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‘Benny in the Dark’ Heads ‘Brit List’ of Top Unproduced Screenplays

The Brit List, the annual survey of British film executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays (similar to the Black List in the U.S.), was unveiled Monday in London with “Benny in the Dark,” a supernatural thriller by Phillip Morgan, heading the list.

The film, which garnered nine recommendations, is a “character-driven 1950s-set allegory for the unspoken societal fears around male depression.” It will be produced by House Productions, the company headed by Tessa Ross, the former controller of film and drama at Channel 4, and Juliette Howell, the former head of television at Working Title.

Morgan, whose credits include 2017 short “Blackmoor,” has another features screenplay in development, “E for English,” with Blue Shadow Films.

Following closely with eight recommendations was thriller/drama “Surge,” written by Rupert Jones and Rita Kalnejais, and set to be produced by Rooks Nest, BBC Films and Creative England. The film, set over 24 hours, is “a stripped-back thriller about a man who goes on a bold and reckless journey of self-liberation in London.”

The 10th annual list – reproduced below – was compiled using the recommendations of leading professionals from more than 90 companies across the British film industry, including agents, financiers, producers and distributors. Out of 134 script recommendations, 18 received the required minimum of three recommendations to make it onto the list.

Alexandra Arlango, who has run The Brit List for the past decade, said: “The Brit List is not a competition; it’s a showcase. Our intention is twofold: to put the year’s best unproduced scripts before the industry, and to provide a spotlight for rising talent. A look at previous lists will show you how many scripts that make it onto The Brit List go on to be produced. This year, an unprecedented three writers on the list do not have representation, and two scripts are as yet unattached to production companies, so the networking event will be of special interest to all the agents and producers attending.”

Of the screenplays that have appeared on The Brit List, 70 have gone on to be produced – a rate of 1 in 4. These films have generated more than $1.7 billion in worldwide box-office and garnered more than 100 nominations for major awards, including six Oscar, nine BAFTA and four Golden Globe wins, according to Arlango. Films whose screenplays appeared on The Brit List in past years include “The Favourite,” “Operation Finale,” “Lion,” “Paddington” and “The King’s Speech.”

“Operation Finale” writer Matt Orton said: “Featuring on The Brit List has been invaluable for my career progression. It drew attention to projects, and gave me exposure to producers both here and overseas when it would have taken far longer to get otherwise. It’s a fantastic way to showcase emerging and established U.K. talent alike, and all selected this year should be deeply proud to be featured.”

NINE RECOMMENDATIONS
“BENNY IN THE DARK” by Phillip Morgan (Independent Talent Group)
Producers: House Productions
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Summary: A character-driven 1950s-set allegory for the unspoken societal fears around male depression.

EIGHT RECOMMENDATIONS
“SURGE” by Rupert Jones (Casarotto) & Rita Kalnejais (42)
Producers: Rooks Nest/BBC Films/Creative England
Genre: Thriller/Drama
Summary: Set over 24 hours in London, SURGE is a stripped-back thriller about a man who goes on a bold and reckless journey of self-liberation in London.

SIX RECOMMENDATIONS
“YESTERDAY TOMORROW TODAY” by Lawrie Doran (unrepresented). Revisions by Polly Vernon (42)
Producers: Met Film Production
Genre: Indie Rom Com
Summary: Feeling pressure to start a family she’s not sure she wants, a bored thirty-something finds a portal to the past where she embarks on an exciting affair with a younger man – her husband before they met.

FIVE RECOMMENDATIONS
“SHEPHERD” by Chris Andrews (Independent Talent Group)
Producers: Stray Bear Productions
Genre: Revenge Thriller
Summary: Determined to avenge the killing of his flock, a Cumbrian shepherd is drawn into a cycle of violence that exposes secrets from his past.
“THE BIKE THIEF” by Matt Chambers (unrepresented)
Producers: Ugly Duckling Films/Ellipsis Pictures
Genre: Thriller
Summary: A Romanian delivery rider’s moped is the center of his family’s new life in London. When it is stolen, how far will he go to get it back?
“ANNA’S STORY” by Paul Herzberg (MBA Literary and Script Agents)
Producers: Ecosse Films
Genre: True Story
Summary: The extraordinary story of Anna Nathan, who became pregnant during the Holocaust and, facing certain death if discovered, resolved to conceal her pregnancy inside the camps.

