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The Blacklist: Courting America with Amazons "Air."

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

The Blacklist" showcases unproduced screenplays considered to be some of the best in the industry. Amazon's upcoming release "Air" directed by Ben Affleck originated on the Blacklist.

The Black List is an annual survey of Hollywood executives and studio assistants, which recognizes the top unproduced scripts of the year. It was started in 2005 by Franklin Leonard, who was then a junior executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions. The survey has grown to include up to 300 executives in any given year, and the Black List now recognizes about 75 scripts. Over the years, a number of award-winning movies such as "Spotlight," "The Revenant," and "The Imitation Game" have come out of Black List scripts.


Franklin Leonard created the Black List as a tool to highlight exceptional storytelling that might otherwise be ignored by the industry, which has become highly dependent on foreign sales and thus sticks to a narrow range of films that are considered to be profitable. The Black List has since become an influential platform for promoting unconventional and exceptional screenplays and has been instrumental in bringing great stories to the forefront.

Sebastian Twardosz of Savant Artists discusses and breaks down the history of The Blacklist with Founder Franklin Leonard.


EPISODE BREAKDOWN:

00:01 Welcome to The Insiders.

00:10 Introducing Franklin Leonard.

00:30 Harvard, social studies, math, politics, and working as a business analyst.

06:00 Transitioning into Hollywood and taking a pay cut to work in the film industry.

12:00 Paramount, becoming a creative executive, finding and developing scripts, and working for Leonardo DiCaprio.

15:30 Developing a criteria for and creating the Black List.

22:10 Mirage Enterprises, and working with Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella.

24:50 Universal, working at a studio vs. a production company, and risk assessment.

28:50 Metrics of the Black List scripts, and working for Will Smith at Overbrook Entertainment.

35:10 The success of scripts that have been on the annual list and the role of the Black List.

37:30 Creating an efficient database for screenplays.

42:30 Success stories, what's next for the Black List

48:50 Finding success as a writer through ambition, and what makes a good script?

55:00 Thanks and goodbye.


The Black List acts as an accelerant, focusing Hollywood's attention on promising projects and giving them crucial momentum. The survey forces the industry to look in the mirror and acknowledge what it said it liked, and because of its success, not only do studio executives and producers take note, but now actors also go through the list and call their agents to ask for scripts that they would like to pursue.

The Black List is now a part of the industry lexicon, and the phrase means something to Hollywood. It is a testament to the power of great storytelling and proof that the industry still recognizes great stories, even if it doesn't always make them into movies with great haste. The Black List is an important and significant platform for aspiring screenwriters, directors, and filmmakers and continues to play a significant role in shaping the future of the film industry.


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What Is The Black List

Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List, is a Harvard-educated film industry veteran who has witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by aspiring screenwriters in breaking into Hollywood. Despite its reputation as a launchpad for aspiring writers, the Black List's ability to open up Hollywood to new voices is limited. Scripts must already be in the industry pipeline, handed over by an agent or manager, in order to get them in front of executives and agents who may vote on them. This closed-loop system, Leonard argues, often favors those who can afford to move to Los Angeles, network and gain the necessary industry connections to get their scripts in front of the right people.



However, Leonard is determined to change this through the Black List. He created the screenwriting service to provide an efficient mechanism for talented writers to showcase their work and get it in front of industry professionals.

For a fee, the service offers critical feedback on scripts from anonymous industry professionals who have worked as assistants in the business for at least a year. If a script performs well in its initial evaluation, the writer is given the option of a second, free evaluation. As long as the feedback remains positive, the script is entitled to further free evaluations, and the best scripts stay in circulation. Additionally, the site serves as a portal for industry professionals to search for new and well-reviewed scripts based on criteria such as budget, genre, and specific tags.

One couple, Ruckus and Lane Skye, based in Atlanta, discovered the Black List through its year-end survey and decided to use the screenwriting service after realizing the futility of trying to network in Los Angeles without representation. The reviewers on the site offered encouraging feedback on their script, and within six weeks, they received a call from a manager in Los Angeles interested in representing them. A year later, the script caught the attention of Majid Al Ansari, a director based in Abu Dhabi, who read it on the Black List website and wanted to make the film. Despite the Skyes' determination to direct the film themselves, they agreed to a deal with Al Ansari's employer, Image Nation Abu Dhabi, to buy the Arabic-language rights while retaining the English rights for themselves.


It's worth noting that not all films on the "Black List" get made and that the success of a film is not solely determined by its place on this list. However, the "Black List" is often seen as a good indicator of which screenplays are generating buzz and interest in Hollywood.


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Black List Success Stories

"The Hollywood List Everyone Wants to Be On." – The Atlantic

The "Black List" is an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood and has since become one of the most highly regarded resources for discovering new writing talent in the film industry.The list is compiled from the recommendations of over 300 film executives, including producers, agents, managers, and development executives. They nominate their favorite screenplays of the year, and the results are tallied to create the final list. Screenplays that make it onto the Black List are often highly sought after by producers and studios, and can lead to lucrative deals and high-profile productions.

