USC’s Doheny Library is the setting for the college’s annual fundraiser, The Scripter Awards, which go to adapted screenplays, both the original author and the adapter. In the the last five years, the Scripter award winners have gone on to win the Adapted Screenplay Oscar: “The Social Network,” “The Descendants,” “Argo,” “12 Years A Slave,” and “The Imitation Game.”
Hosted by USC’s Dean of Libraries, Catherine Quinlan, the Scripters added television this year, a sign of the times. USC grad Jonathan Igla admitted that while he worked on “Mad Men” and loves writing for television, it’s harder to get paid for screenplays, even though that’s what he wants to do. “The End of the Tour” Scripter nominee Donald Margulies is also in TV, co-executive-producing a six-part TV mini-series, “American Lion,” set to star Sean Penn as Andrew Jackson (HBO, 2017). And veteran indie film producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa were at the Scripters on behalf of their HBO series, “The Leftovers,” with writer Tom Perrotta, who also wrote “Little Children,” which they turned into a movie. He admitted that it wasn’t always easy to let go of your creation when television wants to make distinct changes.
Adapting book to screen is “a translation from one language to another,” said WGA president and USC Screenwriting professor and Scripter czar Howard Rodman, and brings the material to a new audience.
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The first TV Scripter Award went to another HBO show, “Show Me a Hero,” shared by book writer Lisa Belkin and scribes William F. Zorzi & David Simon. Belkin thanked Zorzi and Simon for being “respectful and loving of both the written word and history.” Disappointed nominees included the creators of “Masters of Sex,” “The Man in the High Castle,” and “The Game of Thrones.”