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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Screenwriting

Vote for your favorite script in the Black List Top 10

December 12, 2011 | 11:30 am

The Descendants

The Black List — an annual compendium of the most-liked screenplays that have yet to be turned into movies — is out Monday.

The seventh edition from Black List founder Franklin Leonard, a mid-level development executive, surveyed 307 Hollywood insiders such as development executives at studios, producers and financiers to see what unproduced scripts are the hottest.

Which scripts on this year's Black List would you most like to see made into a film? Previous scripts that have made the list have been turned into movies -- "The Descendants," "50/50" and "Margin Call" -- are but a few recent examples.

Check out the full descriptions here of this year's Black List -- and vote on your favorite concept from the Top 10 below. 


Black List 2011: The Top 10 hottest scripts in Hollywood

A Black List that's a career boost

-- Julie Makinen

Photo: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Nick Krause in "The Descendants," which was once a Black List script. Credit: Merie Wallace / Fox Searchlight

Black List 2011: The Top 10 hottest scripts in Hollywood

December 12, 2011 |  9:00 am

Before Hollywood leaves town for the holidays, they check their inboxes for Franklin Leonard's Black List -- the annual compendium of the best unproduced screenplays of the year. Most recipients already have an inkling of what's on the list -- especially this year with 307 Hollywood insiders participating in the voting. But the list still serves as a well-watched barometer of what's resonating most with those people charged with reading scripts for a living.

Check out the Top 10 from 2011 below. There are no women in the top 10 this year but the topics are an eclectic mix of genre, drama and odd-ball comedy.

133 votes: "The Imitation Game" by Graham Moore

The story of British World War II cryptographer Alan Turing who broke several German codes, but in later life was prosecuted for being homosexual, leading to his suicide.

Agent: Creative Artists Agency -- J.P. Evans, Jacqueline Sacerio

Manager:The Safran Co. -- Tom Drumm

Producers: Ido Ostrowsky, Nora Grossman producing for Warner Bros.

84 votes: "When the Street Lights Go" by Chris Hutton, Eddie O'Keefe

In the early 1980s, a town suffers through the aftermath of a murder of a high school girl and a teacher.

Agency: WME -- Simon Faber, Sarah Self

Manager: Tariq Merhab Management -- Tariq Merhab

Producers: Imagine Entertainment

59 votes: "Chewie" by Evan Susser, Van Robichaux

A satirical, behind-the-scenes look at the making of "Stars Wars" through the eyes of Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca.

Agency: WME -- Mike Esola

Manager: Industry Entertainment -- Jess Rosenthal

53 votes: "The Outsider" by Andrew Baldwin

In post-World War II Japan, an American former prisoner-of-war rises in the yakuza.

Agency: Creative Artists Agency -- Jay Baker, John Garvey

Manager: Anonymous Content -- Bard Dorros, David Kanter

Producers: Linson Entertainment for Warner Bros.

43 votes: "Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses" by Matthew Aldrich

A man goes on a three-state crime spree with an accomplice, his 11-year-old daughter.

Agency: Creative Artists Agency: John Garvey, Stuart Manashil

Manager: Silent R Management: Jewerl Ross

Producers: Pearl Street Productions production for Warner Bros.

33 votes: "In the Event of a Moon Disaster" by Mike Jones

An alternate telling of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon that examines what might have happened if the astronauts had crash-landed there.

Agency: Creative Artists Agency: David Kopple, JP Evans

Manager: The Gotham Group: Lindsay Williams

Producer: FilmNation

30 votes: "Maggie" by John Scott 3

As a "walking dead" virus spreads across the country, a farm family helps their eldest daughter come to terms with her infection as she slowly becomes a flesh-eating zombie.

Agency: Creative Artists Agency: Billy Hawkins, Dan Rabinow

Manager: Trevor Kaufman

Producer: Pierre-Ange Le Pogam

30 votes: "The Current War" by Michael Mitnick

Based on the true story of the race between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to develop a practical system of electricity and sell their respective inventions to the country and the world.

