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:: Spotlight :: 2014 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards

By: Mark Rasmussen; pictures from Getty Images

Reporter Mark Rasmussen on the red carpet

Here’s yet another reason to love being in the media and living in Los Angeles. Recently, I attended the prestigious Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards, which honours outstanding writing in film, television, new media, videogames, news, radio, promotional, and graphic animation categories. It was an all black tie affair with a variety of stars, celebrities, directors, producers, dignitaries and well known and respected writers all in attendance, and me.

The evening started brightly with the glitzy red carpet walk, where guests including: David O’Russell (American Hustle), Vince Gilligan and Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), Garry Marshall ( Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy etc), Craig Boltin & Melissa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club), Bob Nelson and June Squibb (Nebraska), Jennifer Tilly (Family Guy), WGA President Chris Keyser, Walter Goggins (Justified), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), and host, Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) graced the carpet.

After the completion of the red carpet, the event settled into an evening dinner before the actual awards. I was in the winners’ press room just sitting back and taking it all in.

While not as glamourous as the Academy Awards or as glitzy as the Golden Globes, sitting there as a writer on the other side, I got to take it all and breathe in the distinction of what an award win means when it’s voted by your peers. Even if you are nominated and don’t win, it’s still a great recognition of your craft. It was kind of a surreal moment.

Once dinner (and my reflection) was done, three-time Emmy-winning Everybody Loves Raymond actor-comic Brad Garrett got the event under way with some light banter and jokes to ease into the evening.

Various presenters then handed out awards from: Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska), two-time Emmy and Golden Globe-winning The Good Wife star Julianna Margulies, Oscar-nominated writer-actress Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), three-time TV Guide Award and People’s Choice Award-winning Castle co-star Stana Katic, Oscar-winner and Emmy-nominated Justified co-star Walton Goggins, SAG Award-nominated actor Dermot Mulroney (August: Osage County), WGA-nominated Parks and Recreation co-star Nick Offerman, True Blood co-star Joe Manganiello, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actress Amber Tamblyn (Two and a Half Men), three-time SAG Award-nominated Breaking Bad actress Betsy Brandt among them.

The big winners of the night, were Spike Jonze who won Best Original Screenplay for Her, which now firms as a favourite for this year’s Oscar. Billy Ray won Best Adapted Screenplay for Captain Phillips, and Vince Gilligan and his critically acclaimed and record breaking hit TV show, Breaking Bad, which took home a slew of awards for Best Drama, as well as Best Episodic Drama.

Other notable winners included, Sarah Polley for Best Documentary Screenplay for her critically acclaimed, Stories We Tell. While new kid on the entertainment block, Netflix, scored a big win for Best New Series, with their highly respected TV drama series, House of Cards, which now must surely make the networks even more nervous as they continue to push TV boundaries.

During various stages of the night, the Guild also presented several special honours during its ceremony with Academy Award-winning comedy director-writer Mel Brooks (The Producers) presenting the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement to Oscar-nominated screenwriter-director Paul Mazursky (An Unmarried Woman) for lifetime achievement, who provided some incredibly funny, unscripted moments.

Two-time Golden Globe and Daytime Emmy-winning Happy Days star, Henry Winkler presented the Guild’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing to Happy Days creator Garry Marshall, while perhaps the most moving moment of the night came for The Simpsons co-developer and philanthropist Sam Simon, who was awarded the Guild’s Valentine Davies Award to for his community service and humanitarian efforts. For those who don’t know, Sam has been diagnosed with a severe case of cancer and had only been given 3-6 months to live. That was 12 months ago.

All the winners walked into the winners’ press room, where a throng of photographers then clicked and flashed away. This was a great chance for most of them to relax a little and for us admiring and aspiring writers (and fans), to be less professional and get your photo taken. Always cool to be standing next to people like Vince Gilligan or Spike Jonze, as incredibly humble as both gentlemen are.

For this cheeky, carefree Australian writer and part-time journo, seeing the event unfold and being among such revered writers, was a truly unique experience and one I was incredibly grateful for. A huge thanks to Gregg Mitchell, communications specialist for the WGA. I look forward to being back there next year, only this time as a nominee.

For a list of full winners, visit the WGA website which highlights all the categories.

Pictures of the night courtesy of Getty images.

Host of the event Brad Garrett
Julianna Margulies
Stana Katic
David O'Russell and wife
Breaking Bad team of writers
Bruce Dern and Billy Ray
Betsy Brandt Sam Simon and Jennfier Tilly
Spike Jonze Mel Brooks