More Scripts

If it is awards season, then there are more scripts being released. In this stack is the story of financial malpractice, The Big Short; sports malpractice in Concussion; perhaps singing malpractice in Danny Collins, depending on your view of the warblings of Al Pacino; sublime chessery and rampant paranoia in Pawn Sacrifice and Blythe Danner ‘s multiple dating in I’ll See You In My Dreams.

The Big Short, screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, based on the book The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

Concussion, by Peter Landesman

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Danny Collins, by Dan Fogelman

Pawn Sacrifice, screenplay by Steven Knight, story by Stephen J Rivele & Christopher Wilkinson and Steven Knight

I’ll See You in My Dreams, by Brett Haley & Marc Basch

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How Many Votes Does It Take To Get An Oscar Nomination?

From The Wrap: By Steve Pond

Oscars voting begins on Wednesday and runs for 10 days, until Jan. 8, with almost 6,300 voters eligible to cast ballots for the 88th Academy Awards.

But don’t worry, awards contenders: You don’t need anywhere near that many votes to land a nomination.

In fact, one of those coveted Oscars slots can be yours for as few as 20 votes — if you’re a costume designer. The only Academy Award categories in which you’ll need more than 100 votes for a nomination are Best Picture and the four acting categories.

Mind you, we’re talking about first-place votes here. Most Oscar categories are nominated using a preferential balloting system; voters rank their five favorites in order of preference, but their vote really only goes to the film ranked first on their ballot, unless that film has either secured a nomination or been eliminated from contention.

Because almost all Oscars nominations are determined by voters from a specific branch of the Academy, and because AMPAS is pretty particular about whom they let into those branches, the numbers that’ll land you a nomination are in many cases surprisingly low.

The basic rule is that you take the number of ballots cast in any category, divide by the number of nomination slots available plus one (usually 5+1=6), and round up to the next largest whole number; that’ll give you a vote count that guarantees you’ll be nominated.

Here’s the current Oscars math, based on the Academy’s branch counts for this voting year.

Because almost all Oscars nominations are determined by voters from a specific branch of the Academy, and because AMPAS is pretty particular about whom they let into those branches, the numbers that’ll land you a nomination are in many cases surprisingly low.

The basic rule is that you take the number of ballots cast in any category, divide by the number of nomination slots available plus one (usually 5+1=6), and round up to the next largest whole number; that’ll give you a vote count that guarantees you’ll be nominated.

Here’s the current Oscars math, based on the Academy’s branch counts for this voting year.

BEST PICTURE
This year, says AMPAS, 6,291 members are eligible to cast ballots. If they all vote — we know they won’t, but the accountants and the Academy say participation is very high — it would take 571 first-place votes to secure a Best Picture nomination after the initial round of counting.

But the process then uses the so-called “surplus rule” to reallocate ballots for films that had significantly more support than they needed, and it redistributes the ballots of voters whose first choices receive fewer than 62 votes to their second (or third, or fourth…) choices.

At the end of that redistribution (again, assuming full participation), any film with more than 5 percent of the votes, which equals 315 votes, would be a nominee.

BEST DIRECTOR
The Directors Branch currently contains 394 members, which means the magic number for a nomination is 66 first-place votes.

ACTING AWARDS
Although its membership has fallen slightly for three consecutive years, the Actors Branch remains by far the largest of the Academy’s branches. If all of its 1,138 voting members participate, it’ll take 190 votes to secure a Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress nod.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
There’s no magic number in this category. Nomination voting is done by volunteer members of the Animated Feature Film Award Screening Committees, a group whose membership is typically a mixture drawn from the 401 members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch and others from across the Academy.

Members of the committees must see 66 percent of the eligible films — this year, 11 out of 16 — and score each film on a scale of 6 to 10. The movies with the five highest scores are nominated, provided they each average at least 7.5.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
With 227 branch members, it’ll take 38 votes for a nomination.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Costume Designers Branch, which in recent years split off from the Designers Branch, is made up of 115 members. If 20 of them put you first on their ballot, you’re in.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
With a 278-member branch, the magic number is 47.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
A first round of voting narrowed the field from 124 eligible films to a 15-film shortlist. A second round will narrow the 15 films down to five nominees. If everyone in the 237-member branch votes in this second round, the magic number is 40.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Unlike the doc-feature category, the doc-short category still uses committees within the Documentary Branch to score the contenders and narrow the field to 10. Members of the branch are then eligible to vote for the nominees using the preferential system, which would make the magic number 40 if they all voted. (Which is unlikely.)

BEST FILM EDITING
The branch contains 254 members, so the number is 43.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
There is no specific branch governing this category; instead, volunteers from all branches of the Academy (the “general committee”) participate in a first round of voting that helps narrow the field down to nine shortlisted films.

The weekend before Oscar nominations, the shortlist will be narrowed to five nominees by 10 randomly chosen members of the general committee and 30 hand-picked Academy members in Los Angeles, New York and London, who will view all of the shortlisted films and vote.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Members of the branch who can attend a meeting have already narrowed the field down to seven. (At least 15 voters must have attended the meeting.)

On Jan. 9, a screening will be held of 10-minute excerpts from the seven shortlisted films. At the screening, all members of the branch who have seen all seven of the films will receive ballots and vote for three films, in order of preference; members who cannot attend the “bakeoff” but who have seen all the shortlisted films can also request ballots.

If all 141 members have seen all seven shortlisted films and opt to vote, which seems highly unlikely, the magic number would be 24.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE, BEST ORIGINAL SONG
The Music Branch is made up of 257 members, so 43 of them are enough to guarantee a nomination for songs or scores. (Members of the branch will also receive a DVD containing three-minute clips of each of the eligible songs, and they’re asked to view those clips before voting.)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT, BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Volunteers from the 401-member Short Films and Feature Animation branch have selected 10-film shortlists in the two categories. Members of the branch who see all the shortlisted films are eligible to score each film on a scale of six to 10, with the top five films scoring higher than 7.5 becoming nominees.

If fewer than five films score that highly, the category can have as few as three nominees.

BEST SOUND EDITING, BEST SOUND MIXING
The 437-member Sound Branch is the second-biggest among the branches that nominate their own awards. (The Executives and Producers Branches are bigger, with 458 and 483 members, respectively, but their members only vote to nominate Best Picture.)
The magic number for the two sound awards is 73.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The 359-member Visual Effects Branch’s executive committee determined a 10-film shortlist, and all members of the branch are now invited to a Jan. 9 screening of excerpts from the shortlisted films, followed by a discussion with the visual effects artists responsible. At that screening, the 10 shortlisted films will be narrowed to five nominees using preferential voting.

