Dustin Lance Black to get Selvin award

Writer taking part in Beyond Words panel Feb. 5

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Dustin Lance Black of "Milk" has been chosen to receive the WGA West's 2009 Paul Selvin Award.

The Selvin nod, which will be handed out with other special honors at the WGAW's annual West Coast awards ceremony Feb. 7, recognizes written work that embodies the spirit of constitutional rights and civil liberties (Selvin was WGA counsel for 25 years). Previous recipients include Gary Ross, Cynthia Whitcomb, David E. Kelley and Eric Roth.

Black compiled his "Milk" screenplay from a tremendous amount of first-hand research, and the timing of the film's release in late 2008 coincided with California's passage of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 and subsequent gay-rights protests.

"Milk," directed by Gus Van Sant, chronicles the political career and 1977 murder of Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay elected official.

"At a time when history seems to be made daily, Lance Black's script reminds us that all it takes is a single spark to light the fuse of an entire movement," WGAW president Patric Verrone said.

Black, a writer and executive story editor on HBO's "Big Love," also will take part in the Writers Guild Foundation's annual Beyond Words panel discussion Feb. 5 along with peers nominated for WGA and Academy screenplay awards.

The Judd Apatow-moderated discussion at the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles will also include Roth ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire"), Tom McCarthy ("The Visitor") and Jonathan Nolan ("The Dark Knight").