Hit Makers of The Hit List: A Look Back at Hit List Alums



We’re thrilled to announce that soon we will be releasing the 2017 Hit List! This coveted list is comprised of top spec of the year, as voted on by industry professionals. For many of these writers, earning a spot on a The Hit List is the culmination of years worth of hard work, dedication and, of course, writing, rewriting, and more writing. But before we announce this year’s Hit Listers, we want to take a moment to revisit some of our favorite success stories from the Hit Lists of years past.


The Kandell Brothers

Twin brothers Aaron and Jordan Kandell most recently worked on Disney’s Moana. They previously wrote Sidekicks, which they sold as a pitch to and Chernin Entertainment, and the 2013 Black List and Hit List script The Golden Road, set up at Endgame Entertainment with Mike Cahill attached to direct. They also sold the television drama pitch NASA to Legendary for Lorenzo Di Bonaventura to produce and are developing Starfall with James Madigan attached to direct and di Bonaventura producing.

Anthony McCarten

Anthony McCarten’s Darkest Hour, about Winston Churchill in World War II and starring Gary Oldman, is quickly becoming one of the most hyped movies for Oscar season. McCarten is no newbie to Oscar hype having been previously nominated for an Academy Award for his script for The Theory of Everything. He has two projects in , including The Pope starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, and Bohemian Rhapsody about the life of Freddie Mercury which recently halted after the film’s director, Bryan Singer, disappeared from set. He’s also in the works on an adaptation of How to Stop Time with Benedict Cumberbatch attached to star and produce.

Brian Duffield

Known for writing Insurgent and the Natalie Portman-starrer Jane Got a Gun, Brian Duffield is no stranger to end-of-year lists, having appeared on the Hit List five times, the Black List twice, as well as both the Young & Hungry List and . His 2014 Hit List and Black List script The Babysitter, directed by McG, recently premiered. Currently, he’s directing and writing Vivien Hasn’t Been Herself Lately and his spec Monster Problems is set up at Paramount. His project Underwater recently wrapped starring Kristen Stewart, TJ Miller, and Jessica Henwick. He’s attached to direct Spontaneous for Awesomeness, based on the novel by Aaron Starmer. 

Chris Bremner

With The King of LA set up at Scott Free with Julius Avery directing, Chris Bremner also has true crime spec script Blackfriars with Lee Toland Krieger attached to direct for Lakeshore and Hasbro. Blackfriars was featured on the Black List in 2015, and propelled him to a coveted spot on the 2016 Young & Hungry List. Also in the works are Sick Day with Jeremy Garelick directing and Johnny Knoxville starring, an adaptation of Houdini for Lionsgate and Kennedy/Marshall Co., Bad Boys for Life with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Most recently, it was announced that he is in the works on The Shadows with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Films.

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Cormac McCarthy

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy was no stranger to praise when his first original screenplay The Counselor landed on The Hit List. His previous novels Child of God, The Road, No Country for Old Men, and All The Pretty Horses have all been adapted into award-winning films. The Counselor was produced by , starred Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt, and was directed by Ridley Scott. McCarthy’s The Crossing is currently being adapted by Columbia and Sony and Cities of the Plain is being developed at Avenue Pictures with James Franco attached to star.

Dallas Clayton

Dallas Clayton is an author, illustrator, muralist, and motivational speaker. He started his by self-releasing An Awesome Book, and was hailed as “the new Dr. Seuss.” The success of this book inspired a series of Awesome Books, along with It’s Never Too Late, and a new series, Lilly the Unicorn, produced by the Jim Henson Company. Louis Leterrier is attached to direct his Commander Alexander, and Dallas is currently writing Harold and the Purple Crayon for Sony Animation. His script Sister is a feature musical that recently wrapped with Maddie Ziegler, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. starring and directed by Sia. 

Damien Chazelle

The young and promising Damien Chazelle found his way on The Hit List with his dramatic thriller The Claim. Four years later, his film Whiplash, which he wrote and directed, won 3 of the 5 Oscars for which it was nominated, including Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons. Then he wrote the script for the secretive 10 Cloverfield Lane and his next feature, the critically acclaimed musical La La Land which netted its lead Emma Stone an Oscar for Best Actress. He’s currently at work on First Man at Universal with La La Land actor Ryan Gosling set to star with Claire Foy and Kyle Chandler, and his spec The Claim is in with Route One Entertainment.

Dan Fogelman

An A-list screenwriter, known for penning some of the biggest hits of the 2000s and 2010s, and with a diverse resume ranging from Crazy, Stupid, Love to Cars, Dan Fogelman made his directorial debut with 2015’s Danny Collins. Most recently he created hit shows This is Us for NBC which became the biggest breakout series of 2016’s fall television season. Next Fogelman is working on Honeymoon with Harry with Nick Cassavettes attached to direct. 