If every single member of the branch happens to be in town and comes to the Academy for the screening, the number would be 57. But they won’t be, so the real number will be a lot lower.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Writers Branch has 392 members, which makes the magic number for writing awards 66.

We’ll know how all the math played out on Jan. 14, when nominations for the 88th Academy Awards are announced.

The Hateful Eight Script – Legally Available For Your Consumption

Last year a version of this script leaked, upsetting Quentin Tarantino so much that he swore he would not make the film. He did. Released yesterday (Happy Boxing Day everyone), it is garnering mixed reviews (certified fresh at 75% by Rotten Tomatoes and 70% at Metacritic) in its 70mm “Roadshow” Edition.

With the film finally in theaters, Tarantino has officially released the screenplay for award consideration.

 

The Hateful Eight, by Quentin Tarantino

The Actual Black List

Black List 2015 Scripts Full List

Bubbles screenplay Michael Jackson winner Black List 2015

BUBBLES by Isaac Adamson- 44
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.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENT: Joe Mann
MANAGEMENT: Lee Stobby Entertainment
MANAGER: Lee Stobby

STRONGER by John Pollono, Scott Silver- 40
The true story of Jeff Bauman, who after losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, was an integral part of helping police to locate the suspects.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Joe Mann, Ali Trustman
MANAGEMENT: Underground
MANAGER: Noah Rothman
PRODUCERS: Mandeville, Scott Silver
FINANCIER: Lionsgate

THE LIBERTINE by Ben Kopit- 37
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.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Roger Green, Sarah Self
MANAGEMENT: Mindframe Films & Management
MANAGER: Jesse Silver
PRODUCER: Whalerock Industries
FINANCIER: Warner Bros

ROCKET* by Jeffrey Gelber, Ryan Belenzon- 37
Roger “The Rocket” Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, has 4672 strikeouts, 354 wins and a record 7 Cy Young awards. This is the story of why he is not in the Hall of Fame.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Craig Brody, Ida Ziniti
MANAGEMENT: Grandview
MANAGER: Jeff Silver
PRODUCER: Black Bear Pictures
FINANCIER: Black Bear

CRATER by John J. Griffin- 34
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.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Holly Jeter, Chris Slager
MANAGEMENT: Kevin Donahue Literary Management
MANAGERS: Kevin Donahue
PRODUCERS: 1821 Pictures, Mayhem Pictures

MISS SLOANE by Jonathan “Jonny” Perera- 31
A powerful lobbyist sacrifices her career on Capitol Hill so she can push through an amendment enforcing stricter federal laws regulating guns.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Peter Dodd, Carolyn Sivitz
MANAGEMENT: Management SGC
MANAGERS: Scott Carr
PRODUCERS: FilmNation
FINANCIER: EuropaCorp

TRUE FAN by John Whittington- 28
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.
AGENCY: Verve
AGENTS: Pamela Goldstein, Adam Weinstein
MANAGEMENT: MXN Entertainment
MANAGERS: Michelle Knudsen

PALE BLUE DOT by Brian C Brown, Elliot DiGuisseppi- 26
Twelve months after returning from a space mission, decorated astronaut Laura Pepper is arrested for the attempted murder of a fellow astronaut.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Craig Brody, Matt Martin
MANAGEMENT: Industry Entertainment
MANAGERS: Dianne Fraser
PRODUCER: Pacific Standard
FINANCIER: Fox Searchlight

REAGAN by Mike Rosolio- 25
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.
AGENCY: Kaplan Stahler Agency
AGENTS: Shan Ray
MANAGEMENT: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment
MANAGERS: Aaron Kaplan, Michael Wilson

BUMP by Ori Guendelman, Rob McClelland- 21
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 much more than an innocent victim.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENT: Chris Smith
MANAGEMENT: 3 Arts Entertainment
MANAGERS: Ari Lubet, Will Rowbotham

ELI by David Chirchirillo- 21
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, he soon realizes that the house, and the doctor who runs it, are more sinister than they appear.
AGENCY: APA
AGENTS: Adam Perry, Sheryl Petersen
MANAGEMENT: Bellvue Productions
MANAGERS: John Zaozirny
PRODUCERS: Bellvue Productions
FINANCIERS: Broad Green Pictures

SEPTILLION TO ONE by Adam Perlman, Graham Sack- 20
While a former FBI agent is working in the fraud unit of the Texas State Lottery investigating a woman who has mysteriously hit the lottery jackpot three times, he falls in love.
AGENCY: Gersh
AGENTS: Eric Garfinkel, Jeff Greenberg
MANAGEMENT: Apostle Pictures
MANAGER: George Heller
PRODUCERS: Oddlot Entertainment, MC2 Entertainment, Marquee Entertainment
FINANCIERS: Oddlot Entertainment

WHITE BOY RICK by Logan Miller, Noah Miller- 20
True story of Richard Wershe Jr., the only successful white boy gangster/drug kingpin in an African American dominated 1980s Detroit ghetto.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Peter Dodd, Charlie Ferraro, Rames Ishak, Tim Phillips, Michael Sheresky
MANAGEMENT: Thruline Entertainment
MANAGERS: Josh Kesselman, Danny Sherman
PRODUCERS: LBI Entertainment, Protozoa Pictures
FINANCIERS: Studio 8

BOOMTOWN by Matt King- 18
A slick corporate investigator with a closely guarded secret discovers a sinister criminal conspiracy in North Dakota oil boom country.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENTS: Robert Bookman, David Boxerbaum
MANAGEMENT: Bellvue Productions
MANAGERS: John Zaozirny
PRODUCERS: Marc Platt Productions
FINANCIERS: Focus Features

DREAMLAND by Nicolaas Zwart- 18
With his family’s farm on the precipice of foreclosure, fifteen year old Eugene Evans is determined to capture a fugitive bank robber and collect the bounty on her head. Against all odds, he beats out the FBI and the local police to capture her, only to discover that all may not be what it seems.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Daniel Cohan, Tanya Cohen, Danny Greenberg
MANAGEMENT: The Mission Entertainment
MANAGERS: Corrine Aquino, Andrew Coles

