Chloé Zhao won top honors Saturday night at the 33rd annual USC Libraries Scripter Awards for Nomadland, her adaptation of Jessica Bruder’s nonfiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. “This is so beautiful,” Zhao said, holding up the trophy, and thanking Bruder for her book and for her “love of the road and the American people.” Then she said, “I feel so lucky to be able to tell stories for a living.”
The win makes Zhao a top contender for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, but not a sure bet. The Scripters – which honor the year’s best film and TV adaptations and the works on which they’re based – have, over the past decade, been one of the most reliable bellwethers of Oscar gold – until recently. Scripter winners went on to win eight consecutive Academy Awards, but finished out of the money at the last two Academy Awards. Oscar nominations will be announced Monday.
Bruder thanked Zhao, her agent, her pets and everyone who made the book and film possible, giving special thanks to all the people encountered on the road in the film about a woman who is “houseless,” but not homeless, as she travels across the American West. “It has been one hell of a ride,” she added.
In the episodic TV category tonight, the Scripter went to Scott Frank for the “Openings” episode of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, based on the novel by Walter Tevis. “Thank you for this award,” Frank said. “It’s an incredibly nice thing to get, but I could never have done this without that novel.” Tevis’ son William and daughter Julie accepted on his behalf.
In other news, Greg Lucas was presented with the Scripters’ Ex Libris Award. A former journalist and capitol bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle, Lucas was appointed California State Librarian by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014.
Catherine Quinlan, Dean of the USC Libraries, served as the master of ceremonies, and spoke eloquently of the challenges that the USC libraries have faced during the coronavirus pandemic. USC professor Howard Rodman, a former WGA West president, chaired the selection committee.