Franklin Leonard, founder and CEO of the Black List, will receive the WGA East’s Burkey Award, given in recognition of his contributions that have brought “honor and dignity to writers.” The award will be presented at 71st annual Writers Guild Awards in New York on Feb. 17.
“Since founding the Black List, Franklin has been one of the strongest advocates for writers in the entertainment industry,” said WGA East president Beau Willimon. “By giving a platform to new voices, stressing the necessity for diversity and championing the importance of the script, Franklin has become an invaluable ally to the Writers Guild of America, East. We are honored to celebrate his accomplishments and continued work.”
“I have always believed that the greatest honor of my career is serving the community of screenwriters,” Leonard said. “To have that same community believe that my service has been of value is frankly overwhelming.”
Leonard launched the Black List, an annual survey of Hollywood executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays, in 2005. Since then, more than 400 Black List scripts have been produced, grossing over $26 billion in box office worldwide and winning 53 Academy Awards from 262 nominations, including 4 of the last 10 Best Picture Oscars and 10 of the last 22 Best Screenplay Oscars.
Leonard has worked in feature film development at Universal Pictures and at the production companies of Will Smith, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, and Leonardo DiCaprio. He has been a juror at the Sundance, Toronto, and Guanajuato Film Festivals and for the PEN Center Literary Awards. In 2015, he was awarded the African-American Film Critics Association’s Special Achievement Award for career excellence.
Writer-producer James Schamus, a past recipient of the award, will present Leonard with the Burkey Award, which was established in 1978 in honor of Evelyn F. Burkey, who helped create the WGA East and served as its executive director until her retirement in 1972. Other past recipients include Norman Lear, Walter Bernstein, Joan Didion, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Miller, Claire Labine and the Committee to Protect Journalists.