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How an underground script list changed movies

What if movie buzz came from scripts instead of stars? This list made it happen.

The Blacklist changed everything

Hollywood’s aptly understood as a buzz machine — where fickle excitement around celebrities, franchises, and big ideas determines whether producers will invest millions in a film. Franklin Leonard has built an institution that generates buzz around scripts instead of stars.

Since 2005, the Black List has changed how Hollywood views the thousands-high pile of unmade scripts. The annual survey asks executives a simple question: What’s the best unproduced script you’ve read this year? Past selected scripts include modern classics like Juno and Argo, and Ben Affleck has even said that the Black List led him to choose to direct the latter film.

I met with Franklin Leonard at this year’s TED conference to try to understand how his survey fits into the machinations of modern Hollywood. The above video shows how the Black List has become an important part of the Hollywood ecosystem, creating hype for scripts that otherwise would have only been whispered about in back rooms.

Groundbreaking list aside, it’s not a simple process to get a movie made. But thanks to the Black List, great scripts get press attention and industry buzz every year — which helps all sorts of weird, unusual, and occasionally fantastic movies get made.

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