The WGA Awards
The 2016 Writers Guild Awards were presented on Saturday night. You can find the full list of winner here. But these are a few highlights --
Best Original Screenplay -- Spotlight, Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy;
Best Adapted Screenplay -- The Big Short, Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay; Based on the Book by Michael Lewis
Best Dramatic TV Series -- Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Semi Chellas, Jonathan Igla, Janet Leahy, Erin Levy, Tom Smuts, Robert Towne, Matthew Weiner, Carly Wray
Best Comedy TV Series -- Veep, Written by Simon Blackwell, Jon Brown, Kevin Cecil, Roger Drew, Peter Fellows, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Sean Gray, Callie Hersheway, Armando Iannucci, Sean Love, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Andy Riley, Tony Roche, Will Smith;
Best Episodic Drama TV -- “Uno” (Better Call Saul), Written by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould
Best Episodic Comedy TV -- “Sand Hill Shuffle” (Silicon Valley), Written by Clay Tarver
Best Original Longform TV -- Saints & Strangers, Written by Seth Fisher, Walon Green, Chip Johannessen, Eric Overmyer
Best Adapted Longform TV -- Fargo, Written by Steve Blackman, Bob DeLaurentis, Noah Hawley, Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert, Based on the film Fargo
Though it might seem like this is the full list, because there couldn't possibly be any more...trust me, there not only are more, there are a LOT more. And they're almost all for television. It's one of my bugaboos about the WGA Awards. There are three awards for feature film (the third is for Best Documentary), and 24 other for awards, almost all for television. I have no qualms with there being 24 -- but if you're going to give separate awards in TV for comedy and drama because they're completely different styles, then why not in feature films? They're just as different? And if you're going to give animation writing in TV, then why not in film? Or children's writing for TV, but none in feature film. And...well, okay, you get the point.
(In fairness, the Writers Guild MBA contract with companies likely does not have wide jurisdiction all animation features, or perhaps even most. I don't know. The WGA would like to cover every one, but it takes two parties to agree. So, that could impact the awarding of eligible animation features.)
A member of WGA hierarchy once defended it to me by saying that just having three awards in feature films made them more "prestigious." So, then why aren't TV writers outraged (!) that they are being disparaged by their very own Guild? (Side note: this person making the argument almost exclusively wrote in television.) Well, of course, TV writers aren't outraged because they aren't being disparaged -- just as feature film awards wouldn't be less-prestigious if there were only a few more.
There are two reasons I really dislike how unbalanced the WGA awards are. The first, as evidenced above, is general -- I think it's dismissive and unfair to feature film writers. And not just for ego reasons, but real-world financial ones, as well. I'm sure that being able to have "WGA Award winner" on one's reason helps in contract negotiations. Over the past decade, there have been 240 TV writers who've been able to benefit from having a award. At the same time, only 30 feature film writers have gotten the same benefit.
The other reasons is personal, though I'm sure not just for me. I've attended two WGA Awards shows. I'm interested in TV -- I certainly watch it, and I've written in the field, as well. But mainly I write in the feature film world, and it's what most interests me. And so sitting through the WGA awards show, with its three-only all-encompassing feature film awards and then the endless parade of TV awards that ultimately delves down to minutiae categories like, "Comedy/Variety Talk Series," "Comedy/Variety Sketch Series," "Comedy/Variety Specials," and "Quiz and Audience Participation" -- is (after three hours) so heavily weighted to one side that it becomes utterly mind-numbing.
Again, I'm fine with them giving out all the many specific-category awards in television, if that how the Powers That Be feel its best to honor Guild members who work in television. But at least balance the evening and be fair about it to all your fellow-Guild members. Besides, the WGA was created before TV was even invented, and was originally known as the Screenwriters Guild of America. So...y'know, maybe three awards out of 27 might be a little on the paltry, unbalanced, unfair and boring side.
Anyway, all that aside, big congrats to all the winners, all the nominees, and all the writers who were able to get works produced during the year.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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