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Scripter Preview

Tuesday, along with the Producers Guild, the USC Scripter will announce its nominees. The Scripter, in theory, honors both the original literary work and the adaptation. Ideally, both move along in harmony as truly great original works. However, I have seen the Scripter award a script that is clearly more popular than the source material – Slumdog Millionaire is one. Million Dollar Baby another – the source material is good, but it isn’t the driving force behind the win. If the script is powerful enough, the source material doesn’t have to be. Likewise, just because the book is exceptional, doesn’t mean the committee will like the adaptation.¬† However, it helps to have a towering literary giant behind the film – No Country for Old Men, The Hours, Children of Men, etc.

This year, there are many more adapted scripts worthy of award attention than original scripts. Avatar, Hurt Locker, Inlourious Basterds, A Serious Man and Up are all original. But if you look at a list of the year’s films, you will discover that 80% of the really bad, bad movies are from original “concepts” turned into movies. Adaptations, though, already have their theme and context written out in book form and thus have mostly been tested already. All the adapters have to do, then, is not screw it up. The director, then, finds a way to interpret that story and make it his/her own.

This year, there are a few noteworthy adaptations floating around. The first and most prominent of these is Up in the Air. The Walter Kirn novel may not be on everyone’s list of must-reads (perhaps now it will be). But the film is so good and the adaptation so strong this would have to top anyone’s predictions list. The Lovely Bones comes from strong source material, but probably the negative response to the film will prevent it from showing up here. Precious, I would say, is the second strongest here. Good reviews for the film, immeasurable reviews for the book.¬† The Informant! should also be considered as one of the best adaptations of the year, in my opinion. An Education should also be right at the top of the list. And then there is Invictus.

Two readers have pointed out The Road and A Single Man — and these are two adaptations by great writers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them end up there.¬†

Something tells me that two adaptations could come into play that are sort of non-tradition, given the history of the award. Last year, The Dark Knight and Iron Man were both in contention but only Iron Man made it to the Scripter. The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Where the Wild Things Are are two children’s books turned into scripts that should be acknowledged – either one or the other, or both.

My predictions:

Up in the Air – Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner; book: Walter Kirn
An Education – Nick Hornby; book: Lynn Barber
The Fantastic Mr. Fox – Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach; book: Roald Dahl
Where the Wild Things Are – Spike Jonze, Dave Eggars; book Maurice Sendak (I think this could win actually)
Precious – Geoffrey Fletcher; book: Sapphire
ALTS: A Single Man, Tom Ford; book: Christopher Isherwood
The Road, Joe Penhall; book: Cormac McCarthy

Their choices are always interesting.

Scripter definition of process:

Founded by the Friends of the USC Libraries in 1988, the annual Award honors the author(s) and screenwriter(s) of the year’s best motion picture adapted from a printed work. Only live-action and animated English-language feature-length films based on a single book or a book series, novella, short story, graphic novel, play, or magazine article are eligible. Films must have been released domestically during the prior calendar year, January 1 – December 31. The Scripter Award selection committee is comprised of Writers Guild of America members, Academy Award-winning and -nominated screenwriters, authors, film industry executives, faculty, and selected members of the board of the Friends of the USC Libraries. The selection committee chair is ineligible to win the Scripter Award while serving in that capacity. Selection committee members are eligible to win while serving on the committee. The committee considers an average of 44 adaptations per calendar year.


won WGA | won Oscar


Scripter WGA Oscars
Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire+
Iron Man Doubt Doubt
Revolutionary Road Frost/Nixon Frost/Nixon*
Benjamin Button Benjamin Button Benjamin Button*
The Reader The Dark Knight The Reader


Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood*
Joel, Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Joel, Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Joel, Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men+
Atonement Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sean Penn, Into the Wild Sean Penn, Into the Wild Sarah Polley, Away from Her
James Vanderbilt, Zodiac James Vanderbilt, Zodiac Christopher Hampton Atonement*


The Illusionist The Departed The Departed+
Notes on a Scandal Thank You for Smoking Notes on a Scandal
Last King of Scotland Little Children Little Children
Children of Men Borat Borat
Devil Wears Prada Devil Wears Prada Children of Men


Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain*
Capote Capote Capote*
Constant Gardener Constant Gardener Constant Gardener
History of Violence History of Violence History of Violence
Syriana Syriana Munich*


Bourne Supremecy Before Sunset Before Sunset
Door in the Floor Mean Girls Finding Neverland*
Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby+
Sideways Sideways Sideways*
Friday Night Lights Motorcycle Diaries Motorcycle Diaries


Master and Commander* American Splendor American Splendor
Cold Mountain Cold Mountain City of God
Mystic River Mystic River Mystic River *
Seabiscuit Seabiscuit Seabiscuit*


Two Towers* Chicago Chicago+
The Hours The Hours The Hours*
About Schmidt About Schmidt The Pianist*
Adaptation Adaptation Adaptation
The Pianist About a Boy About a Boy


A Beautiful Mind A Beautiful Mind A Beautiful Mind+
Bridget Jones’ Diary Bridget Jones’ Diary Shrek
In the Bedroom Black Hawk Down In the Bedroom*
The Shipping News Ghost World Ghost World
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring*


All the Pretty Horses Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon*
Chocolat Chocolat Chocolat*
High Fidelity High Fidelity O Brother Where Art Thou?
House of Mirth Traffic Traffic*
Wonder Boys Wonder Boys Wonder Boys


The Cider House Rules The Cider House Rules The Cider House Rules*
The Hurricane Election Election
The End of the Affair The Insider The Insider*
Green Mile* October Sky The Green Mile*
The Talented Mr. Ripley The Talented Mr. Ripley The Talented Mr. Ripley


Gods and Monsters Gods and Monsters Gods and Monsters
A Civil Action A Civil Action The Thin Red Line*
Primary Colors Primary Colors Primary Colors
A Simple Plan A Simple Plan A Simple Plan
The Thin Red Line Out Of Sight* Out Of Sight