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Hollywood heavyweights line up to mentor LGBTQ screenwriters

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For more than 35 years, GLAAD, the nation’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, has turned to Hollywood to produce TV shows and films that exemplify the breadth and diversity of the queer community. In recent years, the nonprofit group has launched a screenwriting contest and this year the talent behind LGBTQ screenplays will be mentored by Hollywood heavyweights.

On Tuesday, the group launched its third edition GLAAD List Competition, a collaboration with The blacklist, the writer-focused organization known for its annual list of best unrealized screenplays.

Initially, the GLAAD List was an organized summary of the most promising unrealized LGBTQ scripts hosted on blcklst.com or included on the annual year-end blacklist. Now, those writing about the LGBTQ experience are invited to submit screenplays to The blacklist site. Submissions are welcome until September 20, with original feature film and pilot submissions being considered for the first time.

Scripts provided by The Black List will be assessed by GLAAD on the overall quality, boldness and originality of the content, according to the organizers, as well as on fair, accurate and inclusive LGBTQ portrayal. The 2021 GLAAD List finalists will be announced this winter.

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said the list provides Hollywood with new talent who harness the power of storytelling to increase acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ people.

The genesis of this initiative was to create greater avenues of opportunity for marginalized voices who have not historically had lanes in the Hollywood ecosphere, Ellis said in a statement.

The competition opened just days after GLAAD released its ninth annual Studio Responsibility Index, which tracks the quantity, quality and diversity of LGBTQ characters in theatrical releases from the eight largest studio distributors.

While the 2021 index saw gay women outnumber men for the first time, the portrayal of bisexual, transgender, non-binary, HIV-positive and disabled characters was lacking, according to the report’s findings.

This year’s GLAAD List winners will have the backing of six major studios that are committed to supporting under-represented talent and LGBTQ content: the first Founders Circle includes Netflix; Ryan Murphy Productions; MGM / Orion images; Arrowverse Brain Gregory Berlantis Berlanti Productions; Reese Witherspoons’ Hello Sunshine media company; and the Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, which co-produced the Matrix, The Lego Movie and Joker films.

In addition to covering the submission fee for the selected entrants, studio representatives will read and provide information on the shortlisted scripts and meet face-to-face with at least 10 GLAAD List finalists this fall.

Studios will then be able to offer script offers to a number of feature film writers or GLAAD List pilots.

We are delighted to be joined in this important work by so many production companies whose work I have admired for as long as they have been doing so, Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List, said in a statement.

At least six scripts from the first two years of the GLAAD roster are in various stages of production, including Queen, the adaptation of Harry Tarres’ screenplay, acquired by Red Crown Productions, on activist Corey Raes’ journey as America’s first transgender prom queen; and writer-director Jared Frieders Three Months, a coming-of-age comedy about a gay teenager (Troye Sivan) who is exposed to HIV on graduation weekend and nervously awaits his test results even as he begins a new relationship with someone from his support group.

Another is Chris Baslers The Silence of Mercy, a period play about a woman who chooses seclusion and a life of prayer while turning her back on a lesbian relationship. The film packed filming in dublin earlier this year, with The Runaways director Floria Sigismondi directing actresses Agnes Born and Annabelle Wallis.

Billy Porters’ directorial debut, What if? is another GLAAD list achievement: Acquired by Orion Pictures with Killer Films Christine Vachon has signed on as a producer, the film follows trans high school girl Kelsa (Eva Reign) and her classmate Khal (Abubakr Ali) as they are navigating a romance they never expected. What if? would have started production in Pittsburgh on Monday.

It was an honor and a joy to work with GLAAD on an initiative that in just two years already has films in post- and pre-production despite the pandemic, Leonard said. They are the first of many, many others.

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