What: The Last Days of TJ Staggs, a short film announcing the Black List screenplay shortlist for 2018.
Why we care: It’s hard to tell from a screenplay whether you have a hit on your hands or a dud. For every Matrix, an instant buzz-generator that has since gone on to be taught in film schools, there’s a screenplay like Radio Flyer, which sold for $1.25M and ended up not soaring very high at all. Although picking winners will always remain an inexact science, The Black List has served since 2005 as a conduit to surface un-produced screenplays that seem most destined for success. Now founder Franklin Leonard has just unveiled this year’s crop of Black List winners with a blockbuster production of his own.
For years now, Leonard has announced each year’s winners by working with a crack team of writers and actors to create a short film that mentions all the titles. (For an idea of how difficult that task is, the 2018 list features 73 titles.) The usual routine got a plot twist this year, though: The short film needed to be made in the 24 hours leading up to the announcement.
The resulting short, The Last Days of TJ Staggs, follows an agent (Scheer) at the height of his powers in 1998, suddenly waking up 20 years later to discover what Hollywood is like in 2018. The six-minute short involves cameos from Can You Ever Forgive Me? director Marielle Heller, Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu, and many more. It’s a fun, punchy short, punctuated by a cascade of titles, made all the more impressive by its tight deadline.