The Black List – 2 June 26, 2013

When I first heard of it, I thought that The Black List was made up of amazing scripts by unknowns that were being overlooked by the studio system. By lurking around online, however, I soon realized that Leonard’s list included scripts by Aaron Sorkin and Peter Morgan that hadn’t yet been made but obviously would. The Social Network? The King’s Speech? On top of this, all of the writers seemed to be repped by jeans-jacket-shirted CAA agents. Not exactly the neglected unknown.

Franklin Leonard copyOf course, Leonard never claimed his list represented only unknown writers, only very good scripts. But as he spoke, I wondered if mistaken impressions like mine, and the widespread disappointment this engendered, eventually made Leonard branch out.

That, and his status as a self-described outsider. Okay, a doctor’s son and a Harvard graduate, but also a black kid from the American South.

The Black List is now a website that offers a script evaluation service for true unknowns, un-agented outsiders from around the world hoping to get a movie made. Send in your script, and Leonard will get you a read from an industry type. He’ll also let you post your script on his site, making it available to 1,900 carefully-selected industry insiders, from studio execs to agents’ assistants, who regularly troll the site for material.

You have to pay for this, of course. Once an agent’s assistant, a studio development executive, a member of Leonard diCaprio’s and Will Smith’s production staffs, Leonard is now working for himself on the list, as well as freelancing elsewhere. But the price he charges for evaluating and posting scripts isn’t huge.

Check it out at

Since first hearing about The Black List, I’ve periodically checked the site in search of trends. What type of scripts attract interest from Leonard’s people? When does Juno-like quirkiness give way to action? Action to adult fare? Or not.

In 2012, for instance, Based On A True Story scripts dominate the top of the list and are scattered all the way through, biopics of everyone from Hilary Rodham Clinton to Dr. Seuss to Senator Joseph McCarthy (speaking of the blacklist). As you scroll down, an interesting number of World War II scripts make the cut, along with Mexican drug war stories, although notably, the Vietnam War is, let’s say, under-represented.

News?  Leonard told our cinema full of filmmakers that The Black List is about to launch a redesigned website; stay tuned. He also said that within a couple of weeks, he hopes to announce another initiative that will address a perennially sore question I asked after his talk, one that had other female members of the audience nodding. This is the almost total absence of women from the lists, and what looks like a paucity of scripts by other non-white male writers.


To be continued…