The Aussie List: the top-rated screenplays from Warner Bros, The Black List and Veerhuis Pictures’ scriptwriting initiative
The Black List founder and CEO Franklin Leonard.
The top 10 scripts from Warner Bros, The Black List and Veerhuis Pictures’ Australian Scriptwriting Opportunity have been unveiled, with the writers now in consideration for a two-step blind feature film deal with WB.
The scripts on the short list have been whittled down from a whopping 400 submissions. Emerging Aussie writers were invited to opt-in to the opportunity via The Black List’s website, and their screenplays were then evaluated via the site’s usual processes, with the 10 highest ranking scripts shortlisted.
Producer Chris Veerhuis of WA-based Veerhuis Pictures will now work with WB to determine from the list the recipient(s), if any, of the script deal. That opportunity will commit a writer to write a new script (first draft and a rewrite) for WB at Writers Guild of America rates, with a minimum fee of $US100,000. The aim would eventually be to shoot the film in Australia, produced and financed by WB.
The key focus of this initiative has been to put a spotlight on new and emerging Australian writers – to be eligible, a writer could not have credits on more than one feature film or three hours of broadcast television (or both). Some of the names on the short list – like Maziar Lahooti, who is about to direct his debut feature Below – will likely be familiar to the local industry. Others are relatively unknown, such as Melbourne’s Addam Duke, whose shortlisted script REDGUM is his first screenplay.
The idea for the program was first devised when Veerhuis was challenged by former WB president of creative development and worldwide production Greg Silverman to find and present to him emerging Australian screenwriting talent. Silverman then put Veerhuis in touch with Franklin Leonard, CEO and founder of The Black List, with whom the studio had previously worked to identify talented writers from backgrounds traditionally under-represented in the industry.
It is the first country-specific initiative by The Black List, which polls Hollywood development executives each year about their favourite unproduced screenplays. Over 400 Black List screenplays have gone on to be produced, including Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo and Spotlight. First founded in 2005, the accompanying website which allows screenwriters to make their scripts available for feedback from industry was then launched six years ago.
Leonard says: “The Black List has long believed that exceptional storytelling has no national borders, especially in a world increasingly connected by technology. The world’s embrace of Australia’s extraordinary narrative tradition is yet further evidence of that. We’re enormously proud to be partnered with Warner Bros and Veerhuis Pictures to help identify the next generation of talent that will carry that legacy forward in new and exciting ways.”
Veerhuis tells IF that he has been impressed by the diversity of the scripts on the short list – they cover a variety of genres, themes and potential budget ranges.
“There’s actually something in there for everybody,” he says. “The one constant was the quality of the writing.”
Any writer selected by WB will be required to write a new script. Therefore, as Veerhuis points out: “None of these scripts are exclusive to The Black List or to Warner Bros. The industry is free to read the scripts, approach the writers, find out what the current status of the script is, and talk to those writers about getting involved in their projects.”
Many of the scripts are available to read via The Black List for industry members.
Warner Bros. expects to announce any recipients of the blind script opportunity later in 2018.
The Aussie List (in no particular order):
MARMALADE – Keir O’Donnell
In order to escape jail and reunite with the love of his life, a small town simpleton narrates the colourful tale of a romantic bank heist to his cunning cellmate.
6 MILES – A.J. Carter
Taxi Driver for the Uber generation. A rideshare driver wrestling with his grasp on reality and disgusted by the shallowness of modern-day society drugs and kidnaps passengers so he can disseminate his own dark social justice.
DIE WELL – Maziar Lahooti and Steven McCall
An old and dying and retired crooked detective teams up with a young street level criminal to find his decades since exiled, and estranged son, to find some semblance of contrition before his time is up.
SERPENTINE – Anya Beyersdorf
A minibus full of village girls on their way to a group wedding are kidnapped by Guerrillas to serve as “camp wives.”
SWEDISH LESBIAN VAMPIRE WONDERLAND – Scott Robert Chamberlain
To save his career, an over-sexed footy star enters an experimental rehab facility but becomes trapped in a castle of machismo-draining lesbian vampires.
REDGUM – Addam Duke
To investigate the disappearance of his estranged brother, a rootless traveler must journey to Redgum, an insular town in the Australian mountains, where he unearths an ancient supernatural horror.
REYNOLDS’ CARGO – Carrie Anderson
As Singapore falls in WWII, Australian MI6 assassin, William Reynolds, teams with a Chinese insurgent to save a group of women and children set to perish at the hands of a barbaric Japanese commander. One of history’s great true stories, ‘Reynolds’ Cargo
ANY GIRL WHO LOVES THE BEATLES IS BOUND TO BREAK YOUR HEART – Nick Pollack & Ryan Hayward
On the opening night of the Sydney Festival, a cynical writer desperate to start a new life spends his last 24 hours in the city falling for the charms of a touring musician who teaches him how accept his past and love again. Adaptation of writer’s novel.
ARI VS. RAJ – Miriam Rahimi-Cholensky
Ari, a bubble-gum vendor in Varanasi (India), goes on the mission to find his kidnapped sister in time before the World Cup cricket finals.
TWO DAMAGED – Kryz Woodhouse
A bitter wheelchair-bound war veteran saves a troubled teenage girl from a street fight. However, when she becomes determined to help him re-engage with the living, he suddenly can’t get her out of his life.