“Call Me by Your Name” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” walked away with top honors for adaptations of the written word at the University of Southern California’s 30th annual USC Libraries Scripter Awards ceremony Saturday night. The event was held at USC’s Doheny Library on the university’s south Los Angeles campus.
The Scripter is unique in the awards season for recognizing the authors of source material in addition to the screenwriters who adapt their work. Author Andre Aciman and screenwriter James Ivory were honored for “Call Me by Your Name,” while author Margaret Atwood and screenwriter Bruce Miller were recognized for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
In addition to this year’s Scripter winners, legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola was also honored at the ceremony. The 78-year-old Coppola, who won screenwriting Oscars for “Patton” and “The Godfather,” received the USC Libraries’ Literary Achievement Award.
Originally focused on book adaptations, the eligible field of play has expanded over the years to include scripts based on previously published characters, as well as comic books. In 2016, the USC Libraries inaugurated a new Scripter award for television adaptations.
The first annual recipients of the Scripter prize were author Helene Hanff and screenwriter Hugh Whitemore for 1988’s “84 Charing Cross Road.” Other previous winners include “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Wonder Boys,” “Children of Men” and “12 Years a Slave.”
Winners of the television prize have included HBO’s “Show Me a Hero” and, in a recent tie, AMC’s “The Night Manager” and FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
Last year’s film winner was “Moonlight,” which both the USC Libraries and the film Academy deemed an adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s short script “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” The Writers Guild of America ruled it to be original due to the fact that McCraney’s piece was never published or produced. McCraney and writer-director Barry Jenkins ultimately won the adapted screenplay Oscar for the film.
In determining the Scripter winners, a selection committee composed of WGA members, award-winning screenwriters and authors, industry executives and other members of the film community annually narrows the field of eligible works to a list of nominees and then chooses the year’s best adaptations. (Disclosure: I am a member of the USC Scripter selection committee.)
Due to a three-way tie this year, there were seven nominees in the Scripter’s film competition. The others were “The Disaster Artist,” “Logan,” “The Lost City of Z,” “Molly’s Game,” “Mudbound” and “Wonder Woman.”
A tie also resulted in six nominations for television. The other contenders were “Alias Grace,” “Big Little Lies,” “Genius,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and “Mindhunter.”
This year’s Oscar- and WGA-nominated adapted screenplays are “Call Me by Your Name,” “The Disaster Artist,” “Logan,” “Molly’s Game” and “Mudbound.” WGA-nominated television adaptations include “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Zac & Mia.”