Covering the WGA Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles always seems like a family affair – from the inside jokes and camaraderie, right down to the witty banter in the lobby beforehand.
Not the Oscars, nor does it need to be. It’s a quieter ceremony celebrating the immense amount of writing talent in one room. It’s about the dialogue and action scenes which can make or break a movie.
Hostess Ana Gasteyer, well-known for “Saturday Night Live,” kicked off the proceedings by introducing “two creepy police officers from ‘Watchmen.’” At first we weren’t exactly sure if they were there just to freak everyone out or if they were to help assist the presenters. Luckily, it turned out to be the latter.
Right away Gasteyer took on the agent situation in the industry.
“Everyone in this room is so talented. I’m so excited to be here. But let me get this straight, the award show is untelevised and in the middle of the day. Who brokered this deal? You need to fire your agents.”
“Winners, please keep your speeches short and sweet. It should be easy because you don’t have agents to thank.”
Everyone was thereby informed that speeches going on too long will be sent off with Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” played vigorously on a violin by the conductor of the orchestra.
Then Gasteyer started singing an original song about all the nominated films to the tune of Elton John’s “Rocketman”:
“I think World War One was a sh*tty time, and I’m worried about the DP’s spine because the film is all one continuous shot. Cameramannnnn…” – (1917)
WGA East president Beau Willamon then spoke about the upcoming negotiations with AMPTP and the situation: “When writers meet in this room 50 years from now in this room, we want them to look back and appreciate what we were able to achieve.”
“Parasite” won for Original Screenplay and so it’s no surprise it picked up the well-deserved Best Picture at the Oscars. “Parasite” is also the first non-English language film to win the SAG cast award and the first to win any award from the WGA or ACE.
At different points during the awards, writers at the tables gave funny stories about how they first got into writing:
“When I told my family I had landed my first gig as a writer, my father’s response was, ‘On a sitcom? You’re not funny.’ Well, he’ll never live it down because it’s 25 years later and I’m here. I’m Meg Deloatch and I’m a writer.”
Another writer related that she got a C on a paper in high school and was told by her teacher that she was not a writer – now she’s a successful one.
Diane Keaton appeared to present the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement to Nancy Meyers. She told of how, years later, she still got asked questions pertaining to the films she was in (written by Meyers). Especially about “Something’s Gotta Give” — who kissed better, Keanu Reeves or Jack Nicholson? When was she doing a sequel?
“Optimism has always been present in Nancy Meyers’ work,” added Keaton. “Luckily, I’ve appeared in a few of Nancy’s movies and I’d like to appear in one again—you know, before I’m dead.”
The grateful Meyers accepted the award and added, “Thank you for this one. Watching [Diane Keaton] act over the years, I can’t ever thank her enough for our collaboration. Thank you so much to the Writers Guild—spoiler alert, I’m probably going to cry. So many of the recipients of this award have been real idols of mine–they’ve been my teachers.”
Brad Falchuk accepted the Valentine Davies Award from presenter Kate Hudson.
“Thank you to the WGA for hunting me down to give me this award. David Goodman sent me an email to tell me the WGA wanted to give me the award, and the email was so cryptic that–this is true–I thought it was a scam. So I literally ignored the email, and then ignored the next email. And then Mike Schur called me and said, ‘Brad, you’re being an *sshole. This is real.’”
Accepting the Comedy Series prize for “Barry,” in LA was Alec Berg, who had a laugh-out loud comment:
“Wow, this is a delightful surprise. I put a lot of money on Mrs. Maisel tonight, so please know this comes at a cost.”
The person presenting the award for Best Documentary Screenplay was…Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes?
(Gasteyer, who was in a black turtleneck and had a deep voice): “Imagine a world where no one has to suffer again. Question: What is the most pressing issue of our time? That’s right: Too many streaming services. Which ones do you get? How do you pay for it all? How..do you watch what you want? This…epidemic…of streaming services…will claim millions of lives. What if I told you…that I’ve..invented..a way…to aggregate…all these streaming service into one experience? In this box, I have organized all your favorite shows, into what I call ‘channels.’ And…you can watch the shows…according…to a schedule. Right in your living room. And the best part? You only have to pay one company for this service. Introducing…Cablé.”
Geena Davis then presented the Paul Selvin Award for “Bombshell” to Charles Randolph.
“Thank you. Geena and her institute [Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media] are tackling the gender gap smartly, with ferocity and reams of undisputable data,” said Randolph.
“Whatever project you’re working on right now, imagine Geena coming over to your table tonight and saying ‘Where are we?’ Do not disappoint Geena Davis. Make Geena your conscience. Thank you WGA. I’m very proud to be one of you. I love how movies have stopped treating politics like a sacred liability. I love that the scene that made me think the most this year was two Barbies fighting about objectification in front of a mirror.”
