Former Focus CEO James Schamus to be Honored at Writers Guild Awards

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James Schamus

The co-founder of the Universal specialty division and award-winning screenwriter will receive the Evelyn F. Burkey Award at the New York ceremony on Feb. 1.

Focus Features co-founder James Schamus will be honored with the Evelyn F. Burkey Award at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards ceremony in New York, it was announced Friday.

Schamus was surprisingly fired as Focus' CEO in October and replaced with FilmDistrict head Peter Schlessel, who will assume the top spot on Jan. 1, with Focus parent company Universal Pictures essentially absorbing FilmDistrict and relocating Focus' operations from New York to Los Angeles.

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Schamus, who's also an award-winning screenwriter and member of the WGA, will be recognized for "bringing honor and dignity to writers" at the East Coast ceremony of the awards, which will be presented in both New York and LA on Feb. 1.

“As a writer, teacher and studio executive, James Schamus has honored the art of screenwriting and championed the work of his colleagues with commitment and taste, making him an excellent choice to receive the Burkey Award,” WGAE president Michael Winship said in a statement. “As a friend and associate, I am especially delighted that James is receiving this honor. The films he has written and overseen combine great style and substance, entertainment and purpose.”

Schamus was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and won Best Screenplay at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for The Ice Storm.

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During his time as Focus head Schamus championed writers who tackled important issues through films like Milk, Brokeback Mountain and Dallas Buyers Club. He is a beloved figure in the art-house world.

Schamus previously told The Hollywood Reporter that he will continue to campaign for Dallas Buyers Club even after he leaves his post at Focus.

The Evelyn F. Burkey Award, named after former WGAE executive director who helped create the organization, was established in 1978 and honors those who have dedicated their professional life to supporting and helping writers.

The New York ceremony of the Writers Guild Awards will be hosted by W. Kamau Bell.