Writing Tips from Nominated Screenwriters at the Writers Guild of America Awards

Script magazine's Debra Eckerling spoke with award-nominated and winning screenwriters at the Writers Guild of America Awards to get their writing tips.
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Script magazine's Debra Eckerling spoke with award-nominated and winning screenwriters at the Writers Guild of America Awards to get their writing tips.

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Script magazine's Debra Eckerling spoke with award-nominated and winning screenwriters at the Writers Guild of America Awards to get their writing tips.

Eighth Grade's Bo Burnham. Photo Credit: Armando Koghan

Writers, actors, and filmmakers came out in full force to celebrate the written word.

The Writers Guild of America West’s 2019 Writers Guild Awards, hosted by Writers Guild and SAG Award-nominated writer-actress-comedian Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation), took place on Sunday, February 17, at The Beverly Hilton. Writers Guild of America East held their own ceremony concurrently in New York.

Script caught up with some of the nominees and winner, and asked their advice for new writers.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

Don’t Quit!

I teach, so one of the things I tell my students is don't quit. The other big one is tell the stories that you believe in, not just the stories that you think you can sell. The more you do that, the more you develop your own voice and you become an individual, not just somebody trying to sell a script.” – Kevin Willmott, nominee, Adapted Screenplay, Blackkklansman

Read Screenplays.

Be diligent and make it personal. And also, read screenplays. It's interesting how many people watch movies, but don’t read screenplays.” – Barry Jenkins, nominee, Adapted Screenplay, If Beale Street Could Talk

Find Good People.

“I've learned to value working with people that you enjoy working with, who you trust, respect, admire.” - Ozzy Inguanzo

“Trust your instinct and those red flags. When there's a red flag, pay attention to that, and seek out the people who treat you right.” - Dava Whisenant, winners, Documentary Screenplay, Bathtubs Over Broadway

 Ozzy & Dava, Bathtubs Over Broadway. Photo Credit: Armando Koghan

Ozzy & Dava, Bathtubs Over Broadway. Photo Credit: Armando Koghan

Keep Working.

“You just have to do what you think's funny, and see if you can get hired. Keep doing it. Keep working.” - NathanFielder, winner, Comedy/Variety Sketch Series, Nathan for You

Write.

“People say they want to be writers. The one thing you have to do to be a writer is write. Write every day. It's easy to say you want to do something, but honestly the answer is to write.” Alec Berg, winner, Episodic Comedy and New Series,Barry

And the top WGA Awards went to... 

Original Screenplay: Eighth Grade,written by Bo Burnham

Adapted Screenplay:Can You Ever Forgive Me, written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Based on the book by Lee Israel

Documentary Screenplay: Bathtubs Over Broadway, written by Ozzy Inguanzo & Dava Whisenant

Drama Series: The Americans, written by Peter Ackerman, Hilary Bettis, Joshua Brand, Joel Fields, Sarah Nolen, Stephen Schiff, Justin Weinberger, Joe Weisberg, and Tracey Scott Wilson

 Mrs. Maisel scribes Jen Kirkman & Sheila Lawrence. Photo Credit: Armando Koghan

Mrs. Maisel scribes Jen Kirkman & Sheila Lawrence. Photo Credit: Armando Koghan

Comedy Series: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, written by Kate Fodor, Noah Gardenswartz, Daniel Goldfarb, Jen Kirkman, Sheila Lawrence, Daniel Palladino, and Amy Sherman Palladino

New Series:Barry, written by Alec Berg, Duffy Boudreau, Bill Hader, Emily Heller, Liz Sarnoff, Ben Smith, and Sarah Solemani

Original Long Form: Castle Rock. Writers: Marc Bernardin, Scott Brown, Lila Byock, Mark Lafferty, Sam Shaw, Dustin Thomason, Gina Welch, and Vinnie Wilhelm

Adapted Long Form: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.Writers: Maggie Cohn and Tom Rob Smith. Based on the book Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth

Animation: “Bart’s Not Dead” (The Simpsons), written by Stephanie Gillis

Episodic Drama:“Paean To The People” (Homeland), written by Alex Gansa

Episodic Comedy: “Chapter One: ‘Make Your Mark’” (Barry), written by Alec Berg & Bill Hader

Comedy/Variety Talk Series:Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Writers: Tim Carvell, Raquel D’Apice, Josh Gondelman, Dan Gurewitch, Jeff Maurer, Daniel O’Brien, John Oliver, Brian Parise, Owen Parsons, Ben Silva, Will Tracy, Jill Twiss, Seena Vali, and Juli Weiner

Comedy/Variety Sketch Series:Nathan For You. Writers: Leo AllenNathan Fielder, Carrie Kemper, Michael Koman, Adam Locke-Norton, and Eric Notarnicola

Comedy/Variety Specials: The Fake News with Ted Nelms, written by John Aboud, Andrew Blitz, Michael Colton, Ed Helms, Elliott Kalan, Joseph Randazzo, and Sara Schaefer.

The Writers Guild Awards honor outstanding writing in film, television, new media, videogames, news, radio, promotional, and graphic animation categories. Read the complete list of winners.

More articles by Debra Eckerling

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