New York University's Black List-inspired annual selection of the best production-ready screenplays from its Tisch School of the Arts graduate film students and recent alumni, known as The Purple List, has revealed its 2017 picks.
The three screenplays, selected by a panel of industry professionals, are Alabama Snipe Fight, Butterfly Children and Experience.
Alabama Snipe Fight, by Bo McGuire, follows a 12-year-old white girl seeking to join an all-black step team to escape her racist father. Despite the film's female protagonist, writer McGuire, originally a poet who calls himself "the queer son of a Waffle House cook and his third-shift waitress," says the story is in many ways autobiographical.
"I was the chunky, feminine boy who sensed a pulsing world outside of the sometimes cruel geography of rural Alabama," McGuire says.
Butterfly Children, by Melanie Schiele, follows a man whose 6-year-old daughter suffers from a devastating genetic disorder as the father tries to save his failing marriage. Schiele's screenplay won the Slamdance writing competition grand prize, receiving $50,000 in production funds and $10,000 cash. Schiele says she already sees the film business as "highly competitive, particularly for women," but is using that challenge to motivate her.
"I refuse to view being a woman as a hurdle, but rather an inherent strength and driving force," Schiele says.
The third film, Experience, by Taj Jenkins Musco, is set in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, where a lonely, emotionally scarred female bus driver finds a lost sex doll and befriends its owner.
"With its rampant drug use, poverty, and mental illness ... I witnessed true despair in the heart of one of the world's most affluent and progressive cities," Musco says of the Bay Area neighborhood. "I found San Francisco to be one of the most diverse places in the world and likewise my script reflects that ... I'd like the film to address under-representation in Hollywood by casting diverse people."
This year's judges included screenwriters Michael Weber, Naomi Foner and Mark Heyman; Riva Marker of Jake Gyllenhaal's Nine Stories production company; CAA's Adam Paulsen; Cinetic Media's Alexis Galfas; A24's Ali Herting; Fox Searchlight's Apolline Berty; Anonymous Content's Charlie Scully; Killer Films' David Hinojosa; ICM's Sarah Kelly; producer Michael Gottwald; and additional actors, producers, writers, directors and editors.
All three films are accessible on The Black List's script database.
"One of the prevailing values in the graduate film program at NYU is that there's no such thing as a quintessential film, no blueprint for story, no formula for success: Alums like Spike Lee, Cary Fukunaga, Ang Lee, and Dee Rees all make fearless and passionate films that provoke debate and challenge audiences with a unique and original voice," says Purple List faculty advisor John Tintori. "The Purple List is a anthology of untold stories written by the upcoming generation of filmmakers."
Eleven Purple List screenplays have gone into production, including the following titles, which were released theatrically: The Adderall Diaries, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Appropriate Behavior, Manos Sucias, Those People, Yosemite and Newlyweeds.
With its 2017 selections, Purple List founders Ash Bhalla and Shandor Garrison shared diversity statistics from its six editions: 20 of the 30 screenwriters are women; 14 are from black, Asian or other minority ethnic backgrounds; and three identify as LGBTQ.
The Purple List winners will present a staged reading of excerpts from their screenplays on April 20 at Tisch.