Little-guy stories always compelling to writer

As the screenwriter who brought environmental activist Erin Brockovich’s crusade to the bigscreen, Susannah Grant relishes the idea of raising awareness about corporate malfeasance.

“It never hurts to stick it to the bad guy,” says Grant of the screenplay that depicted the battle surrounding drinking water contaminated by Pacific Gas & Electric.

Issue-driven projects are no stranger to Grant, recipient of this year’s Valentine Davies Award from the Writers Guild. The Amherst College and American Film Institute alum’s writing credits include “The Soloist,” which shed light on schizophrenia and homelessness, and “28 Days,” which tackled alcoholism.

“I am part of an industry that spends billions of dollars to tell stories, and that’s great,” says Grant, a writer-producer-director of the Fox skein “Party of Five” who made her bigscreen helming debut with the Jennifer Garner starrer “Catch and Release.” “But there are other stories that don’t have these machines behind them. I enjoy being a part of bringing more marginal stories (to light).”

Grant, a descendent of famed Pittsburgh industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Mellon, doesn’t limit her social activism to the page. She serves on the board of Street Poets, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that works with incarcerated and at-risk youth, and raises funds for Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, a hospital founded by her grandparents 50 years ago. Still, she is reluctant to toot her own horn.

“I do stuff, but talking about it makes me sound like someone I don’t like,” quips Grant.

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Honorees
Steven Zaillian | Diane English | Susannah Grant | Seth Freeman | Mike Scully

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