It’s a feat worth popping the champagne for: All six female-identifying screenwriters who participated in the screenwriting lab co-founded by Margot Robbie have sold their scripts. That’s five feature films and one television series from a group of experienced female screenwriters graduating from the inaugural lab and making an impact in an otherwise tumultuous year in movies. It’s both a major achievement for each respective screenwriter as well as Robbie, whose talents and instincts as a producer and champion for female voices in film is something I wrote about earlier this year.
Per Variety, The Lucky Exports Pitch Program is the screenwriting lab created by Birds of Prey screenwriter Christina Hodson and Morgan Howell of Hodson Exports in collaboration with Robbie, Josey McNamara, and Tom Ackerley of LuckyChap Entertainment. The lab brought in six female-identifying screenwriters — Faith Liu, Sue Chung, Eileen Jones, Charmaine DeGraté, Dagny Looper, and Maria Sten — in an effort to give them the exposure and experience needed to sign on to big studio and/or franchise jobs. The lab ran from November 4 to December 6 2019 and, in the end, each of the scripts written by members of the lab was sold to studios (some in competitive buys) including Universal Pictures, Thunder Road, Sony Pictures and Blumhouse, and New Line.
The successes achieved by everyone involved with the first Lucky Exports Pitch Program demand our attention. It’s another gold star on Robbie’s record in the “scouting for talent and supporting it wholeheartedly” department. It’s a win for Hodson, who is quickly rising to become one of the go-to screenwriters for big studio fare and has earned the right to start calling shots while simultaneously sending the proverbial elevator back down. It’s also a major win for these six screenwriters who have written scripts that were not only scooped up by prominent studios but feature loglines that tease the possibility for each project to make waves in male-dominated genres including action, science fiction, and Westerns. Check out the brief breakdown of each writer’s project:
- From Sue Chung (The Brave, Marvel’s Agent Carter): Sanctuary is a gritty action thriller with an immigration story at the center. It has been acquired for distribution by Universal.
- From Charmaine DeGraté (The 100): Protégé is a lethal spy games ensemble thriller, which is in negotiations with Thunder Road.
- From Eileen Jones (Prodigal Son, Lethal Weapon): Highwayman is a high-octane western at the height of the California Gold Rush. It is in development as a feature at New Line.
- From Faith Liu (Writer’s Assistant on Warrior): Grinders is a teen slasher centered around a group of bio-hacking college kids. The feature is in development and has been acquired for distribution by Sony with development by Blumhouse.
- From Dagny Looper (See, Brave New World): Hijacked is an action rom-com about a cruise ship wedding gone wrong. It is in development as a feature at Warner Bros.
- From Maria Sten (Big Sky): Legacy is a high-concept heist drama set in the criminal underbelly of New Orleans. It is now being developed as a television series.
This is what the power of an A-lister (or, in the case of Robbie and Hodson, A-listers) can do for the industry. This is why I have been so keen to see how Robbie would wield her power as the head of a production company with enough cachet to get shit done. The Lucky Exports Pitch Program is now just the first step toward even more fruitful careers for each of the female screenwriters who have participated in it. With big studios attached to each of the feature films (I’ll be curious to see which network or streamer grabs Sten’s Legacy), success is all but assured. And while I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here, I don’t think it’s out of line to say that these female screenwriters, with scripts that are completely theirs and stand to make a deep imprint in male-dominated areas (both in front of and behind the lens), could be on their way to reshaping the image of a studio or franchise-favored screenwriter.
It’s been a year of stagnation and uncertainty for the movie business. Big tentpoles have had their release dates pushed back time and time again. Exhibition is teetering on the edge, the void of bankruptcy threatening to swallow it whole. Filming has resumed for a great many projects, but for every smooth-sailing ship, one hits the shoals as news of a positive COVID test from a set makes headlines. Awards shows now face unusual lineups with underdogs offered a chance to shine and the Academy reworks its rules for inclusivity to mixed reactions. All the while, we sit here and ponder what could resuscitate the industry, what could help make the projects getting a green light more inclusive and refresh the movie world in a productive way. What Robbie and Hodson have achieved with this lab and what the six writers who participated in it will go on to do is a harbinger of many, many good things to come; this could be exactly what the industry needs right now.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.