2011 Writers Guild Awards: Christopher Nolan Wins For 'Inception', Aaron Sorkin For 'The Social Network'; 'Mad Men', 'Modern Family', '30 Rock', 'The Colbert Report'; 'Boardwalk Empire', 'The Pacific'

LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK (in progress; refresh for updates: Tonight, the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are announcing the winners for outstanding achievement in writing for movies, television, and videogames during 2010. Winners are being honored simultaneously at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel-Grand Ballroom in Los Angeles and the AXA Equitable Center in New York City. Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family hosted the West Coast show exec produced by Spike Jones, Jr (again), while The Daily Show With Jon Stewart correspondent Kristen Schaal hosted back east:


Inception, Written by Christopher Nolan; Warner Bros.


The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich; Sony Pictures

Feature films eligible for a Writers Guild Award were exhibited theatrically for at least one week in Los Angeles in 2010 and were written under the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) or under a bona fide collective bargaining agreement of the Australian Writers Guild, Writers Guild of Canada, Writers Guild of Great Britain, Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild or the New Zealand Writers Guild. Theatrical screenplays produced under the jurisdiction of the WGA or an affiliate Guild must have been submitted for WGA awards consideration.


Mad Men, Written by Jonathan Abrahams, Lisa Albert, Keith Huff, Jonathan Igla, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Brett Johnson, Janet Leahy, Erin Levy, Tracy McMillan, Dahvi Waller, Matthew Weiner; AMC

TV EPISODIC DRAMA – any length – one airing time

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” (Mad Men), Written by Erin Levy; AMC


Modern Family, Written by Jerry Collins, Paul Corrigan, Alex Herschlag, Abraham Higginbotham, Elaine Ko, Joe Lawson, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Brad Walsh, Ilana Wernick, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker; ABC

TV EPISODIC COMEDY – any length – one airing time

When It Rains, It Pours” (30 Rock), Written by Robert Carlock; NBC


Screenwriters Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth, recipients of the 2011 Paul Selvin Award for their screenplay for Fair Game. The award recognizes written work which embodies the spirit of constitutional rights and civil liberties.

Academy Award-winner Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) will receive the WGAW’s 2011 Laurel Award for Screen, honoring lifetime achievement in outstanding writing for motion pictures.

Iconic Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra (Amarcord, Blow-Up) has been named the recipient of the 2011 Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement.

Emmy Award-winning Murphy Brown creator Diane English has been named recipient of the WGAW’s 2011 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for TV.

Emmy Award-winner Seth Freeman (Lou Grant) and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovitch) have each been named recipients of the 2011 Valentine Davies Award for their entertainment industry and community service.

Veteran animation and TV writer Mike Scully (The Simpsons) has been named the recipient of the WGAW Animation Writers Caucus’ 13th annual Animation Writing Award.


Inside Job, Produced, Written and Directed by Charles Ferguson; Co-written by Chad Beck, Adam Bolt; Sony Pictures Classics

Documentaries eligible for a Writers Guild Award featured an onscreen writing credit and were exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for one week in 2010. While credited documentary writers were required to join the WGAW’s Nonfiction Writers Caucus or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Caucus to be considered, scripts need not have been written under WGA jurisdiction to be considered.


The Colbert Report, Writers: Barry Julien, Dan Guterman, Eric Drysdale, Frank Lesser, Glenn Eichler, Jay Katsir, Max Werner, Meredith Scardino, Michael Brumm, Opus Moreschi, Peter Gwinn, Rich Dahm, Rob Dubbin, Scott Sherman, Stephen Colbert, Tom Purcell; Comedy Central


Boardwalk Empire, Written by Meg Jackson, Lawrence Konner, Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki, Margaret Nagle, Tim Van Patten, Paul Simms, Terence Winter; HBO

LONG FORM – ORIGINAL – over one hour – one or two parts, one or two airing times

The Special Relationship, Written by Peter Morgan; HBO

LONG FORM – ADAPTATION – over one hour – one or two parts, one or two airing times

The Pacific, “Part Eight,” Written by Robert Schenkkan and Michelle Ashford, Based in part on the books “Helmet for My Pillow” by Robert Leckie and “With The Old Breed” by Eugene B. Sledge with additional material from “Red Blood, Black Sand” by Chuck Tatum and “China Marine” by Eugene B. Sledge; HBO


National Memorial Day Concert 2010, Written by Joan Meyerson; PBS


As The World Turns, Written by Susan Dansby, Lucky Gold, Janet Iacobuzio, Penelope Koechl, David Kreizman, Leah Laiman, David A. Levinson, Leslie Nipkow, Jean Passanante, Gordon Rayfield, David Smilow; CBS 

