When a Golden Globe or an Oscar is awarded to a writer, is it based on just a viewing of the movie, or do the judges actually read the screenplays?
Not only is that a really good question, but strangely, I’ve never even stopped to think about it until now.
While studios sometimes do send out certain screenplays to Academy or WGA voters (as Disney did with THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS this year), in the vast majority of cases, voters are making their decision based only on the movie they saw, rather than the script.
Anyone who’s been through the process of making a movie knows that a brilliant script doesn’t necessarily translate into a brilliant movie. The screenplay is a crucial first step, but the words get filtered through a director, actors, editors and hundreds of other people who inevitably change the execution if not the intention of the writer’s work.
If an actress improvises a horrible line of dialogue, the screenwriter inevitably gets blamed. If the editor and director shuffle scenes so that logic falls apart, it again looks like the writer’s mistake. So it’s no surprise that the awards for screenwriting inevitably go to scripts that, for whatever reason, turned out to be really good movies. That is, the movies where everyone else didn’t screw up.
But should it really be that way? While I would hate to see forests decimated just to send 30,000 unsolicited screenplays out to Academy or WGA voters, it would be remarkably easy to post .pdf versions of nominated screenplays online so that voters could actually read the material they’re judging. I’m calling my WGA representative this afternoon.
Update: I called. It’s being considered. There’s some issue of possible fairness, because some writers have "publication rights" on their scripts, and others don’t for various reasons. But I strongly believe that making great screenplays more widely available will boost the profile of screenwriters worldwide.