Analysis: 2013 Black List

December 17th, 2013 by

The 2013 Black List rolled out yesterday – you can find titles, writers and loglines for all 72 scripts here — and as promised, today we have some statistics and analysis for you.

First some interesting stats about this year’s Black List:

• There are 72 scripts on the 2013 Black List. (There were 78 on the 2012 Black List)
• More than 250 working film executives at major Hollywood financiers and production companies contributed to the 2013 Black List.
• 33.3% of the scripts on the 2013 Black List have a financier attached. (37.1% on the2012 Black List)
• 68.0% of the scripts on the 2013 Black List have a producer attached. (69.2% on the2012 Black List)
• 13 female writers (unconfirmed)
• 11 biopics
• 8 scripts with explicitly politically-charged content
• 5 scripts about Hollywood or the entertainment industry
• 5 scripts by writers discovered by the Black List’s website (http://www.blcklst.com)
• 5 writers with scripts on previous Black Lists
• 3 scripts featuring terminally-ill teenagers
• 2 scripts about Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame
• 2 scripts about the making of JAWS
• 2 winners of the 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowship
• 1 script about Stanley Kubrick faking the moon landing
• 1 writer with two scripts on the list

Drilling down into the scripts:

1 writer with two scripts on the list: Elijah Bynum – HOT SUMMER NIGHTS, MISSISSIPPI MUD

1 script about Stanley Kubrick faking the moon landing: 1969: SPACE ODYSSEY OR HOW KUBRICK LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LAND ON THE MOON by Stephany Folsom

2 winners of the 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowship: QUEEN OF HEARTS by Stephanie Shannon; SUGAR IN MY VEINS by Barbara Stepansky (Note: I have interview both Stephanie and Barbara, so you may look forward to those in 2014).

2 scripts about the making of the film JAWS: THE MAYOR OF SHARK CITY by Nick Creature, Michael Sweeney; THE SHARK IS NOT WORKING by Richard Cordiner

2 scripts about Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighorhood fame: BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD by Alexis C. Jolly; I’M PROUD OF YOU by Noah Harpster, MicahFitzerman-Blue

3 scripts featuring terminally ill teenagers: FRISCO by Simon Stephenson; MAKE WISH by Zach Frankel; SHOVEL BUDDIES by Jason Mark Hellerman

4 writers (or teams) with scripts on previous Black Lists: BURY THE LEAD by Justin Kremer; DIABLO RUN by Evan Mirzai, Shea Mirzai; SEA OF TREES by Chris Sparling; TCHAIKOVSKY’S REQUIEM by Jonathan Stokes

5 scripts by writers discovered by the Black List’s website (http://www.blcklst.com): BROKEN COVE by Declan
O’Dwyer; BURY THE LEAD by Justin Kremer; MAKE WISH by Zac Frankel; SHOVEL BUDDIES by Jason Mark Hellerman; THE SHARK IS NOT WORKING by Richard Cordiner

5 scripts about Hollywood or the entertainment industry: THE MAYOR OF SHARK CITY by Nick Creature, Michael Sweeney; 1969: SPACE ODYSSEY OR HOW KUBRICK LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LAND ON THE MOON by Stephany Folsom; BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD by Alexis C. Jolly; I’M PROUD OF YOU by Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue; THE SHARK IS NOT WORKING by Richard Cordiner

8 scripts with explicitly politically charged content: SECTION 6 by Aaron Berg; THE SPECIAL PROGRAM by Debora Cahn; THE INDEPENDENT by Evan Parter; 1969: SPACE ODYSSEY OR HOW KUBRICK LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LAND ON THE MOON by Stephany Folsom; THE COMPANY MAN by Andrew Cypiot; RANDLE IS BENIGN by Damien Ober; THE POLITICIAN by Matthew Bass and Theodore Bressman; TIME & TEMPERATURE by Nick Santora

Some analysis:

* The biopic trend is pretty fascinating. Most of these are not a traditional biopic wherein the movie covered the entire span of a character’s life, rather they are what have come to be called snapshots or as Arash Amel, who wrote Grace of Monaco refers to them, “portraits” (see my interview with Arash here). The idea is to take a compressed period of time in a character’s life and use those narrow set of events as a lens through which to tell — in effect — their life story or at least some essential part. We saw this with The King’s Speech, Lincoln, Jackie, and it makes sense given contemporary audiences who appear to have decreasing attention spans.

