Why Filmmakers and Screenwriters Should Get to Know The Black List

Published On December 14, 2011 | By admin | Blog Post, film, Screenwriting

One Hollywood tradition that screenwriters and filmmakers seem to observe in December is checking out to see who made The Black List and this year was no exception when it was announced earlier this week.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, the list was started seven years ago in 2004 by former Universal Pictures executive Franklin Leonard, who is now working at Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment.  He requests that several hundred film executives including studio heads of production, financiers and creative and production company executives submit a list of up to 10 of their favorite scripts of the year and then puts together the list which is an aggregation of those votes.  These scripts have to have been written or be uniquely associated with the year they are voted on and not be beginning principal photography anytime during that calendar year. In 2011 more than 300 executives voted and 73 scripts received at least six votes, which is the minimum needed in order to be on the list.  Over 120 of these scripts have been made into feature films since 2005 grossing upwards of 11 billion at the box office, while the finished products have won 20 Academy Awards and been nominated for more than 80.  Those in the best picture category include “Slumdog Millionaire”, “The King’s Speech”, “Juno” and “The Social Network”.  For 2011 Leonard also launched a premium service for $20.00 a month that allows people to rate scripts they have read and receive recommendations about others that they might be interested in.  According to Leonard his database has over 3,200 titles and 12,000 ratings.

While often stated that this is not a “Best of” list it is often widely discussed and noted when one of the scripts mentioned goes into production or turns an unknown screenwriter into a hot commodity.  There is, however, another reason why I think it’s an important list to become familiar with.  The names of management companies and agencies are also named along with how many votes each of these organizations has received and while many might not believe that these figures are completely accurate they do provide a good way to take a look at one aspect of the film industry and become more familiar with who the players are.  In 2011 Management 360 led the way with 5 scripts followed by Mosaic and Kaplan/Perrone with 4 each.  On the other hand if you look at the number of votes The Safran Company leads the way with 143, followed by Tariq Merhab Management with 84 and Management 360 is in third place with 84.  Interestingly, The Safran Company had two scripts and Tariq Merhab Management only one.  As for the agencies, WME, CAA and UTA hold the top three spots in both categories with WME leading with 21 in the script category followed by CAA with 19 and UTA’s 17.  In votes CAA led with 515, with WME’s 367 in second place and UTA once again in the third spot with 194.  There’s also mention of other agencies like ICM, Verve, Paradigm, APA, Gersh, Original Artists and The Nethercott Agency as well as many other management firms.

Screenwriters and filmmakers who are starting out often tend to overlook the business aspects of the industry while concentrating on exploring their talents and honing their skills which can be a mistake in the long run.  Although artistic and technical development is critical whether you want to produce, direct, act or work in some other aspect of movie making it is a business and becoming aware of who is doing what is knowledge that can prove to be very useful in such a competitive and ever changing industry.  Also, usually you can download many of these scripts on the internet and form your own opinion about their quality and writing styles and in addition see the elements that make them marketable and of interest to management companies and agencies.  Recognizing what makes a good story a commercial one as well can go a long way in helping you sell your own material or choose a project to produce that has a better chance of finding financing and distribution.

For a complete listing of scripts, agencies and management firms mentioned on the 2011 Black List please go click on these links from The Wrap and Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood:




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