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WGA News: August 2011

WGA's August News includes a call for documentary film nominees and a Great White Way intervention on behalf of a screenwriter who set in motion a successful franchise.

Documentary Screenplay Award

On August 22, the WGAs East and West launched a collective call for submissions for the eighth annual WGA Documentary Screenplay Award, honoring outstanding achievement in documentary feature writing.

Submissions for the WGA’s top doc writing award may be received from August 22 through November 18, 2011 and nominees will be announced on January 5, 2012, along with Original and Adapted Screenplay nominees. The WGA Documentary Screenplay Award will be presented at the 2012 Writers Guild Awards on Sunday, February 19, 2012, at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York City.

First presented in 2005 to spotlight the writer’s essential role in the collaborative creative process of documentary filmmaking, previous WGA Documentary Screenplay Award winners include writer-directors Morgan Spurlock (for Super Size Me in2005), two-time WGA winner Alex Gibney (for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room in 2006 and Taxi to the Dark Side in 2008), Amy Berg (for Deliver Us From Evil in 2007), Mark Monroe (for The Cove in 2010), and most recently Charles Ferguson, Chad Beck, & Adam Bolt (for Inside Job in 2011).

Established to recognize that the majority of nonfiction feature films are written, the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award continues to spotlight the Guilds’ collective outreach efforts to allow those working within the diverse community of nonfiction writers to receive the benefits of a Writers Guild contract.

Qualifications for WGA Documentary Screenplay Award eligibility include:

  • Submitted documentaries must contain an on-screen writing credit and have been exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for at least one week during 2011.
  • Credited writers of eligible documentaries are required to join the WGAW Nonfiction Writers Caucus to be considered.
  • The deadline for submissions is 5:30 p.m. (PST) on Friday, November 18, 2011.
  • Scripts need not necessarily be written under WGA jurisdiction.
  • Scripts must be feature length (over 40 minutes).
  • Documentaries that received their first public exhibition via broadcast or cable television are not eligible for WGA awards consideration.
  • Foreign-language films are eligible, provided they feature English-language subtitles.

Further inquiries about the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award may be directed to Melissa Gage in the WGAW Awards Office at (323) 782-4571, email: or to Dana Weissman in the WGAE Awards Office at (212) 767-7835, email:

Bring It On: The Musical

The WGA has filed a claim on behalf of Jessica Bendinger, the screenwriter of Bring It On, the cheerleader comedy that was a big hit in 2000 and has since spawned four direct-to-video sequels. The claim was prompted by the debut of a new musical based on the film that premiered in Atlanta in January 2011 and is scheduled to begin touring with a Los Angeles engagement that kicks off in November 2011.

The WGA’s complaint complains that Beacon Communications Corp. and Beacon Communications, LLC, the production companies that made the film, are “exploiting Bendinger’s dramatic rights … [by producing the musical] … without her consent, in violation of the Guild agreement’s ‘separated rights’ provisions,” and without any sort of compensation.

The Guild is seeking damages and an injunction against the stage show, which has a book by Tony® Award-winning Avenue Q book writer Jeff Whitty that is billed as being completely original -- still set in the world of competitive cheerleading but featuring none of the characters from the movie. The musical has music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights) with additional music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), and lyrics by Amanda Green.

Bendinger, who says she did not share in the profits of the four sequels, told The Hollywood Reporter that she has been working on her own stage musical adaptation of Bring It On for the past six years.

"I was shocked,” Bendinger said. “A writer works all her life trying to have a first hit. I was not treated well, given the revenue stream I created for them."

The producers of Bring It On: The Musical had no comment.

Compiled and edited by Ray Morton.