By Ahana Bhattacharya
Mumbai, Oct 24 (IANS) Franklin Leonard is a man of many intriguing parts. He is the Editor of a underground Hollywood magazine called “The Black List”, which is published annually and which runs the industry’s most popular unproduced screenplays. He has had his big-studio stint as a development executive with Universal Pictures and Overbrook Entertainment, and is currently an adviser to new-age moviemakers as BoomGen Studios and Plympton. Leonard also serves on the board of Young Storytellers, a non-profit organisation based in Los Angeles that aims to impart educate on art.
Leonard is Head of Jury for the India Gold section at Jio MAMI 21st Mumbai Film Festival with Star 2019. On his first trip to India, he is loving every bit of it.
“The experience has been amazing. This is my first time in India. It has been really special being in India and watching 10 Indian films. I’d love to come back here again,” said Leonard, sharing his Jio MAMI experience.
The India Gold section presents the best of Indian fiction and documentary feature films. The festival aims at showcasing breakthrough works of contemporary Indian cinema in this section. This year, there are 10 films features in India Gold.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t watched any movie outside the 10 films in contention in the India Gold section, and I’d love to watch other Indian movies, too,” said Leonard.
While in India, Leonard also plans to meet Indian film producers and collaborate with the Indian market for “The Black List”, a screenplay survey website founded by him which promotes Hollywood’s popular unproduced screenplays.
Asked if “The Black List” publication is eager to welcome scripts from India, he said: “Absolutely! We already do. Any script in the English language — no matter where it comes from — can be uploaded on our website for a small fee. If it is good, we will tell everybody among our industry members.”
Expressing his appreciation for Indian cinema, Leonard said: “I watch Indian cinema. In Bollywood musicals, there is a joy that is inescapable in a world that is far too joyless. I appreciate this aspect. Speaking generally about films I saw as part of jury duty, I really admired the ways in which a lot of filmmakers are trying to depict the realities of the world in which they live. It is a social realism I admire in independent films, which is coming out of the Indian film industry.”
Since it was founded in 2005, more than 400 scripts from “The Black List” have been made into films across the world, and have bagged 53 Oscar awards in all. Films that found global success after arising from the List include “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Argo”, “The King’s Speech”, “Spotlight”, “The Revenant”, “Juno”, “Hell Or High Water”, “American Hustle” and “The Descendants.
What according to Leonard makes a great script? “A great script is something that makes me want to continue turning the pages to find out what happens next, and makes me a little sad when it is over because I’ve spent so much time with the characters. It is a very general answer, but at the end of the day a great script is the one that makes a great movie. I forget about the rest of the world while reading it and it has a story I feel like telling everybody,” he replied.
Leonard had suggestions for budding scriptwriters in India. He said: “There are three pieces of advice I always give. Firstly, draw inspiration from life. You should understand the emotional reactions of human beings. You are not going to get the education to be a great writer just by watching movies, you have to be human. You have to keep trying even if you fail.
“The second thing is to be ambitious. Be ambitious in the stories you are trying to tell. It is not good enough to write something better than what you wrote last week. You should be trying to write the best movie ever, even if it is a comedy or a horror film.
“The third thing is that you should regularly read scripts, watch movies and write pages. You are not going to become a scriptwriter by not writing.”
At the ongoing Jio MAMI festival, Leonard also hosted a masterclass along with actress Kalki Koechlin. At the session, he emphasised the need for participation of more women at the decisionmaking level and in powerful positions, in order to fight sexism and misogyny prevailing in the film industry.