Abe Lincoln: Vampire Slayer?
Hollywood’s hottest screenplays — the 2010 Blacklist
The Hollywood Blacklist of hottest, most-talked about, unproduced screenplays has been published for 2010. Compiled by Universal Development Director Franklin Leonard, the list is a survey of more than 300 studio creative executives of the best, most provocative screenplays to cross their desks.
The executives nominate up to ten of their favorite reads from the past year’s submissions. Only scripts that receive at least five votes are included on the list.
By the time these scripts make the list, many have already been scooped by studios or production companies, some are already in production, and past listees include films like Juno, Lars and The Real Girl, and There Will Be Blood.
Some of the loglines can leave you scratching your head. For instance, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This screenplay by former cinematographer Seth Grahame-Smith imagines that Abraham Lincoln’s mother is murdered by a vampire and then our 16th president goes all medieval on a group of heinous bloodsuckers. Your first thought is what was Seth smoking when he cooked up this idea, and then you see that Tim Burton has set this script up at Fox, and it all starts to make sense.
Then there is College Republicans by first-time writer Wes Jones.The script, very loosely inspired by true events, follows real-life GOP power-broker Karl Rove in his early years as he is taught the art of dirty politics by real-life mentor Lee Atwater. You wonder how anybody could sustain a 120 pages on that subject matter. But then again, think about what Aaron Sorkin was able to do so masterfully with the birth of Facebook as the inspiration for The Social Network, a past member of the Blacklist by the way.
The point is these are both brilliant, high-concept ideas from relatively untested writers who have absolutely earned a seat at the adult table in Hollywood. The 2010 Blacklist includes 74 other really inventive ideas. And their writers all followed some basic rules for breaking through of the vast layer of noise represented by all of the hundreds of thousands of unproduced screenplays that get submitted every year.
First, they didn’t just try to rip off the latest $250 million thriller or fantasy. So many scripts I’m asked to read, even if well-written, feel like knock-offs. Like those $10 Rolex watches on a New York street corner. It’s a common mistake of new writers. If a certain film does gonzo box-office, the conventional wisdom seems to be to try and mimic that success. But these Blacklist writers decided not to follow the pack. They decided they wanted their stories to turn heads. To be about something nobody else was talking about. They weren’t just thinking outside the box. They were thinking outside the parallelogram. They broke rules and asked “what if” questions.
No, Honest Abe was never Buffy. But what if he had been? What kind of Vampire slayer might he have been? And when you start to form answers to that question, you start to have a movie.
Now it’s your turn. Read the 2010 Black List. Go and do likewise.