Screenplay Junkie #6: The 2008 Black List

Adam Volk is a wannabe screenwriter trying desperately to break into the industry and cram his hack drivel down Hollywood’s gaping maw. Each week he examines one aspect from the wonderfully demented world of screenwriting.

Two years ago — or so the story goes — a young executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way, decided to forgo giving Leo his daily frappuccino enema and instead emailed a large number of Hollywood executives asking them to send him a list of their 10 favorite unproduced screenplays of that year. The list soon started circulated through the ranks of L.A.’s movers and shakers eventually making the jump from insider obscurity to becoming a fledgling Hollywood tradition. Since then the Black List has grown in size and prominence (this year over 250 studio schmoozers were asked to pick the best of the best). In true Hollywood fashion of course, the list has also become a glorified pissing contest between studios and talent agencies hoping to make a name for themselves.

For industry outsiders however, the Black List is also a chance to get a sneak peak at some of the hottest scripts most people have probably never heard of. It’s also a chance to see some of the many films which are likely to be serious box office and critical contenders (the 2007 Black List for example, featured the scripts for The Wrestler, Valkyrie and Slumdog Millionaire, and that’s before the films were in the very earliest stages of production).

So without further adieu let’s take a look at this year’s Black List, starting off with the Top 10:

1. THE BEAVER by Kyle Killen
The Plot: When a depressed toy manufacturer named Walter Black loses his family and his business he tries on a hand puppet—a chatty British rodent called “The Beaver”. Walter’s personality is soon transformed and eventually The Beaver begins to take over Walter’s personality completely. The script has been described as a quirky, dark comedy and a cross between “Liar Liar” and the cult horror movie “Magic”. Currently Steve Carell has signed on to play the lead.

2. THE ORANGES by Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer
The Plot: Two New Jersey families are thrown into comic turmoil when their estranged daughter returns for Christmas and falls in love with her parents’ best friend. The script is being described as a cross between “The Graduate” and “Meet the Parents” and while the film hasn’t been cast yet it’s being helmed by Anthony Bregman (who recently produced Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York”) and “Entourage” director Julian Farino.

3. BUTTER by Jason Micallef
The Plot: An African-American foster child named Destiny, faces off against Iowa’s reigning dairy diva – the beautiful but venal Laura Pickler – in an epic butter-carving competition. The feel-good comedy has been compared to quirky films like “Election” and “Best in Show” and DreamWorks has begun early negotiations for the project with Jennifer Garner in talks to play one of the leads.

4. BIG HOLE by Michael Gilio
The Plot: An aging and surly ex-cowboy named Lee, loses $30,000 to a fraudulent sweepstakes company and sets out to gain vengeance on those responsible. Lee’s son, the local sheriff, is soon charged with stopping him and a cat and mouse game between father and son begins. The film is already being compared to “Falling Down” and “No Country for Old Men” and the project has been picked up Aversano Films.

5. THE LOW DWELLER by Brad Ingelsby
The Plot: Charlie “Slim” Hendrick, a hard-ass ex-convict, returns home to find that his girlfriend has moved on and his dead beat brother has accrued a sizable gambling debt. When a disfigured, dog-loving thug beats his brother to death, Slim finds himself thrown back in a world of violence and revenge. The script is described as a modern “Unforgiven” and Tony and Ridley Scott will co-produce.

6. F***BUDDIES by Liz Meriwether
The Plot: While having the greatest movie title since “Young People Fucking” the plot follows the exploits of Emma and Adam, two best friends in their early twenties who are (as the title suggests) the ultimate fuck buddies. Their no-strings-attached arrangement turns south however, when Adam falls in love with Emma. The film has been compared to “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” and “Harry Met Sally” and is currently in development by Ivan Reitman.

