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WGA News: End of Year 2011

TV Writing Nominees, a WGAE and Wounded Warrior Project collaboration, net neutrality updates, and a posthumous honor for two legendary animation writers are among the headlines in 2011's final WGA News compilation.

Compiled and Edited by Ray Morton

WGA Nominees Announced

December 7, 2011 the WGA released their list of nominees for TV, radio, promotional, documentary, graphic animation, and news writing. Some of the highlights include:

Boardwalk Empire, Written by Bathsheba Doran, Dave Flebotte, Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki, Itamar Moses, Margaret Nagle, Terence Winter; HBO
Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
Game of Thrones, Written by David Benioff, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss; HBO
The Good Wife, Written by Courtney Kemp Agboh, Meredith Averill, Corinne Brinkerhoff, Leonard Dick, Keith Eisner, Karen Hall, Ted Humphrey, Michelle King, Robert King, Steve Lichtman, Matthew Montoya, Julia Wolfe; CBS
Homeland, Written by Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Gideon Raff, Meredith Stiehm; Showtime

30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Hannibal Buress, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tom Ceraulo, Vali Chandrasekaran, Tina Fey, Jon Haller, Matt Hubbard, Colleen McGuinness, Dylan Morgan, John Riggi, Josh Siegal, Ron Weiner, Tracey Wigfield; NBC
Curb Your Enthusiasm, Written by Alec Berg, Larry David, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer; HBO
Louie, Written by Pamela Adlon, Louis C.K.; FX
Modern Family, Written by Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Carol Leifer, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Brad Walsh, Ilana Wernick, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker; ABC
Parks & Recreation, Written by Greg Daniels, Katie Dippold, Daniel J. Goor, Norm Hiscock, Emily Kapnek, Dave King, Greg Levine, Aisha Muharrar, Chelsea Peretti, Amy Poehler, Brian Rowe, Michael Schur, Mike Scully, Emily Spivey, Alan Yang, Harris Wittels; NBC

Episodes, Written by David Crane, Jeffrey Klarik; Showtime
Game of Thrones, Written by David Benioff, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss; HBO
Homeland, Written by Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Gideon Raff, Meredith Stiehm; Showtime
The Killing, Written by Linda Burstyn, Jeremy Doner, Soo Hugh, Dan Nowak, Nic Pizzolatto, Dawn Prestwich, Veena Sud, Nicole Yorkin, Aaron Zelman; AMC
New Girl, Written by Nick Adams, Rachel Axler, Brett Baer, Donick Cary, Dave Finkel, Berkley Johnson, Josh Malmuth, Elizabeth Meriwether, J.J. Philbin, Joe Port, Luvh Rakhe, Joe Wiseman; Fox

Cinema Verite, Written by David Seltzer; HBO
Five, “Pearl,” Written by Deirdre O’Connor, “Charlotte,” Written by Stephen Godchaux, “Cheyanne,” Written by Howard Morris, “Lili,” Written by Jill Gordon, “Mia,” Written by Wendy West; Lifetime

Mildred Pierce, Teleplay by Todd Haynes & Jon Raymond, Based on the novel by James M. Cain; HBO
Too Big to Fail, Written by Peter Gould, Based on the book written by Andrew Ross Sorkin; HBO

“Smartest Machine on Earth” (Nova), Written by Julia Cort, Michael Bicks; PBS
“The Spill” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria, Martin Smith; PBS
“Top Secret America” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser; PBS

“Dinosaur Bone War” (American Experience), Written by Mark Davis; PBS
“Episode One: A New Adam, a New Eden” (God in America), Written by David Belton; PBS
“Freedom Riders” (American Experience), Written by Stanley Nelson; PBS
“The Great Famine” (American Experience), Written by Austin Hoyt; PBS
“Making Stuff Smarter” (Nova), Written by Daniel McCabe; PBS
“Prohibition: Episode Two: A Nation of Scofflaws,” Written by Geoffrey C. Ward; PBS
“Triangle Fire” (American Experience), Written by Mark Zwonitzer; PBS
“Wiki Secrets” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria & Martin Smith; PBS

A full list of nominees can be found on the WGA website.

Caregivers Writing Workshop

On November 4 – 5, 2011, the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation held its Helen Deutsch Writing Workshop in Manhattan. During the two-day workshop, more than 20 WGAE Foundation members, including Marsha Norman, Jenny Lumet, and Tom Fontana, mentored 40-plus caregivers brought to New York City with the support and assistance of the Wounded Warrior Project. These caregivers are assisting or providing care for service members who have been wounded either with physical or psychological damages of war. They face layers of bureaucracy, stalling assistance, as well as feelings of isolation and unworthiness. The workshop helped them connect with other caregivers facing similar challenges and with mentors eager to help them express themselves and empower them to write about their personal journeys.