THE FISHERMAN by Will Dunn- 18
A fisherman sails out of Martha’s Vineyard in search of the shark that killed his fellow sailors while they were stranded in the water for four days after their ship was attacked by a Japanese submarine.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Trevor Astbury, Jon Cassir
MANAGEMENT: Think Tank Management and Production
MANAGERS: Tom Drumm

THE WATER MAN by Emma Needell- 18
A young boy tries to save his mother from terminal cancer by seeking out the town’s bogeyman, The Water Man, who is fabled to have conquered death.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Joe Austin, Sarah Self
MANAGEMENT: Anonymous Content
MANAGERS: Charlie Scully, Tariq Merhab
PRODUCERS: Harpo Studios, Yoruba Saxon Productions
FINANCIERS: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD- 17
by David Scarpa
The story of Getty kidnapping crisis encompassing the Red Brigades, the Italian tabloids and the Vatican.
AGENCY: Gersh
AGENTS: Bob Hohman, Bayard Maybank
PRODuCERS: Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis
FINANCIERS: TriStar Productions

BOY by Mattson Tomlin- 17
A teenage boy is born with special abilities and spends his childhood switching names and cities so as to keep his identity hidden. When he loses control and accidentally kills his father, he and his mother have to go on the run.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Jay Baker, Pete Stein, Ida Ziniti
MANAGEMENT: Grandview
MANAGERS: Zac Frognowski

THE SHAVE by Thomas White, Miles Hubley- 17
A dirty cop, exonerated in the murder of a high school honor student, visits the boy’s father at his barbershop, and while receiving a straight razor shave, listens to him recount the story of his son’s life.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Stuart Manashil, Solco Schuit
MANAGEMENT: MXN Entertainment
MANAGER: Michelle Knudsen
PRODUCERS: Chris Columbus, Maiden Voyage Films
FINANCIERS: Lost City, Route One Entertainment

DO NO HARM by Julia Cox- 16
An ambitious surgeon’s life takes a dangerous turn when she indulges in an affair with a doctor whose god complex challenges her own.
AGENCY: APA
AGENTS: Adam Perry, Sheryl Peterson
MANAGEMENT: Project D Media
MANAGER: Allison Doyle

HAMMERSPACE by Mike Van Waes- 16
A terminally ill teenager looking for answers about his missing father finds a key that unlocks an opening to an alternate animated dimension and a new friend who helps him repair his broken family.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Trevor Astbury, Joe Mann
MANAGEMENT: Grandview
MANAGERS: Zac Frognowski
PRODUCER: Lin Pictures
FINANCIER: Warner Bros

THE WRETCHED EMILY DERRINGER by Chris Thomas Devlin- 16
Gleefully terrifying her small town as a serial killer known as “The Misfit Butcher,” 13-year-old Emily Derringer becomes annoyed when a new killer comes to town and residents begin attributing his sloppy murders to the Misfit Butcher. In a macabre coming of age story, Emily must deal with her competition while also taking on the other trials and tribulations of junior high school life.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Charles Ferraro, Aaron Hart, Jenny Maryasis
MANAGEMENT: Bellvue Productions
MANAGERS: Jeff Portnoy, John Zaozirny

PANDEMONIUM, SPLENDIDLY MANAGED by Brett Conrad- 15
A local Phoenix newscaster at the pinnacle of local celebrity slowly descends into the depths of madness as he sees his world around him start to crumble piece by piece all while trying to become a game show host in Los Angeles.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Matt Martin
MANAGEMENT: Magnet Management
MANAGERS: Bob Sobhani
PRODUCER: Michael De Luca Productions

THE VIRGINIAN by Michael Russell Gunn- 15
Based on the novel by Owen Wister, a young, down-and-out George Washington, desperate to join the British Army, accepts a dangerous mission to conquer a French fort and save the American colonies.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENTS: David Boxerbaum
MANAGEMENT: Principato-Young Management
MANAGERS: David Gardner
PRODUCERS: De Line Pictures
FINANCIERS: New Line

CASTLE DRIVE by Matthew Scott Weiner- 14
Based on real events, the story of the writing of Fatal Vision, the 1983 bestselling true crime classic that chronicles the summer journalist Joe McGinness spent with “Green Beret Killer” Jeffrey McDonald while he was on trial for the brutal murder of his wife and children.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Ryan Feldman, Meyash Prabhu
MANAGEMENT: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment
MANAGERS: Michael Wilson
PRODUCER: Treehouse Pictures
FINANCIER: Treehouse Pictures

CUT AND RUN by Zoe McCarthy- 14
A female urologist and a retired hooker form an unlikely friendship when they team up to take down a notorious sex trafficker in Miami.
MANAGEMENT: 3 Arts Entertainment
MANAGERS: Olivia Gerke, Ari Lubet

THE BURNING WOMAN by Brad Ingelsby- 13
A reckless, fun-loving young woman confronts the dark side of life after losing her daughter.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Jon Cassir, Maha Dakhil, Scott Greeenberg
MANAGEMENT: Energy Entertainment
MANAGER: Brooklyn Weaver
PRODUCER: Ridley Scott Films

MAYDAY 109 by Samuel V. Franco, Evan Kilgore- 13
Based on actual events, a young John F. Kennedy struggles to save the crew of his PT Boat after it is sunk by a Japanese warship during World War II.
AGENCY: ICM Partners
AGENTS: Bryan Diperstein, Rich Green, Kathleen Remington
MANAGEMENT: Bellvue Productions, Brio Entertainment
MANAGERS: Mia Chang, Jeff Portnoy
PRODUCERS: Thunder Road Pictures, Flynn Picture Co.

