WGA nominees drawn from smaller field

When the Writers Guild of America reveals its 10 screenplay nominees this morning, it’s going to be from a far smaller field of contenders than in the past.

Only 79 screenplays — 43 in the original category, 36 in adapted — were deemed eligible by the guild this year. That’s less than half the number in recent years such as in 2008, when there were 164 pics eligible in the original category and 103 in adapted.

Although the reduction comes as the majors dial back the number of titles they’re producing, that’s not the reason for the decline, according to WGA assistant exec director Jeff Hermanson. He said the key driver’s a change in the submissions process, with the guild now requiring that each screenplay be submitted via an official entry form for awards consideration.

Previously, scripts produced under WGA jurisdiction were automatically deemed as submitted for the WGA screenplay awards.

People are probably not used to the new submission rule yet,” Hermanson told Daily Variety.

In addition, Hermanson explained that the WGA has tightened its regulations on screenplays written in Australia, Canada, the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand.

Previous language said the scripts had to be “under the jurisdiction” of one of the affiliate guilds; the revamped language specifies that the motion picture screenplays must have been written under “a bona fide collective bargaining agreement” of the Australian Writers Guild, Writers Guild of Canada, Writers Guild of Great Britain, Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild or the New Zealand Writers Guild.

We felt that the meaning of ‘under the jurisdiction’ was unclear,” Hermanson explained. “So the six guilds, collectively operating as the Intl. Affiliation of Writers Guilds, agreed to the new language as part of establishing the organization’s priority as encouraging collective bargaining.”

And the WGA has the ultimate say-so on writing credits — dating back to its founding in 1941. That’s why awards eligibility is limited to work performed under guild agreements, Hermanson explained.

Among the screenplays ineligible for WGA awards are “District 9,” “An Education,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “In the Loop,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “The Road,” “A Single Man” and “Up.”

As with the other guilds, films that had their initial exhibition on television or were released directly on DVD are not eligible for screenplay awards.

This year’s eligible WGA titles include an animated film — Henry Selick’s adapted script for “Coraline” from Neil Gaiman’s book. Since the WGA doesn’t usually cover animation, those screenplays are usually ineligible.

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