ANIMATION – any length – one airing time

The Prisoner of Benda” (Futurama), Written by Ken Keeler; Comedy Central


Avalon High, Teleplay by Julie Sherman Wolfe and Amy Talkington, Based on the novel by Meg Cabot; Disney Channel


Happy Ha-Ha Holidays” (Imagination Movers), Written by Michael G. Stern, Randi Barnes, Rick Gitelson, Scott Gray; Disney Channel


Flying Cheap” (Frontline), Written by Rick Young; PBS


Wyatt Earp” (American Experience), Written by Rob Rapley; PBS


Sunday Morning Almanac” (CBS Sunday Morning), Written by Thomas A. Harris; CBS News


Resurrecting Eden” (60 Minutes), Written by Jenny Dubin; CBS



2009 Year in Review, Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News


BS World News Roundup, Written by Paul Farry; CBS Radio News


“Passages,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News



CSI Promos, Written by Anne de Vega; CBS


“Sunday Morning, By Design” (CBS Sunday Morning), Graphic Designer Bob Pook, Graphic Artist Diane Robinson; CBS News


“The Real Thing,” “Identity Crisis,” “Girl Talk,” “Naming Things,” “Curtain Up” (Anyone But Me), Written by Susan Miller, Tina Cesa Ward; www.AnyoneButMeSeries.com


“Strip Pong,” “Tear Jerks,” “Brainstorm,” (Frank vs. Lutz), Written by Jon Haller; 30 Rock New Media, www.nbc.com ;


Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Story by Patrice Desilets, Jeffrey Yohalem, Corey May; Lead Script Writer: Jeffrey Yohalem; Script Writers: Ethan Petty, Nicholas Grimwood, Matt Turner; Ubisoft

Established by the Writers Guilds’ Videogame Writers Caucus to promote storytelling excellence in videogames, improve the status of gaming writers, and encourage uniform standards within the gaming industry, the WGA Videogame Writing Award recognizes the essential creative contributions made by writers to video games and the gaming industry. Both the WGAW and WGAE continue their collective efforts to bring an increasing number of videogame projects under WGA jurisdiction to ensure that writers receive the benefits of a Writers Guild contract.

The WGA Videogame Writing Award honors the best qualifying script from a videogame published in the previous year. To be eligible for WGA consideration, games must have been released between December 1, 2009 and November 30, 2010, works must contain separate writing credit(s), and credited game writers must have been or must have applied to become members of the WGA’s Videogame Writers Caucus at the time scripts were submitted. Work that was not produced under WGA jurisdiction was also eligible for submission.

      1. and yet not everyone was bored and actually felt the opposite. movies are subjective, so although you’re entitled to your own opinion, it’s good to keep in mind that’s all it is, not a fact.

      2. I couldn’t agree more. That screenplay was the antithesis of good screenwriting. Reams of expository dialogue, faulty plot logic, two dimensional characters and a derivative storyline that has been done so much better in the past.

        I simply cannot understand the LOVE for this movie. It’s simply terrible.

      3. That’s the weirdest part. The script has been the main criticism of the movie, and yet it’s the major Oscar that it is most likely to win. I don’t get it.

        I think it should win Best Picture personally but the supposed script flaws are the reason why most people have not considered it a frontrunner. Really odd.

    1. Inception had to have SOME expositionary dialogue, or else it would have been completely impenetrable. Nolan wasn’t making another 2001, he was making an elaborate heist movie. He succeeded.

  1. Yaaaay! At least everyone can agree that the RIGHT scripts, among the eligible nominees of course, won in both categories. (I think ‘The King’s Speech’ might have been a forerunner but since it wasn’t eligible given the WGA rules there shouldn’t be too much agita or angst over these two winners!)

    Deserving scribes both, Sorkin and Nolan.

    Congrats to them.

    And nice to see Peter Morgan snag a win for ‘The Special Relationship’ which also was nicely done. Doff my hat to ya too Peter!

  2. I believe the Futurama episode was titled Prisoner of Benda, not Brenda.

    Regardless, awesome win! That was the episode that one of the writers created a new math theorem for. That was figured out, in the episode, by the Harlem Globetrotters.

  3. Wow, the writers actually awarded Christopher Nolan for “Exposition: The Movie”? No wonder nobody respects them.

    1. Agreed. Nolan is a fine visual director, and he has some interesting ideas, but his writing skills are meh.

      1. Finally saw Social Network I can’t believe it has won so many awards. I was really disappointed. Not even close to Inception in any way…conceptually, acting, directing. Social Network will not stand the test of time.

