WGA Awards: 'The Descendants', Woody Allen, 'Breaking Bad', 'Modern Family', 'Homeland', 'Colbert Report', 'Cinema Verite', 'Too Big To Fail'

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Los Angeles and New York – 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 the screen during 2011. Winners will be honored at the 2012 Writers Guild Awards tonight during simultaneous ceremonies at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles and at B.B. King Blues Club in New York City. Woody Allen won Original Screenplay for his Midnight In Paris. UPDATE:  His sister and producer Letty Aronson accepted on his behalf at the WGAE event.

The Descendants won Adapted Screenplay for Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash. All three took the stage at the WGAW event. “I wrote some funny lines for the woman in the coma that Nat and Alexander didn’t like,” said Rash.
Faxon recognized The Groundlings improv theater for fostering his talent. Payne directed his acknowledgement to The Descendants author Kaui Hart Hemmings who was sitting in the audience: “Nice thing about doing adaptation is inhabiting a story that we never lived in. Thank you to the novelists for letting us in your life.”

Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan accepted the television Drama Series honor saying, “We wouldn’t have a show without Bryan Cranston.”

The writers of Modern Family won for Comedy Series, and Steven Levitan exclaimed, “We are concerned that people are sick of us [winning]. Perhaps you can focus your backlash elsewhere. As such, we asked our writers to each say why they don”t feel like winners tonight.” At which point a number of Modern Family scribes described their deepest regrets:

“I worry about the future happiness of my children, particularly the fat one.”
“I write a show about relationships, half my money goes to my first wife, the other goes to the second.”
“I have 2 years left in this business, especially after they find out my real age.”
Levitan capped off, “I created the show Stacked and have to live with that.”

Actress and comedienne Rachel Dratch hosted the East Coast WGA show. At the start of the LA event, a who’s who of the film and TV industry arrived. “Welcome to Nerd Prom,” host Zooey Deschanel greeted the guests. “Male writers, you are so hot with your minds and plaid shirts. Hit on me.” She closed the show by saying, “To all the writers who brought their parents, I hope this is enough to convince them you have real jobs.”

Soon after Deschanel closed the show by saying. “To all the writers who brought
their parents, I hope this is enough to convince them you have real jobs.”

Presenters included Tom Selleck, Lisa Kudrow, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. In front seats are Luck creator David Milch, Oscar-nominated writer John Logan also up for a WGA nom for adapted screenplay of Hugo, Mission: Impossible 4 director Brad Bird, and Young Adult star Patton Oswalt fresh from his hosting duties last night at the ACE Eddie Awards. And Deadline Hollywood got a shout-out.

“Get ready for a bunch of F-bombs: it’s the Children’s Episodic Award” said Deschanel introducing the pair of presenters of the award, “Mad Men” Creator Matt Weiner and the show’s child star Kiernan Shipka. Shipka told Weiner that she wants to “sink her teeth into meatier roles,” and then killed the crowd with Faye Dunaway’s “No wire hangers EVER” monologue from Mommie Dearest. After she ended the speech to laughter and applause, Weiner remarked to her, “Where were you when I was on Becker?”

Amy Poehler from Parks and Recreation and the show’s creator Michael Schur, presented comedy variety series. The two, who met on SNL, recalled their ‘woeful’ writing experiences there — how they spent hours doing Lorne Michaels imitations and crying  how their parents never respected their life decesions.

The Honorary Service – Morgan Cox Award went to Patric M. Verrone. “I don’t need to tell you who he is,” said Michael Reiss of The Simpsons writing staff. “Pat is a 2-time WGA president. Thanks to him, he got me in the union, a health pension, and a copy of Written By which I read from the mailbox to the trash can. He is a gifted artist and goes to church every Sunday. Which is more than you creeps.” Best known as the leader during the WGA strike, Reiss noted how Verrone “looks like Hitler”. Verrone picked up on the joke during his acceptance speech. “I want to thank the anonymous commentators on Deadline Hollywood who compared me to Hitler,” Verrone said. “To them I want to say — well, I don’t want to say.”

The Help screenwriter-director Tate Taylor accepted the Special Achievement – Paul Selvin Award and politely spoke out against those naysayers who criticized him and The Help book author Kathryn Stocket —
two white people — for writing a story about the African American experience of 1963. “It is a person’s right to tell a story,” said Taylor. “The Help was directed at those women in our lives. My desire to write The Help, came from my love of Carol Lee, the [African American] woman who helped raise me with my broke mother. I wrote The Help for them. When someone writes from love, truth, and honor, they have a right to tell a story. We lose if we give into society’s criticisms.”