But that doesn’t explain why biopics – snapshot, portrait or otherwise – have become so popular. One contributing factor: Hollywood is obsessed with pre-branded content and if you write a story about a well-known historical figure, they are in essence pre-branded.

Will this trend continue? Who knows. I doubt biopics will ever go away entirely as we are always fascinated with the contours of famous people’s lives.

* The relatively high number of political movies is surprising as it’s long been a part of Hollywood’s supposed conventional wisdom: Political movies are a tough sell. Perhaps the current discontent with the gridlock in Washington and the political arena in general has created a vacuum in the consumer marketplace, where we want to see movies either satirizing politicians or something to give us at least a shred of hope things can improve.

* Another piece of conventional wisdom — movies about Hollywood are a hard sell — took a bit of an uppercut with 5 scripts featuring the Biz and/or filmmaking process. My pet theory: Reality TV where even the lowest common denominator of human being can be the star of a series has lowered the bar to stardom, so contemporary audiences may engage in more wish fulfillment fantasies of imagining themselves on the silver screen. The rise of smart phones with built-in cameras so people may film themselves at concerts – instead of watching the concert – or taking selfies is a contributing factor. Or this line of thinking could just be full of crap.

* Why two scripts about the making of Jaws? Why two scripts about Mr. Rogers? In 2013? If this doesn’t prove Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, I don’t know what else would.

* While many of the scripts on the list seem decidedly low-concept, there are plenty of high-concept stories with the ‘winning’ logline on that front probably being for “Clarity”: What if the world woke up tomorrow to scientific proof of the afterlife? As I always preach, the two most powerful words in the idea generation process are these: What if? “Clarity” and some of the other Black List scripts prove that point once again.

* While 13 female writers is still awfully low, if my math is correct, that means 18% of the scripts on this year’s Black List had at least one female as a writer which is precisely twice as high as the 9% total of women who sold spec scripts in 2011-2012. Add to that the fact 3 of the 5 Nicholl Fellowship scripts were written by women, 2 of which made the Black List. Plus the just-announced Sundance Screenwriters Lab which selected 7 females out of 12 total writers. An aberration? Start of a trend upward? Time will tell. But fingers crossed there will be more diversity among writers. Be the change!

More stats!

AGENCY AND MANAGEMENT COMPANY INFORMATION

(Half scripts indicated a writing team shared by two agencies or management companies)

Agencies

CAA – 16.5, WME – 16.5
UTA – 10
Verve – 7
APA – 4.5
Paradigm – 4
ICM – 3
Gersh – 1.5
Original Artists – 1, Resolution – 1, Rothman Brecher – 1, Michelle Kass Associates – 1

No Agency – 5

Management Companies

Kaplan/Perrone – 9
Madhouse Entertainment – 5
Fourth Floor Productions – 4
Energy Entertainment – 3
Management 360 – 3
Anonymous Content – 2.5, Principato-Young – 2.5
Benderspink – 2, Caliber Media – 2, Echo Lake Entertainment – 2, Generate – 2, Industry Entertainment – 2, Management SGC – 2, Mosaic – 2, Oasis Media Group – 2
3 Arts Entertainment – 1, Apostle Pictures – 1, Brillstein Entertainment Partners – 1, Heroes & Villains Entertainment – 1, Hertzberg Media – 1, Hopscotch Pictures – 1, Luber Roklin Entertainment – 1, New Wave Entertainment – 1, Prolific – 1, Silent R Management – 1, The Gotham Group – 1, Underground – 1, Unified Management – 1, Untitled Entertainment – 1, Zero Gravity Management – 1, Circle of Confusion – 0.5

No Manager – 10

There you have it: Another annual Black List put to bed. But for the writers who made the List this year, it’s up and at ‘em time, a whole slew of meetings on Hollywood’s perpetual bottled water tour in the offing… only now these writers will be perceived as having a lot more heat than before. That’s the power of the Black List.

