‘Spotlight’, ‘Big’ win top prizes at WGA – Gibney of ‘Going Clear’ wins best docu screenplay

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Writer Josh Singer (left), co-winner of the Original Screenplay award for ‘Spotlight’, and actress Geena Davis pose in the press room during the 2016 Writers Guild Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on Feb 13, in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
Writer Josh Singer (left), co-winner of the Original Screenplay award for ‘Spotlight’, and actress Geena Davis pose in the press room during the 2016 Writers Guild Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on Feb 13, in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Feb 14, (Agencies): ”Spotlight” and “The Big Short” won top prizes at the Writers Guild of America awards Saturday, two weeks ahead of the Oscars, the glittering climax of Hollywood’s annual awards season.

Josh Singer picked up the trophy for best original screenplay for “Spotlight”, a drama about sexual abuse in the Catholic church that he co-wrote with director Tom McCarthy.

The film, starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, has already landed the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and is nominated for six statuettes at the Oscars, to be held on February 28.

Singer paid tribute to abuse survivor Phil Saviano as he picked up the trophy at the Los Angeles ceremony hosted by American stand-up comedian, writer and actor Patton Oswald.

“He’d been trying to tell his story for a very long time and I think that story is finally now being told a needs to continue to be told,” Singer said.

“Spotlight” beat out “Bridge of Spies”, “Sicario”, “Straight Outta Compton” and “Trainwreck”, written by its star Amy Schumer.


Charles Randolph and Adam McKay scooped the prize for best adapted screenplay for their work transforming the book “The Big Short” into the film of the same name.

The movie, set on the eve of the 2008 global financial meltdown, bested highly-touted rivals, including “Carol”, “The Martian”, “Steve Jobs” and “Trumbo”.

It is nominated for five Oscars, including nods for best director for McKay and best supporting actor for Christian Bale.

“Millions of people lost their homes, millions of people lost their savings, and that’s really what this was about,” said McKay.

“And in the end we just want people to really look at why these banks had taken control of our government.”

Best documentary screenplay went to Alex Gibney for “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”, a condensed history of the church and its founder, L Ron Hubbard.

In the television category, “Mad Men” won best TV drama, “Veep” took best TV comedy series and “Mr Robot” scooped best new TV series.

The WGA awards is one of the last major award ceremonies ahead of the Oscars.

“Better Call Saul” won the award for top TV drama episode for the “Uno” segment written by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. “Silicon Valley” took the TV comedy episode for the “Sand Hill Shuffle” episode, written by Clay Tarver.

In Los Angeles 30 minutes later, “Spotlight” was announced as the winner. “It’s humbling to be here in front of such great storytellers,” said Singer.

He also thanked Boston Globe columnist Ellen McNamara for being among the first journalists to write about the abuse scandal and abuse survivor Phil Saviano, who was attending the event.

“The Big Short,” which is nominated for an Oscar, won over scripts for “Carol”, “The Martian”, “Steve Jobs” and “Trumbo.”

“This was a really horrible tragedy,” McKay said of the 2008 financial crisis in his acceptance. “Millions of people lost their homes and millions of people lost their jobs.”

McKay praised the WGA as a union, noting people’s power has been diminished over the last four decades because of the decline in union membership.

The WGA screenplay nominations did not include four Oscar nominees — the adaptations of “Brooklyn” and “Room” and the original scripts for “Ex Machina” and “Inside Out” — which were excluded because the scripts were not produced under WGA jurisdiction.

“The Imitation Game” won the WGA Award and the Oscar last year for adapted screenplay. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won the WGA trophy for original screenplay while “Birdman” — which was ineligible for a WGA award — won the Oscar.

Even with exclusions, the WGA winners have a reliable track record of predicting the Oscar winners — which have matched in 15 of the last 21 years in adapted and 13 of the last 21 in original. The writers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has 416 members or about 6% of the total membership.

In Los Angeles, host Patton Oswalt kicked off the ceremonies by saying he would not make jokes about the death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, then said, “Scalia was born in 1936 and has been there ever since.”


