WGA sets feature docu nod

Move precludes '9/11' from original screenplay win

The Writers Guild of America has announced creation of a feature documentary writing award while excluding docs from its original screenplay award.

Move precludes Michael Moore taking home a second WGA trophy for original screenplay for “Fahrenheit 9/11.” He won the guild’s original screenplay award for 2002’s “Bowling for Columbine,” which was the first — and now apparently the last — documentary ever nominated for that award.

WGA West assistant exec director Paul Nawrocki denied that the controversies surrounding Moore’s films had prompted the guild to create a separate award. “This is an award three years in the making to recognize excellence in feature documentary filmmaking,” he added.

Moore has opted to compete for the top Academy Awards categories for “Fahrenheit 9/11” and withdraw from the Oscar competition for documentaries, which he won with “Bowling” last year.

The WGA said Monday that its new kudos will be awarded at a reception early next year rather than at the WGA Awards ceremonies Feb. 19.

The WGA noted the genre has seen impressive growth this year — with 50 documentaries released in Los Angeles through Oct. 1, 30 containing writing credits. That compares with 23 docs for all of last year, eight with writing credits.

“An unprecedented number of documentaries released this year contained writing credits, and we at the WGA hope this trend continues,” said WGA West secretary-treasurer Patric Verrone, who’s chair of the WGA West organizing committee. “As an organization dedicated to advancing the craft of writing, we are excited to now have an award that recognizes and honors the writers of these important works.”

Guild also said its move is aimed at bringing more documentaries under the WGA contract. Only three docs were released this year by WGA signatories — “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Riding Giants” and “Coral Reef Adventure.”

Low-budget doc plan

The WGA also said it plans to launch a program for documentaries similar to its 2-year-old Low Budget Agreement Program, which has covered nearly 50 films and allows for partial deferment of compensation for the screenplay and first rewrite for projects with budgets under $1.2 million.

Unlike other WGA awards, the docu writing nod will not require that the producer be a guild signatory; instead, the credited writers will be required to join the nonfiction writers caucus at the WGA West or the WGA East. Other qualifications:

  • Documentaries submitted for entry must contain a writing credit and have been exhibited theatrically in either New York or Los Angeles in 2004.

  • The script must be feature length (over 45 minutes), and docus that received their first public exhibition on broadcast or cable television are not eligible for screen awards.

  • Foreign-language films are not eligible, but films covered by the Intl. Alliance of Writers Guilds will be considered.

  • Submissions will be taken through Dec. 31.

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