MORNINGSTAR by David Birke- 13
The war is over. A bitter and uneasy truce has been reached with an invading alien race, and a new cold war has begun. Fueled by suspicions of an alien spy in their ranks, the United Nations Intelligence Division entrusts their top agent, Martin Webber, with finding the mole.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENTS: Scott Henderson, Valarie Phillips
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGERS: Ryan Cunningham, Robyn Meisinger
PRODUCERS: Quadrant Pictures, Madhouse Entertainment
FINANCIERS: Warner Bros

MOVE THAT BODY by Lucia Aniello, Paul W Downs- 13
Five friends rent a beach house in Miami for a bachelorette weekend and accidentally kill a male stripper.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Ali Benmohamed, Jay Gassner, Carolyn Sivitz, Jo Yao
MANAGEMENT: 3 Arts Entertainment
MANAGERS: Dave Becky
FINANCIERS: Sony

NYAD by Robert Specland- 13
Based on the true story of marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, who in 2013, after 4 failed attempts and at the age of 64, became the first person ever to open-swim from Cuba to Florida (55 hours non-stop) overcoming impossible odds, personal tragedy, and 103 miles of open ocean.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: David Park, Amanda Hymson, Carolyn Sivitz
MANAGEMENT: Pacific View Management
MANAGERS: Peter Dealbert

QUEEN OF THE AIR- 13
by Cat Vasko
Based on the book Queen of the Air written by Dean N. Jensen. The story of famed trapeze artist Lillian Leitzel and her relationship with fellow trapeze artist Alfredo Codona, who were two of the most famous entertainers of the world during their time.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Simon Faber, Solco Schuit
MANAGEMENT: Grandview
MANAGERS: Zac Frognowski, Matt Rosen
PRODUCERS: Mad Chance Productions
FINANCIERS: Warner Bros

SPRING OFFENSIVE by Matthew McInerney-Lacombe- 13
Dr. Liz Scott, a British epidemiologist with the World Health Organization, fights to contain an outbreak of Ebola in Afghanistan’s war torn Helmand province as the Taliban’s assault on allied forces threatens to turn the localized outbreak into a global catastrophe.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Jacob Epstein
MANAGEMENT: LBI Entertainment
MANAGERS: Harry Lengsfield, Sam Warren
PRODUCERS: 6th & Idaho
FINANCIERS: Fox

BLACKFRIARS by Chris Bremner- 12
Set around the Blackfriars massacre of 1978, the true story of a Boston police officer and a con man-turned-witness, who become unlikely friends hiding out in Bermuda, ultimately perpetrating a con on the Boston DA they’re tasked to serve.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Emerson Davis, Carolyn Sivitz
MANAGEMENT: MGMT Entertainment
MANAGERS: Dianne McGunigle
PRODUCER: Hasbro Inc.
FINANCIER: Lakeshore Entertainment

CIRCLE OF TREASON by Anna Waterhouse, Joe Shrapnel- 12
Based on the book Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and The Men He Betrayed written by Sandra Grimes & Jeanne Vertefeuille. When two women in the CIA suspect there is a mole working there, they have to overcome the institution’s hierarchy and chauvinism to bring down the traitor.
AGENCY: CAACircle Of Treason script Black List 2015
AGENTS: Jon Cassir, Rob Hertig, Fred Spektor
MANAGEMENT: Grandview, Curtis Brown Group Ltd
MANAGER: Jeff Silver (Grandview); Nick Marston, Camilla Young (Curtis Brown)
PRODUCER: Josephson Entertainment
FINANCIER: Focus Features

STAR ONE by David Coggeshall- 12
Two CIA agents must overcome their opposing worldviews to evade the Soviet and Chinese armies during a dangerous mission to Tibet in 1950. The true story of the first CIA agent ever to die in the line of duty; the “first star’ on the CIA Memorial Wall.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENTS: David Boxerbaum, Scott Henderson, Chris Smith
MANAGEMENT: Writ Large
MANAGER: Noah Rosen
PRODUCER: Mythology Entertainment

THE SET UP by Kari Granlund- 12
Two co-dependent female best friends’s friendship is put through the wringer after a blind date gone awry sends them on a dangerous, all-in-one-night adventure with a drug dealer.
AGENCY: VERVE
AGENTS: Chris Noriega, Melissa Solomon, Bill Weinstein
MANAGEMENT: Industry Entertainment
MANAGER: Sarah Dodge

BARE KNUCKLE by Dave Matillo- 11
New York City 1862: The bare knuckle boxing champion, Bad Jack, develops a crush on a common French girl and uses his political influence to send her Irish lumberman husband off to the Civil War so he can take her for his own. Unfortunately for Bad Jack, the Irishman doesn’t die in the war and t comes back a killer looking to exact revenge on the pugilist and his entire corrupt entourage.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Ryan Feldman, Solco Schuit
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGERS: Adam Kolbrenner, Kendrick Tan
PRODUCERS: Hollywood Gang

CHAPPAQUIDDICK by Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan- 11
A historically factual look at what really happened when Ted Kennedy drove off the road into a Martha’s Vineyard bay with Mary Jo Kopechne in the car.
MANAGEMENT: DMG Entertainment
MANAGER: Chris Fenton
PRODUCER: Apex Entertainment
FINANCIER: Apex Entertainment

GREAT FALLS by Andy Friedhof- 11
After negligently killing a hunter with their patrol car, an alcoholic Sheriff’s Deputy and her superior officer must decide what to do with the only witness to their crime – a death row inmate only days from execution.
AGENCY: Equitable Stewardship for Artists
AGENTS: Antoni Kaczmarek, Varun Monga
MANAGEMENT: Circle of Confusion
MANAGER: Jairo Alvarado

HUNTING EICHMANN by Matthew Orton- 11
The thrilling capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by a secret Mossad team in South America.
AGENCY: The Agency Ltd
AGENT: Emily Hickman
MANAGEMENT: Grandview
MANAGER: Jeff Silver
PRODUCERS: Automatik, Matt Charmin
FINANCIER: MGM

A SPECK IN THE SEA by Jeff Pope- 10
Based on the article “A Speck in the Sea” by Paul Tough. The true story of the rescue of lobster fisherman John Aldridge who fell into the ocean in the middle of the night on July 24th, forty miles off Montauk with no life vest and no way to signal where he was.

BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS by Dan Kunka- 10
In one of the greatest untold stories in American history, General and future President Andrew Jackson reluctantly partners with world-renowned pirate Jean Lafitte to lead a rag-tag team of soldiers against the indomitable British Army in the climactic battle of the War of 1812.
AGENCY: ICM Partners
AGENTS: Harley Copen, Kathleen Remington
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGER: Adam Kolbrenner
PRODUCER: Madhouse Entertainment
FINANCIER: Endurance

CRIMSON TRAIL by Jeremy Shipp- 10
Devastated by the cold-blooded murder of his family, a devout frontier preacher risks his soul to lead a posse in pursuit of the Harpe Brothers—America’s first serial killers. Based on a true story.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Emerson Davis, Julien Thuan
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGERS: Ryan Cunningham, Adam Kolbrenner

LABYRINTH by Christian Contreras- 10
Based on the book LAbyrinth by Randall Sullivan. The story of the investigation into the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Stuart Manashil, Solco Schuit
MANAGEMENT: Grandview, Curtis Brown Group Ltd (UK)
MANAGER: Jeff Silver (Grandview), Lily Williams (Curtis Brown)
PRODUCER: Good Films

