Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Should These Scripts Have Made The Black List?

note: no review today. :(

As you may remember, I made a plea a couple of weeks ago to send in your favorite scripts that didn’t make The Black List. For the last couple of years, The Black List has been hit by a wave of negativity, with many claiming it had “gone the way of Sundance,” and was now simply a marketing tool for the business, heavily if not solely influenced by the studios. I admit I jumped on that bandwagon for awhile but after stepping back and looking at it objectively, I realized the only reason I'd done so was because it *sounded* logical. “Of course,” I thought, “Naturally now that they’re bigger, they’re only going to choose screenplays that the bigtime players want them to choose." But I didn’t have any proof. I didn’t have anything to go by but a hunch and rumors. Sure I’ve read comments like this one on Nikki Finke’s blog…

This list unfortunately has become meaningless now. It started out with great intentions, but now has become a PR contest between agencies and management companies to get their clients scripts on this list. I’ve read many of the scripts listed here and its [sic] so abundantly clear that pressure was applied to get some of these on the list. it’s a joke.

But the anonymous assumptions he was making were about as credible as his anonymous post. By no means am I Mr. Connections. But I realized I had enough of a reach whereby I could reasonably test this theory. So I made my plea to about 150 assistants, readers, creative execs, assistant producers, producers, and agents (that’s half the number of people polled for the Black List) and informally asked them to name me their favorite scripts that *didn’t* make the Black List this year. If it was true they were solely voting for scripts they were instructed to, then surely they had some personal favorites of their own, right? It was time to find out what the real Black List was. Not this fake Hollywood puppet government that was obviously feeding us garbage material that wouldn’t have made it past an illiterate intern at an agency in the Valley.


I hate to disappoint the naysayers but prepare to be disappointed. Although conspiracy theorists will never ever give up on their theories no matter how much evidence you pile in front of them (my brother is still convinced that the entire NBA is rigged, to which I say – then how come Detroit and San Antonio, two of the smallest markets in the U.S., made it to the finals 7 times this decade?), this at least gave me some peace of mind on the issue.

You see, here’s the thing. The Black List is far too big for a really good script not to make it. There were 97 openings this year. Ninety-freaking-seven. Hollywood is OBSESSED with finding the next great script. If they do spot one, everybody hears about it. Then everybody reads it. And if they all like it, they’re not going to keep it a secret cause their boss told them to vote for “Paul Blart 2: Paul Blarter,” instead. Of course there will be isolated incidents here and there, but there are enough voters (300) and enough spots that truly deserving scripts *will* make it.

Look at who finished atop this year’s list. An unknown writer with no produced credits who sold his script to a relatively small company who hasn’t made a movie in years. If that isn’t an endorsement for supporting the little guy, I don’t know what is. And sure Sorkin finished second but that’s because he wrote a great script. We confirmed that three months ago. For those who think the list is a sell-out for doing so, let me remind you that Sorkin was also highly ranked on the very *first* Black List. Oh, and the highest selling script of the year? The Jonah Hill Hollywood friendly vehicle, "The Adventurer's Handbook" (which I believe barely beat out the price of Prisoners), didn't make it anywhere near the list. How do we explain that?

But hey, I can talk all night and I still won’t convince you. All I can do is tell you what I found. So again, I asked 150 assistants, creative execs, readers, managers, agents assistant producers, producers, etc., for their top 5 favorite scripts that didn’t make the Black List. Like the Black List, their suggestions would be completely anonymous. Since nobody really knew this was coming, and since the list has no cache, unlike the Black List, there would be little to no lobbying. If there really was this magical dearth of amazing (yet unconnected) scripts kicking around town, these are the people who would know about them. If the Black List really was a big scam, it’s time to expose it.

After informally polling all these people, this was the most common answer I received: “Umm, to be honest, all of my favorite scripts were on the list.” I’d then follow up with, “Well is there any script, any script at all you thought was great that didn’t make the list?” They’d usually answer, “There were a couple I thought were good, but nothing I would vote for.” Despite that, I was still able to get around 70 people to vote, some with a top 5, some with a top 3, some who could only think of 1. After all of that, no script received more than 7 votes. This led me to believe that people were either a) voting for something they had a personal connection with (a friend, a client, whatever). b) There were a few scripts out there that connected strongly with people on a personal level, but that weren’t mainstream. Or c) Enough people simply hadn’t read the script.

My big conclusion was that the Black List is way more accurate than people give it credit for. Am I saying that there aren’t scripts out there that should have made the list? Of course not. But the fact that those scripts aren’t on the list has more to do with the writer not getting their material out there, than the big Hollywood corporate types conspiring against the little guy.

Anyway, for better or worse, here are the Top 13 of those scripts (some of which I don’t even have the writers’ names for). If you have loglines or writers’ names for these, please send them to me ASAP so I can amend the post. Also, if you have any of these scripts, please send them in, as I’d love to take a week to review them. Also, if there’s a great script missing from the list, feel free to add it in the comments. I’d like for this list to be an evolving list. Let’s pool our resources and locate as many great reads as we can.

7 votes - Reversal by Rock Shaink
5 votes - Emergency Contact by Bear Aderhold & Thomas F.X. Sullivan -A straight laced guy finds his life thrown into turmoil after he agrees to become the "emergency contact" for a guy he barely knows.
5 votes - Fire Me by Dylan Morgan & Josh Siegal
4 votes - Priority Run by Terrance Mulloy
4 votes - Repeat After Me by Brad Bredeweg & Peter Paige
4 votes - Kristy by Anthony Jaswinski - In the vein of THE STRANGERS. A student trapped on a deserted college campus comes under attack by a malevolent group of intruders.
4 votes - Roger That by ??????
4 votes - Children of The Gun by ??????
3 votes - The Long Road Home’ by Mikko Alanne – 3
3 votes - One Night Stan by Joshua Friedlander - When Stan is given a one night "pass" from his fiance to have as much sex as he wants, all hell breaks loose.
3 votes - Love Drug by Josh Cohen - A loser longing to be rich and famous tries to make his dreams come true by inventing a pill that causes an instantaneous orgasm for the taker although the side-effects may be more than he bargained for.
3 votes - Five Star by W.J. Hortman
3 votes - Cocked and Loaded by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly

With 2 votes:

The Last First Time by Jason Fuchs
The Lucky One by will fetters
Stainless Steel Providers by Kirsten Elms
The Begotten by Caleb Claxton
Hello I Must Be Going by Sarah Koskoff
A Day In March by Roberto Bentivegna - A nuclear physicist in the 1930s who, riddled by guilt over his early atomic contributions, fakes his own death- and inspires a journalist, 20 years later, to find out what happened to him.
Weekend Dad by Nicholas Schutt
Trust by Andy Bellin & David Schwimmer
Nancy and Danny by Brad Ingelsby
Detached by Stewart Hopewell & Tim Long
Timesheet by Riley Ray Chiorando
F by Howard Rodman
In This Land Of Gilead by Elana Frink - A young doctor shepherds a pair of kids through the American wastelands. Whey they finally find a stable colony, their nomadic life is questioned – do they build a life or keep moving?