7. WINTER’S DISCONTENT by Paul Fruchbom
The Plot: When 75 year old geezer Herb Winter becomes a widower after 50 years of marriage he decides to make up for lost time by nailing every willing and able woman he can find. He soon moves into a retirement community and attempts to start a new life as an elderly swinging single. Viagra jokes ensue. The script has been picked up by Sony Pictures, although as of yet no director or cast has been brought on board.

8. BROKEN CITY by Brian Tucker
The Plot: Ex-cop turned private investigator Billy Taggart, finds himself in a world of trouble after he is hired to find out if the Mayor of New York’s wife is having an affair. His investigation soon uncovers a relationship between the mayor’s wife and the campaign manager of a corrupt mayoral candidate who wins up dead. Taggart must then stay one step ahead of the law in an attempt to expose corruption and conspiracy. The film is being developed by Mandate Pictures and John Malkovich’s production company Mr. Mudd (both of whom previously collaborated together to produce “Juno”).

9. I’M WITH CANCER by Will Reiser
The Plot: Based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s real-life battle with cancer, in this unlikely comedy, a 25-year-old single Jewish guy named Adam is diagnosed with spinal cancer and decides to use humor as a way of dealing with his rapidly imploding life. The project is being helmed by Mandate Pictures and Seth Rogen has signed on to play Adam’s best friend in addition to working as a producer on the film.

10. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS by Peter Straughan
The Plot: An elite team of American political operatives are ordered to Bolivia to help manipulate the presidential election while facing of violence and social upheaval in the explosive Latin American nation. The film is loosely based on a 2006 documentary of the same name and George Clooney will be producing the project.

Other top picks after the jump:

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS by Quentin Tarantino
During the Second World War, an elite team of American soldiers join the French resistance to battle Nazis in occupied Europe.

After thirty years of tumultuous (and occasionally destructive) marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense counseling session over the course of a single weekend to determine the fate of their marriage.

GALAHAD by Ryan Condal
A retelling of the King Arthur legend from the perspective of Galahad, one of the heroic knights of the round table.

THE WEST IS DEAD by Andrew Baldwin
During the height of the Great Depression, a group of desperate men become gun-totting outlaws when they learn their town is going to be destroyed to make way for the Hoover Dam.

MANUSCRIPT by Paul Grellong
A contemporary thriller about three young, struggling writers living in New York whose lust for success soon sets them on a dark path of jealousy and betrayal.

THE TUTOR by Matthew Fogel
A twenty-three year old graduate students is forced to tutor his ex-girlfriend’s younger sister for her upcoming SATs. When the tutor and student begin to develop feelings for one another it sets in motion a series of events which rapidly spin out of control.

SUNFLOWER by Misha Green
Two young women struggle to escape from the clutches of a deranged college professor who holds them hostage.

NOWHERE BOY by Matt Greenhalgh
The story of John Lennon’s meteoric rise from a misunderstood teenager in Liverpool to one of the most iconic rock stars of all time.

A couple tries desperately to maintain a difficult long-distance relationship.

THE AMERICAN WAY by Brian Kistler
When their parents are murdered in cold blood, two brothers set out on two different life-changing paths, one becoming an FBI agent and the other turning to a life of crime.

THE DESCENDANTS by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings, the film takes place in Oahu, Hawaii and follows a wealthy attorney who learns that his wife had an affair prior to lapsing into a life-threatening coma. While debating whether or not to pull the plug, the protagonist sets out on a road trip with his two troubled teenaged daughters to confront the man his wife was involved with.

RAINDROPS ALL AROUND ME by Reed Agnew and Eli Jorne
A socially inept high school teacher with an above average IQ attempts to come out of his academic book worm shell in order to fit in with those around him.

The incredible adventures of a young man desperately in search of love and attempting to discover his destiny.

A COUPLE OF DICKS by Mark Cullen and Robb Cullen
Two hard-boiled veteran LAPD detectives attempt to track down a stolen, mint-condition 1952 baseball card shortly before one of the detective’s daughter’s wedding.