Industry news coverage of the 2013 Black List:

Deadline

The Dissolve

Entertainment Weekly

Hollywood Reporter

Indiewire [Playlist]

Indiewire [Thompson on Hollywood]

Los Angeles Times

New York Times [Carpetbagger]

Slashfilm

Variety

TheWrap

And others:

Business Insider

CBC

Collider

Film School Rejects

io9

Latino Review

Mother Jones

Script Magazine

Slate

The Film Stage

The Wire

Vulture

My interviews with writers on the 2013 Black List:

Spenser Cohen

Justin Kremer

Declan O’Dwyer

Chris Sparling

As I say, I have already interviewed Stephanie Shannon and Barbara Stepansky, and I’ve got a bunch more in the works with this year’s Black List writers, so we can all look forward to their insights and inspiration in 2014!

And a few words from Franklin Leonard:

Visit The Black Board, the official online community of the Black List and Go Into The Story. Overseen by super moderator Shaula Evans flanked by a great group of other moderators, it is an incredible resource which sprung from this blog, very much in the spirit and tone of Go Into The Story and perhaps best of all, it’s free! Check it out!

7 thoughts on “Analysis: 2013 Black List

  1. […] • There are 72 scripts on the 2013 Black List. (There were 78 on the 2012 Black List) • More than 250 working film executives at major Hollywood financiers and production companies contributed to the 2013 Black List. • 33.3% of the scripts on the 2013 Black List have a financier attached. (37.1% on the2012 Black List) • 68.0% of the …read more […]

  2. Debbie Moon says:

    Okay, devil’s advocate moment – so familiarity sells, then? “I’ve heard of that real-life central character, I’ll read/buy the script.” “This movie’s about Hollywood/familiar TV shows, I’ll read/buy that script.”

    Which, of course, carries the danger of constantly reinforcing a narrow spectrum of experience: “This movie will play to people with my life experience and cultural references, which makes it good!”

    1. Scott says:

      Debbie, that’s one of the things that’s so interesting about the Black List. Every year, there are these bizarre scripts that make the cut. Jaws? Mr. Rogers? Stanley Kubrick conspiracy theory?

      What that says to me is, yes, there is an audience out there for mainstream commercial high concept stuff.

      But there is also an audience that wants NEW and ORIGINAL.

      No shame for a writer to be working in one or the other.

      Story is story.

      But be aware of who that target audience is.

  3. John Arends says:

    Couldn’t agree more with both of you, Debbie and Scott. It’s an odd and maddening conundrum that Hollywood studios court a wider global audience with product that appeals to an increasingly narrow spectrum of experience.

    Only Frank John Hughes’ POX AMERICANA, on the list of 72 scripts, comes close to being about the experiences of people of color. That’s why we need a whole lot more of Sundance Screenwriter’s Labs going on. And why Franklin’s initiative to create opportunities for diverse voices within Warner Bros and other studios is so vital.

    1. Scott says:

      Concur, John. Do my own little part on that front. For example, The Quest Initiative in 2013 featured 6 writers, 3 of whom are women. It’s heartening to see things like Julie Bush get dubbed to adapt the next Bourne project: A woman writing action. Who’da thunk?!?!

      There’s no scientific way of proving this, but I BELIEVE the greater diversity of voices, the better the movies.

  4. Ambrose says:

    Scott,
    First off, thanks for all of the work you do regarding GITS.
    I always read your new posts first thing in the morning and then throughout the day.

    The one suggestion/complaint I have with The Black List is that each script doesn’t include its genre.

    Some of the descriptions are pretty evident but others are not.
    Subject matter can be treated seriously or comedically and reading a synopsis doesn’t always illuminate which way the writer went.

    Also, the list is broken down many different ways (by agencies, managers, etc.) by different media outlets but I haven’t seen any of them break the Black List down by genres: how many comedies were on the list, dramas, sci-fi entries, etc.

    I think that would make it better for, primarily, writers, but also other industry people, to easily see what was popular this year with readers.

    So I suggest that Franklin also include the genre with each script synopsis, and also include a genre breakdown list.

    1. Scott says:

      Ambrose, that is a good suggestion and I will forward to Franklin.

      Of course, the challenge is figuring out what genre some scripts are. I’m running into this with an analysis of spec script sales from 1991 to present as a lot of scripts have three, even four genres listed.

      With The Black List, this is also an issue because some of the stories are [often] so unusual. How to categorize them?

      But even if they used multiple genres as tags, your point is quite valid, I think.

      Thanks for it!

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