OUR WEEK WITH WALLER by Evan Mirzai, Shea Mirzai- 10
After getting laid off, two Americans cash in their vacation pay and head to Spain where their paths collide with one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENTS: Adrian Garcia, Adam Kanter, Martin Spencer
MANAGEMENT: Principato-Young Management
MANAGER: Allen Fischer

SET IT UP by Katie Silberman- 10
Two young assistants realize they can get more free time if they occupy their bosses’ time by setting them up on a date.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENT: Joe Mann
MANAGEMENT: MXN Entertainment
MANAGERS: Michelle Knudsen
PRODUCER: Treehouse Pictures

UNTITLED SOCIOPATH PROJECT by Topher Rhys-Lawrence- 10
A successful New Yorker’s seemingly perfect life starts unraveling once he’s suspected for the murder of his co-worker, and his only alibi is the doppelganger that’s begun stalking him.
PRODUCER: Atlas Entertainment

ARES by Geneva Robertson-Dworet- 9
The survival story of an astronaut whose space capsule crash lands in the African desert and whose mission to space was part of a larger conspiracy.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Rich Cook, Solco Schuit
MANAGEMENT: Management 360
MANAGERS: Jill McElroy, Clifford Murray
PRODUCERS: Roland Emmerich

FINAL JOURNEY by Michael Lee Barlin- 9
A mistreated elderly Inuit woman is forced out of her village to survive alone on the savage arctic tundra.
MANAGEMENT: Lee Stobby Entertainment
MANAGER: Lee Stobby

MILITIA by Henry Dunham- 9
After a shooting on a police funeral by a suspected militia member, a recluse ex-cop and fellow militia man must interrogate the suspected gunmen in his own militia before copycat attacks start a nationwide war between cops and militias.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Emerson Davis, Peter Dodd, Charles Ferraro, Mike Schwartz Wright
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGERS: Ryan Cunningham, Kendrick Tan
PRODUCER: 6th & Idaho

SALEM by Mark Bianculli, Jeff Richard- 9
Fifteen years after the witch trials, the scars of Salem are reopened when young women begin showing up dead. Desperate for answers, the town elders turn to a man of science to uncover the truth behind its terrifying events plaguing their community.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Danny Greenberg, Solco Schuit
MANAGEMENT: Anonymous Content (Bianculli)/Industry Entertainment (Richard)
MANAGERS: Rosalie Swedlin (Bianculli)/Michael Botti (Richard)
PRODUCERS: STX Entertainment
FINANCIER: The Weinstein Company

TOMORROW ON THE RUNWAY by Frederick Seton- 9
Kermit St. Lucy has a ridiculous name and is ridiculously ill-equipped to deal with adult responsibilities. After a tragedy shakes him to his core, Kermit takes it upon himself to look after and raise two young children.
AGENCY: Verve
AGENTS: Parker Davis
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGER: Kendrick Tan

TREASURE ISLAND by James Coyne- 9
Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, young Jim Hawkins finds a map to a buried fortune; to claim it means a perilous voyage, pirate treachery, and the wicked mentorship of Long John Silver.
AGENCY: GershTreasure Island Black List 2015
AGENTS: Eric Garfinkel, Mark Hartogsohn
MANAGEMENT: The Syndicate
MANAGER: Scott Karp
PRODUCER: Ritchie/Wigram
FINANCIER: Warner Bros

UNTITLED LARRY HILLBLOM PROJECT by Matt Portenoy- 9
The strange-yet-true story of the battle over the estate of Larry Lee Hillblom, billionaire founder of DHL.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Rob Carlson, Daniel Cohan, Tanya Cohan
MANAGEMENT: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment
MANAGERS: Aaron Kaplan, Sean Perrone
PRODUCER: Seven Bucks Entertainment

A LIFE FANTASTIC by Natalie Antoci- 8
A single mother with a terminal diagnosis embarks on a road trip with her eccentric 9 year old son and nanny to find a loving and progressive family that will accept him for whoever he may grow up to be.
MANAGEMENT: The Mission Entertainment
MANAGERS: Corrine Aquino, Andrew Coles
PRODUCER: The Mission Entertainment

AN AFRICAN WESTERN by Chloe Castellon, Ridgeway Wilson- 8
When a young African woman’s village is destroyed by a “Christian” paramilitary unit and her sister is kidnapped, she uses every weapon at her disposal on an odyssey to save her last living relative.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Emerson Davis, Jon Huddle
MANAGEMENT: Principato-Young Management
MANAGERS: Brian Dobbins, Allen Fischer

ATLANTIC WALL by Zach Dean- 8
A lone American paratrooper, stranded behind enemy lines hours before D-Day, is tasked with delivering intelligence critical to the outcome of the war and compelled to fulfill a promise to protect the young son of a murdered ally.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Cliff Roberts, Solco Schuit
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGERS: Adam Kolbrenner
PRODUCER: Madhouse Entertainment
FINANCIER: Imperative Entertainment

BED REST by Lori Evans Taylor- 8
An expectant mother who is confined to bed rest starts to experience paranormal events.
AGENCY: ICM Partners
AGENTS: Rebecca Ewing, Doug Johnson
MANAGEMENT: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment
MANAGERS: Josh Goldenberg, Sean Perrone
PRODUCERS: Chris Sparling, Sunswept Entertainment
FINANCIER: MGM

I BELIEVE IN AMERICA by Terry Clyne- 8
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Godfather, revealing that the creative forces behind one of the finest American films ever made were all as cunning and ruthless as the mobsters portrayed in Mario Puzo’s bestseller.
MANAGEMENT: Kailey Marsh Media
MANAGER: Kailey Marsh

IDA TARBELL by Mark McDevitt- 8
Ida Tarbell’s magazine series “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” not only changed the history of journalism but also the fate of Rockefeller’s empire, which was shaken by the powerful pen of its most implacable observer.Ida Tarbell’s magazine series “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” not only changed the history of journalism but also the fate of Rockefeller’s empire, which was shaken by the powerful pen of its most implacable observer.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Aaron Hart, Geoff Morley
MANAGEMENT: Think Tank Management and Production
MANAGER: Tom Drumm
PRODUCER: Think Tank Management and Production

