Franklin Leonard and Dino Sijamic have released this year’s Black List, a ranking of the best-loved unproduced movies compiled from the votes of hundreds of film executives. Two hundred and fifty people participated this year, each choosing up to 10 favorite scripts and ultimately voting in 81 scripts that haven’t started principal photography yet. The winner (with 44 votes) wasn’t sci-fi, but we’re mentioning it anyway because it’s unbelievable (a Micheal Jackson biopic told from the perspective of Bubbles the Chimp), and Channing Tatum made an announcement video for it (above) in which he confesses he can’t even read. What a time to be alive.
Since 2005, more than 300 Black List scripts have been made into movies (often Oscar-winning ones) including The Revenant, Spotlight, Catherine the Great, Looper, Django Unchained, Chronicle, Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, Lars and the Real Girl, The King’s Speech, and Argo.
As we did last year and 2013 and 2012 and 2011 and 2009, we’re going to look at the sci-fi and supernatural stories that made this year’s list of 81 unproduced screenplays. It was good to see this year’s list isn’t promoting in-development screenplays as much as the past couple of years’ entries. Eight of the writers this year don’t have an agency yet, and 21 of the scripts don’t have a producer attached. That’s twice as many agent-less writers and nearly three times as many scripts without a producer as last year’s list. So, on the upside, this year includes more underdogs. On the downside, hoo boy is this a bad year for sci-fi on the Black List.
The full list is heavily weighted with biopics and plenty of terminally ill people going on missions. There are also two different scripts about the making of The Godfather, which seems to be a pattern; there were two competing scripts about the making of Jaws and two Mr. Rogers-related scripts on 2013’s Black List.
I’m going to level with you here. This is a depressing year for sci-fi on the Black List. These are the fewest sci-fi and supernatural entries we’ve seen in a long time, and the ones included this year are almost all horror instead of sci-fi. We could summarize it with a relevant GIF:
The focus on horror this year could definitely be a financial concern; special effects cost money, and Hollywood is catching on that horror has the best return on investment (for now). Hopefully next year will continue to be solid on the spotlighting-newcomers front, but include more hard sci-fi, as well.
Here are the 11 Black List 2015 screenplays which are relevant to our interests:
CRATER by John J. Griffin (34 votes)
On the moon, five teens take an unauthorized and adventure-filled road trip, just before one of them is to be sent away on a 75-year journey to another planet, leaving behind his best friends.
PALE BLUE DOT by Brian C Brown, Elliott DiGuiseppi (26 votes)
Twelve months after returning from a space mission, decorated astronaut Laura Pepper is arrested for the attempted murder of a fellow astronaut.
ELI by David Chirchirillo (21 votes)
Having moved into a “clean house” to treat his auto-immune disorder, 11-year-old Eli begins to believe that the house is haunted. Unable to leave, he soon realizes that the house, and the doctor who runs it, are more sinister than they appear.
THE WATER MAN by Emma Needell (18 votes)
A young boy tries to save his mother from terminal cancer by seeking out the town’s bogeyman, The Water Man, who is fabled to have conquered death.
BOY by Mattson Tomlin (17 votes)
A teenage boy is born with special abilities and spends his childhood switching names and cities so as to keep his identity hidden. When he loses control and accidentally kills his father, he and his mother have to go on the run.
HAMMERSPACE by Mike Van Waes (16 votes)
A terminally ill teenager looking for answers about his missing father finds a key that unlocks an opening to an alternate animated dimension, and a new friend who helps him repair his broken family.
ARES by Geneva Robertson-Dworet (9 votes)
The survival story of an astronaut whose space capsule crash lands in the African desert and whose mission to space was part of a larger conspiracy.
BED REST by Lori Evans Taylor (8 votes)
An expectant mother who is confined to bed rest starts to experience paranormal events.
THE BOY by Owen Egerton (7 votes)
Sixteen years after stabbing a classmate to appease a legendary phantom known as the Boy, a repentant woman returns to her hometown to live with her sister and nephew, but as the Boy continues to haunt her, she must face her deepest terror and discover the truth about the Boy before he claims her nephew.
RESURFACE by Pete Bridges (6 votes)
An underwater earthquake decimates a research crew working at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, leaving two survivors with limited resources to ascend 35,000 feet and reach the surface before their life support runs out.
WISH UPON by Barbara Marshall (6 votes)
When Claire, a 16-year-old misfit, finds a magic box that promises a chance at the life she has always wanted, she never could have guessed that each wish would demand a deadly payment.