The Helen Deutsch Writing Workshop Initiative (named after Helen Deutsch, the late librettist/screenwriter who is the benefactor for this program) initially worked with veterans and conducted several workshops in Columbus and San Antonio. In 2011, the program decided to focus its efforts on caregivers, who were equally affected by the wars but more often overlooked and very isolated. The first caregivers workshop was held in June 2011. The November workshop was the second time these groups met, although many mentors and caregivers had stayed in touch over the summer.

During the two-day workshop held at the WGAE offices in New York City, mentors and caregivers worked in small groups of 2-3 mentors working with 4-5 caregivers. The mentors helped the caregivers find the courage to write their stories, as well as gave them insight into the process of writing, how to develop characters, dialogue writing, creating visuals with words, and the keys to success for different types of writing, including screenplays, novels, short stories, blogs, and poems.

Other mentors included Chris Albers, Stephen Belber, Jessica Blank, Amy Cohen, Rick Dresser, Anne Fltt-Girodano, Gina Cionfriddo, Craig Mums Grant, Dave Hackel, Lulie Haddad, Erik Jensen, John Markus, Willie Reale, Susanna Styron, and Michael Weller.

“The WGAE Foundation is a group of volunteer writers, some of the most successful and celebrated in the country, who share our skills with underserved populations of people who for whatever reason have not had an opportunity to learn how to tell the stories they wish to tell about their lives. We have mentored injured veterans and now caregivers of severely wounded service members. The time spent with the caregivers has been profound for all of us, mentors and caregivers alike. For the professional writers to hear stories of the courage and devotion of these caregivers, and for the caregivers to have encouragement for writers whose shows they watch on television, movie screens, and on stages, is special. It as inspiring to watch the incredible eagerness and hard work from everyone involved, all of who donate their time and talents. It is a time together that none of us will ever forget,” said WGAE Foundation President Michael Weller.

Internet Neutrality

On November 10, 2011, Chris Keyser, President of the Writers Guild of America, West, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Senate’s vote against S.J. Res. 6; resolution of disapproval of the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations:

“We applaud the U.S. Senate for protecting an open Internet and rejecting the attack on the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules. These regulations provide important safeguards for free speech, competition, innovation, and consumer choice. The Web is far too important a public resource to hand over to a few powerful corporations.”

Animation Writers Caucus Award

Animation writers Dwayne McDuffie and Earl Kress have been posthumously named co-recipients of the Writers Guild of America, West Animation Writers Caucus’ (AWC) 14th Annual Animation Writing Award, recognizing their outstanding contributions to the craft of animation writing, as well as their work with the Writers Guild in organizing animation.

The WGAW’s AWC Animation Writing Award is given to members of the Animation Writers Caucus or Writers Guild who have advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer. Founded in 1994, the WGAW’s Animation Writers Caucus represents over 600 animation writers and works to advance economic and creative conditions in the field. Through organizing efforts, educational events, and networking opportunities, the Guild’s AWC is a leading proponent for animation writers. Recent AWC Animation Writing Award honorees include Mike Scully, Al Jean, Michael Reiss, Brad Bird, Linda Woolverton, and Stan Berkowitz.

The AWC’s lifetime achievement award was presented to McDuffie’s and Kress’ widows, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie and Denise Kress, at the AWC’s 2011 meeting, reception and awards ceremony, which was held on November 17, 2011 at WGAW headquarters in Los Angeles.

“This year, animation lost two talented, hard-working people who have given much of themselves and their talent to our field. Dwayne McDuffie was a talented writer and creator of comics and animation who worked hard for others, particularly for minority writers. Earl Kress was a writer whose career included both feature and TV animation and hard work on behalf of all animation writers as a member of the WGA Animation Writers Caucus and the Animation Guild Board of Directors. Both were people I was glad to call friend and colleague, and whose efforts, it can truthfully be said, made all of us the better for them. They left us much too soon and too young, and I'm pleased we can commemorate their work and their memory with this year's award,” said AWC Chair Craig Miller.

“Earl Kress spent 30-plus years working tirelessly to improve the lot of animation writers. He leaves behind a legacy of iconic cartoons and well-deserved awards, along with scores of fellow animation writers who have health and pension benefits because of Earl, and Earl alone,” commented AWC member and 2009 AWC Animation Writing Award honoree Stan Berkowitz.

“Dwayne McDuffie came to L.A. to work on Static Shock, the animated adaptation of an African-American comic book hero he co-created, and it wasn’t long before he was one of the leading lights of superhero animation. Though his stories were often set at the edges of the universe and in other dimensions, they invariably reflected Dwayne’s all-encompassing humanity,” added Berkowitz.

