WGA News – January 28, 2011

The WGA Awards juggernaut rolls on.

The WGAW has announced that Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian will receive the Writers Guild of America, West’s 2011 Laurel Award for Screen, honoring lifetime achievement in outstanding writing for motion pictures.

“Steven Zaillian’s best scripts not only function as intelligent, thought-provoking works that uplift and inspire audiences, but often, as in the case of his screenplays such as Schindler’s List, they act as witness to crucial chapters in our collective history. His impressive body of work provides a benchmark that all screenwriters aspire to,” said WGAW President John Wells.

Zaillian is perhaps best known for his screenplay for the acclaimed Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, based on the novel by Thomas Keneally. In 1994, Zaillian received an Academy Award for his script, along with Writers Guild Award, a BAFTA Award (Best Adapted Screenplay), the Humanitas Prize, and PEN Center USA’s Literary Award. Zaillian’s other screenplays include Awakenings, The Falcon and the Snowman, American Gangster, Hannibal, Clear and Present Danger, Gangs of New York, and The Interpreter. He wrote and directed Searching for Bobby Fischer, A Civil Action, and All the King’s Men.

Awarded to a Writers Guild member who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the screenwriter, the WGAW’s Laurel Award for Screen has been presented in past years to such notable screenwriters such Horton Foote, David Mamet, Lawrence Kasdan, Robert Benton, Budd Schulberg, and Barry Levinson.

The WGAW has also announced that Emmy Award-winning Murphy Brown creator Diane English has been named recipient of the Writers Guild of America, West’s 2011 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television, honoring lifetime achievement for outstanding television writing.

“Diane English is a total class act – a trailblazing, supremely talented writer whose groundbreaking body of work has helped to both equalize and revolutionize television, while raising the bar for insightful, caustic, and moving writing on primetime TV. Her unique voice influenced not only a generation of women writers, but all creative artists who strive to deliver quality work,” said John Wells.

A WGAW member since 1977, multiple award-winning writer-producer English first began her career at WNET/13, New York City’s PBS affiliate. She worked first as a story editor for the Theatre in America series, and then as Associate Director of the Television Laboratory. In 1980, she co-wrote the visionary sci-fi telefilm The Lathe of Heaven, PBS’ first full-length motion picture-for-television. English followed that success with several television movies and by creating the acclaimed sitcom Foley Square and executive producing My Sister Sam. In 1988, English created, wrote, and produce the groundbreaking comedy Murphy Brown, starring Candice Bergen in the title role, which ran for ten high-rated seasons on CBS. During its decade-long run, Murphy Brown received 62 Emmy nominations, as well as earning 18 Emmy Awards (including two for Best Comedy Series, and one Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for the show’s pilot episode, “Respect,” penned by English). English later created the multiple Emmy-nominated series Love & War, co-created Double Rush and Ink, and executive produced Living In Captivity. Most recently, she wrote, produced, and directed the 2008 big-screen remake of the classic dramedy The Women, an adaptation of Clare Booth Luce’s iconic play and George Cukor’s 1939 film.

Named after one of the most influential writers in entertainment history, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television is the WGAW’s highest award for television writing, given to writers who have advanced the literature of television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer. Past Television Laurel Award recipients include Steven Bochco, Susan Harris, Stephen J. Cannell, David Chase, William Blinn, and Larry David.

In addition, Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra will receive the WGAW’s 2011 Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement, given to an international writer who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of screenwriter. Guerra – who is also an author, poet, and artist — has penned over 100 screenplays during a career spanning six decades and had worked with some of the most prominent directors in world cinema, including Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrey Tarkovsky, Francesco Rosi, and Theodoros Angelopoulos.

“Tonino Guerra is by any standard one of the great writers of our times. His medium is the screenplay. He has written or co-written more than a hundred films, among them L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, Red Desert, Blow-Up, and Zabriskie Point for Antonioni; Amarcord for Fellini; Nostalghia for Tarkovsky; Landscapes in the Mist for Angelopoulos; and Exquisite Corpses for Rosi. Guerra’s work is the brave and moral thread that runs through the fabric of modernist cinema. He is a breathtaking poet, a generous collaborator, and is possessed of the largest heart. We are fortunate to have him among us and thrilled to honor his astonishing – and astonishingly influential – body of work,” said WGAW Board of Directors member Howard A. Rodman.

