What Does The Black List Mean for Screenwriters and Hollywood?

by Ken Miyamoto on December 15, 2015

ScreenCraft would like to specifically congratulate ScreenCraft's Bahamas Screenwriters Residency Program winner John Griffin on making the 2015 Black List for his script Crater. Game of Thrones Executive Producer Vince Gerardis recently spoke with Variety while announcing his The 4th Kingdom drama, detailing the fun he had as a mentor working with writers like Griffin and other at the ScreenCraft and Bahamas International Film Festival event. Congratulations John!

Each year, on the second Friday of December, most of the world is shopping, travelling, and working longer hours to ready for the upcoming holiday vacation and approaching New Year.

But in Hollywood, the powers that be are awaiting a special announcement — a tried and true Hollywood December tradition dating back to 2004. In partnership with Franklin Leonard, the list's creator, Hollywood development executives create and announce The Black List — their official list of the most liked scripts on the market. 

The Black List is compiled from the suggestions of over 250 film executives, each of whom contributed the names of up to ten of his or her favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2015 and will not have begun principal photography during this calendar year.

This year, scripts had to receive at least six mentions to be included on the Black List. It has been said many times, but it’s worth repeating: The Black List is not a “best of” list. It is, at best, a “most liked” list.

This year's Golden Globe nominees, and likely Oscar contenders, The Revenant and Spotlight, started as Black List scripts. Other recent Black List selections like Argo, The King’s Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire all went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. 

Last year’s top selection, Kristina Lauren Anderson’s Catherine the Great just recently saw Barbra Streisand sign on to direct.

But what does it mean for screenwriters and Hollywood as a whole?


For Hollywood, the period of weeks leading up to the announcement is often like a political campaign. Agents and managers push their hottest scripts, hoping to get that coveted selection once The Black List is being finalized. It's not uncommon for representation to actively campaign certain scripts. Not necessarily for purchase or packaging — although that's always the final goal — but just to get on this annual list.

Why? Having a script on The Black List is a badge of honor and an amazing selling tool. One could even call it bragging rights utilized by agencies and management companies. Soon after the list is announced, statistics begin to pop up throughout the Hollywood trades detailing which companies have the most Black List scripts under their wing.

This year, on the management company end, Madhouse Entertainment came out on top with 9 of their scripts under representation appearing on the list. Grandview was a close second with 8, with Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment in third with 7 — read the full breakdown HERE.

The Agency Breakdown showcases WME and CAA tied for first with 15.5, UTA in second with 14, and Paradigm in third with 8.

But what does it mean for them? Business as usual, but with more ammo to take to the table when negotiating with studios and talent to get the films made. At least for those that haven't garnered deals already. 


For screenwriters, The Black List is a mixed bag.

On one hand, if you find yourself and your script on The Black List, it can be a career-defining moment. It's a badge of honor that screenwriters and their representation can use for every future script and for the script that was named, it can open many more doors if a deal hasn't been made yet.  

On the other hand, it means little to nothing for screenwriters that don't have representation and are trying to break through the Hollywood walls. What many forget is that The Black List does not represent the best undiscovered screenplays. The scripts that are named and the writers that have written them have already been discovered and shopped thoroughly enough in Hollywood to receive the six mentions needed to be eligible. In fact, many of the unproduced scripts on that list are likely already packaged to a certain extent. Some even likely have production deals in place. They just haven't been produced yet.  

So the list, while showcasing much merit within Hollywood, does little to represent the true undiscovered talent that is out there. With all due respect to the screenwriters that made the list (congratulations!), they've already been fortunate enough to acquire the coveted representation and momentum that so many others strive for each and every week, month, and year. 

The Black List thus proves that it's less about discovering new talent and more about what is in development within the film industry. 

Some screenwriters on the list have seen more success than others within it, so there's no denying the impact it can have on those screenwriters lucky enough to be named, but wouldn't it be nice to see a list of undiscovered talent down the road, based primarily on submissions from writers with no representation? How amazing would it be to be named on such a list? 

Regardless, the impact of The Black List, whether it's merely for positioning, stature, or bragging rights, is still ever strong throughout Hollywood. 

So without further ado, we present to you, the scripts and writers named on the 2015 Black List. We showcase the Top Ten, complete with loglines, and then list the rest of the scripts. 81 total scripts were selected. Be sure to read the closing statement that we offer, in hopes of undiscovered talent being able to use this list to their advantage.

1. Bubbles by Isaac Adamson
A baby chimp is adopted by the pop star Michael Jackson. Narrating his own story, Bubbles the Chimp details his life within The King of Pop’s inner circle through the scandals that later rocked Jackson’s life and eventually led to Bubbles’ release.

2. Stronger by John Pollono and Scott Silver
The true story of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and became an integral part of helping the police locate the Tsarnaev brothers.

3. The Libertine by Ben Kopit
After the Head of the French National Assembly is placed under house arrest for accusations of sexual assault, he must live in a guarded apartment with his estranged wife until the case comes to a close.

4. Rocket* by Jeffrey Gelber and Ryan Belenzon
Roger “The Rocket” Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, has 4,672 strikeouts, 354 wins and a record 7 Cy Young awards. This is the story of why he is not in the Hall of Fame.