LOU by Maggie McGowan Cohn- 8
An elderly woman who hacks out a rough existence on a remote island is forced to help her dimwitted neighbor rescue her daughter whose ex has kidnapped her and escaped into the woods.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Jon Cassir, JP Evans
MANAGEMENT: Management 360
MANAGERS: Eryn Brown, Adam Marshall
PRODUCER: Paramount
FINANCIER: Bad Robot

PRECONCEPTION by Jake Morse, Scott Wolman- 8
A couple on the verge of parenthood embarks on a pre-baby bucket list.
MANAGEMENT: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment
MANAGER: Josh Goldenberg
PRODUCER: De Line Pictures
FINANCIER: CBS Films

SENIOR YEAR by Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli- 8
A cheerleader wakes up after a twenty year coma and returns to sit at the cool table and try to become prom queen, as a thirty seven year-old woman.
AGENCY: Gersh
AGENT: Greg Pedicin
MANAGEMENT: Benderspink
MANAGER: Jake Wagner
PRODUCERS: Benderspink, Broken Road Productions
FINANCIER: CBS Films

VERONA by Neil Widener, Gavin James- 8
A re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Jon Cassir, Joe Mann
MANAGEMENT: Grandview
MANAGER: Matt Rosen
PRODUCER: Roth Kirschenbaum Films
FINANCIER: Sony

105 AND RISING by Andrew Cypiot- 7
Amid the chaos of a failing nation on April 29, 1975, the objective was clear: safely evacuate all remaining Americans from Saigon. But to Major Jim Kean and Ambassador Graham Martin, the moment represented something else: the final opportunity to uphold promises and obligations to the people of South Vietnam.
AGENCY: Verve
AGENTS: Parker Davis, Adam Weinstein
PRODUCER: Cota Films

FREE AGENT by Sam Regnier- 7
A female NBA executive for the Golden State Warriors pursues the biggest free agent of her career while managing a messy divorce and a complicated relationship with a younger colleague and his teenage sister.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENTS: David Boxerbaum, Scott Henderson
MANAGEMENT: Management SGC
MANAGER: Scott Carr
PRODUCER: 21 Laps
FINANCIER: CBS FILMS

HOMEGROWN by Jacques Edeline- 7
A teenage boy, raised in total seclusion and indoctrinated by his enigmatic father, is sent to live with a foster family and enrolled in a public high school when his father is incarcerated, threatening their relationship and causing the boy to question everything he’s learned.
AGENCY: APA
AGENTS: Debbie Deuble, Adam Perry
MANAGEMENT: Affirmative Entertainment
MANAGERS: Nicholas Bogner
PRODUCER: Cota Films

THE BOY by Owen Egerton- 7
Sixteen years after stabbing a classmate to appease a legendary phantom known as the Boy, a repentant woman returns to her hometown to live with her sister and nephew, but as the Boy continues to haunt her she must face her deepest terror and discover the truth about the Boy before he claims her nephew.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Jason Burns, Aaron Hart
MANAGEMENT: Epicenter
MANAGERS: Allard Cantor, Jarrod Murray

CARNIVAL by Matias Caruso- 6
A deadly carnival knife-thrower hunts down the members of a powerful crime syndicate who murdered his sister.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Trevor Astbury, Jon Cassir
MANAGEMENT: Untitled Entertainment
MANAGER: Jen Au
PRODUCERS: Anonymous Content, Mitchell Peck

CROOK COUNTY by Gita Pullapilly, Aron Gaudet- 6
A whistleblower’s harrowing journey into an undercover FBI operation in 1980’s Cook County, Illinois, sending him toe-to-toe with corrupt judges, hustling defense attorneys, and Chicago mobsters; and ultimately resulting in the largest number of convictions of government officials in the history of the United States.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Max Mitchell, Carolyn Sivitz
MANAGEMENT: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment
MANAGER: Taylor Benzie
PRODUCER: Linda McDonough

DAMSEL by Bryan McMullin- 6
After first being locked in a tower and then hidden deep in the forest to prevent a prince from rescuing her, long-haired Rapunzel vows to get revenge.
AGENCY: UTA
AGENTS: Charles Ferraro, Aaron Hart, David Park
MANAGEMENT: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment
MANAGERS: Tobin Babst, Michael Wilson
PRODUCER: Josephson Entertainment

FRANCIS AND THE GODFATHER by Andrew Farotte- 6
Facing financial ruin, auteur filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola is forced to direct the adaptation of Mario Puzo’s pulp novel The Godfather, pitting him against legendary mega-producer Robert Evans.
AGENCY: CAA
AGENTS: Jon Levin, Elizabeth Newman
MANAGEMENT: Zero Gravity Management
MANAGERS: Jeff Belkin
PRODUCER: Echo Lake Entertainment

GREEN RIVER KILLER by Michael Sheen- 6
Based on the Eisner Award winning graphic novel of the same name. Detectives in the Green River Killer case attempt to unravel both the facts behind the gruesome murders that plagued the Pacific North West for over a decade and the psychosis of the killer they find themselves face to face with.
AGENCY: ICM Partners
AGENTS: Doug MacLaren
MANAGEMENT: Sanders Armstrong Caserta
MANAGERS: Tammy Rosen
PRODUCERS: Dark Horse Entertainment

LANDSLIDE by Will Staples, Tony Camerino- 6
Based on the book How to Break a Terrorist by Tony Camerino. The story of America’s search for terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the man who played a key role in tracking him down by using psychological warfare.
AGENCY: WME (Staples)/CAA (Camerino)
AGENTS: Phil D’Amecourt (Staples)/Jon Levin (Camerino)
MANAGEMENT: Management 360 (Staples)/BE Management (Camerino)
MANAGERS: Darin Friedman (Staples)/Brett Etre (Camerino)
PRODUCERS: Marc Butan

RESURFACE by Pete Bridges- 6
An underwater earthquake decimates a research crew working at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, leaving
two survivors with limited resources to ascend 35,000 feet and reach the surface before their life support runs out.
AGENCY: Verve
AGENTS: Adam Levine, Adam Weinstein
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGER: Adam Kolbrenner
PRODUCERS: Broken Road Productions

SONG OF TREBLINKA by Viorica Baln- 6
Based on a true story. A renowned Jewish conductor plots a revolt with fellow prisoners as he attracts the respect of his Nazi captors in Germany-occupied Poland’s most notorious death camp.
AGENCY: WME
AGENTS: Ryan Feldman
MANAGEMENT: Madhouse Entertainment
MANAGER: Adam Kolbrenner

THE CANYON by Alex Koplow- 6
When parents reunite with their grown children for a road trip to hike the Grand Canyon, the family conflicts on the way prove far more grueling than the twenty mile hike.

