Franklin Leonard: The Black List That’s Changing Hollywood

Before “Argo,” “Juno,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “The King’s Speech” became some of the most successful films in Hollywood (and subsequently went on to win Oscars), they were all on The Black List. Started in 2005 by Franklin Leonard, then a junior film executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, The Black List is an annual survey of film industry executives that aggregates their favorite unproduced movie scripts. Today, it’s become much more than just a list. The Black List has grown into a company with Franklin as its founder and CEO, on a mission to identify great screenplays and talented screenwriters wherever they can be found — especially in places where Hollywood historically hasn’t looked. “The goal is to open all of the windows and doors in the industry for people who have the talent, both for the benefit of those people but also for the industry,” Franklin says. He joins the podcast to talk about democratizing access to the motion picture industry — traditionally an insular and biased system — and how he’s creating a true Hollywood meritocracy by sourcing storytelling talent from around the world.

Listen to this episode to learn:

  • From launching a database of new screenwriting talent to producing original films to brand partnerships, how The Black List is expanding the way it finds and celebrates a diversity of talent
  • A recent McKinsey study reveals the massive opportunity costs of Hollywood’s anti-Black bias — and highlights the positive financial outcomes of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility
  • The methodology behind The Black List, and why you should consider it a “menu,” not a ranking
  • Franklin’s thoughts about Martin Scorsese’s essay on Hollywood degrading the art of cinema
  • Why society will need storytellers coming out of the pandemic — the values these stories embody, and the decisions made by those funding them, will be consequential

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