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Screenwriters filed into Paramount Theatre Tuesday night as host Jay Chandrasekhar, director of Super Troopers and Beerfest, welcomed this year’s Final Draft Annual Awards nominees. Reflecting upon his own early career, Chandrasekhar lauded the screenwriting software as an industry standard, “as important to me as a cell phone,” that has helped advance scripts worldwide.
“It’s important that talented people have an outlet to be heard and seen,” Final Draft CEO Marc Madnick told The Hollywood Reporter. “And there’s not enough of them, so hopefully we’ll launch some careers — and we have.”
A committee of working writers — including Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven), Stan Chervin (Moneyball), and Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith (Legally Blonde) — paid homage to industry professionals at various stages of their careers, recognizing winners of the Screenwriter’s Choice Awards and Big Break Contest as well as the latest Hall of Fame recipient, the prolific writer and producer Nancy Meyers.
Meyers, known for her sophisticated comedies like Something’s Gotta Give and What Women Want, opened with a series of tips for aspiring screenwriters, drawing from her own experiences as one of Hollywood’s most influential women in entertainment. “I think writing is a job,” Meyers said. “I make myself sit there all day until I get the work done. Take it seriously.”
In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, Final Draft customers were given the opportunity to vote on the best-written feature films and television shows of 2013 in four categories. Winners stepped onstage to accept their awards, many sharing personal anecdotes about their relationship to the screenwriting program.
Writer Lee Aronsohn (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men) announced the winner of the best TV comedy award, Modern Family, which the series’ writer Danny Zucker accepted with a jest.
“We’re all so thrilled to be honored,” Zucker said, “just looking at that clip package — my God, so many great comedies that are going to beat us this year — so I’m glad we got this one last award.”
Breaking Bad won in the best TV drama category, beating out a slate of acclaimed nominees including Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men and Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey.
John Ridley, screenwriter of the award-winning historical drama 12 Years a Slave, gave a poignant acceptance speech after receiving the award for best adapted screenplay.
“I started using Final Draft about the same time I met my wife, Gayle,” Ridley said. “Those are the two things that have stayed with me.”
Karen McCullah (The House Bunny, Legally Blonde) read an acceptance letter from Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron, who were unable to attend the event, for the best original screenplay award for their hit space thriller, Gravity.
In an effort to support burgeoning talent in the screenwriting field, Final Draft’s vp of events and services, Shelly Mellott, also introduced the winners of this year’s Big Break Contest, which featured television screenplay entries for the first time. Nicholas Horwood and Kenny Kyle were selected from a pool of more than 7,000 candidates in the feature and television categories, respectively.
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