Merrill Markoe [“The Late Show with David Letterman”] was then presented with the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award by another “Saturday Night Live” actress, Laraine Newman.
“Thank you to Dave and the writers I hired, who were in the trenches with me when the show first started. I want to thank my mother who, when I told her I was going to change careers, insisted on reading my work and said, ‘Well, I don’t happen to care for it, but I pray I’m wrong.’ I kind of felt bad about that for a while, but then I realized on her copy of ‘David Copperfield,’ she’d written, ‘Not one of [Charles Dickens’] best efforts.’”
Markoe continued on to say how stunned she was to get the award and about what it was like to hear her name in the same sentence as Chayefsky.
“The thing I related to most about [Paddy] is his remarks about working in the early days of TV, everything being an experiment. That was similar in the early days on David Letterman.”
I was glad to see Craig Mazin accept an award for “Chernobyl” for Original Long Form, as I’d met him many years ago at a writers’ networking event. Great guy and very talented.
Below are the rest of the awards:
AWC Animation Writing Award
David N. Weiss
“Parasite,” screenplay by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, story by Bong Joon Ho (winner)
“Jojo Rabbit,” screenplay by Taika Waititi, based on the book “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens (winner)
“The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” written by Alex Gibney (winner)
“Succession,” written by Jesse Armstrong, Alice Birch, Jon Brown, Jonathan Glatzer, Cord Jefferson, Mary Laws, Lucy Prebble, Georgia Pritchett, Tony Roche, Gary Shteyngart, Susan Soon He Stanton, and Will Tracy (winner)
“Barry,” written by Alec Berg, Duffy Boudreau, Bill Hader, Emily Heller, Jason Kim, Taofik Kolade, and Elizabeth Sarnoff (winner)
“Watchmen,” written by Lila Byock, Nick Cuse, Christal Henry, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Cord Jefferson, Jeff Jensen, Claire Kiechel, Damon Lindelof, Janine Nabers, Stacy Osei-Kuffour, Tom Spezialy, and Carly Wray (winner)
Original Long Form
“Chernobyl,” written by Craig Mazin (winner)
Adapted Long Form
“Fosse/Verdon,” written by Debora Cahn, Joel Fields, Ike Holter, Thomas Kail, Steven Levenson, Charlotte Stoudt, and Tracey Scott Wilson, based on the book “Fosse” by Sam Wasson (winner)
Original Short Form New Media
“Special,” written by Ryan O’Connell (winner)
“The Simpsons,” “Thanksgiving of Horror,” written by Dan Vebber (winner)
“Succession,” “Tern Haven,” written by Will Tracy (winner)
“Dead to Me,” “Pilot,” written by Liz Feldman (winner)
Comedy/Variety Talk Series
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” senior writers Dan Gurewitch, Jeff Maurer, Jill Twiss, and Juli Weiner; writers Tim Carvell, Daniel O’Brien, John Oliver, Owen Parsons, Charlie Redd, Joanna Rothkopf, Ben Silva, Seena Vali (winner)
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Presents: Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Part 2,” head writer Melinda Taub; writing supervised by Joe Grossman and Nicole Silverberg; writers Samantha Bee, Kristen Bartlett, Pat Cassels, Sean Crespo, Mike Drucker, Mathan Erhardt, Lewis Friedman, Miles Kahn, and Sahar Rizvi; special material by Allison Silverman (winner)
Comedy/Variety Sketch Series
“I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson,” writers Jeremy Beiler, Zach Kanin, Tim Robinson, and John Solomon (winner)
Quiz and Audience Participation
“Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?,” head Writer Bret Calvert; writers Seth Harrington and Rosemarie DiSalvo (winner)
“The Young and the Restless,” writers Amanda L. Beall, Jeff Beldner, Sara Bibel, Matt Clifford, Annie Compton, Christopher Dunn, Sara Endsley, Janice Ferri Esser, Mellinda Hensley, Lynn Martin, Anne Schoettle, Natalie Minardi Slater, and Teresa Zimmerman (winner)
Children’s Episodic, Long Form, and Specials
“Family Reunion,” “Remember Black Elvis?,” written by Howard Jordan Jr. (winner)
Documentary Script – Current Events
“Frontline,” “Trump’s Trade War,” written by Rick Young (winner)
Documentary Script – Other Than Current Events
“Frontline,” “Right To Fail,” written by Tom Jennings (winner)
New Script – Regularly Scheduled, Bulletin, or Breaking Report
Special Edition of the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” “Terror in America: The Massacres in El Paso and Dayton,” written by Jerry Cipriano, Joe Clines, and Bob Meyer (winner)
News Script – Analysis, Feature, or Commentary
“60 Minutes,” “Fly Like An Eagle,” written by Katie Kerbstat Jacobson, Scott Pelley, and Nicole Young (winner)