Sunday, February 7, 2010

Up in the Air Takes USC Screenwriting Honor

Up in the Air Soars with Scripter Win

USC Libraries Scripter Award goes to Up in the Air author Walter Kirn and screenwriters Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The author and screenwriters of Up in the Air took top honors at the 2010 USC Libraries Scripter Award ceremony. The film is based on Kirn’s 2001 tale about what he called “the spiritual distortions forced upon people by techno-capitalism.” Crazy Heart, District 9, An Education and Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire rounded out the five Scripter finalists, which are also contending for Oscars in multiple categories. This year, four of the five Scripter finalists are competing for best picture and best adapted screenplay honors at the Academy Awards.

“This year’s field of 68 eligible adaptations was the largest in the history of Scripter”

The ceremony drew an audience of more than 300 to the University of Southern California’s Doheny Library on Saturday, February 6. Dean of the USC Libraries Catherine Quinlan served as emcee for the evening, as the literary, film and academic communities gathered to honor the winning writers.

Kirn, Reitman and Turner accepted the award from Quinlan, selection committee chair Naomi Foner, and Glenn Sonnenberg, president of the Friends of the USC Libraries.

Joking that writers usually only receive awards over the Internet, Kirn thanked Reitman and Turner for introducing his novel to new audiences. Reitman said, “Adaptation is an inherently collaborative act,” thanking Kirn for trusting him and Turner with his novel. “I’m thrilled that the USC Libraries have this award, since it speaks to how many writers work on films.”

Turner added that the Scripter ceremony encouraged conversations among Eric Roth, Steven Zaillian and other distinguished practitioners of his craft. “It’s so wonderful to be here with people who inspired me to be a screenwriter.”

Directed by Reitman, Up in the Air tells the story of Ryan Bingham—played by George Clooney—a “career transition counselor” who travels the country firing employees during corporate downsizings. Bingham’s quest to accumulate 10 million frequent-flier miles—seemingly the only thing of value in the anonymous landscapes of airports and business hotels—explores the moral and practical consequences of a life without ties. The film so far has garnered a Golden Globe Award for best screenplay, six Oscar nominations and six BAFTA nominations. Reitman and Turner are in contention for best adapted screenplay honors at the Oscar, BAFTA and Writers Guild ceremonies.

Kirn’s novel, written at the peak of the dot-com bubble, found new audiences with Reitman and Turner’s successful adaptation. In a recent article for The Daily Beast, “George Clooney Saved My Novel,” Kirn describes the unlikely series of events that led Reitman and Turner—and later Clooney—to “breathe big-screen life into Ryan Bingham’s cadaver.” Completing Up in the Air’s transition from page to screen, Kirn made a brief cameo in one of the film’s many airplane scenes.

Eric Roth received the 2010 Scripter Literary Achievement Award from screenwriter Steve Zaillian. The Oscar-winning screenwriter has earned critical acclaim for his adaptations of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Insider, Forrest Gump and Munich.

“The idea that words matter is what brings us all together here tonight,” said Roth, before recognizing the achievements of every finalist for this year’s Scripter Award. He spoke in particular about the inspiration he draws from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. “Not only is it the greatest novel in our language, but it’s a philosophy book, a book of sorrow…and a cinematic book, the movie inside Melville’s head. I discovered Moby Dick in the library, which was my home away from home when I was a pimply teen…Every day I discovered another treasure.”

Dean Quinlan thanked the Friends of the USC Libraries and all attendees, saying that Scripter supports the development of the USC Libraries’ collections and the library’s role as a place of discovery. Just as screenwriters adapt literary works for the screen, she said, “A great library invites exploration, encourages invention, and reveals a universe of knowledge that enriches us while broadening our perspectives on the world at large.”

“This year’s field of 68 eligible adaptations was the largest in the history of Scripter,” said Quinlan. “Our authors and screenwriters have created written work and films that are diverse in subject matter and form…and bold in their imaginative destinations. Our five finalists embody many creative mysteries, explore broad intellectual and emotional territory, and invite us into worlds that are all the more entrancing for being so foreign to our everyday experience.”

Foner spoke of the craft of film adaptation. “When done best,” she said. “It is more than a translation, but a new form. For film tells its stories in different ways. It engages its audience in a different kind of relationship.”

Glenn Sonnenberg, president of the Friends of the USC Libraries and a former USC trustee, co-founded the Scripter Award with Marjorie Lord Volk in 1988. Past Scripter winners include the authors and screenwriters of Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, Million Dollar Baby, The Hours, A Beautiful Mind, L.A. Confidential, The English Patient and Schindler’s List.

The USC Libraries welcomed Audi of America as the transportation sponsor for Scripter 2010. Audi generously made available a fleet of Q7 TDI clean-diesel vehicles to transport special guests to the black-tie gala. The Audi Q7 TDI clean diesel is one of America’s first highly efficient, seven-passenger luxury SUVs, offering U.S. drivers improved fuel economy and cleaner emissions. Visit for more information about the Q7 TDI and other Audi vehicles.

Final Draft, Inc. also supported Scripter 2010 by providing copies of Final Draft 8 to USC students. The libraries will make the script writing software available through the Leavey Library Multimedia Commons. Final Draft will complement the suite of authoring software the Multimedia Commons offers students and will provide a valuable tool for storytelling and completing coursework while drawing on the riches of the libraries’ collections. [END]

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