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A Look Inside The Brit List, The Best Unproduced Screenplays From The U.K.

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist November 8, 2010 at 3:57AM

In some ways, it's been a pretty good year for the British film industry, with the likes of "Another Year," "The King's Speech," "Down Terrace," "Skeletons," "The Scouting Book For Boys" and "The Arbor" all providing some of the great movie-going pleasures of the year, and with some good prospects for next year, most notably Paddy Considine's "Tyrannosaur," Joe Cornish's "Attack the Block" and Richard Ayoade's "Submarine." In most other ways, though, things are fairly grim, thanks to the scrapping of the U.K. Film Council, responsible for substantial funding in the industry, by the new government.
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In some ways, it's been a pretty good year for the British film industry, with the likes of "Another Year," "The King's Speech," "Down Terrace," "Skeletons," "The Scouting Book For Boys" and "The Arbor" all providing some of the great movie-going pleasures of the year, and with some good prospects for next year, most notably Paddy Considine's "Tyrannosaur," Joe Cornish's "Attack the Block" and Richard Ayoade's "Submarine." In most other ways, though, things are fairly grim, thanks to the scrapping of the U.K. Film Council, responsible for substantial funding in the industry, by the new government.

The effects of that won't be seen fully for a few years yet, and development continues for the moment. Friday saw the release of the annual Brit List, the equivalent of the Black List, which polls industry professionals on the best as-yet unproduced scripts that they've read over the previous year. "The Men Who Stare At Goats" and "Nowhere Boy" won in previous years, while last year's list was headed up by the (frankly disappointing) comedy "Good Luck Anthony Belcher," which remains unmade, but has Jim Field-Smith ("She's Out Of My League," "Butter") attached to direct.

Partly due to the shaky nature of the industry in the U.K., presence on the list isn't the automatic green-light that the Black List can be -- only "Salmon Fishing in Yemen," "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and "Rafta Rafta" have gone in front of cameras since, with "Now Is Good," "Trap For Cinderella," "Under The Skin" and the excellent horror-comedy "Grabbers" inching towards production.

Strangely, this writer's spec, about a movie blogger (but, like, a really strong and tough one) who's able to move out of his parents' basement when he finds a magic WHAT? MUM, I'M WORKING. I'M WORKING! YEAH, I'LL TAKE THE BIN OUT IN A MINUTE, somehow missed the cut this year, but, like last year, we've done a little digging, and it's a promising line-up of projects, at least on paper. Hopefully we'll get our hands on the scripts themselves in the near future. The list can be found below.

11 Votes:

"Sex Education" by Jamie Minoprio and Jonathan M Stern
Former writers for popular U.K. stand-up Jimmy Carr, Minoprio and Stern had their first film produced in 2007, the film-students-make-a-porn-flick comedy "I Want Candy," with Carmen Electra. Since then, they've done some uncredited polishes on the "St. Trinian's" series, and have been developing the college-graduation comedy "Careering" at Fragile Films. "Sex Education" which is set up at the BBC and Ruby Films ("Tamara Drewe"), follows two schoolkids who both fall in love with the wife of their hated gym teacher. Bearing in mind last year's victory for the aggressively mediocre "Good Luck Anthony Belcher," we're a little wary of this one, but hopefully this placement reflects more quality this time round.

8 Votes:

"Cheerleaders" by Ben Schiffer
The first of three entries for production company Cloud Eight Films, run by Christian Colson ("Slumdog Millionaire," "127 Hours"), this comes from young writer Schiffer, one of a number of graduates from the cult TV show "Skins" with a script on the list. Based on fact, it follows an American teacher in an East London comprehensive who tries to start a cheerleading squad. Tom Harper, director of the excellent "Scouting Book For Boys" was attached to direct, but now he's taken on the Working Title romantic comedy "Lost for Words," it's unclear if he's still involved.

7 Votes:

"Shadow Dancer" by Tom Bradby
Bradby, the political editor of ITV News, has made a sideline in recent years as the author of thrillers, the first of which was "Shadow Dancer," which follows a female IRA terrorist who's forced to become an informer. Bradby's adapted the book himself for Unanimous Pictures, with James Marsh ("Man On Wire", "Red Riding") set to direct, and Rebecca Hall attached in the lead, with Guy Pearce likely to play her handler, as we reported earlier. The combination of Marsh and those two cast members is a hugely enticing one, even if the story doesn't sound like the freshest around.

"Honour" by Shan Khan
Khan is a playwright, behind the likes of "Prayer Room" and "Heer Rantha," as well as the opera "Gadaffi," who moved into short films with a piece called "Candy Bar Kid" a few years ago. This script, in development at Dan Films with producer Jason Newmark ("Triangle," "Creep"), is a thriller, revolving around the concept of 'honour killing,' where family members murder one of their own who is deemed to have brought dishonour on the family. It's generally associated with those of a Middle Eastern or Southwest Asian background, although it should be noted that the practice goes back to the Romans. A contentious sub-plot involving honour killing in Wayne Kramer's "Crossing Over" led to a falling out between the director and star Sean Penn, so it's clear what a combustible topic this can be.

