Scripter to Name Winner on Gala’s Night

New master of ceremonies and new eligibility rules round out major changes as the USC Libraries’ award enters its third decade.
by Dan Knapp
Jamie Lee Curtis will emcee the 21st annual USC Libraries Scripter Award gala Jan. 30.

For the first time in the 20-year history of the event, the USC Libraries will announce Scripter winners on the evening of the gala.

Each year, the USC Libraries Scripter Award honors the author and screenwriter of the best adaptation of a literary work into a film. Next year’s event will take place Jan. 30 in Doheny Memorial Library.

The Friends of the USC Libraries sponsors of the award since its inception voted recently to align the format of the event more closely with that of other award programs such as the Oscars and Golden Globes. Glenn Sonnenberg, former USC trustee and president of the Friends’ board of directors, co-founded Scripter with actress Marjorie Lord in 1988.

“As Scripter turns 21,” said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries, “we have a unique opportunity to introduce new elements that create excitement for supporters of the libraries, lend greater significance to the awards and honor Scripter’s rich history.”

The Scripter selection committee has begun considering the year’s 58 eligible adaptations. Among those serving on the committee are writer and producer Lawrence Kasdan; dramatist and screenwriter Tony Kushner; chairman of Phoenix Pictures Mike Medavoy; Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Tom Rothman; Jennifer and Suzanne Todd, producers of Tim Burton’s upcoming adaptation of Alice in Wonderland; and Spider-Man producer Laura Ziskin.

In all, the committee includes 53 members of the film and literary communities, USC faculty, critics and members of the Friends of the USC Libraries. Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, Oscar nominee and winner of a Golden Globe for the 1988 film Running on Empty, returns for her second year as chair of the Scripter selection committee.

“Announcing the winner at the ceremony makes for a much more dramatic evening,” said Foner Gyllenhaal. “And drama is at the center of any award presentation. This change also gives us a chance to really honor all the finalists among their peers at the event.”

Also on tap for Scripter 2009 is first-time master of ceremonies and Golden Globe-winning actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis, whose films include Halloween, Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda and this year’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua, is also an accomplished writer. Curtis’ children’s books routinely have landed on The New York Times best-seller list, including her most recent, Big Words for Little People.

Rounding out the trio of major changes coming to next year’s Scripter ceremony is a revision to the eligibility rules. English-language adaptations based on a series of books now qualify for consideration. Previously, only films based upon individual books, novellas or short stories were eligible.

The amendment allows more diverse creative approaches to be represented among contenders. Under the new rules, films such as The Spiderwick Chronicles and Iron Man are now in the running.

Scripter is unique among literary and entertainment awards in that it honors the screenwriters of an adapted film as well as the author of the book upon which the film is based.

Previous winners include the authors and screenwriters of No Country for Old Men, Million Dollar Baby, The Hours, A Beautiful Mind and L.A. Confidential. Steven Zaillian, screenwriter of Schindler’s List and other acclaimed films, won the inaugural Scripter Literary Achievement Award this year.