The 16th Annual Final Draft Awards took place on March 2nd, virtually for the first time in the company’s history. Another touchstone in the company’s 30-year history is the first appointed female president Shelly Mellott, who hosted the awards show, honoring writers both in film and television. Those that have had the opportunity to attend the live event in recent years at Paramount Studios, may fondly recall rubbing elbows with the screenwriting elite and connecting with old and new writing friends. Although the event, like a majority of the industry’s award shows from 2020 leading into 2021 have turned to a socially distant/virtual accommodation, Final Draft’s live virtual event was still cathartic in feeling connected with fellow writers around the world.
Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin was presented with the Final Draft® Zeitgeist Award honoring a writer whose work speaks powerfully to the culture and what’s going on in the world right now. While accepting the award, Sorkin said, “the Zeitgeist crashed into us” and that he had no idea how much about today The Trial of the Chicago 7 would end up being.
The Final Draft® Zeitgeist Award was presented by Actor/Writer/Producer and two-time Golden Globe®-winner Sacha Baron Cohen, who jokingly quipped that he would email Sorkin all hours of the night with suggestions and Sorkin would reply with a polite “Thanks, Sacha. But no.” Sacha continued on, “He was absolutely right! He said that this is a painting, not a photograph.”
The Storyteller Award for TV was presented to Academy Award® winner Steve McQueen for his award-winning series Small Axe and the Storyteller Award for Film was presented to Academy Award® winner Sofia Coppola for On The Rocks. Additionally, the Final Draft Awards honored two writers with the New Voice Awards recognizing rising and vital talents in the industry.
The New Voice Award for TV was presented to Ramy Youssef for his award-winning series Ramy and the New Voice Award for Film was presented to Radha Blank for The Forty-Year-Old Version. Blank expressed her gratitude in receiving this honor from Final Draft, “Calling oneself a writer in this day and age is a privilege. To get to create worlds, build characters – it’s been my life’s blood, my calling, my joy, my frustration. But ultimately it’s been a gift.”
Blank dedicated her award to her mother, whom “always encouraged [her] to write beyond the lines and to always see Black people worthy of being at the center of their own hero tale.”
The event’s presenters included Academy Award®-nominee Paul Schrader (“First Reformed”), Actor/Producer and recent Golden Globe®-winner John Boyega (“Small Axe: Red, White and Blue”), Director/Writer/Producer Mary Harron (“I Shot Andy Warhol” and “American Psycho”) and Actor/Producer Laith Nakli (“Ramy”).
Final Draft also announced the winners of the Big Break® Screenwriting Contest which received over 10,000 submissions from writers around the world, the most in the contest’s history. The 2020 Big Break® TV award was presented to Mira Z. Barnum for “Beirut” and the Big Break® Film award was presented to Stacie Gancayco-Adlao for “Clementine.” Mellott said, “Now more than ever it is important for the industry to discover and nurture new and diverse voices and give them the tools they need to succeed in their careers and in their crafts.”
The 16th Annual Final Draft Awards virtual event is available to view on Final Draft's YouTube channel.