NYU's Purple List, like Hollywood's Black List, puts films on the map

NYU's Purple List, like Hollywood's Black List, puts films on the map
NYU's Purple List showcases students' ready-to-go scripts for feature films. (New York University)

Hollywood’s elite have the Black List, which is made up of complete scripts that haven’t been turned into movies. Many popular films like “Juno” and “500 Days of Summer” have graced the Black List, before becoming movies in theaters.

Now, New York University has a similar concept — the Purple List.

Two years ago, NYU film graduate students Ash Bhalla and Shandor Garrison decided they wanted to create something akin to the Black List to showcase NYU's ready-to-go scripts for feature films. Many film schools are unable to offer support for feature-length projects due to lack of resources, Garrison said.


However, NYU redesigned its film program to allow students to pursue making feature films for their thesis projects, which are required for film students to graduate.

"We believed that the students who did the work in three years would be ready to make a feature film," said John Tintori, chair of the graduate film program at NYU.

Garrison and Bhalla took their proposal to Tintori, who was fully supportive, Garrison said.

"There's interest in the lower end of the feature market," Bhalla said. "We're in school with a bunch of talented people who have these projects. We felt like this would connect those two things."

The Purple List was released in 2011 with six projects chosen.

Shaka King’s film, “Newlyweeds,” made the first list in 2011. The drama, about a couple that smokes a lot of marijuana, was King’s thesis project -- and wound up getting screened at the Sundance Film Festival last year. In September, it will premiere at the Film Forum in New York. If the film does well, King expects it to open in other cities including Los Angeles.

He gives credit to NYU for preparing him.

"The teachers really push you to explore reality in front of the camera," King said. "I'm always questioning 'Is this real?'"

After his script made it onto the Purple List, King said he received many email inquiries from people who wanted to look at it.

In order to get onto the Purple List, interested students submit an application with the script, which goes to judges from the industry. Judges fill out questionnaires that require them to say “yes,” “maybe” or “no” to a submission. Judges for the 2012 list included filmmaker Karyn Kusama, cinematographer Chris Manley, Sundance Labs’ Rachel Chanoff and a few more.

The 2012 list features seven projects including a film called "Manos Sucias," which was the first on the list to wrap up production at the beginning of July.

“Manos Sucias,” co-written by Josef Wladyka and Alan Blanco, is set in Colombia. They raised $65,000 for the film using Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform.

The film is about two men who are trafficking cocaine to Panama. Wladyka also directed his thesis project and Blanco was the cinematographer. The duo wants to finish putting the film together by the fall to submit it to Sundance.

Wladyka said the Purple List brought awareness to NYU's film projects.

"All of us came in to hone our craft, why not shoot for the stars?" Blanco said.

The Purple List can also help students get funding for their projects, Garrison said. An investment group has expressed interest in providing financing for future Purple List films, he added. Garrison would not disclose the name of the group interested.

Garrison believes that film schools will become mini studios because the schools have the talent and the technology.

"It's less of a risk. You have all of NYU behind these projects -- that's attractive," Garrison said.

NYU's flexibility to allow its students to make features is an advantage because students at other schools are producing a large amount of shorts. Many film students choose to do shorts for their thesis projects, creating more competition for fewer spots at festivals.

However, with fewer students producing features, it can be easier to get into a variety of film festivals.

"Features are ultimately the calling card you need to make it in this business," Garrison said. "There's a market for features."