Lots of political ink on Black List
EmptyPolitical films may be tanking at the boxoffice, but execs continue to salivate over the genre, according to a ranking of hot scripts making the rounds at Hollywood agencies.
On Friday, the annual Black List, compiled by production exec Franklin Leonard, was released, with a notable trend: Political films are still big.
The top two scripts on the list, and five of the top six scripts, are political in nature. Danny Strong's HBO Films election drama "Recount" came in at No. 1, and Beau Willimon's political thriller about a politician's communication director "Farragut North," which has been plucked by Warner Bros., finished at No. 2.
The Black List polls about 150 development execs and other officials for their favorite scripts that won't be produced and released in the next year, then ranks them according to the greatest number of mentions. "Recount" turned up on an the lists of an overwhelming 44 execs.
One part popularity contest and one part tip sheet, the Black List has in its three years of existence become an essential tool for determining the state of the script business.
It also provides a kind of zeitgeist barometer, indicating what types of projects and scribes are currently in vogue. This year's list suggests that political themes continue to offer extensive fodder for drama even as the potential for boxoffice remains limited. The sixth-most-popular script was the most topical of all; occupying the slot was Steve Knight's "Curveball," a Focus Features project about false intelligence information in Iraq.
More than 40 scripts on this year's list were cited by at least five development execs, and more than 100 got at least two mentions, the minimum required for a spot on the Black List.
It's impossible to lobby for a spot on the list, but agents and studios wait with bated breath to see if their clients or scripts make the cut.
And the list tends either to predict or reinforce success. This year, Leonard cited current releases "Juno" and "Lars and the Real Girl" as previous top-five finishers.
Many of the highest-ranked scripts on the list, including "Recount," Farragut" and the IRA drama "Infiltrator" by Josh Zetumer," which has been bought by Warner Bros., have been snapped up.
But several popular scripts remain available. The third-most-liked script is a sci-fi tale called "Passengers" from Jon Spaihts which, according to its logline, involves a passenger on a spaceship who is awakened from a cryogenic slumber. Keanu Reeves in on board to produce.
The fifth-most-popular script also is available; the project, titled "Selma" and penned by Paul Webb, is a historical drama about Martin Luther King Jr., Lyndon B. Johnson and the civil rights movement.
Other available scripts to make the top 10 are the youth-oriented comedy "I want to F--- Your Sister" from Melissa Stack, about a cad who tried to protect his sister form other cads; and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash's coming-of-age tale "The Way Back."
Of course, with the strike still raging, it's unlikely writers will be peddling these scripts anytime soon (the introduction to the Black List endorses the writers' cause). But the strike won't stop the list from being passed around -- and gloated about.
"You can live without having a client on it, but once you do, it immediately becomes part of your pitch," one agent said.