Agency: William Morris Endeavor -- Simon Faber

Manager: Fourth Floor Productions -- Jeff Silver

28 votes: "The End" by Aron Eli Coleite

Four people -- a veteran broadcaster in London, a 16-year old girl and her boyfriend in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a devoted family man in Shanghai -- each try to make peace with their lives before an interstellar event ends the world in six hours.

Agency: Creative Artists Agency -- Matt Rosen

Producer: Warner Bros.

27 votes: "Beyond the Pale" by Chad Feehan

Based on William Gay's novel "Twilight," teenage siblings suspect they've been ripped off by the town undertaker, but what they discover is much more sinister.

Agency: Creative Artists Agency -- Matt Rosen, Jacqueline Sacerio

Manager: Management 360 -- Guymon Casady, Mary Lee

Producers: Feehan's The Fort producing for Vendome Pictures

27 votes: "Ezekiel Moss" by Keith Bunin

 A mysterious stranger who possibly has the power to channel the souls of the dead changes the lives of everyone in a small Nebraska town, especially a young widow and her 11-year-old son.

Agency: Creative Artists Agency -- Rowena Arguelles

Manager: Kaplan/Perrone -- Alex Lerner, Sean Perrone

Producers: A Likely Story and Mandalay Pictures


Franklin Leonard, the man behind the Black List  

The 2010 Black List top 10 

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Chewbacca and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in 'Star Wars.' Credit: Lucasfilm 

'Attack the Block' director on killing off kids, 'E.T.' and more

August 2, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Attack the Block John Boyega

While Jon Favreau's big-budget, star-studded "Cowboys & Aliens" earned less-than-rave reviews and what could be described as a shrug at the box office, a much smaller alien movie also released last weekend is quickly becoming a critical darling.

"Attack the Block," the story of a group of inner-city London kids who defend themselves against an outer-space menace, has an 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 86 positive reviews out of 97. The film opened Friday in eight theaters, earning $130,000 total and a per-theater average of $16,306 -- a decent start for the modestly budgeted movie starring a slate of first-time and little-known actors.

Over on our sister blog Hero Complex, the film's young star John Boyega, who plays Moses, described his character's journey from hoodlum to hero as he leads a group of teens in their battle against the giant, furry space beasts. It was Boyega's first big-screen role.

"Attack the Block" also marked the directorial debut of Joe Cornish, who co-wrote Steven Spielberg's upcoming comic-book adaptation, "The Adventures of Tintin." 24 Frames sat down with Cornish to talk about "Attack the Block."

Q: It's hard to root for your protagonists at the beginning of the film. They're a bunch of punk kids who rob a lady at knifepoint.

A: There's no doubt that what they're doing at the beginning is a bad thing, and the film is making no apologies. And we knew we were doing something a little bit edgy and a little bit risky to start a movie like that. It's unusual. Most contemporary movies bend over backwards to make their protagonist as sympathetic as humanly possible -- you know, the underdog, the guy who's never quite made it, with the beautiful wife and the gorgeous children, and then they're kidnapped or murdered. But we flipped it around. We wanted to challenge the audience. When people asked me that question when we were developing the script, I would say, "Well, look. You're allowed to hate them." When the title of the movie comes up, "Attack the Block," and that second wave of meteors is coming down, you're allowed to go, "Good. Eat those [expletives]." You know what I mean? But the thing that drove me to write it was to take that energy and then try and turn it round. We're not being cheesy. It's not a huge, soppy, redemptive arc. It's (hopefully) subtle and truthful. ... At the end of the movie, Moses knows the consequences of his actions. He understands that he is in charge of his life. He understands that his choices will directly affect him and his hopes and his potential. So yeah, we've absolutely made it with heart and sincerity, and as a positive story.

