CAA Finds What Others Sometimes Lose: Oscar-Winning Writers

It’s easy to lose track of Oscar-winning screenwriters. They get tucked into the annual Academy Awards show before the really fancy people—directors, actors and prize-winning producers—grab the limelight. And they’re lucky if they aren’t piped off the stage before Mom, the kids and a long-suffering spouse get thanked.

But the Creative Artists Agency appears to be on the prowl for those high-end missing persons.

In a little-noticed twist, CAA has picked up at least seven Oscar-winning writers in approximately the last year and a half. Those would be Dustin Lance Black, who won for Milk in 2009; William Monahan, who won for The Departed in 2007; Chris Terrio, the winner for Argo in 2013; Brian Helgeland, who shared a win with Curtis Hanson for L. A. Confidential in 1998; Emma Thompson, winner for Sense and Sensibility in 1996; and both Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, who shared an Oscar for The Descendants with Alexander Payne (another CAA client) in 2012.

Twisting a little further, five of CAA’s freshly signed prize-winners came from competitor WME, some of them after bouncing back-and-forth between the two big agencies. The WME contingent includes Black, Monahan, Terrio, Rash and Faxon. Helgeland, when he signed with CAA in July, had been unrepresented, and Thompson was represented by WME as an actress.

Neither CAA nor WME offered comment on the prize-winning cluster. Certainly, the quiet accumulation of Oscar-caliber writers—several of whom are also directors—is a happy development at CAA, which is still pressing a lawsuit over last year’s raid on its comedy contingent by UTA.

That CAA is now grabbing up high-end writers and writer-directors clearly says that its motion picture literary department, headed by veteran agents Todd Feldman and Risa Gertner, is on the hunt for class. Too, the agency’s film finance and sales group, which posted nearly a dozen deals at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, may be attracting filmmakers who like its muscle.

But don’t count the competitors out. Of those who won the last round of screenwriting Oscars, CAA represents one, Charles Randolph, who was a writer of The Big Short. But Gersh has Tom McCarthy, who shared an Oscar for writing Spotlight, while WME represents Adam McKay, the other Big Short winner, and Josh Singer, who shared the Spotlight writing prize.

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