NYU's Purple List offers opportunity to young film students

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- This year marks the 10th anniversary of an innovative program at New York University that is designed to make sure the best scripts written by graduate film students actually get made and released as feature films.

The Purple List takes its name from one of NYU's school colors, and the effort has helped bring much needed diversity to the film industry.

Two former NYU students who made the list, Chloe Zhao and Shaka King, went on to earn Oscar nominations this year, and Zhao went home with two trophies.

Before her "Nomadland" was called the Best Picture -- and before she became the first woman of color to ever win for Best Directing -- she gave us "Songs My Brothers Taught Me."

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Her first feature began as a script Zhao wrote while she was a graduate student at NYU, and she was able to get it made after it got selected for the Purple List.

"The Purple List has really become the place where you can find the next breakthrough filmmaker," co-founder Shandor Garrison said.

Ash Mayfair is one such filmmaker.

"(I'm) so immensely grateful to the Purple List," she said. "Without the Purple List, my film, my first film, 'The Third Wife,' could not have been made."

Her debut feature, inspired by a family story of life in North Vietnam, went on to earn nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards.

It's one of more than a dozen movies that reached movie theaters after beginning on the Purple List.

"We have a public event at NYU where we stage a reading of excerpts of the script," Garrison said.

In a room packed with industry professionals, the best projects can move forward, draw attention from industry heavyweights, and also accomplish a larger purpose by promoting diversity.

"60% of Purple List authors are women, 60% of the scripts are written by members of ethnically diverse communities, and 15% by LGBTQ writers," Garrison said.

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The diversity reflects the NYU student body.

"It's my connection back to the community," Mayfair said. "It's also sparking hope every year, seeing how many different, challenging, diverse, and amazing stories are continuing to get recognition from this program."

It can lead to wider recognition and even Oscar recognition, as Zhao and King can attest.

King directed Daniel Kaluuya to an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor in "Judas and the Black Messiah," and their success got a big boost from the Purple List.

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