Guerra’s notable screenwriting and co-writing credits also include such classics as: Casanova 70, Lucky Luciano, Three Brothers, Night of the Shooting Stars, And the Ship Sails On, Voyage to Cythera, Chaos, A Place for Lovers, Ginger and Fred, Dark Illness, Especially on Sunday, and Stanno tutti bene. In addition, Guerra adapted his own children’s book, Il generale e Buonaparte, for the 2003 animated feature film, Le chien, le general et les oiseaux (The Dog, the General, and the Birds). Over the course of his career, Guerra has received three Academy Award nominations: for Amarcord, Blow-Up, and Casanova 70. Most recently, in 2010 Guerra received the “Career David” lifetime achievement award at Italy’s David di Donatello Awards. While the 90-year-old Guerra will not be traveling to Los Angeles to accept his award, he will receive the Guild’s honorary award next month at his home in Northern Italy.

Named after the influential filmmaker Jean Renoir, the Guild’s lifetime achievement international screenwriting award is given on an occasional basis to honor screenwriters working outside the U.S. and in other languages. In 2009, the WGAW’s inaugural Jean Renoir Award honoree was fellow Italian screenwriter Suso D’Amico, who passed away last year.

Meanwhile, Marianne Pryor will receive the Writers Guild of America, East’s Richard B. Jablow award for devoted service to the Guild. The award is named for Richard B. Jablow, who helped found the WGAE, authored its constitution, and served as its first counsel. Pryor, an award-winning writer and editor at ABC Radio network news, has been an active member of the WGAE for many years. First becoming involved in the WGAE on the picket line during the newswriters strike in the 1980s, Pryor served three terms on the WGAE Council, twice on the negotiating committees for its ABC News contracts, and on the committees that selected the Guild’s executive director and new office space.

“Marianne Pryor has been a stalwart of the Writers Guild, East for many years. The esteem in which she is held not only here at the union but among her colleagues at ABC News — whose affection and respect for her and all she has done for them in the workplace and at the negotiating table are profound — make her a most worthy recipient of this year’s Jablow Award,” said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

The Richard B. Jablow Award was established in 1978 to recognize devoted service to the Guild.  Past recipients include: 2010 recipient David Steven Cohen, Catherine Twohill, Gail Lee, Warren Leight, James Schamus, Ruth Gallo, Stephen Schiff, Richard Wesley, Michael Winship, Herb Sargent, and Edward Adler.

The WGAE has also selected the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television to receive the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) Evelyn F. Burkey Award. The Burkey award recognizes contributions that have brought honor and dignity to writers everywhere. The award will be presented to Foundation Executive Director Norma Provencio Pichardo and Archive Director Karen L. Herman.

The Archive of American Television is the Television Academy Foundation’s continuing collection of more than 600 in-depth video interviews with some of television’s most influential professionals in all fields. The Archive’s online site at EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG, which makes available over 2,000 hours of the Archive’s video interviews, was launched in 2009 to support the Foundation’s mission of preserving and celebrating the medium of television, and educating those who will impact its future.

“The Archive of American Television is the collective memory of those who were present at the creation of the medium and the many giants who through the decades have brought to TV their creativity, skill and imagination. High among them are the great writers of entertainment and news who have been essential to television’s success from the Golden Age right up to the present, and so we are pleased to present the Archive with this year’s Burkey Award,” said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

“We’re so proud that writers have seen the value of the Archive of American Television’s collection. Everything on TV starts with a writer, and it was a conscious effort on behalf of the Foundation to chronicle their lives and stories and insights,” said Karen L. Herman, director, Archive of American Television. “We’re honored that the Guild has chosen to recognize our work.”

The Evelyn F. Burkey Award was established in 1978 to honor Burkey, who dedicated her professional life to supporting and helping writers. Burkey helped create the Writers Guild of America, East in 1953 as the union of film, television and radio writers, independent of precursor organizations. She was the WGAE’s executive director until her retirement in 1972. The Burkey Award continues her mission by recognizing a person or an organization whose contributions have brought honor and dignity to writers everywhere. Past recipients include: 2010 honoree Edward Albee, Walter Bernstein, Martin Scorsese, Colin Callender, Vaclav Havel, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Miller, Art Buchwald, Horton Foote, and Andy Rooney.

The 2011 Writers Guild Awards will be held on Saturday, February 5, 2011, simultaneously at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel-Grand Ballroom in Los Angeles and the AXA Equitable Center in New York City.

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