Prior to Eric Roth receiving the Laurel Award For Screen, presented to him by Milch, a personal video clip from David Fincher played. “I think it is important to keep Eric Roth focused on the conversation at hand. He’s a procrastinator like no other. Eric, if it is wrong for a man to love another man than I have nothing right to say to you in winning this award.” In accepting the award, Eric Roth recalled the last time he came to the Palladium: “It was for a strike meeting. My car was stolen, and there was the screenplay that I had just written left in it… When the car was recovered, the cops said it was used in a bank robbery. All the stuff was stolen out of my car except for that screenplay. There was a note left onot from the robbers that said, ‘Characters can be stronger’.”

Following a thirtysomething clip, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick accepted the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award For Television and warmly recalled the joys of writing together, having first worked on the ABC show Family. Herskovitz reflected, “When you are a 27, you can’t imagine a career. And at 57 you can’t remember it.” Zwick said, “There’s a lot to be said about writing with someone else.  It has allowed us to do together what we are afraid to do alone.”


Midnight in Paris, Written by Woody Allen (Sony Pictures Classics)

The Descendants, Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash; Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Fox Searchlight)

Better This World, Written by Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega (Loteria Films)


Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett (AMC)

Modern Family, Written by Cindy Chupack, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Carol Leifer, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Brad Walsh, Ilana Wernick, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker (ABC)

(TIE) “Box Cutter” (Breaking Bad), Written by Vince Gilligan (AMC)
(TIE) “The Good Soldier” (Homeland), Written by Henry Bromell (Showtime)

“Caught in the Act” (Modern Family), Written by Steven Levitan & Jeffrey Richman (ABC)

HomelandWritten by Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Gideon Raff, Meredith Stiehm (Showtime)

Cinema Verite – Written by David Seltzer (HBO)

Too Big To FailWritten by Peter Gould, Based on the book written by Andrew Ross Sorkin (HBO)

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

After the Academy Awards, Head Writers: Gary Greenberg, Molly McNearney; Writers: Tony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, John N. Huss, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jonathan Kimmel, Jacob Lentz, Danny Ricker, Richard G. Rosner (ABC)

“Homer the Father” (The Simpsons), Written by Joel H. Cohen (Fox)

General Hospital, Written by Meg Bennett, Nathan Fissell, David Goldschmid, Robert Guza, Jr., Karen Harris, Elizabeth Korte, Mary Sue Price, Michele Val Jean, Susan Wald, Tracey Thomson (ABC)

“Hero of the Shadows” (Supah Ninjas), Written by Leo Chu, Eric S. Garcia (Nickelodeon)

“Wiki Secrets” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria & Martin Smith (PBS)

“Educating Sergeant Pantzke” (Frontline), Written by John Maggio, Martin Smith (PBS)

“Doctor Hot Spot” (Frontline), Written by Thomas Jennings (PBS)


2010 Year in Review, Written by Gail Lee (CBS Radio News)

Portraits of a Terrorist: Who is Osama Bin Laden?, Written by Gail Lee (CBS Radio News)

Justice in a Time of Terror, Written by Andrew Cohen & Rob Mank (CBS Radio News)


“Fairytale” (Today Show), Written by Carol M. Sullivan; NBC News

“CBS News Animations” (CBS News), Graphic Animation by David Rosen (CBS News


“Episode 1,” “Episode 2,” “Episode 4,” “Episode 5,” “Episode 6” (Aim High), Written by Heath Corson & Richie Keen (cambio.com/aim-high)

“A New Day,” “Family Matters,” “Neighborly Advice,” “Step Mom,” “Everything Dies” (The Walking Dead), Teleplay by John Esposito, Story by John Esposito and Greg Nicotero (amc.com)


Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Written by Amy Hennig (Sony Computer Entertainment)

(*There were no nominees this year in the following WGA categories: Children’s Long Form or Special and Television Graphic Art.)

Feature films eligible for a WGA Award were exhibited theatrically for at least one week in Los Angeles during 2011 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.

Documentaries eligible featured an onscreen writing credit and were exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for one week during 2011. Credited documentary writers were required to join the WGAW’s Nonfiction Writers Caucus or the WGAE’s Nonfiction Writers Caucus to be considered, but scripts need not have been written under WGA jurisdiction for consideration.

Anthony D’alessandro contributed to this story.

  1. The WGA’s silly rules have made this almost a pointless precursor. At least in the Original field, where they match up only 2/5 with Oscar. And two of the 3 they are missing are the two that give tonight’s inevitable winner – Midnight in Paris – the biggest threat at Oscar. So we learn nothing thanks to that.

