The tenth annual Black List announcement of the year’s best un-produced film scripts hits tomorrow morning with a star-filled, somewhat complicated online process that will depend on YouTube, Twitter and the patience and social-media savvy of the list’s many fans.
Black List founder Franklin Leonard said the process is designed to celebrate great screenwriting in a way that isn’t dependent on the vagaries and motivations of an elaborate production such as a TV show, while boosting the online visibility of all the writers behind the list-making scripts.
More than 70 writers, directors, producers and actors – including notables such as Reese Witherspoon, Elizabeth Banks, Daniel Radcliffe, Rian Johnson, Ava DuVernay, Matthew Weiner, Rashida Jones, David Oyelowo and Billy Ray – will take part in the announcement, beginning at 10 am PT. The 2014 announcement’s huge and glittery retinue is very different from the list’s modest origins a decade ago. Back then, it was just an informal poll circulated among (and voted on by) Hollywood insiders, designed to spotlight great scripts that somehow had gotten stuck somewhere in the movie-making machinery.
“We were literally trying to find some good scripts to read over the holidays,” said Leonard, then a development executive for Leonardo DiCaprio‘s production company. “Then I put a pseudo-subversive name on it. It really was that simple. You have these conversations all year long (about what good scripts should be read). This was just a snapshot of those conversations.”
As it was then, 250 studio executives, agents and other insiders name up to 10 scripts they’ve seen that year that aren’t yet produced. A script needs a mention from at least six of those insiders to make the year-end list.
The results have been impressive. The Black List counts among its “alumni” seven of the past 14 Oscar-winning screenplays, and three of the past six Best Picture winners, including Slum Dog Millionaire,The King’s Speech and Argo. Black List Oscar-winning screenplays also include Juno, The Social Network, Django Unchained and The Descendants. This year’s Oscar contenders include such Black List alums as Whiplash, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game and Selma. Last year’s top script was Holland, Michigan, written by Andrew Sodroski.
Two years ago, Leonard left his job with Will Smith‘s production company, Overbrook Entertainment, to launch http://www.blcklst.com. The site now includes a searchable online database of all English-language scripts being circulated in Hollywood. Any Writers Guild member can add for free information about their back catalog of un-produced scripts.
Blcklst.com also hosts, for a monthly fee, screenplays from hopeful writers of all kinds of filmed entertainment, from feature-length movies to web series. A writer can also pay one of the site’s experienced script readers to review a project and write it up, though Leonard said he retains final word on the write-ups and is a “harsh” critic because “the site is only as good as its filter.”
Currently, the site is hosting about 2,400 scripts, a small fraction of the 20,000 to 30,000 scripts registered each year with the WGA.
Leonard said he has “no plans on” creating a TV show wrapped around the list’s announcement. “For the last 10 years, we’ve looked for opportunities to celebrate great screenwriting. This is a chance to celebrate en masse, without having to put on a TV show.”
Instead, beginning at 10 am, Black List will post a tweet every minute with a YouTube link to a video announcing one of this year’s top scripts. That list of Hollywood notables each created their own announcement video, and they’ll detail the project, what it’s about, and maybe a bit more. Some of them, Leonard said, “had some fun with it.” Deadline will cover the announcement live.