The Good Lie screenwriter Margaret Nagle will be the recipient of this year’s Paul Selvin Award, the Writers Guild of America, West announced today. Named after the late Paul Selvin, general counsel to the Guild for 25 years, the award is given each year to the WGA member whose script best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties that are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere and to which Selvin devoted his professional life. Nagle will be recognized, along with other honorees, at the 2015 Writers Guild Awards L.A. ceremony on Saturday, February 14, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. From today’s announcement:
“Margaret Nagle’s script for The Good Lie raises profound issues of resilience and survival in the face of unspeakable atrocities,” said WGAW President Christopher Keyser. “The struggles of the Lost Boys of Sudan in her film remind us how desperately all human beings strive for freedom. But what makes Nagle’s screenplay particularly heart-wrenching is that the civil war in Sudan was a humanitarian crisis of epic proportion, and yet many people were not even aware of it. In shining a light on the Lost Boys, Nagle illuminates their struggle for freedom and the paradoxical complexity of adjusting to it in the foreign culture of America.”
“I’m happy and very moved to learn The Good Lie is receiving the Paul Selvin Award. We live in a world where free speech, protection of the lives of children and policies towards refugees of war, are being challenged on a daily basis. These issues are of central importance to the safety and future of mankind. Writing The Good Lie brought me face to face with the very highest and lowest parts of the human spirit, as well as the remarkable humanitarian organizations who risk their lives on a daily basis, and the Lost Boys and Girls themselves, who I am honored to call my friends. To be a member of a guild that recognizes the fundamental importance of human rights means everything to me. I’m forever grateful to the WGA, West and to everything Paul Selvin did to help this Guild realize those rights,” said screenwriter Nagle.
Directed by Academy Award-nominated director Philippe Falardeau, The Good Lie is the fictional story of four Sudanese orphans (played by Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal and Kuoth Wiel) who walk a thousand miles over the treacherous terrain of war-torn Sudan to a Kenyan refugee camp and ultimately relocate to the United States, where they struggle to rebuild their shattered lives in a culture drastically different than their own.
In developing her script Nagle says, “I wanted to show how an adult’s view of the world is shaped when they had sacrificed their one and only childhood for the sake of survival. And explore how the bonds of relationships built out of loss are unbreakable, becoming like family.” Bringing The Good Lie to the screen took the tenacious Nagle eleven years. She navigated a quagmire of obstacles including studio changes, executive turnover and concerns among some producers that a movie about African refugees might be “too foreign.” After original producer Robert Newmyer passed away and a five-year period in which her screenplay lay dormant, Nagle took advantage of the Guild’s 18-month reacquisition window to reclaim her script and found new producers. “I never gave up because those kids never gave up. I felt a tremendous responsibility to get their story told and in Molly Smith, Karen Kehela Sherwood and Ron Howard I found producers that fought equally hard for this film to exist,” she says.
The Good Lie is produced by Alcon Entertainment, Imagine Entertainment, Black Label Media and Reliance Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Nagle’s script became the first one produced out of the Imagine Entertainment’s Writers Lab, a group of some of Hollywood’s most recognized screenwriters, and was one of a handful of films to receive an A+ CinemaScore rating this year.
Themes of survival and resilience resonate throughout much of Nagle’s work in both film and television, where she has also been prolific. Her script for the HBO film Warm Springs, which tells the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he came to terms with his paraplegia from polio and his decision to return to politics, received a record-breaking 16 Emmy nominations and won the Emmy for Outstanding TV Movie in 2005. It also brought Nagle a Writers Guild Award (Long Form – Original), as well as Humanitas and Pen Award nominations in 2006. She also received the 2007 The Academy Honors Award from the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences for writing television that has an impact on the daily lives of others for her work on her series Side Order of Life for Lifetime.
Nagle worked as a writer and supervising producer on the first season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, winning her a second Writers Guild Award for Outstanding New Series in 2011. She also earned a second Emmy nomination when Boardwalk was cited for Outstanding Drama Series. The show also won the Golden Globe for Best Series. This past fall, Nagle also executive produced and wrote the Fox pilot Red Band Society. In 2014, Nagle received the Evan Somers Memorial Award from the WGAW at the Media Access Awards for her consistent inclusion and accurate portrayal of people with disabilities in her writing for film and television. “I write characters who look like those in the world we all live in. I strive for diversity in everything I do,” she says.
Previous recipients of the WGAW’s Paul Selvin Award include Tony Kushner, Dustin Lance Black, Tate Taylor, Eric Roth, Michael Mann, Larry Karaszewski & Scott Alexander, Robert Eisele & Jeffrey Porro, Anthony Peckham and Alex Gibney.