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David Ayer

David Ayer’s entry onto the 2013 list was the World War II drama Fury, which was produced in 2014 and starred Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, and Logan Lerman. Ayer directed the film, which was nominated for numerous awards and landed on the National Board of Review’s Top Ten list. Before that, Ayer wrote and directed the scintillating cop thriller End Of Watch starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, and Anna Kendrick. He has been tapped by Warner Bros. to pen the remake of Sam Peckinpah western The Wild Bunch, which Will Smith is in talks to lead, and most recently wrote and directed the DC Entertainment Universe film Suicide Squad. Up next, his project Bright with a script from fellow Hit List alum Max Landis will debut on and he’s in the works on Gotham City Sirens starring Margot Robbie as her Suicide Squad character Harley Quinn.

The Duffer Brothers

Writing duo Matthew Duffer and Ross Duffer won raves for their script Hidden. It was subsequently produced by Warner Bros. and Roy Lee’s Primal Pictures and stars Alexander Skarsgard. Since then they created the hit series Stranger Things for , which recently premiered its second season.

The Duplass Brothers

Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass landed on the list with Pitchfork and have since made names for themselves both in front of the camera as well as behind the camera, writing and producing several smaller indie projects, such as the critically acclaimed Tangerine, Skeleton Twins, and The One I Love (which Mark also co-starred in). Most recently, their film Blue Jay, which they co-wrote, was released, co-starring Mark and Sarah Paulson. This year they debuted their new HBO series Room 104 which received a season two order and they recently wrapped the projects Duck Butter and Creep 2 which they executive produced.

Emily Carmichael

Emily Carmichael is set to direct Eon, with Colin Trevorrow, Adam Spielberg, and Krista Parris producing. Carmichael co-wrote Pacific Rim 2 with Kira Snyder for Legendary and director Steve DeKnight with John Boyega and Scott Eastwood starring. She is currently writing and will direct Powerhouse for Amblin Entertainment with Colin Trevorrow and Simon Kinberg producing, and will also direct Lumberjanes for based on the Boom! Studios comic.

attends Kari Feinstein's Pre-Oscar Style Lounge at the Andaz Hotel on February 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.Getty Images

Eric Heisserer

Eric Heisserer made the Hit List with his adaptation of Ted Chiang’s novella Story of Your Life, which turned into Arrival and had a record-breaking pre-sale at Cannes to Paramount after a massive bidding war and was recently released to rave reviews. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner starred and Denis Villeneuve directed. Heisserer has since directed his own project, Hours, and wrote the screenplay for the hit horror film Lights Out.  He’s working on the Universal reboot of Van Helsing and among his other projects in are Exposure for Columbia and an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None for . His spec Understand is also set up at . Also in the works are Bird Box, which is in , and a Lights Out sequel is in

Graham Moore

Graham Moore won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game but the script first appeared on The Hit List back in 2011. Prior to this, Moore was a staff writer on the ABC Family series 10 Things I Hate About You. After finding his niche in film adaptations, he worked on the Devil in the White City before reworking his own historical novel The Last Days of Night into a film with Morten Tyldum directing and Eddie Redmayne set to star. 

Kristina Lauren Anderson

Kristina Lauren Anderson won many fans with her spec Catherine the Great, and enough votes to find the script on the 2014 Hit List. Catherine is currently set up at Gil Netter Productions, with Keira Knightley starring and Barbara Streisand set to direct. Next up, Anderson went to work on the adaptation of Life And Death In Eden for StudioCanal and Grand Electric Entertainment and Invisibility for Warner Bros. Pictures. She then wrote Holy Takedown! for Wayne/Lauren Film Company which has attached Trent Cooper to direct and Michael Rosenbaum to star and her pitch The Briefcase is set up at Paramount, to be produced Greg Berlanti. Finally, she’s always writing the Amazon pilot Mrs. Hemingway, produced by Jude Law.

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Lisa Joy

Westworld creator Lisa Joy may be better known for her work on the small screen but she landed on the Hit List with Reminiscence back in 2013 showing her skill with features. Her other credits include ABC’s Pushing Daisies and ’s Burn Notice. Westworld is now on the path to taking Game of Thrones‘ spot as HBO’s flagship series when the fantasy series ends in a couple years. She recently worked on Sony’s Silver and Black before Gina Prince-Blythewood came on to write and direct, and she has a spec set up at Legendary. 

Max Landis

Max Landis made a huge splash in the industry with his script Chronicle, which was featured not only on The Hit List, but also The Young & Hungry List and Black List. The film was made by Columbia Pictures starring Dane Dehaan and Michael B. Jordan, and grossed $127 million worldwide. Landis has then gone on to pen American Ultra, Victor Frankenstein, and Mr. Right. His series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is currently airing on BBC America and he wrote the upcoming Bright which sold to with David Ayer directing and Will Smith starring. Earlier this year he sold the spec Deeper with Bradley Cooper and Gal Gadot attached to star. He’s currently working on a big screen version of the Looney Tunes character Pepe Le Pew and a remake of his father John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London. 

