Academy Award Winner Dustin Lance Black is a screenwriter, filmmaker and social activist, best known for writing the screenplay of Harvey Milk’s biopic MILK and for aiding in overturning California’s discriminatory Proposition 8
Dustin Lance Black is a screenwriter, filmmaker and social activist. He has won the Academy Award® and two WGA Awards for Best Original Screenplay for MILK, the biopic of the late civil rights activist Harvey Milk starring Sean Penn. He is also a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which successfully led the federal cases for marriage equality in California and Virginia with lawyers David Boise and Ted Olson, putting an end to California’s discriminatory Proposition 8.
In 2012 Black merged his creative and civil rights work with “8”, a play based on the Federal Proposition 8 trial. “8’s” LA cast included George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly. The play was broadcast live, has been staged in eight countries and all fifty states and continues to break viewership records online with over a million viewers.
An honors graduate of UCLA’s School of Film and Television, Black began his career as an art director and quickly transitioned to directing documentaries and commercials. Black’s documentaries ON THE BUS (2001) and MY LIFE WITH COUNT DRACULA (2003) debuted to acclaim and led to a successful stint producing and directing TLC and BBC’s hit program FAKING IT, which received notices for its unflinching sociological commentaries.
In 2004, Black signed on to draw on his Mormon childhood experiences in San Antonio as a writer and co-producer on HBO’s Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated polygamist drama BIG LOVE (Bill Paxton). He continued to write for the show through its third season in 2008. During that time, Black penned the screenplay PEDRO, about the life and legacy of famed openly gay, HIV positive Real World cast member Pedro Zamora. The film earned Black his second WGA Award nomination when it premiered on MTV and VH1 in 2009.
In 2011, Black earned his second “10 Best of the Year” award from the American Film Institute for his Clint Eastwood directed screenplay J.EDGAR starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Black’s feature directorial debut VIRGINIA (Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris) premiered in theaters May 2012. In 2013, Black began creating the miniseries WHEN WE RISE, which premiered on ABC on February 27th, 2017. WHEN WE RISE chronicles the true stories of the personal and political struggles, setbacks, and triumphs of diverse LGBT activists who pioneered the modern LGBT Rights Movement from 1971 to present day in America.
Black is currently developing BAYARD for HBO, a biopic chronicling the life of civil rights organizer and activist, Bayard Rustin. He is developing a limited series for PARAMOUNT TV, LINDBERGH, which will follow the tumultuous life of famed pilot, Charles Lindbergh. He is adapting Jon Krakauer’s acclaimed UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN as a limited series for FX, with Ron Howard attached to direct, and is developing 3-STORY, a feature film about a boy who can’t stop growing with LAURENCE MARK PRODUCTIONS AND DARK HORSE. Black is also set to direct, THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, a feature film that confronts the science of love and attraction for the modern audience, with Bruna Papandrea producing.
Since winning the Oscar in 2009, Black has split his creative time in order to fight for LGBTQ+ equality at the national level. Beyond working with the American Foundation For Equal Rights (AFER), he served three years on the board of the Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ youth crisis hotline, where he established a permanent hotline in Harvey Milk’s former camera shop on the Castro District. Black has also been on an equal rights speaking tour, and was one of a handful of organizers of the LGBT March on Washington in October 2009 where he spoke to an audience of over 150,000 demonstrators in front of the Nation’s Capitol. Recently, Black has expanded his scope to international activism: He is one of the co-founders of the Uprising of Love Coalition which seeks to raise awareness of violence and discrimination committed against LGBTQI+ people in the international community.
Black has taught MFA screenwriting at UCLA, regularly appears on MSNBC, The BBC and CNN, has had three books published, has written for every major screenwriting magazine, contributes to The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post, topped the list of OUT Magazine’s 40 under 40, and has repeatedly been named one of the 50 most powerful LGBT people in America today.