exact number of votes received. Even if a script only has six votes it might be that only six people have read it - and those six people might have deemed it their favourite.
"It's meant to be a vaguely subversive name," Leonard told KCRW's The Business last year. "I have a very distinct memory of being a kid in English class being told that, symbolically, if you're reading a novel and you see something that's black - a black hat on a cowboy, a black cape on a musketeer, in all probability that's your bad guy. Even though I was quite young I could make the extrapolation to what that would mean for a black character and that was troubling to me." Combining that idea with the actual blacklisting of suspected Communists within the film industry during the fifties, Leonard took the opportunity to be an antagonist, not realising how popular it would become within the industry. "I don't know if I would have had the courage to call it that had I known what it was going to become." He told KCRW, "I take an undeniable amount of pride in the fact that Diablo [Cody] and Nancy Oliver's scripts were two of the top four on that year's lists... It validated the list in a way that nothing else could have. But did Aaron Sorkin need The Black List to get [The Social Network] made? Probably not." Still, it would be great to see Chewy cleaning up at awards season in a few years' time, right?
Leonard is now Vice President of Creative Affairs at Overbrook Entertainment, the production company founded by Will Smith. The Black List is an entirely independent project and is published annually in the second week in December.