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WGA Tightens Eligibility For Documentary Awards

Screenplays must be written under guild jurisdiction

The Writers Guild of America has tightened up the eligibility for its documentary screenplay awards and will only allow scripts that have been written under its jurisdiction or one of its sister guilds.

Move comes eight years after the first WGA documentary award went to Morgan Spurlock for “Super Size Me,” the story of his quest to eat nothing but McDonald’s food for a month. “Searching for Sugar Man” won the award this year.

The new requirements sync the eligibility rules with those for feature-film screenplays, which results in several Oscar-nominated screenplays not receiving guild recognition such as “Amour,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Django Unchained.”

Guild leaders have said repeatedly that they have no intention of changing the eligibility rules because they want to persuade non-members to become members and because — unlike the DGA or SAG-AFTRA — the WGA is the ultimate arbiter of screenplay credits, rather than producers or studios.

The submission period runs from Aug. 19 through Nov. 15, with all feature nominees announced  Jan. 3. Awards will be presented Feb. 1 at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York City.

The documentary awards were first presented in 2005 with the doc-writing category not requiring the producer be a guild signatory. Instead, the credited writers were required to join the nonfiction writers caucus at the WGA West or the WGA East.

The WGA had announced creation of the documentary award in 2004 while at the same time excluding nonfiction works from its original screenplay award, which eliminated Michael Moore’s chances of taking home a second WGA trophy for original screenplay on “Fahrenheit 9/11.” He won the guild’s original screenplay award for 2002′s “Bowling for Columbine.”

The new rules require that theatrical documentaries must have been written under the WGA’s minimum basic agreement or under a bona-fide collective bargaining agreement of the Writers Guild of Canada, Writers Guild of Great Britain, Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild, New Zealand Writers Guild, La Guilde Francaise des Scenaristes (France), Scriptwriters Guild of Israel, or the Societe des Auteurs de Radio, Television et Cinema (Quebec).

Documentaries must contain an onscreen writing credit and have been exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for at least one week during 2013. Scripts must be more than 40 minutes.

Additionally, documentaries that received their first public exhibition via broadcast or cable television are not eligible for WGA awards consideration. Foreign-language films are eligible if they feature English-language subtitles.

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