Born on August 22, 1951, and a WGAW member since 1994, Kress recently died on September 19, shortly after turning 60, of complications due to liver cancer.

Launching his career in 1975 with The Oddball Couple, his cartoon adaptation of The Odd Couple, Kress’ animation writing credits over four decades include Transformers, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain, Tom & Jerry Tales, The Smurfs, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Little Rascals, The Berenstain Bears, Ghostbusters, DuckTales, Pound Puppies, Tiny Toon Adventures, Kim Possible, Krypto the Superdog, and the memorable, final “Road Runner” Looney Tunes short Little Go Beep (co-written with Kathleen Helppie-Shipley), among many other animated programs. Kress’ animated feature co-writing credits include story work on Disney’s The Fox and the Hound (1981), as well as several direct-to-video animated features such as the recent Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes (2010) and Wakko’s Wish (1999). His live-action TV writing credits include Down to Earth and Wally and the Beaver.

In 1998, Kress earned an Annie Award for his work on the Pinky and the Brain episode “The Family That Poits Together Narfs Together (shared with co-writers Charles M. Howell IV and John Ludin). A five-time Emmy nominee, Kress shared two Daytime Emmys over the course of his career, one for Pinky and the Brain in 1999 (Outstanding Special Class Animated Program, the other for Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain in 2000 (Outstanding Children’s Animated Program).

Over the course of his career, Kress worked at studios such as Warner Bros., Universal, and Disney, and animation production companies including Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, DePatie-Freleng, and Filmation.

In 1995, Kress joined the Animation Guild’s executive board and was elected vice president of the Animation Guild (Local 839) in 2004, a position he held until his death earlier this year.

In addition to writing comic books for The Simpsons and Looney Toons, Kress most recently “ghostwrote” Life is a Pic-a-Nic: Tips and Tricks for the Smarter Than Av-er-age Bear with Yogi Bear, published in 2010 as a tie-in for the recent big-screen animated feature Yogi Bear. He also co-authored the 2009 autobiography of voiceover legend June Foray, “Did You Grow Up With Me, Too?” with co-writer and close friend Mark Evanier.

A man of diverse talents, Kress worked as a voice actor and a puppeteer for The Muppets, in addition to serving as a sought-after animated programming historian, playing a key role in producing several DVD box sets of classic Warner Bros. cartoons and contributing “special feature” supplemental materials to many animated TV series DVD collections, as well as working with Rhino Entertainment to release several CDs of vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon soundtracks, among other animation-centric industry projects.

Well-respected comic book and animation writer McDuffie, who died at age 49 this past February 21 of complications after undergoing emergency heart surgery, was co-founder of Milestone Media, a ground-breaking company that created multi-cultural comic lines which introduced black superheroes such as Hardware and Static.

As a comic book author, McDuffie contributed to Marvel’s Fantastic Four and DC’s Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Justice League of America, among other popular comic book titles. As a television animation writer, story editor, or producer, his animated series writing credits include Static Shock (which he co-created with Christopher James Priest), Justice League, Ben 10:Alien Force, and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, What’s New, Scooby Doo?,Teen Titans, and Friends & Heroes, among other animated programs. McDuffie also penned the 2011 animated feature All-Star Superman, based on the comic book series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, as well as several animated features in the “DC Universe Animated Original Movies” series franchise, and the videogame Justice League Heroes. The last project McDuffie was working on prior to his death was Justice League: Doom, his videogame adaptation of Mark Waid’s “Tower of Babel” JL story slated for release in 2012.

Born on Feb. 20, 1962, and a WGAW member since 2003, McDuffie attended the Roeper School for gifted children in the Detroit suburbs of Bloomfield Hills. Later, he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan and attended film school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Launching his career in 1987 as a special comics editor at Marvel Comics, McDuffie wrote for Spider-Man and other major Marvel characters, and co-created the limited series Damage Control, centering on the novel idea of a firm that repairs property damages caused by epic battles between super-heroes and super-villains.

In 2003, McDuffie shared a Humanitas Prize for penning the “Jimmy” episode of Static Shock (teleplay by Dwayne McDuffie, Story by Alan Burnett, Dwayne McDuffie), which explored the topical issue of gun violence in schools. In 2004, McDuffie received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Static Shock in the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program category (shared with Sander Schwartz, Alan Burnett, Denys Cowan, Swinton O. Scott III, John Semper, Len Uhley, and Andrea Romano), and in 2005 McDuffie shared a Writers Guild Award nomination for co-writing the Justice League episode “Starcrossed” (Written by Rich Fogel, John Ridley, Dwayne McDuffie, Story by Rich Fogel).

After several years spent freelancing as a comic book writer, in 1992 McDuffie co-founded Milestone Media, whose comics were distributed by DC Comics. The company, like McDuffie himself, championed a more multicultural and inclusive approach to comics.