WGA Awards 2020: Raw Humanity Sweeps the Stage
February 10, 2020
Photo courtesy of The Writers Guild of America, WestParasite, Jojo Rabbit and a host of HBO series were among the big winners at the 2020 Writers Guild of America Awards on Saturday, February 1st, as screenwriters were recognized by their industry peers.
“When you start in this business, the WGA is who says, ‘you did it,’” said Chernobyl writer and creator Craig Mazin, fresh off his win in the Original Long Form category for the HBO drama. “They call you and you become part of the Writers Guild, this remarkable sisterhood and brotherhood of writers. To know I’m part of it and they’re honoring my work is overwhelming and astonishing.”
Mazin, who’s wrapping an awards season that also saw him take home a Golden Globe® and an Emmy®, was just one of several HBO writers to win Saturday night. The writers of both Watchmen and Barry won too, for Best New Series and Best Comedy, respectively.
“It makes me feel like I have a lot of work to do,” said Barry co-creator and writer, Alec Berg. “It’s nice to be applauded, but it's also intimidating because you’ve set the bar.”
The nominees included writers who worked on vastly diverse shows and films seen on television, streaming services, and in theaters. Special, the Netflix original by Ryan O’Connell about a man who is both gay and has a disability, received the award for Best Original Short-Form New Media.
“Getting respect from your peers is incredible,” O’Connell said.
But even finding a home for Special was an astounding accomplishment for O’Connell, who at one time wasn’t sure his show would ever get greenlit. As a man with cerebral palsy, O’Connell said no one took him seriously for four years as he tirelessly tried to break down doors in hopes of getting someone to listen.
“Special is one of the very few shows about a disability coming from an actual disabled person, so it’s authentic and real,” O’Connell explained. “People just don’t think about disabled people in these positions, occupying these spaces, and that needs to change.”
Many of the shows and films nominated for a WGA award portrayed raw humanity; the threads of the human experience that viewers—regardless of background—could somehow find relatable. John Herrera and Nina Fiore, nominated for The Handmaid’s Tale, believed that was one of the key reasons their show was nominated out of the robust landscape of media that exists.
“I think what’s beautiful about our show, is that you’re literally watching a character being crushed and oppressed, and yet there is so much hope in her,” Fiore explained. “Even in the smallest detail, she finds some kind of joy because that’s what she needs to do to survive. At the end of the day, what it shows is the human spirit is beautiful, indomitable and non- extinguishable.”
Herrera and Fiore, who have been writing partners for over a decade, proceeded to offer advice to up-and-coming writers: embrace the work.
“Write your ass off,” Fiore said. “John and I were prepared for any opportunity. We were writing at 5:00 a.m. before our day jobs. We did that every day for like a year or two, busting our asses, and then at night and on the weekends, to make sure we had scripts if someone asked.”
Fiore also said to never be afraid of the first draft, or as she explained, “the shit draft.”
“You have to be able to write the shitty, terrible draft—only on Final Draft, of course—to get a polished script. You carve out that wonderful statue and it will only happen if you get the crap draft out of the way.”
Max Borenstein, who was nominated for AMC’s The Terror: Infamy, encouraged young writers to read movie and TV scripts, and watch and consume movies and television often. He said it's the best way to get more familiar with and improve your craft.
Bombshell-scribe Charles Randolph added that new writers need to “be brave,” write complex characters, and about complicated subjects that, “scare the hell out of you and tell emotionally sloppy, mess stories.”
Eboni Freeman, nominated for the hit NBC drama This Is Us, suggested new writers should just keep writing.
“I know people say it all the time, but write about what you’re passionate about,” Freeman said. “Don’t write what you think is going to sell. If you have an idea you’re crazy passionate about, write that!”
Alec Berg, co-creator of Barry simply said, “Don’t be an asshole.”
