Kiwi filmmaker receives ‘overwhelming’ script deal through MGM & The Black List partnership


Kiwi filmmaker Alex Liu has received a two-step Guild minimum deal with MGM and The Black List.

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Kiwi filmmaker Alex Liu has received a two-step Guild minimum deal with MGM and The Black List.

Auckland-based filmmaker Alex Liu is the third recipient of a two-step Guild minimum open script deal with MGM and the Black List, as part of their two-year feature-film script-writing partnership.

For Liu, who has wanted to write and make films since he was a kid, the deal was “overwhelming”.

“[After] seven years of rejection and failure it was a relief to feel like that wasn’t a waste,” he said.

Liu, who works in Stuff’s visuals team, originally submitted his recent script God Bless You, Mr Kopu to the website The Black List. It is a site connecting writers and filmmakers globally and is “pretty massive in Hollywood circles”.

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When he received positive reviews from an American perspective, he included the script in his submission for the partnership deal.

That submission landed interviews with The Black List Founder Franklin Leonard and screenwriter Scott Silver (8 Mile, The Fighter) in early July. The first of which took place at midnight when Liu was in “the middle of nowhere” in Croatia.

The internet crashed at the beginning of the Zoom meeting and while Liu managed to reconnect, he left the short interview thinking he had “completely f….. that one up”.

But after the second interview and more than a week of “constantly checking my phone”, Liu received the email of congratulations at 12:30am on his 30th birthday.

“This is what I’ve been working towards for the past six or seven years. It was overwhelming.”

And now Liu is preparing to write a script for MGM. What exactly the new film will be is still in the planning stages, but in a perfect world, Liu’s involvement would not stop with the script writing.

“Ideally I would like to direct it,” he says.

“It’s my dream to write and direct, but it’s their property once it’s written, so it’s theirs to do what they like with it – as much as I’d like to be a part of the process.”

Alex Liu directing the cast of SMOG.

Carissa Corlett

Alex Liu directing the cast of SMOG.

The Black List and MGM partnership aims to discover new voices from historically underrepresented communities around the world. As a Tongan-New Zealander, Liu says his point of view, “I guess, is quite unique”.

Liu’s most recent short SMOG, a “domestic drama within the facade of a dystopian thriller” took out best film award in this year’s Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts Competition.

As for the script that got Liu the deal, God Bless You, Mr Kopu is in development with Ant Timpson as executive Director Liu will direct the film. The two are currently “trying to get money to make it”.

While Liu has known about the MGM and Black List deal since July, it has taken two months for contracts to be signed and to join the Writers Guild of America. It was a nervous wait for the filmmaker.

“It took this long to be legally official,” he said.

“I was desperate for the press release to come out … they can’t renege anything now.”

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