    1. Plus, hard to take seriously any event at which the likes of Patric Verrone is getting an honarary award.

    2. Not sure why the rule of “nominees must be covered under a WGA contract” is silly.

      It’s the WGA awards.


      Contracts UNDER the WGA.

      Which part is silly? The part where YOU disagree with the logic? That part is pretty silly.

      Silly man.

    3. Bridesmaids is what gives Woddy Allen the biggest threat, followed by The Artist. The other two have no chance.

  2. Too Big To Fail was TERRIBLE. It’s an apology to the 1% written by a scumbag who takes money from big banks. That “movie” stunk and let all of those horrible, horrible people involved in our economic collapse off the hook. Boooooo!!!!!!!!!!

  3. What a great slate of winners so far. Homeland, Too Big to Fail, Cinema Verite… all the smart stuff. Let’s hope it keeps moving in this direction.

  4. I guess it would never occur to Steve Levitan or Chris Lloyd to hire more than one woman on staff on Modern Family. The only woman writing for the show is a Disney diversity hire cause she’s free.

    Ugh. It’s so blatant.

    1. The gay couple is the only modern thing about the show.
      Notice the female characters on MF work in the home. They don’t have jobs and slavishly devote themselves to childrearing and their husbands.

      They got Carol Leifer to come in and write one script. And he got Cindy Chupak is a season two producer. Then there’s the diversity hire. Free. There are like 8 or 9 men.

        1. It’s not bad enough that it’s mostly men writing but why does Levitan work so hard going for acceptance speech jokes about “getting women to date us” and “paying for our ex-wives”? There ARE gay men on the writing staff and they’re really really good.

        2. No disrespect to Ed O’Neill, but maybe women aren’t inspired to write comedy for male masturbatory fantasies like Sofía Vergara marrying an average-looking middle-aged guy.

    1. I agree with you and I’m relieved to see BE lose. I couldn’t believe it was even nominated. All the winners were deserving. Vince Gilligan is one of the best writers on TV. Breaking Bad is a quality show with a real vision behind it. Homeland is right up there too.

  5. Good. At least real writers, artists, won. Not posers like Craig Mazin and those writers who do a lot of ancillary work and bravado ie; tweeting to make themselves think we think they are for real. Sorry. Real talent speaks for itself. Real writers like Paul Schrader and Payne, their work speaks. Try this: look up your favorite loudmouth writer. Check out if the tweet. Watch how they covet attention. Tweet celebrities so they can feel important. You know ago you are.

  6. Can I just add that “Modern Family” is woefully overrated. It’s a quality show, but my God – enough already.

    1. OMG, I soooooo agree. I like to consider myself an advocate of intelligent and sophisticated TV shows (“Frasier,” “Mad Men,” “The Good Wife,” “Breaking Bad”), but I never have understood why MF continues to walk off with all the awards. Good, but not great acting. Mostly silly plotlines. And the adopting-gays story arc is fingernails-on-the-chalkboard awful, in my opinion. Why on Earth do all gay characters on network TV have to go the we’re-having-a-baby route? Is it to make them somehow less offensive to Middle America?

  7. I REALLY Hope the Emmy’s recognize Breaking Bad this year. It is by far the best show on this past year, and I dont see anything really comparing. Homeland of course is a close second.

  8. So glad Vince Gilligan got his due! Two awards in one night. The WGA is making up for lost time. Congrats to Peter Gould who also won two.

    Mostly male winners and nominees as usual. The writing business has a long way to go before it is in any way inclusive.

  9. Yeah don’t quite get the dig about these (mostly) rich writers having “real jobs,” seeing as it’s not coming from a dentist or a lawyer. It’s coming from an actor. Kettle, meet pot.

    There are more wannabe actors waiting tables (in LA and elsewhere) and living in their parents’ basements (in LA and elsewhere) than aspiring writers.

    1. Good point. It might have been a funny joke at a Starbucks, but not at a WGA awards ceremony. For some reason I think the parents of Ed Zwick and Woody Allen and Vince Gilligan and Alexander Payne etc…etc…know they bought their Hollywood Hills mansions with money from a “real” job.

  10. Hey, Gloria, Cindy Chupack is not a diversity hire. Last time I looked she’s a woman on the Modern Family writing staff.

    1. No Cindy Chupak is not a diversity hire. Read Gloria’s post more carefully. The bottom line is that there are very few women on staff at Modern Family and it’s reflected in the writing of the female characters. I adore the show but its very limited in how it sees the female characters. The two daughters represent the worst female stereotypes Pretty means dumb and Smart means not so pretty. They could really work on that.

  11. Two and a Half Men should have been nominated years ago and a major win. Now they will never have a chance in tv comedy..

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