IS THE GOVERNMENT PLAYING A HAND IN WHAT FILMS ARE BEING MADE IN HOLLYWOOD? MEET FRANKLIN LEONARD A MIGHTY GATEKEEPER OF THE BIG SCREEN.
WRITTEN BY AARON GONZALEZ
There are very few ways to be successful within Hollywood, it is heavily dependant on who you know rather than what you know. The stories of people leaving home in search achieving their dreams of stardom in Hollywood are endless, some make it, most don’t. One of the biggest driving forces in Hollywood for aspiring writers and directors is one of the prestigious ‘lists’ circulating Hollywood right now. Like Blcklist.com founded by Franklin Leonard.
The Black List, is an annual review of Hollywood’s favourite unproduced screenplays. The company was founded in 2005. Their website states; “400 Black List scripts have been produced, grossing over $26 billion in box office worldwide. Black List movies have won 53 Academy Awards from 262 nominations, including 4 of the last 10 Best Picture Oscars and 10 of the last 22 Best Screenplay Oscars.”
The site used to be a simple PDF document that was sent out to producers, directors etc. and soon grew into a website where huge numbers of readers could pay money to submit their works to professional readers to get graded. Producers could also log in and view the highest rated and recommended.
“Patrick Forster has been a follower of the site for a couple of years and has used it to gain story ideas and production credits”
A former Film Production graduate from Portsmouth University Patrick Forster has been a follower of the site for a couple of years and has used it to gain story ideas and production credits; already aware of his knowledge of the site I reached out to him on Facebook to understand his experience with the site
“I submitted a script that I had written with another writer and we never heard anything back, we aren’t sure if they have kept it but we do know they received it” I asked what the script was about; “ It was a simple comedic storyline – imagine Inception meets Monty Python” we were really happy about it either way but we found it extremely difficult to get anything off the ground”.
Some scripts have been sold this way, and some even make it onto the annual black list PDF.
The company was founded by Franklin Leonard who has now become a mighty gatekeeper within Hollywood. His esteemed list essentially makes or breaks writers in the industry.
They rely heavily on different check boxes and require the writers to be very detailed to the contents of the film. Blacklist.com implements the “bechdel test” better known as “how many LGBTQ+ roles a script has in it”. The test was created by a comic book writer a few years ago named Alison Bechdel [picture], who used the term as a satirical joke to determine representation of women in fiction. But now the Hollywood giants actually implement this test on their website in order to see how progressive a script is written compared to others.
To most this would just seem to be a pretty clever way to determine and discover the many aspects of a film that production companies would like to be aware of before investing a lot of money into. And those people would be correct. But with great power comes great responsibility. Franklin Leonard is responsible for collating ‘the most liked un produced films of the year, the best scripts that were shelved.’ he has a big lever on the narrative Hollywood movies present to the public.
He has recently entered some controversy for his strong biased political views – with an anti white bias[#oscarssowhite] and radical Islamic sympathies.
No Surprise hes not a fan of The President either;
Or his supporters for that matter;
Not so damning? Possibly, although I couldn’t help but delve deeper into Franklin Leonard who seems to be heavily political for a person working all the time to get great movies made, and great writers recognized. he seems to prefer politics to film. Does this affect what films he chooses to throw into the limelight?
People are now asking how far his own political views and bias are infiltrating his business[link] (or how much he is influencing the business itself) where in which he holds immense power? Are they right to be concerned?
Is Franklin Leonard leveraging his website as a political tool?
Now it is a known thing that Hollywood rubs shoulders with politicians for campaigning efforts they have been doing so for years. Politics is downstream from culture. Jay Z and Beyonce were huge advocates for Hillary Clinton. Politicians are heavily used for gun control campaigns and charity events etc to gain the attention of the most people possible. But given Franklin Leonards position of having a very large say in what is made into great films seen by millions around the world we would expect any political, cultural bias he happens to hold would be kept out of his decision making along with other political influences or at least would uphold a partisan approach to appeal to the whole world when it comes to his films and not one side of political or cultural standpoints. So Hollywood is enriched with a wide array of films.