* Original Screenplay: Spotlight; Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy; Open Road Films

* Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short; Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay; Based on the Book by Michael Lewis; Paramount Pictures

* Documentary Screenplay: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief; Written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films

* Drama Series: Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Semi Chellas, Jonathan Igla, Janet Leahy, Erin Levy, Tom Smuts, Robert Towne, Matthew Weiner, Carly Wray; AMC

* Episodic Drama: “Uno” (Better Call Saul); Written by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould; AMC

* Comedy Series: Veep; Written by Simon Blackwell, Jon Brown, Kevin Cecil, Roger Drew, Peter Fellows, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Sean Gray, Callie Hersheway, Armando Iannucci, Sean Love, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Andy Riley, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO

* Episodic Comedy: “Sand Hill Shuffle” (Silicon Valley); Written by Clay Tarver; HBO

* Comedy/Variety (including talk) — Series: Real Time with Bill Maher; Writers: Scott Carter, Adam Felber, Matt Gunn, Brian Jacobsmeyer, Jay Jaroch, Chris Kelly, Bill Maher, Billy Martin, Danny Vermont; HBO

* Comedy/Variety – Music, Awards, Tributes – Specials: Jimmy Kimmel Live: 10th Annual After The Oscars Special; Written by Jack Allison, Tony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, Joelle Boucai, Greg Dorris, Gary Greenberg, Josh Halloway, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Jimmy Kimmel, Bess Kalb, Jeff Loveness, Molly McNearney, Danny Ricker, Joe Strazzullo, Bridger Winegar; ABC

* Comedy/Variety – Sketch Series: Inside Amy Schumer; Head Writer: Jessi Klein Writers: Hallie Cantor, Kim Caramele, Kyle Dunnigan, Jon Glaser, Kurt Metzger, Christine Nangle, Dan Powell, Tami Sagher, Amy Schumer; Comedy Central and Jimmy Kimmel Live: 10th Annual After The Oscars Special won for Comedy/Variety Special.

* Long Form Original: Saints & Strangers; Written by Seth Fisher, Walon Green, Chip Johannessen, Eric Overmyer; National Geographic Channel

* Children’s Episodic: “Gortimer and the Surprise Signature” (Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street); Written by Gretchen Enders & Aminta Goyel; Amazon Studios

* Children’s Long Form: Descendants, Written by Josann McGibbon & Sara Parriott; Disney Channel

* TV News Script – Regularly Scheduled, Bulletin, or Brreaking Report: “Cuba” (60 Minutes); Written by Scott Pelley, Nicole Young, Oriana Zill de Granados, Andy Court and Robert Anderson; CBS News

* TV News Script – Analysis, Feature, or Commentary: “The Storm After the Storm”(60 Minutes); Written by Sharyn Alfonsi, Michael Rey and Oriana Zill de Granados; CBS News

* Documentary Script – Current Events: “American Terrorist” (Frontline); Written by Thomas Jennings; PBS

* Long Form Adapted: Fargo; Written by Steve Blackman, Bob DeLaurentis, Noah Hawley, Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert, Based on the film Fargo; FX

* Documentary Script – Other Than Current Events: “The Great Math Mystery” (Nova); Written by Daniel McCabe; PBS

* Documentary Screenplay: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films

* Daytime Drama: General Hospital; Writers: Ron Carlivati, Anna Theresa Cascio, Andrea Archer Compton, Suzanne Flynn, Kate Hall, Elizabeth Korte, Daniel James OíConnor, Elizabeth Page, Jean Passanante, Katherine Schock, Scott Sickles, Chris Van Etten; ABC

* Radio News Script – Analysis, Featuyre, or Commentary: “Passages”: Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News

* Episodic Comedy: “Sand Hill Shuffle” (Silicon Valley) Written by Clay Tarver; HBO

* Radio Documentary: “Marking the End of Vietnam: 40 Years Later”; Written by Andrew Evans; ABC News Radio

* Animation: “Housetrap” (Bobís Burgers); Written by Dan Fybel; Fox

* Short Form New Media – Original: “Back to Reality” (Weight); Written by Daryn Strauss; weighttheseries.com

* New Series: Mr. Robot; Written by Kyle Bradstreet, Kate Erickson, Sam Esmail, David Iserson, Randolph Leon, Adam Penn, Matt Pyken; USA

* Videogame Writing: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lead Narrative Designer John Stafford; Narrative Designer Cameron Suey; Lead Writer Rhianna Pratchett; Additional Writer Philip Gelatt; Microsoft

* Quiz And Audience Participation: Hollywood Game Night; Head Writer: Grant Taylor; Writers: Michael Agbabian, Alex Chauvin, Ann Slichter, Dwight D. Smith; NBC

* Short Form New Media Adapted: “Chapter Two: Phoebe” (Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters); Written by Zach Craley; nbc.com

* On-Air Promotion (Television, New Media or Radio): “The McCarthys and Under the Dome Promos”; ritten by Erial Tompkins; CBS


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