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Writers Guild Honors Seasoned Vets and Industry Newcomers

This year, the Writers Guild of America West salutes a bevy of talented scribes working in various entertainment media: TV, film and stage.

Dustin Lance Black
Valentine Davies Award
“I can’t overstate how honored I am to be selected,” says the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Milk.” Black, known for tackling socially relevant themes, also wrote Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” and created the ABC miniseries “When We Rise.” “People were surprised when I vanished from the industry for a while after winning the Oscar, but activism that stems from diversity is a huge part of my life.” To wit, Black wrote the 2011 play “8,” which chronicles the Supreme Court fight to overturn California’s anti-same-sex marriage Proposition 8. He also recently finished the script for “Bayard,” which focuses on his “other hero,” the activist Bayard Rustin. “I’m putting my activism into my screenwriting and I want my fellow writers to know how powerful their keyboards are.” — Nick Clement

James L. Brooks
Lauren Award for Screenwriting Achievement

Brooks joins an impressive roster of writers previously honored with the Lauren Award. “There’s a list of people who have won it, and Paddy Chayefsky’s on it, and Robert Towne, and Elaine May, and all three reverberate with me,” says the Oscar-winning writer-producer-director, whose film and TV efforts include “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Broadcast News” and “The Simpsons.” “When I had just started doing television, there was a WGA Awards show, and I saw Chayefsky and Robert Towne, and I just assaulted them with questions.”Today, Brooks’ career may inspire a similar reaction among freshman writers (and a few experienced ones). Asked to offer his own perspective on the path from newcomer to veteran, he suggests the following: “The definition of comedy is that people like to laugh, and you have to get over that hurdle.” He also notes that writers actually have some control over their destinies: “You don’t need anyone but yourself to work, and I think that’s an edge.” — Paul Gaita

Alison Cross
Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement
Emmy-winning writer-producer Cross (“Roe vs. Wade,” “Murder in the First”) “hasn’t stopped being paid to write” since she 17 years-old. “It’s my passion and I absolutely love it,” says the co-executive producer on CBS’ “SWAT.” She also served as an executive producer on CBS All Access’ “The Good Fight” and worked on such series as “Queen of the South,” “Murder in the First” and “Philly,” which she co-created with “mentor” Steven Bochco. “During our first lunch meeting I knew I’d met someone who would be very important in my life,” says Ross who also co-wrote the feature film “Blood and Wine,” which was directed by Bob Rafelson. “Bob was my film school hero. Working with him was a dream come true.” — Nick Clement

Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
Paul Selvin Award
“The Post” screenwriters Hannah and Singer have certainly had a moment, penning a script that has loudly resonated with member of the press. And since the Selvin Award recognizes the year’s script that best showcases the importance of a free press, “The Post” is a natural fit for the honor. “What we were hoping was if people watched the film they would go out and learn more about the amazing journalists who did this, and they would feel inspired by them and Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee,” says Hannah. Singer adds that while empowering journalists during the Trump administration was important in writing the film, “what we were really looking for was to get to places outside of where we’re preaching to the choir, outside of New York and L.A.” — Kirsten Chuba

Len Wein
Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award
The list of writing and editing achievements in the comic book and animation industries by the late Wein is as astounding as the exploits of his creations: with artists John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe, he co-created Wolverine, arguably one of the most iconic heroes in Marvel’s stable and the ferocious heart of its “X-Men” film franchise, including “Logan,” which netted Oscar and WGA screenplay nominations. With illustrator Bernie Wrightson, Wein also co-created “Swamp Thing” for DC Comics, edited Alan Moore’s groundbreaking “Watchmen” series penned comic adventures for nearly every hero in the business, from Batman and Superman to Spider-Man and Thor, as well as numerous episode of animated series. Wein’s widow, Christine Valada, says that her late husband, who died on Sept. 10, would have “very humble about the award. But he sure as hell would have been happy about it.” — Paul Gaita

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