"Song For Marion" by Paul Andrew Williams
With the excellent drama "London to Brighton," writer-director Paul Andrew Williams made one of the more promising British debuts of the last few years. Unfortunately, he followed it up with a pair of disappointing horror films: "The Cottage" and "Cherry Tree Lane." His latest, "Song For Marion," sounds like a major, and much-needed left-turn, following a 78 year-old widower who joins the choir that his late wife was a part of.

"Welcome To The Punch" by Eran Creevy
"Shifty" was another great British film that never really saw the light of day in the States, despite being far superior to many that did. With an excellent cast led by Daniel Mays ("Made in Dagenham") and Riz Ahmed ("Four Lions"), it was a very strong character study, and director Eran Creevy achieved a staggering amount on a minuscule budget. He's set to follow it up with a big-scale crime thriller that's drawn comparison to the likes of "Heat" and "Infernal Affairs" -- indeed, Creevy himself described it as '"Shifty" meets Michael Mann meets "The Last Boy Scout."' It sounds very promising indeed, and we hope that Creevy makes his intended start date next year.

6 Votes

"Breathe" by Claire Wilson
A graduate of the Vancouver Film School, Wilson's been developing a pair of TV shows with the crime writer Linda La Plante, but "Breathe" (which was formerly titled "Back2Jack") is a coming-of-age story, set up at Irish production company Element Pictures, about teenagers in a small town coping with a suicide.

"Engaged" by James Condon
This is the one case where we literally couldn't turn up anything about the project, or the writer. Our best guess, based on the title, is that it's either a rom-com, or a telephone-based thriller. Maybe both. Update: Or, indeed, neither -- we've managed to get our paws on the script, and it's a dark comedy, probably based described as "Buried" in a toilet cubicle. No, that's not what we were expecting either.

"The Animators" by Clive Dawson
A rare science-fiction entry on this list, this is an adaptation of a short story by prolific pulp writer Sydney J Bounds, about "a crew of astronaut explorers [who] succumb one by one to a terrifying and mysterious force." Writer Dawson was behind the Jason Flemyng WW2 horror flick "The Bunker," and it's set up at QWERTY Films ("I Heart Huckabees," "Severance").

5 Votes

"A Long Way Down" by Jack Thorne
Thorne's another "Skins" alumnus -- he's currently writing the feature version of the series, as well as having co-written "This Is England '86," and penning Playlist favorite "The Scouting Book For Boys." This script is an adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, about four strangers who meet on a rooftop on New Year's Eve, from which they all intend to commit suicide, and it's a very strong fit for Thorne. Hornby's partner Amanda Posey, who was behind "An Education," has set it up at Film4, with a spring start date being eyed.

"Granny Made Me An Anarchist" by Ronan Bennett and Duncan Campbell
Based on the memoirs by Scottish anarchist Stuart Christie, this sees Ronan Bennett ("Public Enemies") and journalist Duncan Campbell tell of Christie's involvement in a plot to assassinate Franco in the 1960s. Film4 are also on board this one, along with Origin Pictures.

4 Votes

"Finishing School" by Daisy Donovan
Donovan's generally seen as an actor and comedienne rather than a writer, perhaps best known for her role in the original "Death at a Funeral," and as the female lead in Danny Boyle's "Millions." The partner of "Borat" writer Dan Mazer, she's moved into writing in recent years, including an uncredited rewrite on the Emma Roberts comedy "Wild Child." She's also writing a rival cheerleading project, "Ascension Eagles," for "Scott Pilgrim" producer Nira Park, and this comedy for Origin Pictures. No plot details are available, but we imagine that it'll involve the titular finishing school. Update: Indeed it does -- Donovan's script focuses on the 17-year-old daughter of a Chicago mobster who's packed off to finishing school in Switzerland by her father.

"30 Eggs" by Eoin O'Connor
We can't find any details on the plot here, but Irish writer O'Connor is clearly someone to watch - his script "Mansion on the Hill" was a semi-finalist at the PAGE awards, and he's also been highly placed in the Nicholls Fellowship and the ASA International Screenplay Competition.

"Blackrock" by Malcolm Campbell
From yet another "Skins" grad -- Malcolm Campbell, who also writes for the popular U.K. series "Shameless," this is an adaptation of Kevin Power's novel "Bad Day at Blackrock." Unrelated to the Spencer Tracy classic neo-western, it involves the murder of a member of an Irish school rugby team, kicked to death by his teammates on a night out, and the subsequent cover-up. Lenny Abrahamson, director of the underseen "Garage," is attached to direct.