GAY DUDE by Alan Yang
A teen comedy about two high school seniors whose close friendship is torn apart after one them comes out of the closet.

A teenage apprentice in a macabre circus for the dead sets out to bring his true love back to life. Along the way he encounters a variety of strange and dangerous characters as he travels deeper into the afterlife.

UNDERAGE by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber
An attractive seventeen-year-old girl seduces a man in his twenties and then blackmails him into being her boyfriend in order to exact revenge on her high school ex.

CODE NAME VEIL by Matt Billingsley
Based on actual historical events, a young CIA agent struggles to maintain his morality while working in the treacherous and volatile world of 1980s Beirut.

When a recovering alcoholic falls off the wagon, he loses both his job and his wife and decides to live on his front lawn, selling all of his belongings in a yard sale and grappling with the larger existential questions about his life.

THE FOURTH KIND by Olatunde Osunsanmi
A woman investigates a series of unexplained disappearances in small town in a remote area of Alaska.

FOXCATCHER by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
Based on a true story, the script follows the life of John du Pont, a paranoid schizophrenic and heir to the sizable du Pont fortune. Du Pont later built a wrestling training facility on his sprawling Pennsylvania estate only to later shoot and kill Olympic gold medal wrestler David Schulz.

THE PHANTOM LIMB by Kevin Koehler
A down on his luck private eye investigates a notorious gangster and uncovers a brothel that caters exclusively to clients with amputee fetishes.

An upper class New York family learns that their youngest daughter has joined a cult and enlists the aid of an elite “deprogrammer” to get her back. While embarking on a road trip to carry out the rescue, the parents and siblings of the dysfunctional family deal with their own issues with the deprogrammer caught in the middle.

THE F-WORD by Elan Mastai
Two best friends fall hopelessly in love and struggle to develop their new relationship without sacrificing the bond between them.

UP IN THE AIR by Jason Reitman
A ruthless human resources executive, whose job it is to fire people, looks forward to the only joy he has in life: his millionth frequent flyer mile, a goal he pursues with zeal as the rest of his life falls apart around him due to his constantly being on the road.

BACHELORETTE by Leslye Headland
Ten years out of high school, three unhappy single friends come together as bridesmaids at a classmate’s wedding and get drunk and high while romancing new and old loves and settling old scores.

JONNY QUEST by Dan Mazeau
Based on the popular cartoon series, young Jonny Quest travels the world with his scientist father, adopted brother from India, faithful bulldog, and a government agent assigned to protect them while they investigate scientific mysteries.

THE KARMA COALITION by Shawn Christensen
A professor embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind his wife’s death before the world ends.

KEIKO by Elizabeth Wright Shapiro
A white teenaged girl, who was adopted and raised by Japanese parents in Tokyo, travels to America to find her long lost father who just happens to be former SNL comedian Dana Carvey.

KNIGHTS by Nick Confalone and Neal Dusedau
A group of British celebrities (an entrepreneur, a soccer player, a musician and an actor) are knighted and called upon to defend their country in a madcap action-adventure.

TWENTY TIMES A LADY by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden
Based on the book by Karyn Bosnak, a young woman named Ally swears of men after learning that she has had twice as many sexual partners as the national average. She then decides to track down the previous twenty men she slept with and find out if she may have overlooked Mr. Right.

CLEAR WINTER NOON by John Kolvenbach
An aging hit man released from jail and now in his late seventies, tries to make amends for the innocent life he took.

Based on the novel by Tom Robbins, a world-weary CIA operative is duped by his boss into helping replace a listening device that has fallen into Russian hands.

ROUNDTABLE by Brian K. Vaughan
Written by comic book scribe Brian K. Vaughan, the script tells the story of a modern day Merlin who attempts to assemble a new band of Arthurian knights to battle an ancient evil.

A writer struggling with drugs and his girlfriend’s death leaves New York for Los Angeles where he falls in love with a young teacher and attempts to straighten out his life.