THREE MONTHS by Jared Frieder- 6
After being exposed to HIV the weekend of his high school graduation in 2011, a punk gay teenager from Miami attempts to start a new relationship with a someone from his support group as they try to endure the three months it takes to get accurately tested.
AGENCY: Paradigm
AGENTS: Valarie Phillips, Ellie Schiff
MANAGEMENT: Haven Entertainment
MANAGERS: Brendan Bragg, Jesse Hara, Jordana Mollick

WISH UPON by Barbara Marshall- 6
When Claire, a sixteen year old misfit, finds a magic box that promises a chance at the life she has always wanted, she never could have guessed that each wish would demand a deadly payment.
AGENCY: APA
AGENTS: Debbie Deuble
MANAGEMENT: Industry Entertainment
MANAGER: Ava Jamshidi
PRODUCER: Busted Shark
FINANCIER: Broad Green Pictures

 

The Black List

If you are unfamiliar with this, Stephanie Palmer is here to explain:

The Black List is a list of the most liked, yet unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

You want to pay attention to the Black List because:

  • It’s a barometer of what stories are resonating in the marketplace.
  • It provides a list of agents and managers with clout.
  • It showcases many fresh, newly discovered writers.

In this post I’m going to explain what you need to know about the Black List, post the complete list, and make one tiny suggestion for how the Black List could be improved.

How are scripts selected for the Black List 2015?

The voters are 250 anonymous film executives (I voted when I was at MGM).

This includes people who are currently employed at production companies and studios as Creative Executives, Directors of Development, Vice Presidents of Development and Production.

According to the Black List, this list is not a “best of,” but rather a “most liked.”

There are definitely other scripts that could have been listed and likely some made the list because executives voted as a favor to their representative friends.

However, in my experience, if you read the Black List scripts from any of the past few years, the top scripts are consistently excellent. Over 225 Black List screenplays have been produced, they have been nominated for 171 Academy Awards, including Best Pictures Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and Argo.

That is why the list has credibility and why Hollywood decision-makers pay attention each year when the list is published.

Black-List-2015-Scripts-Full-List

What are the benefits of being selected for the Black List?

The Black List provides credibility.

For this reason, if your script is on the Black List:

  • Development executives are expected to read your script.
  • Your script is more likely to get optioned or purchased.
  • If the script is in development, it can get additional financing and attachments.
  • You are more likely to get hired for jobs.

On this last point, the Black List is used as a reference when development executives are looking for writers to hire for rewrites.

It’s much more likely that an executive will read a writer’s script and hire that writer simply because they’ve made the Black List.

Are these all new, undiscovered writers?

No. Unproduced does not mean undiscovered.

Most of these screenwriters are represented at the major agencies and many have had other scripts purchased and produced.

However, some of the writers are fresh, newly discovered talent.

How do I get on the Black List?

The barrier to entry to the Black List is high.

You need an outstanding script and representation who pushes your script wide so that lots of executives read it. Bonus points if the script has sold and has major cast attachments. It probably also helps a little bit if your reps send out the script close to the Black List voting period.

What’s the difference between the Black List and the Black List Script Database?

The Black List is a list of the most liked, yet unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The Black List Script Database is a service where any screenwriter can pay to list their scripts in an online database. (And in my opinion, paying to list your script is unlikely to improve the odds of your script getting voted onto the Black List).

Here is an excerpt from the Black List site that explains the evolution:

“In 2005, Franklin Leonard surveyed almost 100 film industry development executives about their favorite scripts from that year that had not been made as feature films. That first list – many of which have been made since – can be viewed here.

In October 2012, we extended our mission by allowing screenwriters from the world to, for a small fee, upload their scripts to our database, have them evaluated by professional script readers, and subject to that evaluation and our recommendation algorithm, sent to our – at present – over 1000 film industry professionals.”

I don’t have an agent or a manager, but I want one. How can I tell if an agent on the Black List is legitimate?

If a representative is listed on the Black List, they have proven that they have enough clout to get development executives to read a script.

That may seem simple, but the pool of representatives who can achieve this is a surprisingly small.

Take the list of all the managers and agents included on the Black List, add any representatives who are on the Hit List that focuses on spec screenplays, and you have a pretty good sense of who can get executives to read scripts.

Why are there so many true stories in the Black List 2015? 

In this interview on KPCC, Black List founder Franklin Leonard said,

“True stories and biopics in particular tend to be things that people respond to. If I had to guess, I think that’s probably both a supply-and-demand issue, in that a lot of writers are writing stuff that is based on true stories because of this sort of pre-sold phenomenon in the industry.”

Should I focus on trends and write a true story about an athlete-spy who lives on Martha’s Vineyard and was involved in the making of The Godfather?

No. You should focus on your best and most authentic ideas.

However, if one of your top ideas is a true story you might dust it off, and if you just happened to have a script about the making of The Godfather, you should probably put that on the shelf for a while and work on something else.

Where can I read these scripts? Do you have them?

It’s my policy to only share produced screenplays, but with some clever sleuthing on the internet, you may be able to find the scripts.

How do I read the Black List? What is that number?

The first entry is the script that received the most votes, i.e., Bubbles received 44 executive votes.

Even the scripts at the end of the list received more than five executive votes and that is a mark of success.

Some of these loglines are terrible. I wouldn’t want to see these movies, and I don’t understand how they could have gotten on this list.

The Black List 2015 selection is based on the completed screenplays, not on the loglines. Loglines can be written by the writers, their representatives, or readers.

Sometimes loglines do not effectively communicate what is strong about a script – and that’s too bad.

With that in mind, here’s my suggestion for how to improve the Black List.

What do I think would make the Black List better?

The piece of information that I wish was included for each script is the genre.

Genre gives context that is necessary to understand the story that follows.

Without knowing the genre, it’s easy to make incorrect assumptions about the story.

For example, if a writer tells me that he’s got a story about the CIA, I could assume:

  • It’s a thriller like Three Days of the Condor
  • It’s really a drama like The Good Shepherd
  • It’s actually a comedy like Spy.

That’s why I give the following advice to screenwriters:

Whether you are pitching verbally or in writing, lead with genre.

I wish that the Black List included a line for the genre to make it easier to identify projects and writers to read on the Black List.

