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Santa Barbara Film Fest Panels, Up in the Air Wins Scripter Award

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 9, 2010 at 2:14AM

Sometimes I find myself covering so many things that I don't write about them right away. A case in point: my weekend trip to Santa Barbara. I'm still writing up the Sandra Bullock tribute and haven't transcribed my writers panel, which went well even without Quentin Tarantino, who did turn up the following day for Peter Bart's director's panel (clips below).
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Thompson on Hollywood

Sometimes I find myself covering so many things that I don't write about them right away. A case in point: my weekend trip to Santa Barbara. I'm still writing up the Sandra Bullock tribute and haven't transcribed my writers panel, which went well even without Quentin Tarantino, who did turn up the following day for Peter Bart's director's panel (clips below).

What struck me was that not only were many of the screenwriter panelists very funny, but veteran writer-directors Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated) and Pete Docter (Up) and screenwriter Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek), were joined by relative newbies Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) and Scott Neustadter (500 Days of Summer). I love it when by dint of luck, talent and timing, folks come out of nowhere and hit their projects right into the fluke zone. It happens every year.

Thompson on Hollywood

Reitman and I both headed back to LA for the Scripter Awards that night (missing the James Cameron tribute), which as I suspected, he won. The winner of the Scripters--which rewards both the original writer and the movie adapter--usually goes on to win the best adapted screenplay Oscar. I voted with the selection committee this year. The posh black-tie USC library benefit is held in the elegant Doheny library, where my date, producer Dan Lupovitz, and I sat at one of many long tables between two other couples, producers Tony Ganz and Gail Mutrux and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson and actor J.C. MacKenzie. We had a blast listening to smooth jazz and smart speeches from selection committee chair Naomi Foner (Running on Empty), presenter Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List) and literary achievement winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider).

"Adaptation is collaboration," said Reitman, a Trojan, whose father Ivan shot scenes from Ghostbusters in the library stacks. "I need someone who I can steal his words and present them as my own." He thanked fellow winners, author Walter Kirn and co-writer Sheldon Turner, as well as his writer wife, Michele Lee. "I wouldn't be able to write women without her," he said. He also thanked the real laid-off workers in Up in the Air as authentic collaborators.

Turner thanked his parents for putting him through law school to become a screenwriter.

"I'm a novelist, so we don't get awards," said Kirn, who thanked Turner and Reitman for rescuing his book from post-9/11 obscurity. Kirn actually wrote an early draft of the project with director Jay Roach; it sounded like a pretty miserable process.

And Zaillian, recovering from Money Ball going to writer Aaron Sorkin, is setting to work this week adapting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, with neither actors nor director in mind. The heart of the book--and the spine of his adaptation, set like the book in Sweden--will be Stieg Larsson's riveting punk hacker Salander. This adaptation is in good hands. Then Zaillian plans to tackle another three-parter, which may get folded into one: IFC's must-see new release, The Red Riding Trilogy.

Here's Variety and The Wrap on the weekend Santa Barbara panels.

This article is related to: Awards, Directors, Festivals, Stuck In Love, Critics Groups, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Screenwriters, Critics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.