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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Assistant Files

As we speak, managers and agents all over town are weighing their options: take the spec out now and be the only one everyone is reading, or wait until January and spec with the masses? As Julie mentioned yesterday, Hollywood practically goes into hibernation for the winter. Most offices will close down sometime the week before Christmas and reopen after the first of the year, and very few specs will hit the town right before the break.

So if we're not inundated with new specs during the holiday season, what are we reading?

In the recent past, water cooler talk at this time of year has centered around The Black List. Legend has it The Black List was created a few years ago when one resourceful development exec, looking for good scripts to read, asked friends to nominate the ten best unproduced screenplays they'd read that year. He took hundreds of suggestions, compiled and ranked them by number of votes, and The Black List was born. He sent it back to his friends for their perusal. And since Hollywood is a town that trades on information, that list spread through tracking boards and email chains in no time.

As its first-page disclaimer states, "The Black List is not a 'best of'list. It is, at best, a 'most liked' list." Of course there are some scripts that people nominate just so they can act like the entertainment business is Important and Serious, or to make themselves feel smart. But I think largely people nominate what they liked, what made an impression over the course of the year.

To give you an idea of what makes the list, here are the top three scripts from the last three years:

2005: THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (Allan Loeb), JUNO (Diablo Cody), LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (Nancy Oliver)

2006: THE BRIGANDS OF RATTLEBORGE (Craig Zahler), STATE OF PLAY (Matt Carnahan), RENDITION (Kelley Sane)

2007: RECOUNT (Danny Strong), FARRAGUT NORTH (Beau Willimon),PASSENGERS (Jon Spaihts)

What do we assistants do with The Black List? Read everything we can get our hands on, update our lists of writers, and debate the relative merits of the scripts as if we have some decision-making power.

The list has grown each year, and the 2008 edition will include the suggestions of a couple hundred film executives and high-level assistants.

Votes are in and the list is due out mid-December. If you can get your hands on them, I highly recommend reading these scripts. After all, these are the favorite scripts of the people you want to be in business with, the ones that got people excited. You might as well see what the buzz is about.

Andy Sachs

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Off your head -- why is it extremely rare to see a top contest winner on the black list?

Maybe I don't know what I am talking about.

Please advise.