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In the spirit of awards season, writers acknowledged writers at the 40th annual Humanitas Awards Friday afternoon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Peter Tolan (Murphy Brown, Analyze This), Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil (The Game), Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart), and David Shore (House) took a break from their day jobs on Friday afternoon to honor Hollywood’s most accomplished writers in both TV and film including Parenthood creator Jason Katims and 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley.
Hosted by comedian Dana Goldberg, the luncheon touched upon the importance of free speech and equality for female writers complete with inappropriate and honest humor.
In light of the Charlie Hebedo controversy, Humanitas President Ali LeRoi (whose name is part Muslim and part French) jokingly displayed his own Avengers comic with Christian Bale as Prophet Muhummad.
Co-president of Guggenheim Entertainment Group Janice Min, presented the award for best documentary to directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White for The Case Against 8. Before presenting the award she gave the audience a little taste of the email chain that went back and forth between the presenters when Humanitas executive director Cathleen Young invited them to the event.
“This whole email chain which no one says is off the record then continues,” said Min. “Hart Hanson (Bones) writes ‘In preparation I fully intend to both brush my teeth and wash my ass.’ I’m just at work looking at all these emails. Then Peter Tolan says, ‘Hart, if you’re starting off going right to ass you’re not giving me too much turf to work with.’ Then Hart replies ‘Well now I’m just going to arrive with a dirty ass and a big sense of impending failure like always.’ “
“Now I’m embarrassed,” remarked Hanson when he hit the stage to recognize the fresh young talent that earned the New Voices award.
Writer and producer David Hudgins provided a comical version of Katims’ biography before presenting the Kieser award to his Friday Night Lights colleague. Katims led the audience through his moments of doubt and success that lead him to where he is today including when he cried in front of chairman/CEO of Fox Television Group Dana Walden because he thought he was a failure.
He rediscovered himself as a writer when he took a hiatus and then returned to become the showrunner of Lights. Part of the hiatus included coincidentally working on pilot scripts at a Starbucks in the Pacific Palisades at the same as J.J. Abrams. Katims expressed that he had his “lightbulb” moment when he realized was going through the same experiences as his Lights character Coach Taylor
“Everyone was expecting him (Taylor) to bring home a state championship just like they were expecting me to bring glory to NBC,” said Katims. “I realized it didn’t matter what I knew or didn’t know about football or Texas or small town churches. I was going through exactly what Coach Taylor was going through. I had my way in, I had a place to start from that was personal to me and I knew I had a chance not to completely embarrass myself.”
John Ridley received the Best Feature award for penning the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. Ridley broke into tears onstage and expressed how this moment would be the last time he would have to publicly praise Solomon Northup who’s true story inspired the film.
Humanitas Trustee and Memoirs of a Geisha screenwriter Robin Swicord announced the Humanitas-Hedgebrook partnership for the master writer workshop which supports female writers by offering a week-long residency to further develop their skills in script development and navigating the business of the industry.
In addition to Hedgebrook, Humanitas announced a new partnership with the Center Theater Group where monetary awards will be given to local playwrights for the top undeveloped plays. The plays will also be staged at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2016.
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