Thanks to Franklin Leonard and his team for compiling the list and…

CONGRATS TO EVERYONE ON THE BLACK LIST 2015!

5 Things Screenwriters Can Learn From Star Wars

Since The Force Awakens is now the biggest opening of any film ever (adjusted for inflation), it seemed fitting/interminable to have some SW themed advice…

By Michael Rogan, scriptbully.com

It’s hard to say anything NEW about the most famous/profitable/legacy-building science-fiction story of all time: “Star Wars.”

And though George Lucas is revered as a filmmaking visionary – and merchandise guru – he is not always appreciated for his merits as a screenwriter in the original “Star Wars.” (Especially when you consider his later, more uneven, work in the prequels.)

That being said, Lucas does employ some rather deft, kick-ass screenwriting techniques in “Star Wars: A New Hope.” And many of them, as screenwriters, we can borrow.

So, here are 5 Things Every Screenwriter Can Learn From the Classic, Original “Star Wars”:

Screenwriting Hack You Can Learn From Star Wars #1: If Yer Gonna Steal, Steal From the Best

We all know about Lucas’ man-crush on the whole Joseph Campbell Mythic Structure thing-y. But the real look, feel – and narrative framing – of “Star Wars” is pure Akira Kurosawa, the famed Japanese director.

Sure there’s the samurai-inspired light saber motif and the Toshiro Mifune-style robes worn by Obi-Wan Kenobi. But it’s how Kurosawa, in his film “Hidden Fortress,” told the story from the POV of two road-weary peasants that gave Lucas the idea for C3PO and R2D2. (A narrative device that not only provides the film with much-needed comic relief, but also keeps it from feeling episodic.)

Screenwriting Takeaway #1: If yer looking for some structural inspiration, forget the latest Michael Bay offering and go straight to the masters.

the_hidden_fortress1

L to R: Princess Leia, Han Solo, R2D2 and C3PO in The Hidden Fortress

Screenwriting Hack You Can Learn From Star Wars #2: Forget Setting, Have Your First Image Establish Conflict

Forget having your script open with a character hitting the snooze button or fade in on some crane shot of a city. (Which it seems like almost every script I read these days, does.)

Instead, notice what Lucas did with the opening of “Star Wars.” A big spaceship shooting lasers…followed by an even BIGGER spaceship shooting even BIGGER lasers.

We have NO idea what these ships are, or who’s driving them. Or what the hell is going on.

We just know that little ship is about to be swallowed by that big ship. (A nice touch since that is thematically what the entire story is about.)

Screenwriting Takeaway #2: Have your first image in your script throw the audience into conflict. (And THEN establish setting.)

The matrix

A mysterious, unbelievable fight scene opens The Matrix

Screenwriting Hack You Can Learn From Star Wars #3: Resist the Need to Explain EVERY Unknown

Some screenwriters, especially those doing sci-fi or fantasy, often feel the need to explain every single obscure or unfamiliar term, worried an audience will get confused.

“Ah, yes, the Particle Transporter. The device that can disassemble, then re-assemble matter and can only be found on the planet, Nebu-Tron. Why didn’t I think of that?”

Technical exposition like this may prevent confusion. But an audience NOT KNOWING what every piece of technical jargon in your story means can give your yarn a level of authenticity – an element there’s a whole other world that EXISTS, bt we don’t know about. And this can create serious audience engagement.

Notice how many foreign terms are thrown at us in “Star Wars” with NO explanation:

  • Moisture farmer
  • Power converters
  • Nav-Computers
  • Binary load lifters

All but the most obsessed “Star Wars” fans, to this day, have NO idea what any of this stuff does. And, yet it gives the feeling that these are real characters using real devices. (No matter how unreal or silly the situation, or moisture farmer, may be.)

Screenwriting Takeaway #3: Don’t explain every technical (and insider) detail related to your story. (Leave a bit of mystery – it’ll boost audience engagement.)

Screenwriting Hack You Can Learn From Star Wars #4: Have Yer Bad Guys Disagree On Methods

Too often screenwriters will create a legion of bad guys/antagonists who agree on every detail and strategy for getting what they want.

But in “Star Wars” Lucas constantly has the big, bad Empire agree on the over-arching goal of “destroy the Rebel Alliance” – but disagree on the methods for realizing this goal.

Whether its Gran Moff Tarkin disagreeing with Darth Vader over the impact of Obi-Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader creating a  hostile work environment by strangling a co-worker…

…these “conference room” disagreements not only provide some nice comic relief. They also add serious conflict to exposition-heavy scenes that could be as dull as workplace safety seminar otherwise.

Funny, yes? Powerful way to add conflict to every scene – even the ones with the bad guys? Absolutely.

Screenwriting Takeaway #4: Make sure your gaggle of bad guys agree on the central goal, but disagree passionately on the methods for achieving this goal. (This disharmony usually leads to their undoing.)

EP4_ILM_1671

Long time coming.

Screenwriting Hack You Can Learn From Star Wars #5: Fill Your Fight Scenes With Grudges (Not Choreography)

Nothing gets me angrier than some millenial smart-ass named StarWarsBlasterz43 trying to convince me that the “Phantom Menace “light-saber fight, with Darth Maul and a young Ewan MacGregor…

…is so MUCH BETTER than the “Star Wars” sword fight between Darth Vader and a Alec Guiness, who was in his 60s at the time.

Simply because the “fighting” isn’t any good.

There’s no doubt that Alec Guiness looks a bit more prepared for an AARP convention than a light-saber duel at the end of “Star Wars.”

But. That. Is. Missing. The. Point.

The power of the final confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader is that these men have serious history together. They go way back. (We have no idea how far back.)

And as they face off in a stew of resentment, jealousy – and revenge – we realize we are watching something really PERSONAL. (And that makes it some of the most emotional storytelling in the entire film. No matter how awkward the choreography may be.)

Screenwriting Takeaway #5: Ditch the three-page fight scenes full of explosions and car chases. Focus instead on old grudges being settled.

And really, if the entire collection of movies (and that includes the awful prequels) can teach you anything, it’s that special effects and CGI spaceships and special-edition creatures may look good on an iMac in a LucasFilm office…

But the real magic of “Star Wars” is in the characters, flawed as they may be, facing insurmountable obstacles. (And discovering who they are in the process.)

Something every screenwriter, even those writing a story that doesn’t contain a single moisture farmer, should aspire to.