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New York University’s Black List-inspired annual selection of the best production-ready screenplays from its Tisch School of the Arts graduate film students and recent alumni, known as The Purple List, has revealed its 2020 picks.
The four screenplays, selected by a panel of industry professionals, are Hound, Mirror Lake, Mustache and Skin of Youth.
Hound, by Lisa Duva, is a horror-comedy about a female werewolf.
“I love genre fiction and I’ve often wondered why werewolves are almost always men — why would a story about turning into a bloody beast once a month be a metaphor for masculinity?” Duva said in a statement, explaining that the screenplay comes from frustrating personal experiences as a woman. “If I make myself small and agreeable, I’m weak; if I assert myself and have confidence, I’m a bitch.? I kept circling back to experiences of sexual harassment and unwanted objectification, and I absolutely hated part of myself for taking it all with a smile. All of that anger bubbled up inside me and I found my dog-woman turning into a real beast.”
Mirror Lake, by Anthony Saxe, is a character-driven drama, set in Lake Placid, New York, exploring male friendship and addiction. The film centers around an injured former athlete who returns to his hometown, where his addictions lead to a growing tension that threatens his best friend’s relationship with an immigrant hotel maid.
Mustache, a largely autobiographical coming-of-age story by Imran J. Khan, follows an eccentric 14-year-old boy from a conservative Pakistani American household adapting to public school in California. “It’s always been virtually impossible for me to explain the nuances of where my culture, religion, and identity meet, but this film is an honest attempt at it,” Khan said in a statement. “It’s the film I wish I could have shown my peers growing up; it’s the film I wish existed, period.”
Skin of Youth, by Ash Mayfair in her second Purple List appearance after 2015 selection The Third Wife, is the tale of a turbulent romance between a transgender sex worker and a Saigon cage fighter in 1998. The film also explores personal and political freedom.
“In the nineties, Communist Vietnam opened up when the U.S. lifted the trade embargo on the country,” Mayfair said in a statement. “Overnight Saigon changed into an exciting new world where films, fashion, money and music poured in from the West bringing with them the promises of sexual and personal liberation. Vietnamese youths like myself were able to see examples of freedom everywhere, and yet we were not allowed to embrace and live it in our own reality.”
The Purple List this year also announced its partnerships with female filmmakers initiative Breaking Through the Lens and Buffalo 8, which is offering the winning screenplays a shooting schedule, budget and project review for market analysis and financial consideration.
BTTL will help Purple List-selected female directors connect with those in the industry who can help bring their scripts to the screen and those filmmakers will be able to pitch their projects at the next BTTL event.
This year’s Purple List selection panel included producers, screenwriters, casting directors, writers and editors from Searchlight Pictures, Netflix, Sundance Labs and other film organizations.
Purple List alumni include Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs, Birds of Prey), Chloe Zhao (Songs My Brothers Taught Me, The Rider) and Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior, The Miseducation of Cameron Post).
Thirteen Purple List screenplays have become finished films, 12 of which were released theatrically, including the following titles: The Adderall Diaries, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Appropriate Behavior, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Rider, Manos Sucias, Those People, Yosemite and Newlyweeds.
This year’s Purple List selections join a diverse group. Over its nine editions, 25 of the 41 Purple List screenwriters are women; 22 are from black, Asian or other minority ethnic backgrounds; and seven identify as LGBTQ or have LGBTQ themes in their screenplays. The list was founded in 2012 by classmates Ashim Bhalla and Shandor Garrison.
“Historically, we’ve seen a significant lack of female and minority characters on the screen, even though there’s no shortage of compelling narratives from underrepresented storytellers. NYU Purple List is proof of that,” Bhalla said in a statement. “But independent films need financing and support from producers, agents, managers, and actors to get made. And while progress has been made in recent years, much more work needs to be done. We know that representation on screen improves when there are more opportunities for diverse filmmakers to work behind the camera, which is why we’re working with an amazing panel of industry judges, the Black List, Buffalo 8, and Breaking Through the Lens to help bring these incredible scripts to life — these are industry players truly committed to real progress.”
Added Purple List faculty adviser and Tisch associate arts professor John Tintori: “These are four beautifully crafted screenplays that captivated our industry judges, who are seeking fresh stories and were so excited to meet the filmmakers behind the scripts. The Grad Film program has a reputation for cultivating individual and diverse voices that define the film marketplace, rather than the other way around, and when you look at our graduates, it’s clear they’re shaping the future of American and world cinema.”
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