USC Scripter Awards Nominations Often Tip Adapted Screenplay Oscar Race

This year's finalists include "Leave No Trace," ineligible for a WGA nomination; several major Oscar contenders did not make the cut.
"Leave No Trace"
"Leave No Trace"
Bleecker Street

The USC Libraries has revealed the finalists for the 31st-annual USC Libraries Scripter Award, which honors the year’s best film and television adaptations, as well as the works on which they are based. This group of academics, industry professionals and critics (for which I vote) is often predictive of the Adapted Screenplay Oscar race.

Last year’s Scripter winners were “Call Me by Your Name” screenwriter James Ivory (who won the Oscar), and author André Aciman; past winners include “Moonlight,” “The Big Short” and “The Imitation Game,” which all won Oscars. In fact the past eight Scripter Award winners have gone on to win Oscars.

The finalist writers for film adaptation (listed in alphabetical order by film title):

Screenwriters Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole for “Black Panther,” based on the character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and author Lee Israel for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Screenwriters Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin, and David Schneider for “The Death of Stalin,” based on the graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Screenwriter Barry Jenkins and author James Baldwin for “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Screenwriters Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini for “Leave No Trace” based on the novel “My Abandonment” by Peter Rock.

Surprisingly, WGA nominee Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” was left out of the Scripter race; the film did not beat “If Beale Street Could Talk” at the Critics Choice Awards. (“Leave No Trace” was not WGA-eligible.) As a film adaptation, Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” was not eligible for the Scripters, as it was not based on a published source.

Due to a tie in the nominating round, the writers of six television shows and their printed source material will vie for the Scripter Award this year.

Edward St Aubyn (Writer)& Benedict Cumberbatch 'Patrick Melrose' TV show launch event, London, UK - 09 May 2018
Edward St Aubyn and Benedict CumberbatchREX/Shutterstock

The finalist writers for television (listed in alphabetical order by series title):

Tom Rob Smith, for the episode “The Man Who Would Be Vogue” from “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” and author Maureen Orth for the nonfiction book “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History”

Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder, for the episode “Holly” from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and author Margaret Atwood

Dan Futterman and Ali Selim, for the episode “9/11” from “The Looming Tower,” and author Lawrence Wright

David Nicholls for the episode “Bad News,” from “Patrick Melrose,” based on the series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn

Marti Noxon for the episode “Vanish,” from “Sharp Objects,” and author Gillian Flynn
Russell T Davies, for “A Very English Scandal,” and author John Preston

Chaired by USC professor and past president of the Writers Guild of America, West, Howard Rodman, the 2019 Scripter selection committee selected the finalists from a field of 90 film and 55 television adaptations.

Serving on the selection committee, among many others, are film critics Leonard Maltin and Kenneth Turan; authors Lisa Belkin, Nalo Hopkinson and Michael Ondaatje; screenwriters Mark Fergus, Wesley Strick, Larry Karaszewski and Erin Cressida Wilson; producers Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa, Brad Simpson and Jennifer Todd; and USC deans Elizabeth Daley of the School of Cinematic Arts and Catherine Quinlan of the USC Libraries.

The studios distributing the finalist films and current publishers of the printed works are:

“Black Panther”—Disney and Marvel Comics
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”—Fox Searchlight and Simon & Schuster
“The Death of Stalin”—IFC Films and Titan Comics
“If Beale Street Could Talk”—Annapurna Pictures and Vintage International
“Leave No Trace”—Bleecker Street and Mariner Books

The networks and streaming platforms broadcasting the finalist television series and current publishers of the original printed works are:

“American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace”—FX and Bantam Books
“The Handmaid’s Tale”—Hulu and Anchor
“The Looming Tower”—Hulu and Penguin Random House
“Patrick Melrose”—Showtime and Picador
“Sharp Objects”—HBO and Broadway Books
“A Very English Scandal”—Amazon Studios and Other Press

The USC Libraries will announce the winning authors and screenwriters at a black-tie ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 in the historic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on the University Park campus of the University of Southern California. Since 1988, Scripter has honored the authors of printed works alongside the screenwriters who adapt their stories. In 2016, the USC Libraries inaugurated a new Scripter award, for television adaptation. Television and film finalists compete in separate categories.

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