Emmanuel Lewis and Gary Coleman save the world from an evil madman.

THE LAYMAN’S TERMS by Jeremy Bailey
In the midst of the Great Depression, a prodigal son returns home to face his demons and resurrect the dust bowl town he left behind. But the arrival of a mysterious woman soon threatens his way of life when he discovers she is being hunted by the very same Chicago gangsters he used to run with.

THE MALLUSIONIST by Robbie Pickering and Jace Ricci
A wannabe illusionist travels cross country with his young son to compete against his arch-nemesis, who happens to be a popular Vegas stage show magician.

PLAN B by Kate Angelo
A woman sets out to be artificially inseminated only to inadvertently fall in love.

WHAT IS LIFE WORTH? By Max Borenstein
Based on the memoir of Kenneth Feinberg, the script is a dramatization of Feinberg’s involvement in the September 11th victims compensation fund.

ACOD: ADULT CHILDREN OF DIVORCE by Ben Karlin and Stu Zicherman
A grown man finds himself caught up in the bitter crossfire brought about by his parents divorce.

BAD TEACHER by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky
After being dumped by her boyfriend, a foul-mouthed, gold-digging seventh-grade teacher sets her sights on a colleague who is dating the school’s model teacher.

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY by Charles Randolph
The true story of former Assistant United States attorney Stanley Alpert, who was kidnapped by petty thieves and held hostage in an apartment in Queens, New York in 1998.

CHILD 44 by Richard Price
Based on the novel by Tom Rob Smith, an officer with the Soviet secret police in Stalinist Russia is framed by a colleague for treason. While on the run with his wife, he stumbles upon a series of child murders and launches his own investigation while trying to clear his good name.

The story of Linda Lovelace, the first mainstream porn star who eventually overcame her past, found happiness in suburbia and led a crusade to stop the spread of pornography in America.

EASY A by Bert Royal
A good-natured high school student uses the rumor mill to personal advantage by pretending to be the school slut.

GRAND THEFT AUTO by Jason Dean Hall
Facing foreclosure on his repo yard, a young ex-con resumes a life of crime, only to get caught up in coke deal gone bad. Trapped in a tangled web of double-crosses and shootouts between the Russian mafia, the Yakuza and the ATF, the ex-con kidnaps a local crime boss’s daughter and steals car after car on a Vegas bound suicide mission to retrieve the stolen drugs.

When an email scammer cons a man out of his son’s college fund, the man travels to Nigeria to confront those responsible for ripping him off.

GIANTS by Eric Nazarian
A teenager with Marfan Syndrome – a disease which results in unusually stretched out limbs and joints – comes to terms with his estranged father, his overworked mother, and the possibility that he very well might die during an upcoming surgical procedure.

LONDON BOULEVARD by William Monahan
Based on the book by Ken Fruen, an ex-con named Mitchell lands a legitimate job as a handyman for a rich actress who’s eager to reward him with cash, cars, and sex. But as Mitchell begins his new life, he discovers that he can never truly escape his violent past or the dangerous world of loan sharks, drug addicts and low-life bottom feeders.

SHRAPNEL by Evan Daugherty
Two mortal enemies square off on a hunting trip to the death.

YOUR DREAMS SUCK by Kat Dennings and Geoffrey Litwak
An awkward teen with no self esteem regains his self-confidence after joining a Dance Dance Revolution team.

MEMOIRS by Will Fetters
Two college students who’ve experienced recent loss fall in love and attempt to heal their fractured families.

Jerry seems to have it all — money, women, and a ridiculously easy job as a greeting card writer — until a tiny mistake at work unravels his life. Having lost everything he had — but never earned — he’s forced to confront who he really is and start again from scratch.

AFTER HAILEY by Scott Frank
Based on the novel by Jonathan Tropper, after a man in his late twenties loses his significantly older wife, he remains in suburbia and struggles to raise her teenaged son from a previous marriage.

