Writers Guild Awards 2013: Behind the Scenes

Jessica Chastain should always be preceded with a sign that reads: "May cause seizures."
Jessica Chastain should always be preceded with a sign that reads: "May cause seizures."
Jonathan Pierce

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*More L.A. Weekly Film Coverage

*Streamy Awards: Online Video's Biggest Night

Last night, men and women who are more used to working at home in their pajamas donned black tie attire for the 2013 Writers Guild Awards at the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live -- and it seemed like a surprisingly number of media didn't really care. (Except us, of course.)

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With a red carpet that could probably fit into the SAG awards' setup over a hundred times over, a handful of nominees and presenters made their way through this cordoned-off section of the Diamond Ball foyer. Don't be fooled by the photos; everything took place inside. There were even fake hedges with a large Writers Guild Award statuette to add to this illusion that we were outdoors. And within this area that is probably smaller than most people's living rooms, we all crammed ourselves on the three-tiered stands and attempted to stay in our designated positions. Or, as one of our fellow press members joked, "We're called 'press' because we're pressed together."

Lucky for us, our immediate neighbors decided not to show up, so we actually were able to breathe and not receive a head contusion from an errant camera battery pack. Actually, we felt pretty damn special that we even got a fixed spot and didn't have to resort to a temper tantrum -- as a few did -- to find space to park their equipment and themselves.

So, how does one recognize the lesser-known nominees or special awards recipients on the red carpet? Well, there are helpful staff members who walk onto the carpet first, holding clipboards with paper to quickly jot down names in Sharpie. A lot of smartphones were whipped out to search IMDB. But for Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain? Full on strobe lights and yelling. I'm surprised no one keeled over and had an epileptic seizure.

The writers of Girls
The writers of Girls
Jonathan Pierce

By contrast, the press room, where we of limited access stayed during the show, had plenty of space. Once again there were stands set up for press to set up photo and video equipment, in anticipation of the winners and presenters. But they ended up mainly being used as impromptu picnic areas for us to sit and eat the provided sandwiches, pasta salad, chips and cookies.

When a bigwig came through, the twenty or so of us did go towards the front to chat with them. Julie Bowen, who presented the first two awards, quickly showed her face in the press room. "Apparently, I was late," I overheard her saying as she made her way to her photo op. Dan A. Greenberger, winner (and only nominee) in the on-air promotion (radio or television) category for Partners, thanked us for going through the motions of taking his photo. The writers of Girls, after winning in the New Series category, stood by the monitors that were showing a live feed of the show to wait to hear who won in the Drama Series category and then cheered when they announced it was Breaking Bad.

But the highlight from the press room has to be when Steve Spielberg himself peeked in for a moment in support of Lincoln writer Tony Kushner, unannounced and hiding in the back -- and no one noticed. Well, no one but us and this group of high school students who impressively got press credentials and went over to express their admiration. (We thought we'd respect his wishes to not steal the limelight from Kushner, to whom he'd just presented the Paul Selvin Award, given to the the script that best represents the spirit of civil rights.) One would think that some inner radar will go off when one of the greatest filmmakers in the world comes within spitting distance, but apparently not.

Here are some other notable moments and quotes from the show and pressroom:

  • Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal, recipient of the 2013 WGAW Valentine Davies Award (for his humanitarian efforts), admitted he Googled "Valentine Davies" and got a hit for a 38-year-old woman who pled guilty to selling a treatment that caused "several posteriors to rupture and explode." He joked, "I've always tried to achieve similar results in my work."
  • Renowned screenwriter and playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, who won the 2013 Screen Laurel Award, for advancing "the literature of the motion picture," said he wished he could've written the famous line "I don't care," uttered by Tommy Lee Jones to Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, or "This chick is toast" from Ghostbusters.
  • Mindy Kaling tweeting in mock sore-loser-ship, after Girls won over The Mindy Project: "Love you @lenadunham but this is bullshit."

  • Jeff Westbrook, winner for The Simpsons episode "Ned 'N' Edna's Blend Agenda" in the Animation category, revealing that there will be an upcoming episode that is a parody of Dr. Seuss. And as for future celebrities stopping by, he replied, "Name one. I'll tell you, 'Yes.'"
  • Every winner, when asked what their advice is to aspiring writers, answering with some variation of "Just keeping writing." (Duh.)

All in all, the Writers Guild Awards showed writers still seem to be under-appreciated, except by their own, and those who are tasked with saying their words. A large majority of press didn't bother to show up, actors and actresses garnered way more attention, the red carpet could be crossed in twenty steps and people were packing up before the night's final award winner -- Mark Boal for Original Screenplay -- made his way into the press room after his win. Regardless, we are glad to have been able to help make them feel like rock stars for one night.

See also:

*More L.A. Weekly Film Coverage

*Streamy Awards: Online Video's Biggest Night

Follow me on Twitter at @shli1117, and for more arts news follow us at @LAWeeklyArts and like us on Facebook.

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JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live

900 W. Olympic Blvd.
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