2020 Writers Guild of America Winners:
Parasite, Screenplay by Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han, Story by Bong Joon Ho; Neon
Jojo Rabbit, Screenplay by Taika Waititi, based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens; Fox Searchlight
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films
TELEVISION AND NEW MEDIA
Succession, Written by Jesse Armstrong, Alice Birch, Jon Brown, Jonathan Glatzer, Cord Jefferson, Mary Laws, Lucy Prebble, Georgia Pritchett, Tony Roche, Gary Shteyngart, Susan Soon He Stanton, Will Tracy; HBO
Barry, Written by Alec Berg, Duffy Boudreau, Bill Hader, Emily Heller, Jason Kim, Taofik Kolade, Elizabeth Sarnoff; HBO
Watchmen, Written by Lila Byock, Nick Cuse, Christal Henry, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Cord Jefferson, Jeff Jensen, Claire Kiechel, Damon Lindelof, Janine Nabers, Stacy Osei-Kuffour, Tom Spezialy, Carly Wray; HBO
ORIGINAL LONG FORM
Chernobyl, Written by Craig Mazin; HBO
ADAPTED LONG FORM
Fosse/Verdon, Written by Debora Cahn, Joel Fields, Ike Holter, Thomas Kail, Steven Levenson, Charlotte Stoudt, Tracey Scott Wilson, Based on the book Fosse by Sam Wasson; FX Networks
ORIGINAL SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA
Special, Written by Ryan O’Connell; Netflix
“Thanksgiving of Horror” (The Simpsons), Written by Dan Vebber; Fox
“Tern Haven” (Succession), Written by Will Tracy; HBO
“Pilot” (Dead to Me), Written by Liz Feldman; Netflix
COMEDY/VARIETY TALK SERIES
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Senior Writers: Dan Gurewitch, Jeff Maurer, Jill Twiss, Juli Weiner, Writers: Tim Carvell, Daniel O'Brien, John Oliver, Owen Parsons, Charlie Redd, Joanna Rothkopf, Ben Silva, Seena Vali; HBO
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Presents: Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Part 2, Head Writer Melinda Taub, Writing Supervised by Joe Grossman, Nicole Silverberg, Writers Samantha Bee, Kristen Bartlett, Pat Cassels, Sean Crespo, Mike Drucker, Mathan Erhardt, Lewis Friedman, Miles Kahn, Sahar Rizvi, Special Material by Allison Silverman; TBS
COMEDY/VARIETY SKETCH SERIES
I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, Writers: Jeremy Beiler, Zach Kanin, Tim Robinson, John Solomon; Netflix
QUIZ AND AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Head Writer Bret Calvert, Writers Seth Harrington, Rosemarie DiSalvo; Nickelodeon
The Young and the Restless, Writers: Amanda L. Beall, Jeff Beldner, Sara Bibel, Matt Clifford, Annie Compton, Christopher Dunn, Sara Endsley, Janice Ferri Esser, Mellinda Hensley, Lynn Martin, Anne Schoettle, Natalie Minardi Slater, Teresa Zimmerman; CBS
CHILDREN’S EPISODIC, LONG FORM AND SPECIALS
“Remember Black Elvis?” (Family Reunion), Written by Howard Jordan Jr.; Netflix
DOCUMENTARY SCRIPT – CURRENT EVENTS
“Trump's Trade War” (Frontline), Written by Rick Young; PBS
DOCUMENTARY SCRIPT – OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS
“Right to Fail” (Frontline), Written by Thomas Jennings; PBS
NEWS SCRIPT – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT
“Terror in America: The Massacres in El Paso and Dayton” (Special Edition of the CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell), Written by Jerry Cipriano, Joe Clines, Bob Meyer; CBS News
NEWS SCRIPT – ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY
“Fly Like an Eagle” (60 Minutes), Written by Katie Kerbstat Jacobson, Scott Pelley, Nicole Young; CBS News
“Stories About My Brother,” Written by Prachi Gupta, Jezebel.com
RADIO/AUDIO NEWS SCRIPT—REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT
“Hail and Farewell: Remembering Some Headline Makers,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS News Radio
RADIO/AUDIO NEWS SCRIPT – ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY
“The Enduring Legacy of Jackie Kennedy Onassis,” Written by Dianne E. James, Gail Lee; CBS News Radio
“Star Trek: Picard” and “All Rise Promos,” Written by Jessica Katzenstein; CBS
Written by: Allison NorlianAllison Norlian is a three-time, Emmy-nominated journalist who has worked as a television reporter and anchor in markets around the country. She has covered a variety of stories from the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia to President Trump’s travel ban in the fourth circuit court of appeals. Allison has also won AP awards for her work and a Catalyst For Change award from the Arc of Virginia for her reporting on the disabled community. Allison just moved to Los Angeles with her screen writer husband and two cats and is excited for all LA has to offer!