"Last Will" by Geoff Thompson
A former doorman, Thompson's written a successful series of books, both novels and memoirs, based around his hard-man background. He made his directorial debut with the short "Bouncer," which starred Ray Winstone and Paddy Considine, and won a BAFTA for his follow-up "Brown Paper Bag." His feature debut, "Clubbed" was released in 2009 to decent reviews, and his planned follow-up, "Last Will" (based on Thompson's novel "Red Mist," follows a bricklayer who falls for a woman abused by her boyfriend. Paddy Considine's set to play the lead, and Paul Andrew Williams' Steel Mill are producing.

"The Bride Stripped Bare" by Andrew Bovell
Bovell is an Australian, best known as a playwright (including the excellent "When The Rain Stops Falling"), but who made some headway in film with the very good "Lantana" a few years back. He was also credited on Martin Campbell's "Edge of Darkness." This is an adaptation of an erotic novel, originally published anonymously, but actually by the Australian writer Nikki Gemmell, about a seemingly happy married woman who disappears mysteriously. It's set up at Forward Films, who are also behind Lynne Ramsay's upcoming "We Need To Talk About Kevin."

"Letters from America" by Gaia and Hania Elkington
Two sisters, Gaia and Hania Elkington have been making waves in the industry in other fields: Gaia as "Slumdog Millionaire" producer Christian Colson's assistant, Hania as an associate agent at U.K. behemoths United Agents. They've previously written a script called "Len and Maeve's Fools Emporium." No plot details for this one so far, which doesn't yet have a home. It could be based around some of the work of Alistair Cooke, who hosted a BBC radio show of the same name for 60 years, the longest-running radio show in the world. Update: No Alistair Cooke here: it's about a middle-aged English couple mourning the death of their daughter in America, who decide to retrace her steps there.

"Lovefest" by Michael Cowen
Another one without a logline, but it's probably safe to assume that it's a romantic comedy. Set up at Colson's Cloud Eight, this is the first script from Cowen, the director of development at French/British distributors/producers Pathe.

"Valerio" by Kelly Marcel
Following real-life bank robber Valerio Viccei, who was involved in the famous Knightsbridge Security Deposit robbery, which netted Viccei and his cohorts over £60 million in 1987. Despite fleeing to Latin America, Viccei was caught, but not before forging a friendship with his arresting officer, Dick Leach. He was allowed to serve the latter part of his sentence in Italy, but was killed in 2000 after he and an accomplice became involved in a gunfight with police while on day release. James Marsh was at one stage attached to direct the script, which comes from rising writer Kelly Marcel, whose gigs have included an uncredited polish on "Bronson," the family adventure "Jake and the Tiger" for Lucasfilm, and a pilot for Showtime set on Death Row. She was, until recently, also a writer on the troubled Steven Spielberg-produced sci-fi show "Terra Nova."

3 Votes

"Broken" by Mark O'Rowe
O'Rowe was the writer of the excellent "Boy A," the TV drama that launched Andrew Garfield to stardom. This project, based on the novel by Daniel Clay, follows the relationship between three families in suburban England, one of whom, the Oswalds, are the neighbors from hell. Theater director Rufus Norris ("Festen"), who made his film debut with the short "King Bastard," is attached to direct.

"3 Minute Heroes" by Paven Virk
Paven Virk started out as an actor (with credits including "Bend It Like Beckham"), before becoming a playwright in recent years, with her first full-length set to debut next year. She's a busy bee, with a script for BAFTA-winner Martina Amati in the works, along with another for Origin Pictures, entitled "Queen of the Steering Wheel." There aren't any details for "3 Minute Heroes" available, although it's set to be directed by music video helmer Adam Smith, who recently moved into fiction with a number of episodes for the most recent series of "Doctor Who."

"A Little Chaos" by Alison Deegan
In the works for a number of years, this project follows a female landscape gardener commissioned to build a fountain at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles. As far back as 2007, Alan Rickman was hoping to make this his next directorial effort, although whether he's still attached is unclear.

"Devotchka" by Gary Young and Geoff Bussetil
An action thriller about a Russian agent who goes undercover in the Russian mafia, this doesn't sound a world away from "Eastern Promises," although it's apparently more action-led. "Harry Brown" director Daniel Barber is hoping to make this his follow-up to that film, and reteams with the writer of the Michael Caine vigilante thriller, Gary Young, along with newcomer Geoff Bussetil (more on him in a moment). Filming's meant to start sometime in 2011.

"Elfie Hopkins and the Gammons" by Riyad Barmania
Intended as the first British-made 3D horror film, this project, about a teenage private eye investigating the new arrivals in her town, was meant to shoot earlier in the year, with a cast led by Jaime Winstone, Kimberley Nixon ("Easy Virtue") and hotly-tipped newcomer Aneurin Barnard ("Ironclad"), with a specially-made teaser trailer hitting almost two years ago. It looks like the film never made its date, but its presence here suggests that it's by no means dead. Welsh filmmaker Ryan Andrews will direct the script, from newcomer Riyad Barmania.

