Argo continued its steamroll through the awards season at the USC Scripter Awards on Saturday evening amid a ceremony dedicated to honoring the value of books and libraries in the film industry.
Joshuah Bearman, a journalist whose 2007 Wired article served as inspiration for the film, was on hand to accept the award. He made a point of praising the ceremony itself, unique in that it honors both authors and screenwriters with one award.
“As a journalist, I’m open to the idea,” he said. He went on to describe film adaptation as an “unsung process.” The award was presented at the end of an event dedicated to honoring that process.
This was the 25th ceremony — the award was established in 1988 by the Friends of the USC Libraries with the goal of honoring both sides of the film adaptation process — the source material as well as the screenplay.
Dean of Libraries Catherine Quinlan acted as the host for the evening.
“You like Scripter — you really, really like Scripter,” she said, referencing a speech actress Sally Field once gave at the Academy Awards. Riffing off Field’s quote was just one of her comic lines. She also spent quite a bit of time reminiscing about her cello named Fred, with which she performed on stage at the Scripter Awards last year.
The storied tradition of the award seems to amply prove Quinlan’s remark — the attendees of the ceremony truly enjoy the event, and they return year after year. At one point, Quinlan recognized several people in the audience who had been in attendance at all 25 Scripter ceremonies.
This brand of loyalty and devotion seems atypical for lesser-known annual awards like this one, especially in an industry that is criticized frequently for its obsession with glitz and glamour. USC Trustee Ronald Sugar spoke about the discrepancy between Scripter and other similar ceremonies: “When I come to this, people don’t ask, ‘What are you wearing?’ They ask, ‘What have you read?’”
Appropriately, the ceremony is held each year in the main hall of Doheny Library, which is transformed in breathtaking fashion into what Scripter co-founder Glenn Sonnenberg described as “Hogwarts on steroids.”
The emphasis throughout the evening was on the value of libraries and the monumental influence they’ve had on countless great screenwriters. In an era when print is rapidly going out of fashion, this award serves to remind film students that computers are poor substitutes for the transporting magic of a library.
The first award of the evening was the Literary Achievement Award, a recent addition to the ceremony, having been instated in 2008. Despite its brief history, the award has already racked up an intimidating list of winners —among them Oscar winners Steven Zaillian, Eric Roth, Paul Haggis and distinguished novelist Dennis Lehane. For the first time, the selection committee awarded the honor to a screenwriting partnership: Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, Oscar-winning screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain and several award-winning miniseries. When the writers took the stage, they focused on thanking each other for the fruitful partnership of over two decades.
For the Scripter Award itself, the committee chose six finalists this year rather than the usual five, a result of a tie. The finalists were Stephen Chbosky, author, screenwriter and director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Chris Terrio, the screenwriter of Argo, and Antonio Mendez and Bearman, authors of the nonfiction works the film was based on; Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, co-writers of Beasts of the Southern Wild; Yann Martel and David Magee, author and screenwriter of Life of Pi, respectively; Tony Kushner, screenwriter of Lincoln, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals, upon which the film was based; and Matthew Quick and David O. Russell, author and screenwriter/director of Silver Linings Playbook, respectively.
Argo’s victory came as something of a surprise to pundits, considering the heated competition of the award — all six adaptations are tours de force, but it seems that nothing can stop Argo in taking almost every major American film award in the 2013 season. The film seems primed to continue this train to the Oscars later this month.
It seems evident that the ceremony itself will maintain its sterling tradition in years to come; the attendees all overflowed with positive remarks. USC trustee Ann Hill called it a “beautiful event” and seemed intent on coming again. Countless audience members shared her enthusiasm for this award, one that is remarkable for its positive spirit and its recognition of writing in multiple mediums.