Meet Susan Sher. Michelle Obamas ex chief of staff and long time friend of the Obamas.
President Obama said in a statement,
“Susan has brought tremendous skill and dedication to the First Lady’s office, as well as my Administration’s outreach to the Jewish Community and our efforts to pass healthcare reform.”
The New York Times also wrote that Sher was the First Lady’s most effective advocate in the East Wing.
What does Michelle Obamas ex Chief of Staff have to do with BlackList.com and Franklin Leonard? Her son, Graham Moore. The Oscar winning writer for the film; “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Moore writes this script based off a book. It gets “Blacklisted” in 2011. Then picked up and turned into a full-fledged movie by 2014. And by 2015, Moore has an Oscar in his hands. Coincidentally right at the height of the Obama administration with his mum at the helm. Moore has produced nothing since.
FRANKLIN LEONARD WITH SUSAN SHER’S SON - GRAHAM MOORE.
He didn’t have any ulterior motives for helping out a dear friend of the Obamas, right?
Right? Maybe just a coincidence, probably not worth looking to deeply in to.
Until you realise another strange ‘coincidence’. Franklin Leonard went to Harvard with Noah Oppenheim – NBC News president. Oppenheim just so happened to get second place on Franklin Leonards Blacklist in 2010. (Probably best not to give him the number one spot, cant give your kid man of the match if you’re the coach.) What film did he write that was awarded this honour? Jackie starring Natalie Portman
And look what network he recently appeared on, in order to use is seemingly expert experience and knowledge in politics to criticize President Trump. Think his college buddy Oppenheim was calling in a favor? https://youtu.be/kHlU8suVrxg
He seems to have connections everywhere;
Franklin Leonard with Former DNC Chairwoman, Wasserman-Schultz at the White House.
here he is with HEAD OF THE IMF, Christine Lagarde
Now why would a film executive be rubbing shoulders with so many elite people like this? Maybe this is just part and parcel with being one of the most powerful (yet near to unknown) peoplein Hollywood. I would not assume anything too sinister from these images alone.
Although the more you look into Franklin Leonard the more concerning things become especially when it comes to who may be influencing his decision making.
I decided to look further into who else worked for blacklist. Another fascinating part is who Franklin worked with in order to get his blacklist website up and running. Who designed the system of categorizing and storing up tons of metadata on writers, in order to control and direct the narrative on the silver screen?
Leonard never had any website creating skills, so he hired the help of one Dino Simone. Simone built their site’s first algorithm. Leonard also enlisted the help of his college roommate, Sean Owen, who’d worked at google and has gone on to start his own company, Myrrix.
“so, we have a recommendations algorithm that is far more powerful than it has any right to be, for a company as small as we are,” Leonard admits. “if I’m being honest, it’s still the most underutilized part of the site.
BLCKLST.COM, HAS ADDED A NUMBER OF CHECK-BOXES TO THIS END, ALLOWING WRITERS TO CLASSIFY THEIR OWN SCRIPT, AND GAIN THOSE PRIVILEGE POINTS.
These metrics were not on the site a few years ago. You can imagine it must be very easy for these people to filter out a writer and his ideas forever if they did not agree with it. Mr Sean Owen and the company he had founded, Myrrix, had been bought up by another, Cloudera: Cloudera is a machine learning company funded by the CIA, through In-Q-Tel and based in London.
“In-Q-Tel (IQT), formerly Peleus and known as In-Q-It, is an American not-for-profit venture capital firm based in Arlington, Virginia. It invests in high-tech companies for the sole purpose of keeping the Central Intelligence Agency, and other intelligence agencies, equipped with the latest in information technology in support of United States intelligence capability.”
The CIA funded Cloudera through In-Q-Tel. Cloudera bought out Myrrix, for whom Sean Owen had written his algorithms. Then, Owen helped Franklin Leonard rewrite the algorithms for blcklst.com. Which begs the question – is In-Q-Tel funding blcklist.com? The connections he has does make this question a reasonable one to ask and investigate further.