The 58th Annual Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards were handed out Monday night on the UCLA campus in Westwood. I was honored to be asked to be one of this year’s three judges, along with TriStar Productions Chairman (and former Fox co-Chair) Tom Rothman, and 2007 Goldwyn winner Jennifer O’Kieffe. Open to all University Of California students, the contest offers a cash first prize of $15,000. This year it went to an extremely clever film-noirish animation screenplay revolving around spiders, Inspector Sun And The Curse Of The Black Widow, by UCLA TFT student Rocco Pucillo. It’s so good, it could probably go into production tomorrow. UC Riverside’s Jared Robbins took second place and $7500 for Farang. There was a three-way tie for the $4000 third place prize among UCLA TFT’s Jeffrey Baker (Dr. Acker’s English Elixir) and Turner Hay (Broken Grey), and UC Irvine’s Sean Harrigan (Dust Red).
Producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr, President of The Samuel Goldwyn Foundation which established the prestigious screenwriting competition in 1955, was in attendance. So was his son, (producer and former Paramount exec) John Goldwyn, who presided over the ceremony with UCLA School of Theatre, Film And Television Dean Teri Schwartz. Incidentally, the father and son Goldwyns have the upcoming remake, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, set for Christmas release from Fox.
Past winners have included Francis Ford Coppola, Allison Anders, Pamela Gray, Colin Higgins, Eric Roth, Carroll Ballard and novelist Jonathan Kellerman while past judges have included such notables as Moss Hart, Billy Wilder, Sidney Poitier, James L Brooks and Denzel Washington. John Goldwyn noted that former winners have written more than 300 films, TV series and made-for-TV movies in productions that have won a total of 27 Oscars, 87 Emmys and 35 Golden Globes. “We are very proud of the extraordinary contributions to the art of cinema produced by our former winners,” Sam Goldwyn Jr stated.
Judges also made remarks and offered advice to the nascent screenwriters. Rothman bluntly told the students, “If you can close your eyes and think of any other profession you would be happy doing, leave the room immediately and go do it. If this is it, this is your passion, this is what you were born to do, then welcome to the club. We need you. We need the stick-tuitiveness it will take. We need the talent. We need the voices. We need the belief. It’s the mile, not the 100-yard dash but welcome to the race,” he said.