Hollywood Writers End Their Rollercoaster Of A Year With Very Late Awards Show

For the roughly 12,000 scribes the Writers Guild of America represents, the last year has been an emotional roller coaster: The guild engaged in a labor stoppage for over four and a half months in 2023 that, alongside a partially overlapping SAG-AFTRA strike, ground production to a halt.

But with a new contract now in hand, the upcoming Writers Guild Awards afford union members the chance for a collective exhalation. On April 14, Emmy-winning actress and producer Niecy Nash-Betts will host the event in L.A., part of conjoined and concurrent ceremonies in Hollywood and New York City, which will give writers the opportunity to both celebrate some of the best recent work of their own and simultaneously look toward the future.

“We made a lot of gains,” says Meredith Stiehm, “Cold Case” creator and WGA West president since 2021, noting what she called “a collage of victories” in their negotiated settlement, ranging from AI safeguards to writers room guarantees. “I think a big challenge now is making sure they’re enforced and we’re protecting [members],” she says, adding that the organization is closely monitoring the current negotiations between IATSE, Teamsters and the Hollywood Basic Crafts coalition with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The awards show itself, meanwhile, is in an unusual position. WGA winners in 26 categories spanning film, television, news media and radio/audio will be awarded more than one month after the Academy Awards, instead of before, as is traditional.

“Air,” “Barbie,” “The Holdovers,” “May December” and “Past Lives” are vying for the original screenplay WGA trophy, while “American Fiction,” “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Oppenheimer” are competing in the adapted category. Cord Jefferson won the Oscar for adapted screenplay with “American Fiction,” while the Oscar-winning original screenplay, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari’s “Anatomy of a Fall,” was ineligible for similar WGA honors.

On the TV side, writers on freshmen shows such as “The Curse,” “The Diplomat,” “The Last of Us” and “Jury Duty” are hoping to triumph against shows such as “The Crown,” “Succession,” “Abbott Elementary,” “Barry,” “The Bear” and “Only Murders in the Building.”

The 76th annual awards will take place at the Hollywood Palladium instead of hotel ballrooms at the Beverly Hilton or Century Plaza, giving the evening a different spin. Presenters scheduled to appear at the L.A. awards show include Drew Carey, Tony Hale, Nathan Fielder, Bill Burr, Randall Park and Tig Notaro.

While not broadcast, the evening’s West Coast affair, with more than 800 attendees, is still produced like a television show, “with a big budget, with a lot of cameras and production value,” says producer Hugh Fink. He will work in cooperation with the WGA’s smaller East Coast dinner, hosted by writer-performer Josh Gondelman, to make sure announcements are synchronized to avoid spoilers.

Fink’s chief goal is to create an irreverent, hip and loose-limbed tone for the WGA festivities. “Writers as a group are obviously a different mentality than directors or actors, and they’re super-smart but somewhat cynical and sarcastic,” Fink observes.

To that end, Fink is extremely involved in the writing, relying on skills honed from his years of work as a standup comedian, as well as at “Saturday Night Live.” As with the producer of almost any live show, though, his biggest anxiety is time.

Still, the classical violinist has an additional method to help keep things moving. “I have the host announce during the monologue, ‘When you see the light [come on], get off, and if you don’t then you’re going to be played off by the Writers Guild Symphony Orchestra,’” says Fink.

“I’ve played the theme from ‘Schindler’s List,’ another year I played Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ — whatever song is really funny.”

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