coverage by RCR’s Entertainment Writer, Laura Sirikul
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The 29th USC Libraries Scripter Awards honored this year’s best adaptation of the printed word to film tonight at the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on the USC campus.
Moonlight screenwriter Barry Jenkins and ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ author Tarell Alvin McCraney took home the film adaptation Scripter award. The television category had two winners for the night – FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski and author Jeffrey Toobin and AMC’s The Night Manager screenwriter David Farr and author John le Carré.
President of the Writers Guild of America, Howard Rodman, who sits as chair of the 2017 Scripter selection committee, was on hand to talk about the awards ceremony.
“One of the things I love about the Scripter Awards is that it’s the only award, that I’m aware of, that honors written work into film. And, unlike many other awards that honor just the movie or television show, this actually goes back to honor equally, the writers of the original work,” said Rodman. “So both the people without whose imagination and whose hard work, there would never have been a movie or television show. And, for the people who had the impossible and wonderful task of taking that book and making it into television or film. So I love the fact that the Scripters honor good work in both mediums and also honor the process by which the one becomes the other.”
Moonlight is nominated for 8 Academy Awards including best picture, best director for Jenkins, and adapted screenplay for Jenkins and McCraney. The past six Scripter Awards went on to win the Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay.
The other nominees for film were Arrival by screenwriter Eric Heisserer, adapted from the novella “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang; Fences by August Wilson for the play and screenplay; Hidden Figures by screenwriters Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, based on the nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly; Lion by screenwriter Luke Davies for the screenplay adapted from the nonfiction book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley.
Scripter nominee Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly, who was contacted before her book was completed by film producer Donna Gigliotti, was inspired to write Hidden Figures through her father, who worked at NASA, and his stories of Katherine Johnson. She felt honored to nominated for her work, especially during tough political times when this story is needed now more than ever.
“Honestly, everything about the timing of this movie has been just charmed from the very beginning. It really does feel like this is the right time for this movie,” Shetterly tells us. “The thing about these women were they were in a situation where they faced segregation and gender discrimination. The expectations for them were very low and, yet, just the general world as black women, look what they were able to accomplish. It’s a certain tremendous perseverance, hope, and overcoming odds. Also, it’s a story about people from different backgrounds coming together to achieve a single goal. I really think it’s a story that gives optimism and also, it’s like a playbook. Not just the optimism, but actual practical lessons on how we can come together during very challenging times and really try to find similarities, as opposed to differences.”
In the television category, winning the award meant a lot to The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story screenwriter Larry Karaszewski.
“For Scott and I, it’s amazing, because we met going to USC. We wrote our first script probably ten feet away from here. I spent many nights in this library,” said Karaszewski. “So, for us, it’s a bit of – getting goosebumps on my back, because there is a real connection here. It is going back home.”
With this being Karaszewski and Alexander’s first television mini-series, which won this year’s Golden Globes and Emmys, knew they wanted to adapt Jeffrey Toobin’s book.
“The second we heard that someone had the rights to Jeffrey Tuban’s book. We’re going to try to turn it into a TV show. Yes. We’ve never done television before but we recognized that the OJ story needed the miniseries format,” explained Karaszewski. “I would never done the OJ project as a movie because the two-hour time slot, you would had just told everybody what they already knew, where the interesting thing was the OJ trial. So iconic. All the things that happened around it. So we were able to really dig deep into the issues and themes that trial brought up like Marcia Clark’s gender issues. We did a whole episode with the jury. So it were the things that we really looked at from all these different ways – class issues, the birth of the info team, journalists, Kardashian’s empire. It was an immediate decision.”
The other nominees for television adaptations were HBO’s Game of Thrones by screenwriters David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, for the episode “The Winds of Winter,” adapted from the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin; Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle by screenwriter, Erik Oleson, for the episode “Fallout,” based on the novel by Philip K. Dick; Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black by screenwriters Tara Herrmann and Jenji Kohan for the episode “Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again,” adapted from the memoir by Piper Kerman, Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison.
The USC Scripter Awards honored USC trustee and longtime USC Libraries supporter Kathleen McCarthy Kostlan with the 2017 Ex Libris Award. Actor/writer/director Carl Reiner, whose career spans nearly seven decades, was honored with the 2017 Literary Achievement Award.