    2. Exposition the movie? it’s called setup and payoff genius. You have to make the audience understand why what’s dramatic is dramatic. Next time, watch the movie (in full, this time ;).

    3. Yes, we’ve been over this – there was too much exposition. But some of us think that the rest (especially the Marion Cotillard storyline) was enough to redeem it.

  4. Finally some reccognition for Chris Nolan’s brilliance. He MUST win the Oscar now for original screenplay. It will almost make up for him not getting the Directing nomination.

  5. I believe the commitment and determination of Keith Dorrington’s insight and story of The Fighter was a top contender and worthy of the WIN

  6. I am THRILLED that AS THE WORLD TURNS won in its final year. What great writers. It is nice to see a 54 year old serial go out on such a huge high note.

  7. What’s missing from this headline?

    2011 Writers Guild Awards: Christopher Nolan Wins For ‘Inception’, Aaron Sorkin For ‘The Social Network’; ‘Modern Family’, ’30 Rock’, ‘The Colbert Report’; ‘Boardwalk Empire’, ‘The Pacific’

    Answer: As the World Turns

  8. 14 writers on modern family and it’s NOT
    watchable, not funny, contrived,derivative.
    In other words: Its STUPID and LAME.
    Try hiring talent.

  9. Yawn….inception was ‘I dunno…” not edible…it was too hard to follow and then, kind of stupid….I just watched the trilogy of
    Stieg LaRrson’s girl with a dragon tattoo, hornets, nest, etc and that was great stuff…

  10. Great to see the WGA honoring videogame writing. Still isn’t going to help videogame writers get organized anytime soon. Shame.

  11. Matt Weiner was his typical douche bag self.

    His opening line to his speech was “I thought you were through with us.” Poor Matt. Boardwalk won the Globes, DGA, SAG and he’s moping.

    He thanked the other nominees EXCEPT for Boardwalk Empire. He mentioned the “Good Wife” in its place. Hilarious.

    What a baby. He needs some serious therapy.

    1. Keep up the stream of whining about Weiner. Writers love him and his people love him. His speech was as usual, self-effacing and genuine. And funny.

      We know he needs therapy. Just watch his show.

      1. Writers love him? Writers appreciate his talent. He deserved the award for sure. Mad Men was beautifully written this season. The best yet. Loved Breaking Bad as well. Vince Gilligan is such a good man. Boardwalk didn’t deserve to be in the Best Series category. It’s a triumph of design but the writing is emotionally flat. The actors do all they can to try and salvage it but sadly it’s so melodramatic and on the nose. Dexter had a remarkable season and Friday Night Lights deserves more. What a tremendously realized show.

        The WGA got it right. Hope the Emmys do.

  12. This awards show and this comment thread is a joke. I’m not in “the industry” as you call it. I don’t live in Los Angeles. I’m a lawyer living in a large city in the east and let me tell you what the image of a Hollywood “writer” is in the rest of the country (east of Palm Springs) – very poor. The perception is you’re a bunch of hacks and the content put forth on both television and in the movies has never been worse. I agree with this perception. I think because you’re on the inside you can’t see how broken you really are.

    The writing for television and in movies has spiraled down so far in the past 10-15 years you should be embarrassed. Instead of celebrating yourselves with this awards show you should all be hiding under rocks. While I enjoyed The Social Network the writing was still somewhat flawed. The rest of the tripe mentioned in this article was horrible. And this is allegedly the best of the year? The other stuff really blew. I’m not sure why Hollywood writing has dove-tailed but trust me when I tell you that for the most part, the rest of the country lothes you.

    1. “dove-tailed”? Do you mean perhaps “derailed” or possibly “nose-dived”? Thanks for proving that writing is work best left to professionals.

      And sorry I can’t resist the low-hanging fruit, but duuude, a lawyer is admonishing us because people “lothe” what *we* do?

      Congrats to all, especially Diane English!

    2. First: Stick to lawyering.

      Second: Tell us four shows that were on TV 15 years ago or more that were better written than Mad Men, The Wire, The West Wing, and Arrested Development, to name a few. If we’re spiraling down, it should be very easy to give some specific examples…

    3. I smell curmudgeonly BS. Most of the country doesn’t “lothe” writers because they believe good writing to be a thrilling story with twists. +1 for Black Swan, Inception. -1 for Social Network. But what about the rest of the country?

