EXCLUSIVE: The Butler producer Cassian Elwes and the Black List have chosen Mike Harden to receive the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship in the award’s second year of making Hollywood dreams come true. The Cinderella honor grants a worthy new (and agent-less) voice in screenwriting with a whirlwind trip to the Sundance Film Festival under the mentorship of indie film veteran Elwes and the Black List staff.
Eligible writers can’t have earned more than $5,000 to date from their projects, and Harden fits the bill: The East Bridgewater, Massachusetts native was working as a part-time real estate agent, in the shipping department of a wholesale retailer, and writing corporate videos and small films while building his writing career on the side. He landed on the Black List’s radar with his script A Good Man, a violent crime thriller set in Brockton, Mass. A Good Man was one of ten finalist scripts selected by the Black List from eligible unrepped writers, from which Elwes chose the winner.
“I loved all the ten scripts of the finalists this year. Each was unique and wonderful in its own way,” said Elwes. “I had a very hard time choosing the winner. But one really stood out in its authenticity, its passion, and its heart and that was A Good Man by Mike Harden. I couldn’t put it down, and it haunted me all day after I read it. Yet again, Franklin Leonard and the Black List have found a new original voice, and I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Mike into my life.”
“Ever since I can remember I always wanted to be a filmmaker, but growing up where I did, that just never seemed like an actual possibility,” said Harden. “Hopefully now, with this amazing opportunity provided by The Black List and the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship, I’ll be able to finally realize my dreams and work as a full-time screenwriter.”
Last year’s inaugural recipient Matthew Hickman (An Elegy For Evelyn Francis) landed representation with Circle of Confusion and his first paid writing gig, for Germany’s Construction Films, following the mentorship.
Elwes is a Park City veteran who set up financing for 283 films while heading William Morris Indepedent for 15 years, including Sling Blade, The Apostle, and Monster’s Ball. He’s since become one of the more prolific indie producers in the game, having a hand in financing and distribution of acclaimed and challenging films like Lawless, The Paperboy, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Elwes exec produced Oscar pics Dallas Buyers Club and All Is Lost and is producing an upcoming slate of films including Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert and Eli Roth’s Knock Knock.