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Sexism Watch: The Black List

By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood December 14, 2010 at 10:17AM

Once upon a time in Hollywood the black list was a very bad thing. If your name was on the black list (that supposedly never existed) you couldn't get a gig in Hollywood. It was a sucky time and should always be remembered and never repeated.
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Once upon a time in Hollywood the black list was a very bad thing. If your name was on the black list (that supposedly never existed) you couldn't get a gig in Hollywood. It was a sucky time and should always be remembered and never repeated.

Enter the "new" black list created by Franklin Leonard in 2005 to bring attention to the best unproduced screenplays. Great idea...in theory. But the list has morphed over the years into a typical Hollywood list filled with guys with agents and managers whose films have been picked up by studios. Now lots of the film of the list are even in production (One Day is already done and has a release date and Margin Call will be at Sundance) or about to be in production. Films that have been on previous blacklists include Juno and Lars and the Real Girl and the 2009 list included The Social Network (like Aaron Sorkin ever needed the help) and Cedar Rapids which will premiere at Sundance in January. There was only one woman in the top 10 last year, Ellen Rapoport who wrote Desperados which from what I can tell is not close to being made.

The list has become extremely disappointing because it is another example of the sexism in Hollywood.

Look at the list of the movies. Not only is the top movie on the list about Karl Rove, but the films reek of misogyny. Not only can't a woman get on the list (6 out of 76), but it seems the more you write about hating women, the easier it is to get noticed in Hollywood. The top movie about a woman is about Jackie Kennedy right after the assassination of her husband fighting to save his legacy. Women in service of men. Men can fight aliens and fuck up our economy and do just about anything, but we fight to save the legacies of our dead husbands and kids getting ready for their prom.

What this list shows is that women and women's stories are still not valued by the producers, managers and power that be and that's what we should be talking about.

Here's the description of how the list was created:

THE BLACK LIST was compiled from the suggestions of over 290 film executives, each of whom contributed the names of up to ten of their favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2010 and will not be released in theaters during this calendar year. This year, scripts had to receive at least five mentions to be included on THE BLACK LIST. All reasonable effort has been made to confirm the information contained herein. THE BLACK LIST apologizes for all misspellings, misattributions, incorrect representation identification, and questionable 2010 affiliations. It has been said many times, but it’s worth repeating: THE BLACK LIST is not a “best of” list. It is, at best, a “most liked” list. Enjoy. All black everything.

First question: who are those 290 people? How many are women?

So what can we do about this continued dismissal of women writers? Over the last couple of years I have spent a lot of effort highlighting the issues that women directors face. I decide to expand my efforts into more proactive work on women writers and the blacklist inspired me to create "The Pink List." The problem is that I have been so busy (with the Athena Film Festival) that I have not been able to get the work of "The Pink List" off the ground. Here is the gist of how I envision it:

The premise of "The Pink List" is simple. Give more women writers exposure and visibility. Similar to the new Hollywood "black list" [created in 2005 by Franklin Leonard], the "pink list" will ask agents, executives, producers and others to put forward a list of the 10 best scripts written by women that year that have not been produced.


I promise to get this going next year. If anyone (or any organization) wants to get involved with this project, get in touch.

Here are the women written and the scripts about women on the list.

Of the 76 scripts on the list 6 are by women (I apologize if I miss some of the gender neutral names. I tried to look them up. If I get anything wrong send the corrections my way.) PS - There is not a single female written script in the top 10.


  • ARSONIST’S LOVE STORY by Katie Lovejoy - “A young arsonist falls for a woman in the art world that he desperately wants to be apart of.”

  • HOT MESS by Jenni Ross - “Four girlfriends make, and then break, a list of rules devised to get the guys of their dreams and discover their inner hot messes in the process.”

  • CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? by Megan Martin - “After a woman spills her secrets to a stranger during a turbulent plane ride, she shows up at work to discover that he is the recently returned CEO of her company.”

  • LOLA VERSUS by Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones - “A twenty-nine year old woman has to reevaluate her life after her long time boyfriend calls off their wedding at the last minute.”

  • PROM by Katie Wech - “High school students prepare for their prom.”

  • BOY SCOUTS VS. ZOMBIES by Carrie Evans & Emi Mochizuko - “A troop of Boy Scouts on their weekend camping trip must protect an island town from a zombie outbreak and save the local girl scout troop.”


About women:
JACKIE by Noah Oppenheim
“Jackie Kennedy fights to define her husband’s legacy in the seven days immediately following his assassination.”
STOKER by Wentworth Miller
“After the death of her father, a teenager must deal with a mysterious uncle who returns to spend time with the family.”
EVERLY by Yale Hannon
“The story of one woman's struggle for redemption as she fights to stay alive and unite with her mother and young daughter, all while staving off vicious attacks by a ruthless army of Yakuzas who have trapped her in her apartment.”
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN by Evan Daugherty
“A re-imagining of the story of Snow White in which the huntsman sent to kill her becomes her mentor.”
FUN SIZE by Max Werner
“A high school senior is forced to take her weirdo brother trick-or-treating but loses track of him along the way. With the help of a few classmates, she tries to find him before her mother gets home. Meanwhile, the depraved little brother is having the time of his life.”
SERENA by Chris Kyle
“In 1930s North Carolina, George Pemberton, with the help of his father's money, ownsand runs a logging operation in the Smoky Mountains. George meets and marries Serena,a strong-willed, scheming, ambitious woman.”

The Black List 2010 (Deadline)

The Black List

This article is related to: Sexism, Women Writers


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