Q: What do you think happens to Moses after the movie?

A: I think the rule of the law is pretty strict. I think he would be prosecuted for what he did at the beginning. When the full story came out, I think his positive actions would at least balance his negative actions. But I don't know. I like the ambiguity. I like the question mark. ... You have to bring your own intuition and bring your own morality. That's going to freak out some viewers who are used to everything being laid out for them. This is a movie for smart people, for open-minded people. I like the fact that we don't answer those questions.

Continue reading »

Up-and-comer John Hlavin plans a new heist

June 7, 2010 | 11:05 am

EXCLUSIVE: It's been a rags-to-riches kind of year in Hollywood.

First came the crop of shorts directors, such as Fede Alvarez and Ricardo de Montreuil, catching the attention of the film world's biggest rainmakers. Then relative rookies such as Shawn Christensen ("Abduction") and David Guggenheim ("Safe House" and "Puzzle Palace") sold screenplays and/or pitches to the biggest studios, with the likes of Taylor Lautner signing on to star.

The latest anointed one to join the list is one John Hlavin. A writer whose most well-known credit until recently was the FX show "The Shield," Hlavin broke through in December when he landed on the Black List with a crime drama called "The Gunslinger." At about the same time, he was also hired to write a few high-profile flicks, including the new "Underworld" movie, and also sold a pitch based on the comic book "Alibi" to Summit Entertainment.

Now Hlavin is at it again. Late last week, the writer touched off a bidding war with a new pitch (harder to do than with a spec). The movie, say sources, is a heist film that also puts a romance at the center. More details as they become available, but what we do know is that, as of late Friday, DreamWorks is said to have won the rights, besting Warner Bros. and other interested studios.

Studios continue to want big franchises, but they're increasingly willing to look at up-and-coming talent to write them. That may not be the world's biggest underdog story. But given the current state of Hollywood, it's nice every now and then to see a Christensen, an Alvarez and now, a Hlavin.

--Steven Zeitchik


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An in-flight scare leads to a buzz script on the ground

March 24, 2010 |  3:36 pm

EXCLUSIVE: The path that winds from a screenwriter’s mind to a finished film at the multiplex can begin in the most unlikely of places. For Zach Dean, it started on a seemingly doomed flight.

In September 2005, Dean, a high school teacher and struggling screenwriter, was sitting on JetBlue Flight 292 from Burbank to New York when news reports on the in-flight television system informed him and 138 other passengers that the plane’s landing gear had malfunctioned, possibly preventing it from landing.

For more than two hours, he sat on the plane contemplating his mortality as it circled Southern California, burning fuel in the hopes of making a dangerous touchdown a little less risky should the aircraft catch fire. By the time it finally landed — safely — at LAX, Dean had pledged to write a script about family.

The result of that high-altitude resolution is a screenplay called “Kin,” which Dean, 35, finished last year. Although the script’s narrative suggests “A Simple Plan” or “Bonnie & Clyde” more than a feel-good family film — it’s partly about a brother and sister who commit a robbery, kill a state trooper in rural Michigan and then are forced to go on the run — it touches on the themes of love and loyalty that raced through Dean’s mind as he watched his fate play out on the in-flight video system.

“The flight solidified what I think is important, and what’s important affects what you write,” Dean says. (During the flight, he also resolved to have a child with his wife; the couple now has a 2-year-old daughter.)

In a turn sure to provide inspiration to hundreds of unknown screenwriters, “Kin” has been steadily gaining momentum in Hollywood and is now attracting some top names.

Stefan Ruzowitzky, director of the 2007 foreign-language Oscar winner, “The Counterfeiters,” has agreed to direct the film, and he and Dean have spent the last several months developing the script. Meanwhile, 2929 Productions, the film financing and production entity run by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that has been behind movies including “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Two Lovers,” has chosen the script as its point of reentry into the filmmaking business after a notable hiatus.

Continue reading »


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