"Jamaica Inn" by Patrick Harbinson and Michael Thomas
An adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier classic, involving a group of thieves who run ships aground, rob them and kill the crews, and previously made by Hitchcock, this is penned by action veterans Patrick Harbinson ("24") and Michael Thomas ("Man On Fire"), who also penned "Ponte Tower" on last year's list. Justin Chadwick ("The Other Boleyn Girl") is attached to direct this one, which is set up at the BBC.

"Fumbling" by Stephen Prentice
From the writer of the likable teen horror-comedy "Tormented," which starred new it-boy Alex Pettyfer, this is described as a 'teen coming-of-age comedy.' It's set up at DJ Films ("Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll")

"Girls' Night Out" by Trevor De Silva
At a time when the likes of "The Queen" and "The King's Speech" are proving so popular, this has a fairly irresistible premise -- using as source material the urban legend that the young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret went incognito to celebrate with the people on VE Day. Described as a 'screwball romantic comedy,' it's from writer Trevor De Silva, who's also writing the animation "Police Dog" for Little Bird. Michael Hoffman ("The Last Station") attached to direct.

"Karenfan" by Geoff Bussetil
Bussetil's the only writer on the list with two entries -- despite not having had any feature credits, he's clearly one to watch. Yet another writer with "Skins" experience, he also wrote one of the dramas in Channel 4's "Coming Up" series, as well as a number of shorts. Also, we think we may have gone to school with his brother. There aren't any plot details (although, again from the title, our guess is that it's some kind of stalking thriller), but TV veteran Terry McDonough ("Breaking Bad") is set to direct, and serial attachee Gemma Arterton is linked to the lead role. Update: Mr. Bussetil got in touch in Twitter, and confirmed that the plot does indeed revolve around stalking.

"Modern Life Is Rubbish" by Philip Gawthorne
Playwright Philip Gawthorne wrote a short film of the same name in 2008, directed by veteran AD Daniel J. Gill, and starring Rafe Spall ("Hot Fuzz") and Rebecca Night (the Tom Hardy-starring TV version of "Wuthering Heights"). We happened to have seen the short, which was very good indeed -- a touching, honest comedy about a couple dividing their record collections after breaking up. We assume this is an expanded feature version, although it's unclear if any of the original talent is involved.

"On Chesil Beach" by Ian McEwan
Easily the biggest name on the list, this is novelist McEwan's adaptation of his book of the same name, which had Sam Mendes set to direct, and Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield circling the lead roles. The film was pushed into next year, but Mendes was adamant that the film would still happen next autumn.

"Suite Francaise" by Saul Dibb
Before she was taken to Auschwitz, French writer Irene Nemirovsky managed to complete two novels of a planned five-part series telling the story of life in France as the Nazis invaded. They were rediscovered by her children a decade ago, and published to huge acclaim and success in 2004. Universal were developing a version, penned by "The Pianist" writer Ronald Harwood, but that seems to be dead now, as the film's now set up at Qwerty Films, with Saul Dibb ("The Duchess") writing and directing.

"Passports" by Paloma Baeza
A Mexican-raised actress (in the likes of "Sunshine" and "Spooks"), and partner of "28 Days Later" scribe Alex Garland, Baeza's set to make her directorial debut here, after making two acclaimed shorts. Involving a mother on the run from her abusive husband, with her troublesome daughter in tow, forced to hide out in London as they wait for fake passports, it's currently seeking funding. The producers are aiming for names like Emily Watson, Helen McCrory, Matthew Macfayden, Mark Strong and Juno Temple in the leads -- although that's a wish list, rather than a deal of any kind.

"The Lovers" by Bridget O'Connor
A sad note on this one, as O'Connor, the co-writer of the forthcoming "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," passed away at the end of September. This, an adaptation of her play, a dark comedy about a gigolo and a thief, is set up at commercials production house Thomas Thomas Films. Hopefully it'll still move forward.

"This Little Piggy" by Corinna Faith
Originally announced in 2007, this is a character-driven psychological horror, a "twisted take on consumerism set on a psychotic farm," from "Hunger" producer Laura Hastings Smith, and writer-director Corinna Faith, who mostly has a background in documentaries. It's from Warp Films ("This Is England").

"William and Harold" - John Hodge
It's been a quiet few years for "Trainspotting" writer John Hodge, whose last credit was on the terrible "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising." This is another one set up at Christian Colson's Cloud Eight, and is one of a number of duelling projects focusing on the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 -- and from the title, it sounds like it'll dwell on the fascinating relationship between the English and Norman kings. Update: Indeed it does.

This article is related to: Brit List