Michael Russell Gunn

Michael Russell Gunn is currently a writer and producer on Designated Survivor, and previously he wrote on the Starz series Black Sails. He got his start under the wing of Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin on HBO’s The Newsroom. He sold his 2015 Hit List script The Virginian to New Line with Bradley Cooper attached to play a young George Washington. He’s also in the works on Price of Liberty with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal attached to produce. The project is based on true events at the end of the Cold War, in which a young American diplomat and two senators (one Democrat and one Republican) implement a plan to secure the dangerous, unprotected nuclear material of the fallen Soviet Union. 

Mike Makowsky

An award-winning writer for his 2015 short Open 24 Hours, Mike Makowsky‘s follow-up I Think We’re Alone Now landed on the 2016 and was set up with Exhibit financing, Automatik Entertainment and Estuary Films producing. The Handmaid’s Tale director Reed Morano helmed the project with Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning starring. He is also in on Bad Education.

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Paul Wernick & Rhett Reese

Deadpool was one of the surprise hits of 2015, but its writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, nabbed themselves a spot on the list way back in 2012 with their sci-fi script Epsilon which was then set up at Columbia. More recently their script Life hit the big screen starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds, and they also worked on a previous draft of Sony’s Venom feature starring Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, and Michelle Williams. Next up, they are adapting another comic book, Cowboy Ninja Viking, with Chris Pratt set to star.

Fred Seton & Peter Hoare

Fred Seton and Peter Hoare grabbed readers’ attention with Kid Leviathan, which sold to Digital Studios, beginning their run as some of the best feature comedy writers in the business. Seton sold Pierre Pierre to Escape Artists and Category 5 Entertainment, attaching Larry Charles to direct while Russell Brand is in discussions to star. Universal also picked up Seton’s Untitled Cannistraci Pitch, with Everyman Pictures producing. Meanwhile, Hoare went on to work as a writer on the CBS series Kevin Can Wait and the feature Everybody Wants Head with Eli Craig directing. Alongside Chris Lilli, Peter set up Head Case with Sentinel Pictures and Permut Presentation. Next up, Hoare is working on the Babysitting remake for Entertainment One with Iain Morris directing and is in on Unsatisfied starring Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal. 

Rob Lieber

Rob Lieber has made a name for himself in the family-friendly feature world with for Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, as well as his Hit List script Peter Rabbit for Sony and starring Rose Byrne, James Corden, and Domhnall Gleeson. The latter film is due out later this year. He reteamed with Disney for Mgic Camp and is in the works on the sequel for Goosebumps and Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold with Steve Carell attached to star and based on the Terry Brooks novel.

Steven Rogers

One of the hottest awards projects of the year, I, Tonya, made waves just last year with a place on the Hit List for screenwriter Steven Rogers. The film is due out this weekend and stars Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, and Allison Janney. Rogers’ extensive writing credits include Hope FloatsStepmomKate and LeopoldEarthly PosessionsP.S. I Love YouLove the Coopers. He is currently in on Road Signs which sold as a pitch to Revolution Studios for six figures. 

Taylor Sheridan

Oscar nominee Taylor Sheridan nabbed a spot on the 2012 Hit List with Comancheria, but you may know it better as Hell or High Water which was picked up and produced by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Film 44. The film starred Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges and went on to become one of the best-reviewed films of the year. He found similar success with his script Sicario, which starred Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro and was directed by Denis Villenevue. Sheridan is in the works on a sequel to the film due out in 2018. He’s also in the works on Dark Invasion with Bradley Cooper attached to star, and an English-language remake of Disorder. The original films starred Matthias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger.

attends the "Hidden Figures" New York Special Screening on December 10, 2016 in New York City.Getty Images

Ted Melfi

After landing on The Hit List with his script I Am Rose Fatou, Ted Melfi went on to write and direct 2014’s hit indie dramedy St. Vincent, which was nominated for Best at the Golden Globes and most recently co-wrote and directed Hidden Figures starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae. Next up, he will direct Fruit Loops for 2000 based on Melfi’s pitch which sold in a seven-figure deal. Story details are being kept under wraps, but considering Melfi’s past work, it’s sure to be a hit. 

Wentworth Miller

You may know Wentworth Miller best for his starring role in Prison Break and its recent revival, or as Captain Cold in the CW’s Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, but Miller is a notable scribe as well. He wrote under the pen name Ted Fouke for the thriller STOKER, which starred Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. He has since been at work on the adaptation of Richard Parker’s novel Scare Me, the remake of With a Friend Like Harry with Adam Bernstein attached to direct, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle with Tom Hanks attached to star. 

These are only some of the incredible writers that we’ve had the honor of featuring on the 2015 Hit List. Check back soon for the release of the 2016 Hit List!


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