THE BLADE ITSELF by Aaron Stockard
Based on the novel by Marcus Sakey, two former childhood friends, who made their reputation committing petty crimes, are reunited years later, forcing one of them to decide how far he will go to protect his past.

FRESHLY POPPED by Megan Parsons
A teenage girl who works at a movie theatre tries to decide who she wants to lose her virginity to.

GAZA by Frank Deasy
A British woman goes to the infamous Gaza strip in the Middle East to recover the body of her dead daughter and comes to understand her political ideals.

Based on the novel by “Rambo” scribe David Morrell, two orphans are raised by a CIA operative to become elite assassins, only to later become targets themselves in a conspiracy of Jason Bourne like proportions.

MAN OF CLOTH by Josh Zetumer
When a 19th century English minister’s wife and youngest son are unjustly punished and sent off to a prison colony in Australia, the minister and his oldest son journey across the world to re-unite the family. Upon their arrival however, the minister discovers his wife and child have been killed and sets out to avenge their deaths.

GROWN MAN BUSINESS by Justin Britt-Gibson
A man who was once a hardened gangster in his younger days, returns to his neighborhood after a long absence to find the individuals who murdered the son he abandoned years earlier.

HOW TO BE GOOD by Cindy Chupack
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, a woman having second thoughts about her husband is pleased when he begins following a guru…that is until her husband invites the guru to live with them.

IRON JACK by Johnny Rosenthal
A renowned novelist’s comic quest for hidden treasure in the 1930s.

THE HERETIC by Javier Rodriguez
The Roman Catholic Church asks a former inquisitor to assassinate the rebel monk Martin Luther.

UNLOCKED by Peter O’Brien
A female CIA interrogator is unwittingly duped into coercing a terrorist to provide key information, only to discover that she’s delivered the intelligence to the wrong side who plans to launch a devastating biological attack on London.

A haunting erotic fairy tale about Lucy, a student who drifts into prostitution and finds her niche by drugging herself and entering a ‘Sleeping Beauty Chamber’, where she has sex with various men, only to awake each morning with no knowledge of the previous nights events.

A lonely journalist finds love and inspiration when he covers the misadventures of a young boy’s animal rights protest.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Beau Willimon
Based on the novel by Charles Dickens and set in Paris and London during the French Revolution, English aristocrat Sydney Carton sacrifices his own life for his unrequited love Lucie Manette.

THE SPELLMAN FILES by Bobby Florsheim and Josh Stolberg
A family of private investigators use their gumshoe skills to crack cases and pry into one another’s personal lives.

The tumultuous and doomed love affair of Jazz Age literary icons F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre.

A seventeen-year-old high school kid meets a ‘hologram’ of himself at thirty-seven-years-old and benefits from their friendship.

47 RONIN by Chris Morgan
Forty-seven samurai seek vengeance upon a regional lord who is responsible for the death of their master.

THE ZERO by Stephen Chin
Based on the novel by Jess Walter, a New York City policeman shoots himself in the head following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and when he recovers finds himself assigned to work for a shadowy agency at ‘Ground Zero’, where he is soon drawn into a sinister government plot.

Based on the book by Julian Rubinstein, the script tells the true story of bank robber Attila Ambrus, who made off with millions in the post-Soviet Wild West atmosphere of Eastern Europe during the 1990s, all while playing hockey for team Hungary.

THE DEBT by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Based on the Israeli film “HaHov”, the script tells the story of three Israeli Mossad agents during the 1960s, who discover that an infamous Nazi war criminal is still alive and set out to pursue him.

A crime boss asks his trusted lieutenant to find out if his young mistress is having an affair and to kill her and her lover if she is. The lieutenant confirms the affair but, entranced by the girl, chooses to let them both live. When the crime boss learns of the betrayal he orders the lieutenant killed, setting in motion a series of violent retributions.

BOBISM by Ben Wexler
A shy college student discovers that life in one thousand years will be based on his blog and that he now has to stop aliens from the future who want him dead.