Some of the most well-known films that got their start on the Black List include "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Social Network," "Argo," and "The Imitation Game."In recent years, the Black List has also expanded its reach to include television pilots, graphic novels, and other forms of storytelling. This has helped to further spotlight the work of talented writers and bring their stories to the attention of those in the industry who can help bring them to life.


Some of the projects that have originated from the Black List include:

  1. "Slumdog Millionaire" - A British-Indian drama film that went on to win several awards, including eight Oscars. The script for the film was on the 2005 Black List.

  2. "Argo" - A historical drama film that tells the story of the Iran hostage crisis and the CIA's efforts to rescue American hostages. The script for the film was on the 2006 Black List.

  3. "The Imitation Game" - A historical drama film about the life of Alan Turing and his work cracking the German Enigma code during World War II. The script for the film was on the 2008 Black List.

  4. "The Wolf of Wall Street" - This film was on the 2010 Black List and was a commercial and critical success, receiving five Oscar nominations.

  5. "Whiplash" - This film was on the 2010 Black List and went on to win three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons.

  6. "Inception" - A science fiction action film that explores the concept of dreaming and the subconscious mind. The script for the film was on the 2006 Black List.

Famous individuals who have had successful projects from the Black List include:

  1. Martin Scorsese - His film "The Wolf of Wall Street" was on the 2010 Black List.

  2. Aaron Sorkin - Writer and producer known for his work on "The West Wing," "The Social Network," and "Moneyball." Sorkin's script for "The Social Network" was on the 2009 Black List.

  3. Rian Johnson - Writer and director known for his work on "Brick," "The Brothers Bloom," and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Johnson's script for "Brick" was on the 2005 Black List.

  4. Michael Arndt - Screenwriter known for his work on "Little Miss Sunshine," "Toy Story 3," and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Arndt's script for "Little Miss Sunshine" was on the 2005 Black List.

  5. Ben Affleck - His film "Argo" was on the 2006 Black List and went on to win Best Picture.

  6. Quentin Tarantino - His film "Inglourious Basterds" was on the 2006 Black List.

  7. Aaron Sorkin - His script for "The Social Network" was on the 2009 Black List and went on to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

  8. Damien Chazelle - His film "Whiplash" was on the 2010 Black List and went on to win three Oscars.

  9. John August - Screenwriter and producer known for his work on "Go," "Big Fish," and "Charlie's Angels." August's script for "Go" was on the 1999 Black List.

Other Films you may have seen that originated on The Black List:

  1. "Juno"

  2. "The Big Short"

  3. "La La Land"

  4. "American Hustle"

  5. "The Revenant"


It's worth noting that not all films on the "Black List" get made and that the success of a film is not solely determined by its place on this list. However, the "Black List" is often seen as a good indicator of which screenplays are generating buzz and interest in Hollywood.

 

"Air: Courting A Legend" Blacklist Beginnings

Air is the upcoming sports biopic film directed by Ben Affleck and produced by Amazon Studios. The film revolves around the career-defining partnership between then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike's fledgling basketball division, which led to the creation of the iconic Air Jordan brand. The film features Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, the sports executive who signed Michael Jordan to his historic contract with Nike, and Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan, Michael's mother.

AIR reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. This moving story follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.


The film's debut trailer was released on February 9th, 2023, and it introduces the audience to the story of how Nike went from a struggling corporation to the leading sports accessory brand. The trailer features a talented ensemble cast consisting of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis.


Air is set to release in theaters on April 5th, 2023. After its theatrical run, it will become available on Amazon Prime Video. The film is eligible for awards consideration, including the Academy Awards.


Ben Affleck is no stranger to directing and producing, with several successful films under his belt, including Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo. Air marks his fifth directorial feature and his first film that is not a crime drama. The film is written by newcomer Alex Convery and co-written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.


 

The Blacklist: A Reflection of Society's Fears and Desires

In conclusion, The Black List has been instrumental in bringing great stories to the forefront of the film industry. With its annual survey highlighting exceptional storytelling, the platform provides a vital opportunity for unconventional and outstanding screenplays to be recognized and promoted. The industry has taken note of The Black List's success, making it an integral part of the film industry's lexicon. Aspiring screenwriters, directors, and filmmakers can learn from its success stories, including the highly-anticipated release "Air," directed by Ben Affleck.


It's essential to approach news and information about films with a critical eye, and "Air" is a prime example of how films can become an important piece of storytelling and cultural commentary. As filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers, we should embrace the journey and learn from "Air" and the impact it has on the film industry.


The future of filmmaking is exciting and dynamic, and "Air" and its success show that there is still a place for great storytelling and exceptional films. Share this article with your colleagues, and join the conversation about the importance of films and the impact of "Air" with the hashtags #TheBlackList #Filmmaking #SuccessStories.


 

More Info on The Blacklist


Excellent Film Resources

If you're interested in learning more about the film industry and improving your filmmaking skills, there are many excellent resources available online. Some of our favorites include the American Film Institute, the Sundance Institute, and the International Documentary Association. Additionally, many film schools and universities offer degree programs in film

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