5. Crater by John J. Griffin
On the moon, five teens take an unauthorized and adventure-filled road trip just before one of them is to be sent away on a seventy-five year journey to another planet, leaving behind his best friends.

6. Miss Sloane by Jonny Perera
A powerful lobbyist sacrifices her career on Capitol Hill so she can push through an amendment enforcing stricter federal laws regulating guns. 

7. True Fan by John Whittington
After interfering with a foul ball during a Chicago Cubs playoff game, Steve Bartman was tortured and stalked by die hard Cub fans for potentially costing them their first National League pennant since 1945. Years later, in a new town with a new identity— but depressed, overweight and working a dead end job — Steve meets a woman who gives him a new lease on life and reason to live.

8. Pale Blue Dot by Brian C Brown and Elliot DiGuisseppi
Twelve months after returning from a space mission, decorated astronaut Laura Pepper is arrested for the attempted murder of a fellow astronaut.

9. Reagan by Mike Rosolio
When Ronald Reagan falls into dementia at the start of his second term, an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.

10 (tie). Bump by Ori Guendelman and Rob McClelland
After an accidental hit and run, a young lawyer’s entire life unravels over the span of one night as he attempts to dispose of a corpse that turns out to be way more than an innocent victim.

Eli by David Chirchirillo
Having moved into a “clean house” to treat his auto-immune disorder, eleven-year-old Eli begins to believe that the house is haunted. Unable to leave, Eli soon realizes that the house, and the doctor who runs it, are more sinister than they appear.

The Rest

An African Western by Chloe Castellon and Ridgeway Wilson

Queen of the Air by Cat Vasko

The Canyon by Alex Koplow

The Fisherman by Will Dunn

Crimson Trail by Jeremy Shipp

105 and Rising by Andrew Cypiot

Landslide by Will Staples and Tony Camerino

Preconception by Jake Morse and Scott Wolman

Bed Rest by Lori Evans Taylor

Salem by Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard

Blackfriars by Chris Bremner

Carnival by Matias Caruso

Dreamland by Nicolaas Zwart

Cut and Run by Zoe McCarthy

Pandemonium, Splendidly Managed by Brett Conrad              

Morningstar by David Birke

The Wretched Emily Derringer by Chris Thomas Devlin

Boy by Mattson Tomlin

Treasure Island by James Coyne

I Believe In America by Terry Clyne

Star One by David Coggeshall

Wish Upon by Barbara Marshall

Septillion to One by Adam Perlman and Graham Sack

Mayday 109 by Samuel V Franco and Evan Kilgore

Our Week With Waller by Shea Mirzai and Evan Mirzai

Boomtown by Matt King

Castle Drive by Matthew Scott Weiner

Circle of Treason by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel

Militia by Henry Dunham

Free Agent by Sam Regnier

Bare Knuckle by Dave Matillo

Verona by Neil Widener and Gavin James

All The Money In The World by David Scarpa

Green River Killer by Michael Sheen

The Set Up by Kari Granlund

Great Falls by Andy Friedhof

Atlantic Wall by Zach Dean

Francis and the Godfather by Andrew Farotte

Crook County by Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet

Do Not Harm by Julia Cox

Resurface by Pete Bridges

Songs of Treblinka by Viorica Blan

Hammerspace by Mike Van Waes

The Boy by Owen Egerton

Untitled Sociopath Project by Topher Rhys-Lawrence

The Virginian by Michael Russell Gunn

Labyrinth by Christian Contreras

The Burning Woman by Brad Ingelsby

Ares by Geneva Robertson-Dworet

Lou by Maggie McGowan Cohn

Nyad by Robert Specland

The Shave by Thomas White and Miles Hubley

A Speck In The Sea by Jeff Pope

Final Journey by Michael Lee Barlin

Hunting Eichmann by Matthew Orton

Senior Year by Andrew Knauer and Arthur Pielli

A Life Fantastic by Natalie Antoci

Homegrown by Jacques Edeline

Three Months by Jared Frieder

Set It Up by Katie Silberman

White Boy Rick by Logan Miller and Noah Miller

Tomorrow On The Runway by Frederick Seton

Untitled Larry Hillblom Project by Matt Portenoy

Spring Offensive by Matthew McInerney-Lacombe

Damsel by Bryan McMullin

Battle of New Orleans by Dan Kunka

Move That Body by Lucia Aniello and Paul W Downs

The Water Man by Emma Needell

Chappaquiddick by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan

Ida Tarbell by Mark McDevitt

Be sure to check out the official 2015 Black List, which details the loglines for each, the number of mentions, as well as the writers and their representation, which can be an excellent tool to use, along with IMDBPro, for the marketing of your own scripts. When doing so, be sure to to do your best to Write the Perfect Query Letter for Your Scripts. This list can be utilized with great success for screenwriters that have yet to procure representation. Use it to learn who the movers and the shakers are within the film industry. Notice what type of screenplays they seek out. Use all of that information to make a push for you and your future scripts to perhaps one day be named on that second Friday of December. 

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