DEADLINE by Soo Hugh
A discredited journalist navigates the dangerous world of international politics in order to find a missing aid worker.

BOBBIE SUE by Russell Sharman, Owen Egerton and Chris Mass
A money-grubbing female ambulance chaser becomes the face of a prestigious law firm when an important client is sued for sexual discrimination.

A female clothing designer struggles to find love and success after turning thirty.

Based on a true story about the controversial love affair between an oil baron and his adopted daughter which destroyed the corporate empire they built together.

A loser discovers a book on how to stop an alien invasion and is thrust into action to stop a real one.

I KILLED BUDDY CLOY by Nick Garrison and Chase Pletts
When a terrible act of violence shatters Ray’s hum-drum existence, his sociopath uncle lures him down a dangerous and vengeful path.

HEARTSTOPPER by Dan Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin
A romantic comedy about a serial killer.

JAR CITY by Michael Ross
Based on the film by Baltasar Kormakur, a police detective’s investigation of a murder leads to the uncovering of secrets in a small town.

SAMURAI by Fernley Phillips
Set in Japan during the 150 Year War, a masterless samurai out for justice, teams up with a ninja and a young English boy to rid Japan of an evil Lord.

THE MOST ANNOYING MAN IN THE WORLD by Kevin Kopelow and Heath Seifert
A man travels across the country with his annoying brother in order to reach his own wedding.

Based on true events about legendary filmmaker Fritz Lang, who had to contend with a mounting police investigation into the death of his first wife, the growing threat of the Third Reich, and a caustic relationship with his female collaborator; all leading to the production of the groundbreaking film “M”.

MOTORCADE by Billy Ray
The President of the United States and his motorcade are attacked during a visit to Los Angeles.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HELL by Brian McGreevy & Lee Shipman
A gritty, contemporary retelling of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO set in the underworld of the Hell’s Kitchen Irish mob.

‘TIL BETH DO US PART by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
The friendship of two men in their early twenties is put to the test when one of them becomes engaged.

THE SCAVENGERS by Nate Edelman
Based on the popular stage play “Playboy of the Western World” by J.M. Synge, a down on his luck Irishman becomes infamous when he commits a haphazard murder and catches the fancy of a local barmaid who follows him on the run.

A dark, sophisticated take on Sherlock Holmes and his trusted companion, Dr. Watson.

A dark comedy in which a town plagued by a serial killer decides to profit the only way it can: by creating a festival and economy around the town’s bloodthirsty – and still at large – homicidal maniac.

SWINGLES by Jeff Roda
After their best friends get engaged, a dedicated bachelor and a high-strung female lawyer team up to help each other get dates by “swingling”, a process in which they both reveal insights about the opposite sex. Complications ensue when the two begin to fall for one another.

A Los Angeles cop escorts an Asian gang leader back to South Korea. When the gang leader escapes, killing the cop’s partner in the process, he teams with a young Korean gangster in a bloody pursuit of revenge that takes them through the dangerous and exotic underworld of Seoul.

  • Big Hole, The Beaver and A Couple of Dicks have great titles that will inevitably disappoint.

  • Goon

    Emmanuel Lewis and Gary Coleman save the world from an evil madman.”


  • Jeez, a list a mile long and no “Dreyfus Affair?” What is it with that project? It’s been in circulation since 1992!

  • These really do sound like great concepts…meanwhile Street Fighter: The Large Anus of Chun-Li sees release.

  • If anyone wants more details on these screenplays but doesn’t feel like reading them, I’ve been slowly working my way through the top ten scripts and posting detailed synopses and analyses on my blog.

  • tim

    Untitled Channing Tatum Project? Anyone else see Black Rain? Michael Douglass must be turning ovr in his career grave.

  • i think mlisa is so molly is not right. and may be he will get over it

  • alex

    Kat Dennings wrote a script! That’s awesome : )