4 girls in BLACKPINK group sitting together on a throne.

Hollywood’s Hottest Film Script Is A BLACKPINK-Inspired Slasher

Screenwriter Lynn Q. Yu's K-pop horror story "Unnie" tops this year's The Black List


YG Entertainment

In this post-Hollywood-strike landscape, anticipation builds for the next groundbreaking script that will captivate audiences and shape the cinematic narrative. Enter Lynn Q. Yu, a budding screenwriter and accomplished journalist whose K-pop slasher script Unnie just landed a coveted spot on The Black List. For those uninitiated, The Black List isn't a shadowy registry or to be confused with NBC’s The Blacklist television seriesrather, it's a renowned annual compilation of the most promising unproduced scripts in Tinseltown. Voted on by Hollywood executives, some previous entries have included award-winning films such as Slumdog Millionaire, The King's Speech, and The Imitation Game.

“It's basically what the industry thinks are the buzziest scripts around town. A lot of Black List scripts go on to be purchased and produced. To land on The Black List is a big honor. It's very, very exciting,” Yu shares. 


The idea for Unnie began during the pandemic, when Yu fell down the K-pop rabbit hole through Netflix’s BLACKPINK documentary Light Up the Sky. “That was my first time sort of learning about the trainee camp system, and how insanely competitive it is,” Yu says. K-pop idols go through months to years of intensive training before they even get a shot to debut. Long grueling hours of vocal and dance lessons, media training, language training belie the innocent sounding nature of a trainee “camp.” There are often instances of grueling “slave” contracts and draconian diets, such as Momo of TWICE subsisting on only ice cubes for a week to lose 15 pounds.

In the Light Up the Sky documentary, viewers learn BLACKPINK was originally conceptualized as a nine-member unit before they eventually whiddled the group down to just four members: Jisoo, Rosé, Jennie and Lisa. “I remember at the time, thinking, ‘Oh, my God, what is it like to be one of those five girls who got cut? How devastating that would feel to be almost part of one of the biggest groups in the world,” Yu explains. One of those cut trainees, Cho Miyeon, went on to debut in the successful girl group (G)-IDLE, but those opportunities are rare.

“I made a comment to my friend at the time: ‘Surely someone has killed someone in order to secure a place and a K-pop group.’ I just made that joke and kind of filed it away,” Yu says. “Then fast forward about a year and a half later. I had hit a moment in my career, where I felt I had hit a wall. I was questioning whether I was good enough, whether I was talented enough. I wanted to write a story where a protagonist was really struggling with their own talent and adequacy.”

She continues, “What if the reason they failed wasn't because of the system? But because someone younger and hotter and more talented came up and supplanted them, which is something that I think most creatives have to deal with and have to go through. I combined those themes, but set them in this K-pop world.” The premise is the first K-pop girl group to debut in America. Coincidentally, art imitates life as both HYBE and JYP Entertainment have launched their American K-pop groups Katseye and VCHA respectively. 

To her credit, Yu is a skilled writer. Her bylines include Eater, Time Out, and AirMail among others. She says that screenwriting and filmmaking has always been the goal from day one, but journalism is the side hustle to keep the lights on. She sold a project to Netflix in 2019 that was ultimately canned, but has a food documentary short in post-production. Unnie would be her biggest script to date. She cranked out a first draft in late 2021 and put it off to the side until the latter half of 2022 because of the crowded market of K-pop scripts. ASTRO’s Cha Eun Woo was reportedly in talks to star in the film K-Pop: Lost In America with Rebel Wilson and Charles Melton. Meanwhile Anderson .Paak is slated to make his directing debut with the feature Kpops!, of which Korean American rapper dumbfoundead and Community star Yvette Nicole Brown have signed.

Unnie was shopped around in spring 2023, leading to numerous meetings with studio executives for a greenlight.

“Going into late April, we actually had four parties that were very interested in it. At the end of April, we got a studio to offer money. But ultimately, they low-balled us. We had to walk away from the deal because it was right before the strike,” Yu says. “I remember negotiating on April 28 and the strike started on May 1. They were basically trying to buy me out for a very low price, hoping I would accept the floor right before the strike.”

The Hollywood Writers Guild of America strike lasted a staggering 148 days. Key issues included wages, AI protections. and residuals from streaming services. “Our team was hoping that coming out of the strike, we would get a little traction because we had so much momentum going into the strike, but unfortunately, that ended up being not true in that a lot of the studios are just sitting tight. People were just working on getting existing projects off the ground. No one was buying anything new until 2024. To end up on The Black List, at the end of the year, feels really reaffirming after a tough year,” Yu says.

Fortunately for Yu, her tête-à-tête with executives demonstrated some are K-pop fans themselves. While she did face the stereotypical obstacle of the elderly white exec and had to attach BLACKPINK’s How You Like That to illustrate how massive K-pop was, other execs were younger, more diverse, and had booked it to Coachella to see the YG Entertainment superstars. 

“I will say there were some executives that knew exactly the names that shaped certain characters. ‘Oh, is this character supposed to be f(x)’s Amber Liu?,’” Yu remarks. Another big aesthetic inspiration was Red Velvet’s song ‘Psycho.’ One of the producers that we spoke to called that out and knew the song.”

Yu’s vision is for a big theatrical release with a banging soundtrack to match. Her ideal cast includes idol and soloist Jeon Somi as a lead, with fun cameos from BLACKPINK. 

When asked if she was nervous for any potential backlash about the film, especially considering its slasher elements and plans to kill off idol-based characters, Yu emphasized she’s a huge K-pop fan herself.

“I think I very much aim to get K-pop culture right. Obviously, we're gonna have some violence occur in the movie. But I do want it to lead to discussions and questions about the way these idols are treated in real life as part of the training camps,” she notes. “It's very much not meant to be an indictment of the K-pop industry. I love this genre so much. It's something that's become such a big part of my life. I want this movie to both pay homage to the genre, while also respectfully raising questions about the darker side of the industry as well.”

Poster for Unnie

Published on December 21, 2023

Words by Daniel Anderson

Daniel Anderson is a disabled Chinese American adoptee based in Seattle. His freelance writing specialties include K-pop, entertainment, and food. He believes that any restaurant can be a buffet, and the key to success is to take a nap each day. Follow his adventures on Instagram @danzstan.