FOUR RECOMMENDATIONS
“QUEEN’S GAMBIT” by Henrietta & Jessica Ashworth (United Agents)
Producers: Magnolia Mae/Baby Cow
Genre: Period Drama
Summary: Adaptation of Elizabeth Fremantle’s novel about Katherine Parr, the one wife to survive Henry VIII.
“CAB RIDE HOME” by Charlotte Colbert (unrepresented)
Producers: Popcorn Group
Genre: Drama
Summary: In the final fortnight of Marilyn Monroe’s life, when she cannot find her therapist, she instead befriends her taxi driver.
“A PAIL OF AIR” by Alistair McDowall (Judy Daish Associates)
Producers: Pari Passu Films
Genre: Post Apocalyptic SciFi
Summary: A family survives a devastating ice age and find out they are not alone. Adapted from the short story of the same name by Fritz Leiber.
“GB” by Philip Robinson (The Agency)
Producers: Available
Genre: Road Movie
Summary: A white-van man and his best friend since childhood, who is a trans woman, take a road trip to make the money for her reassignment surgery – one last trip as mates before they’re husband and wife.
“ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME” by Tom Stourton & Tom Palmer (Independent Talent Group)
Producers: Available
Genre: Comedy Horror
Summary: Pete’s turning 30, and the old gang from college is throwing a party. But his head begins to spin as one by one his friends slowly turn against him. He can’t work out: Did he do something wrong? Is he paranoid? Or are his friends the sick ones?

THREE RECOMMENDATIONS
“BLUE” by Sam Baron (Curtis Brown) & James Appleby (unrepresented)
Producers: Blueprint/3Arts
Genre: Sci-fi drama
Summary: In near-future San Francisco, a successful therapist is struggling to raise her child after her husband’s death. She is intrigued by an offer to treat the world’s first artificial consciousness, but is surprised to discover that it wants to die.
“BURMESE DAYS” by Richard Cottan (Casarotto)
Producers: Magnolia Mae
Genre: Period Drama
Summary: An adaptation of George Orwell’s first novel and based on his experiences as a policeman in Burma, it presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule.
“THE POWER” by Corinna Faith (Casarotto)
Producers: Stigma Films/Air Street Films
Genre: Horror
Summary: In 1973, a young nurse is forced to work the night shift in a crumbling hospital as striking miners switch off the power across Britain. But inside the walls lurks a terrifying presence that threatens to consume her and everyone around her.
“THE HORNED MAN” by Toby Finlay (Casarotto)
Producers: Nira Park/Jim Wilson/Rachael Prior
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Summary: Based on the novel by James Lasdun. A New York professor of gender studies becomes increasingly unhinged when he suspects that his mysteriously AWOL predecessor – who epitomized the toxic masculinity he rails against – is framing him for the brutal murders of women in the city.
“THE HOUSEKEEPER” by Patrick Gale (United Agents)
Producers: Headstrong Pictures
Genre: Psychological Drama
Summary: A tragic love story between two women set in 1930s England and the fictional origins story of the Daphne du Maurier novel, “Rebecca,” and du Maurier’s creation of the infamous character of Mrs. Danvers.
“FACE BLIND” by Dominic Harari & Teresa de Pelegri (Curtis Brown)
Producers: Rooks Nest
Genre: Thriller
Summary: A female psychiatrist develops a condition that makes her unable to distinguish people’s faces, including the face of her stalker.
“SHE WILL” by Kitty Percy (The Agency)
Producers: Popcorn Group
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Summary: After a double mastectomy, fading star Veronica Ghent goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland with her young nurse, Desi. The two develop an unlikely bond after mysterious forces give Veronica the power to enact revenges in her dreams.

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