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Getting on The Black List won't guarantee your script's success — but it can't hurt

Franklin Leonard of The Black List and The Frame host John Horn.
Franklin Leonard of The Black List and The Frame host John Horn.
Darby Maloney/KPCC

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The Black List is an annual tradition in Hollywood going back 10 years now.

If you’re not familiar, the Black List is a tally of the most popular, but un-produced scripts that were shopped around in Hollywood over the past year. The list has been a springboard for up-and-coming writers to get their work read by industry big-wigs, and a few Blacklist scripts — "Argo," "Spotlight" and "The Imitation Game," to name a few — have gone on to win Academy Awards.

But who are the people voting on these scripts? Black List founder Franklin Leonard came by today with some answers and to talk about this year’s list.

Interview Highlights: 

What it takes to be a Black List voter:

If you are an executive at a major studio, major film financier, [or] production company that's had a film in major release in the past three years, you are an eligible voter. That is roughly 600-700 executives every year, depending on the contractions and expansions of the industry. Roughly half [of them] vote. That's how we ended up with 275. 

On the diversity of Black List voters:

I think the executive corps is, generally speaking, a little more diverse than the upper echelons of Hollywood's green light committees, for example. They are less diverse than America and more diverse than the feature films that are made. 

On the ever-increasing focus on women's stories and writers who are women:

I think we're really starting to see a sea change of executives who love scripts that are either written by women or about women. I think the real material question going forward is: Will green-light decision makers make and finance these movies and give them the support in the marketplace that allows them to be successful?

On how much influence The Black List can have on a script: 

I'm always hesitant to overclaim the role that The Black List plays, for no other reason than it's self-serving and I'd rather deal with concrete evidence. Here's what I can say: Without question, a script being on the list drives a ton of attention, both to the script and the writer. A ton of people will read these scripts over the holidays who have the ability either by attaching themselves — as directors or actors or producers or as financiers or agents or whatever — to catalyze these scripts towards production ... There's tons of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the list catalyzed people's attention, but at the end of the day, no one is making a movie because it was on The Black List. They're making the movie because they read it on The Black List and they loved the script and decided they wanted to make it, or thought that they could make money by making the film. 

On Kate Hagen's Black List blog post analyzing incidents of sexual violence in spec scripts:

When you're trying to get into an industry, it is inevitable that you mirror what you see in the industry. So if the industry is making content that overwhelmingly represents a certain point of view about gender, I don't think it's terribly surprising, though it is also terribly unfortunate that people trying to write their way into the film business ape that. I've been thinking a lot recently about that. While our current president was bragging to Billy Bush about grabbing women, we had one of the most powerful men in the industry in Harvey Weinstein actually doing that. As much as Hollywood likes to pat itself on the back for being progressive ... I think we have to look at ourselves, the content that we produce, the people who we choose to make these stories and the stories we choose to tell. At a minimum, I think we're complicit in the situation that we find ourselves, if not responsible.

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