      Now I’m no big smart snobby lawyer who for some reason needed to drop his job title in order to gain credibility on an online comment board, but I am an Ivy League consultant snob. And I love Hollywood. Sure, the offerings January through August are usually junk, but no one really cares, as long as they’re making money. The only thing to criticize is if you think they could be making more money with a higher quality product, and simply lack the ability to do so. Maybe this is true, but it seems that in many cases, a lower quality product is a conscious cost-cutting decision (is better writing really going to draw more people to GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra?).

      As for The Social Network, The King’s Speech, and the others? Love ’em. Love the writing. So do my friends, so do my classmates. Yes, even the best script has enough flaws for a careful ear to pick up a few. But do you really require perfection before you can recognize the quality of a complex product? Is that our standard nowadays? I disagree with your perception of the quality of these films, and I disagree with your perception of the country’s mood towards Hollywood writers. If you look for them, it’s pretty easy to find someone willing to join in with you in complaining about anything (“I don’t get peanuts anymore when I fly on airplanes”, “movies were so much better in the 80s”, “Vagisil just isn’t what it used to be”).

      If you don’t like movies, don’t watch them.

    4. Your use of the word “dove-tailed” tells us all we need to know about YOUR writing skills. Jealous, much? I know a lot of lawyers, and not one of them enjoys their work half as much as I do. Guess I don’t need to tell you how the rest of the country perceives those in your profession.

    5. Perhaps it’s due to writing to an audience in order to find mass appeal (this is a business, afterall). But before someone screams the “Hollywood dumb-down of society” argument, consider the chicken/egg question.

      Every generation has/had their share of questionable feature films and television programs, from “Bedtime for Bonzo”, “My Mother the Car”, “Mr. Ed” and so on. Maybe it’s simply because people accepted them (or not) for their entertainment value. Let’s consider that the constant. The variable, then, could well be the overall intelligence level of society and the dynamic nature of genre trends, fads and so on.

      In the past, audiences have proven that if they don’t like something, they simply don’t watch. They turn off the television, they don’t buy tickets. Kids go outside and ride their bikes, or play stick-ball. But in the last two decades especially, worldwide media has made the globe a smaller, more insular place, and access to all kinds of programming is abundant.

      “Channel surfing” is in the lexicon. More and more people seem to have become fat, lazy fingerpointers, rulers of their living rooms and their computers. They demand to be entertained, they talk back to their televisions as if it’s their employee (maybe in some ways it is, kind of like elected officials and government administration are supposed to be – and we all know the state of politics these days, but I digress).

      So then let’s consider the collective i.q. question. For example, one might think that a lawyer who, I’m assuming, made it through four years of undergrad and then several rigorous years of law school, clerking and/or so on in order to get that coveted JD, would have an above-average take on the English language.

      One would think that person would know how to spell “loathe”, and understand the definition and application-in-context of “dovetail”. Hmm. Oh, and then there’s that whole “other stuff really blew” business.

      Well, I guess my best answer, then, is relax. We’re still trying out here, sir! Overall I think we’ve created some exceptional and original programming, but every now and then yes, writing down to people like you can be very challenging.

      Oh, the dreck stuff pains us, too, but believe it or not, most of us really do aspire for quality and critical recognition. So if an awards show seems self-serving, we succeeded in its design in support of our peers and the kudos they deserve.

    6. Let me guess:
      You have a script – sitting in a drawer – that you’ve handed to anyone who would take it, and no one cared. But, it’s a masterpiece.

    7. “dove-tailed”? Do you mean perhaps “derailed” or possibly “nose-dived”? Thanks for proving that writing is work best left to professionals.

      And sorry I can’t resist the low-hanging fruit, but duuude, a lawyer is admonishing us because people “lothe” what *we* do?

      Congrats to all, especially Diane English!

      (Apologies if this double-posts, had a browser glitch.)

    8. And Nate H. would love to quit his lame-ass job, move to LA, and get any job in movies or tv but he is too chickensh*t to do it. So from the safe distance of his boring law office he reads industry message boards and makes snide comments. Coward.

    9. I’m a writer who lives west of Palm Springs and I agree with you! Corporate-Think is ruining creativity in H-Wood, the studio heads will not take a chance on new, untried material so they stick with the lowest common denominator — remakes of remakes of remakes and juvenile adults starring in grown up movies because the demographic is juvenile. I could go on and on but you get my drift — literally.

  13. Good job Samy! Well said! Finally! At last we will begin paying attention to you and your genius! By the way, it’s “it’s” not “its.”

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