Brit List brings scripts to light

Popular unproduced script list unravels in U.K.

LONDON — Soho’s members clubs, coffee shops and pubs were abuzz last week as the second edition of the Brit List, which details the most respected unproduced movie scripts by non-American writers, was released and pinged from BlackBerry to BlackBerry, hitting Hollywood almost instantly.

The eagerly anticipated list, inspired by Hollywood’s Black List of best unproduced scripts, was voted on anonymously by more than 40 top-level figures in the U.K. and Irish film industries. Agents, producers, sales agents, distributors, studio execs and public funders provide up to 10 titles for voting on the privately circulated list. This year’s list features 46 scripts from 160 original choices, all chosen from scripts that were not shooting at the time of the list’s circulation.

The talk of the town is “Nowhere Boy,” English scribe Matt Greenhalgh’s script about John Lennon’s troubled early years and first steps toward superstardom, which collected a leading 11 thumbs-ups. Script is based on Lennon’s sister Julia Baird’s book Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon.”

“Nowhere” will be the feature directorial debut for artist-turned-filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood, whose short “Love You More” screened in Cannes. Ecosse Films’ “Nowhere Boy” received $70,000 from the U.K. Film Council’s development fund and is skedded to shoot on location in Liverpool next March.

Greenhalgh worked in TV before turning heads with his debut feature script for “Control,” director Anton Corbijn’s acclaimed drama about Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. At the 2008 BAFTAs Greenhalgh collected the Carl Foreman award for most promising newcomer.

Next best on the Brit List with nine votes is playwright Moira Buffini’s “Jane Eyre” script for BBC Films and Ruby Films. Buffini appears again with two noms for “Northern Soul.” The only other screenwriter to pop up twice on the list is Daniel Hardy, who wrote prison thriller “The Escapist” and is nommed for both his “Traveller” and “The Trail” scripts.

Mike Lesslie’s “War Reporting for Cowards” follows “Jane Eyre” with seven votes. Four writers each received six votes; Dennis Kelly (“Blackout”), Shawn Slovo (“Bobby Fischer Goes to War”), Lydia Adetunji (“Necropolis”) and Alex Garland (“Never Let Me Go”). Toby Finley bagged five nods for “Canyonland” and there are nine scripts which pulled four votes.

As last year, the list is a blend of established writers and emerging talent; Lesslie graduated from Oxford U in only 2006 and dark urban noir “Necropolis” is Adetunji’s first script.

Big names on the list include Simon Pegg and frequent collaborator Nick Frost (two votes for “Paul”), Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire” scribe nommed for “The Raw Shark Texts”) and Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan (“The Debt”).

Other writers who already sport impressive credits are Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) Olivia Hetreed (“Wuthering Heights”) Juliette Towhidi (“The Ice Palace”) and Enda Walsh (“Island of the Aunts”).

The Brit List is dominated by the main London agencies — Casarotto (13), Independent Talent Group (9), United Agents (7) and Curtis Brown (5) — primarily thanks to their big rosters. But it is not utterly dominated by the big players — 16 agencies in total are represented.

The list is compiled by a top agent at one of the big tenpercentaries who prefers to remain unidentified. To guard against agents and producers tubthumping for their own clients and projects, self-serving noms must be matched by a separate nom for a project the voter is unattached to. No script that appeared on the 2007 list can appear again on this year’s list. But there are busy writers on both the 2007 and 2008 Brit lists. In fact, last year’s champ Peter Straughan “The Men Who Stare at Goats”) returns this year with “Our Brand is Crisis.”

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