The Oscars and the 13th Annual Final Draft Awards Champion Diversity in The Writer’s Room and Beyond

This year’s Oscars and Final Draft Awards prove writers aren’t afraid to take the wheel and drive toward a new destination that promises growth and inclusivity.

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Screenwriter Liz Hannah accepts her award for New Voice Recipient at the 13th Annual Final Draft Awards at Paramount Theatre on February 8, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Brandon Williams/Getty Images)

As awards season ends, we may be able to glean a little about the direction Hollywood is headed from the perspective of the screenwriters who were honored at this year’s 13th annual Final Draft Awards and Oscars. While writers share the stage at the Oscars with actors, directors, editors, costumers, composers etc., we tend to remember little more than who won “Best Picture” or “Best Actor/Actress” from any given year; Unless you’re one of those bar trivia aficionados who has total recall of everything you’ve ever seen or read, in which case, are you available to join my team?

Not long after it’s creation in 1990, Final Draft quickly became the leading software and industry standard for screenwriters in Hollywood. For the last thirteen years, the company has hosted an award ceremony dedicated to honoring both veterans and break-out talents without whose voices and visions we wouldn’t have the films that continuously inspire us. It’s the stories we tell that provide a roadmap for where we’re going and where we’ve been, and that map starts with a blank page, an idea, and copious amounts of coffee.

The honorees and their acceptance speeches at the 2018 Final Draft Awards made it clear that writers aren’t afraid to take the wheel and drive toward a new destination that promises growth and inclusivity. This was only the second year Final Draft presented its New Voice Award recognizing up-and-coming talents—with Issa Rae winning last year for her honest and hilarious HBO series, Insecure—and this year the award honored co-writer of The Post, Liz Hannah.

The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major news paper, The Washington Post. It’s a story of government corruption and coverup, whistleblowers, taking risks to protect journalistic integrity and, not least of all, it’s a story of female leadership and empowerment. At a time when controversial political news refreshes hourly, and the #MeToo movement has solidified the voices of women, The Post is a story that resonates with contemporary audiences on a multitude of levels.

“Anyone that’s ever felt like your voice hasn’t been heard, and that your voice has been ignored, we are all listening,” Hannah asserted as she accepted her award. The Post was up for best picture at the Oscars last night, but rest assured, this is only the beginning for the talented Liz Hannah. She’s already working an adaptation of Ann Shen’s book, Bad Girls Throughout History—which puts a spotlight on one women who paved the way for female equality through acts and careers that challenged the system—alongside other projects.

Other recipients of the Final Draft awards included Hana Callaghan and Chad Callaghan, a very charming mother/son writing team who won the TV Grand Prize for Portia’s Law, about the first female lawyer in California. And Greta Heinemann received the Feature Grand Prize for her film, City Under Fire, a cop thriller that explores the racial tensions of a city through the eyes of a female LAPD training officer. Listening to these talented writers of various backgrounds made for a truly inspiring night that highlighted diversity and especially celebrated the work of female screenwriters.

Q&A with Greta Heinemann on Breaking Into TV

While it was heartening to see so many women honored, it’s also important to recognize that they are still a very underrepresented fraction of the industry. According to Women and Hollywood, Women accounted for a mere 11% of writers in 2017, and 83% of the films had no female writers.

Last night’s Oscars made history by honoring Joran Peele as the first African-American writer to win Best Original Screenplay. His speech roused the crowd as he shared the challenges of putting Get Out on the page, “I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought no one would ever make this movie. But I kept coming back to it because I knew that if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.”

At 89, James Ivory, winner of Best Adapted Screenplay, became the oldest person to receive an Oscar. And A Fantastic Woman star, Daniela Vega, became the first openly transgender presenter. But perhaps it was Frances McDormand who put the cherry on the top with the final sentence of her acceptance speech for Best Actress for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”

“Inclusive rider” Google searches hit an all-time high.

Two words that, if pursued by actors, could change the game for the industry. Actors and actresses can demand this clause to be added to their contracts to require an increased level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew.

In this video clip, she explains to reporters her discovery of the rider.

One of the top honors of the night at the Final Draft Awards went to veteran screenwriter and former president of the Writers Guild of America West (among countless other impressive achievements), Howard A. Rodman, who was inducted into the Final Draft Hall fo Fame. On top of leaving me, and perhaps others, wishing to be close friends with him so that some of his sage advice and writing experience might rub off, Rodman, who has sat on many film-related boards knows firsthand that inclusivity is long overdue in almost all aspects of the film-industry, not least of all in the writer’s rooms.

In accepting his award, Rodman was sure to point out the “elephant in the room: The Hall of Fame now consists of 13 white men and Nancy Myers. As Final Draft well knows, and has demonstrated by its New Voice honorees—last year the extraordinary Issa Rae, and this year, the deeply talented Liz Hannah—the future of screenwriting is diverse and inclusive.”

Hollywood still has a long way to go from here, but it seems that it might finally be time to get this show on the road.

Add more diversity to your stories with better roles for female actors. Download our on-demand webinar, Creating Strong Female Characters now!