Los Angeles – Three-time Writers Guild Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney has been named the WGAW’s 2014 Paul Selvin Award honoree for his screenplay for the documentary film We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, the first time in Writers Guild Awards history that a documentary has received the Selvin Award.
Gibney and his work will be recognized, along with other honorees, at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony to be held on Saturday, February 1, at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Named after the late Paul Selvin, who served as counsel to the WGAW, the award is given to a WGA member whose script best embodies the spirit of constitutional and civil rights and liberties, which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere – and to whose defense Selvin committed his professional life.
“Alex Gibney is one of the foremost documentary filmmakers of this generation. His work has been a filmic conscience for our times. In We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, Mr. Gibney tackles issues arising out of us living, increasingly, in a surveillance state – from the public’s right to know and the press’ right to publish, to the treatment of whistleblowers. The work raises questions that are fundamental to the preservation of our constitutional and civil rights and liberties. In honoring a documentary film with the Paul Selvin Award for the first time, the WGAW acknowledges Mr. Gibney’s singular contribution to the ongoing conversation about the meaning of freedom – a conversation that writers must never allow to go silent,” said WGAW President Christopher Keyser.
From Focus World, the alternative distribution initiative owned and operated by Focus Features, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a searing portrait of WikiLeaks’s founder Julian Assange, Pfc. Bradley Manning, and the government’s intense struggle for secrecy. As the acclaimed documentary details the creation, swift rise, and far-reaching impact of Assange’s controversial website, which facilitated the largest security breach in U.S. history, the film ultimately explores ethical and moral issues in the online age. Given that all actions have consequences, Gibney’s revealing documentary has its own sobering real-life epilogue: just this past August, a military judge sentenced Manning to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Having been called “the most important documentarian of our time” (Esquire) and “one of the pre-eminent filmmakers in America” (Indiewire), filmmaker Alex Gibney remains a rare triple threat within the documentary creative community: writing, directing, and producing a prolific series of complex, intelligent, yet accessible films, many of which have been both critical and commercial successes. Known for his cinematic, absorbing, and insightful documentaries, the filmmaker has won Academy, Emmy, Writers Guild, Independent Spirit, Grammy, and Peabody awards, among numerous other accolades.
His 2008 film about the Bush Administration’s policy on torture, interrogation and rendition, Taxi to the Dark Side, received an OscarTM for Best Feature-Length Documentary and a Writers Guild Award for Documentary Screenplay. In 2006, Gibney received an Academy Award Best Documentary Feature nomination for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, as well as a Writers Guild Award for Documentary Screenplay for the acclaimed film. He also served as Executive Producer on the OscarTM-nominated No End in Sight (2007).
In 2013, Gibney and his company Jigsaw Productions took home three Emmy Awards for Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, a harrowing story of sex abuse in the Catholic church which also earned him a WGA Documentary Screenplay nomination, as well as won an Emmy for Showtime’s The History of The Eagles. That same year, Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream (Written by Alex Gibney & Chad Beck & Adam Bolt, Inspired by the book 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building by Michael Gross) was a fascinating chapter of the Peabody-winning series produced by the BBC and PBS. 2013 also saw Gibney honored with the International Documentary Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
His documentary about Lance Armstrong’s spectacular fall from grace, The Armstrong Lie (2013), premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival and has been nominated for the 2014 BAFTA Award, along with We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013), which also recently received a 2014 WGA nomination for Documentary Screenplay. His latest film project, Finding Fela, a documentary about the legendary Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti, is set to premiere later this month at Sundance 2014. Currently, Gibney is producing a four-hour documentary on iconic singer Frank Sinatra for HBO. Jigsaw also recently began expanding into the unscripted documentary television series arena with the program Death Row Stories in collaboration with Robert Redford’s Sundance Productions for CNN. The company will also be announcing the premiere of another series with major networks later in 2014.
Over the course of his career, Gibney’s high-profile investigative work has sparked national debates about torture, ethics, the financial crisis, and privacy in the Internet age. Highlights from Gibney’s extraordinary body of work include My Trip to Al-Qaeda (2010), based on the one-man play by Pulitzer-winning author Lawrence Wright; Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010), which details the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff; Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010); The Last Gladiators (2011), a look the National Hockey League’s most feared enforcers; Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place (Screenplay by Alex Gibney & Alison Elwood, Based on the Words and Recordings of Ken Kesey, 2011), a time travel immersion experience about the famous 1964 bus trip taken by Kesey and the Merry Pranksters; and Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008), which earned a WGA nomination for Documentary Screenplay. Gibney also directed the Sports Emmy-nominated Catching Hell (2011) for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series.
Earlier in this career, Gibney earned a 1990 Writers Guild Award for his Frontline episode, “The Battle for Eastern Airlines” (Television: Documentary – Current Events), as well as a 1994 WGA nomination for the “Inside Japan, Inc.” episode of The Pacific Century (Written by Carl Byker & Alex Gibney and Andrea Malin; Television: Documentary – Feature [Other Than Current Events]).
Born in 1953, in New York City, Gibney has been a WGAW member since 1989.
Previous recipients of the WGW’s Paul Selvin Award include Eric Roth, Michael Mann, Larry Karaszewski & Scott Alexander, Jason Horwitch, Don Payne, Robert Eisele & Jeffrey Porro, Dustin Lance Black, Anthony Peckham, Tate Taylor, and Tony Kushner.