An intriguing document started circulating privately around the British film community last week, and rapidly found its way to executive suites in Los Angeles.
Titled the Brit List, it details the best unproduced movie scripts by non-American writers, as nominated by players in the U.K. and Irish biz. The voters are anonymous, but they represent many of the key agencies, producers, distributors and funding bodies.
Hollywood insiders will recognize the concept. It’s copied from the influential Black List of unmade screenplays that Franklin Leonard, a creative exec at Leonardo DiCaprio’s shingle Appian Way, compiles every Christmas by polling his colleagues around town.
The top three entries in the 2005 Black List — “Things We Lost in the Fire,” “Juno” and “Lars and the Real Girl” — are all now contenders in this year’s kudos race.
Inspired by this example, one London agent, who has asked not to be identified, decided to orchestrate a U.K. version. The aim was to draw the attention of financiers and talent anywhere in the world to the strongest material from outside Hollywood that’s still seeking the greenlight.
Back in August, she asked 40 industry people across the industry to propose their favorite screenplays by non-U.S. writers. Any script with at least two votes would get onto the list, to be circulated at the end of October.
Given the U.S. writers’ strike, that timing might seem fortuitous, with the list providing a fertile source of completed scripts. But in truth, it’s a complete coincidence, and the British agents involved have no wish to provoke the WGA by seeming to tout for business too overtly at such a sensitive time. The list was planned long before the strike was likely.
The final Brit List contains 49 screenplays, with a heavy skew, inevitably, toward British and Irish writers. Big names such as Neil Jordan, Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock rub shoulders with lesser-knowns and newcomers. Non-Brits include Braulio Mantovani, Francesca Marciano and Stuart Beattie.
There are triple entries for Peter Straughan and rookie Paul Webb, who hasn’t even had a film produced yet. Brock and Jeremy Lovering appear twice. The major Brit agencies are pretty much equally represented, with 11 entries for PFD, 10 for Casarotto and eight apiece for Independent andCurtis Brown.
That has provoked some grumbles from smaller rivals, but reflects the size and depth of their rosters. The list’s organizer works for one of the big four, but says she didn’t vote for any of her own agency’s clients as a matter of principle.
Top of the chart, with 12 votes, is Straughan’s “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” about the U.S. Army’s bizarre experiments with psychological warfare, which producer Paul Lister is developing with BBC Films. It appeared on last year’s Black List, and led to Straughan writing scripts for George Clooney and David Fincher.
No. 2 is “Scouting Book for Boys” by newcomer Jack Thorne, a small-scale drama about childhood friendship, being developed by Celador and Film4. Celador is also in at No. 3 with Paul Webb’s “Selma,” about Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. civil rights movement, which Stephen Frears is attached to direct.
Webb’s other entries are “Four Knights,” a medieval drama long in the works at the Weinstein Co., and “Spanish Assassins.”
Other projects riding high in the Brit List include “How I Live Now” by Brock and Tony Grisoni, which Thomas Vinterberg was going to direct but recently ankled; Richard Warlow’s “Three Mile Horizon,” a psychological thriller set in post-colonial Africa that Paramount Vantage has picked up for Saul Dibb to direct; and “Eagle of the Ninth,” another Brock script that Kevin Macdonald will direct after “State of Play, produced by Duncan Kenworthy with backing from Film4.
Of course, while getting lots of votes is a clear endorsement, scraping onto the list with a couple of nods doesn’t necessarily mean a script is less admired — only, perhaps, that it has been read by fewer people. For instance, Irish writer Enda Walsh’s “Chat Room,” a comedy about suicidal teens got two votes, hasn’t been widely circulated around the industry, but it is moving forward fast at Film4 with producers Alison Owen and Scott Rudin.
Three projects received enough votes, but were excluded because they look set for production — “A Christmas Carol,” by Straughan and Bridget O’Connor for Working Title”; Nick Hornby’s “An Education,” to be helmed by Lone Scherfig; and Guy Hibbert’s “Boy Soldier,” directed by Oliver Hirshbiegel.
The Brit List
“Men Who Stare at Goats” – Peter Straughan (Casarotto)
“Scouting Book for Boys” – Jack Thorne (PFD)
“Selma” – Paul Webb (PFD)
“How I Live Now” – Tony Grisoni (Casarotto), Jeremy Brock (Rod Hall)
“Three Mile Horizon” – Richard Warlow (Curtis Brown)
“Eagle of the Ninth” – Jeremy Brock (Rod Hall)
“If the Spirit Moves You” – Abi Morgan (Independent)
“The Wedding Party” – Francesca Marciano (PFD0
“Tomo” – Paul Catling
“Pelican Blood” – Cris Cole (Independent)
“Child Soldier” – Jeremy Lovering (PFD)
“Know Your Rights” – Emma Forrest (Casarotto)
“Truce” – Stuart Beattie (CAA)
“The People Who Knock on the Door” – Doug Taylor (Brent Jordan Sherman)
“Our Lady of the Forest” – Conor McPherson (Curtis Brown)
“Four Knights” – Paul Webb (PFD)
“Shut up Kevin” – David Wolstencroft (Curtis Brown)
“5 Psychopaths Go to Vancouver” (aka “3 Bad Men”) – Peter Straughan (Casarotto)
“Burke and Hare” – Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft
“Suicide on Sixth Street” – Martin McDonagh (Rod Hall)
“Kipper” – John McDonagh (Independent)
“Jane Austen Handheld” – Robert Farrar (Michelle Kass)
“The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon” – Ross Grayson Bell
“The Marvellous Mabel Stark” – Francesca Brill (Casarotto)
“Perrier’s Bounty” – Mark O’Rowe (Curtis Brown)
“The Quiet Ones” – Tom De Ville (Curtis Brown)
“Nanny” – Braulio Mantovani (UTA)
“Noir” – Peter Straughan (Casarotto)
“Triangle” – Chris Smith (PFD)
“Interpretation of Ghosts” – Stephen Volk (Linda Seifert)
“Borgia” – Neil Jordan (Casarotto)
“Old Big Head” – Peter Morgan (Independent)
“Tashkent Girls” – Jeremy Lovering (PFD)
“Angel Makers” – Paul Billing (Valerie Hoskins)
“The Houdini Girl” – Kfir Yefet (Casarotto)
“Spanish Assassins” – Paul Webb (PFD)
“All Our Christmases” – Asch Ditta (Ligiea Marsh)
“Release” – Stephen Lesslie (Rochelle Stevens)
“The Horde” – Ciaron Foy (Independent)
“Blood Ties” – Nigel Hinton and Peter Prince (Casarotto)
“Puss in Boots” – Damien Dibben (Independent)
“Strangerland” – Fiona Seres (RGM)
“Wonderboy” – Julie Rutterford (Curtis Brown)
“Long Walk to Freedom” – Bill Nicholson (PFD)
“Wake up Dead” – Marcus Lloyd (Curtis Brown)
“Alive Alone” – Khurram Longhi (Independent)
“Viewfinder” – Simon Welsford
“Nautica” – Richard McBrien (PFD)
“Chat Room” – Enda Walsh (Curtis Brown)
“Dibbuk Box” – Moira Buffini (PFD)
“Friendly World” – Simon A. Brown (Independent)
Originally voted onto the list, but excluded by virtue of getting greenlit:
“Boy Soldiers” – Guy Hibbert
“A Christmas Carol” – Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor
“An Education” – Nick Hornby