Catan poster

Catan poster

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Convergence on the 2012 Hit List

I was pleased to learn my parallel realities script, Convergence, was voted onto the Tracking Board's 2012 Hit List--a list of the best spec scripts of the year.

Naturally, one must take all compliments from Hollywood with a grain of salt.  If you're looking to the industry for critical recognition, you are looking in the wrong place.

Yet, we writers do love approval.  Flattery works on us.  It works very, very well.

However, one cannot speak of the Hit List without also speaking of its sluttier but more famous cousin, the Black List, which in the last few years, has become something akin to the Oscars for unproduced screenplays.  Convergence's inclusion on the Hit List is particularly welcome, as I was just bemoaning how the Black List has gained this reputation as the be-all and end-all of amazing screenwriting.  Producers and executives vote for their favorite scripts of the year.  Yet I can't help but question the list's validity, especially now that the Black List has turned its admittedly aptly chosen name into a business, selling services to hungry screenwriters.  The Black List is a barometer of many things, and the quality of the writing is not always one of them.  If you read a handful of scripts from any given year, you will find works that cross the gamut--there are good scripts, quirky scripts, scripts with good characters, mediocre scripts with good hooks, unoriginal scripts with good structure, utter piles of crap and even a few truly brilliant pieces of work.

The Black List always opens by saying that it is not a best-of list, but a most-liked list.  I would posit it is more accurate to say that it is a "most hyped" list.  An executive cannot like a script if they have not read it.  It is another example of commercial Hollywood appropriating art for its own ends, the primary ends in this case being bragging rights (you'll notice the first thing they put up is not the names of the scripts or writers, but the scorecard of agencies and managers who represent writers that made the cut).

I say all this prior to the announcement of the Black List's 2012 inductees tomorrow.  Whether or not my script makes the cut is not the issue.  I am here to celebrate the Hit List, because it seems to me that its focus, while similar to the Black List in terms of how the votes are tallied, is not on "unproduced" scripts (i.e. many of which have already been bought and are soon to be produced), but on all specs that went out in the year.  And while the same caveats apply--heat begets heat, and the more people read a script, the more likely it will get voted for--the Tracking Board is a tool of the people in the trenches--those interns and development execs who read every script that goes out.  It is, and this is only my perception, as I am no insider to the voting on these things--a slightly more democratic alternative to the Black List.

The Black List feels to me like a tool of the Hollywood aristocracy to maintain control over the artist by making us beg for their approval.  The Hit List feels to me like a statement from the proletariat.  And as a former intern who knows what it is to sit in a little room reading scripts and writing coverage in between calling the local yogurt shops to get their flavors of the day for the boss's wife, I feel a certain kinship with the lords of the Tracking Board, whoever they might be.

To everyone who actually read Convergence through to the end and to all who voted for it, I give my thanks.  I'm glad you enjoyed it.  You are the people who can make a difference.

I implore all those in Hollywood to choose originality over the familiar.  Intelligence over mediocrity.  Scripts that challenge over scripts that check off all the boxes. Make commerce bow before art, not the other way around.  And pass my script up to your boss.