Untraditional feature film screenplays took the top honors Saturday night at the 55th annual Writers Guild of America Awards. "Bowling for Columbine," a documentary whose script was only written when the film was being edited, and "The Hours," a drama that overlaps time and story lines, won the prizes for original and adapted screenplays, respectively.
Episodes of "Frasier" and the short-lived "The Education of Max Bickford" received the awards for TV series writing.
Michael Moore received the WGA Award for "Bowling for Columbine," his acerbic documentary on America's obsession with guns. It is the first time in WGA history a documentary has even been nominated in this category.
Moore is not nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay, but "Bowling for Columbine" is up for best documentary film.
Victoria Riskin, president of the Writers Guild of America West, said in an interview Saturday that Moore's win in this category will change the definition of "what is writing, and as storytellers what are the options of how you tell a story. There are so many possibilities now on the plate."
The nomination, she added, raised some eyebrows among the WGA membership. "There are some people who felt it should not have been in the same category as someone who stares at a blank page and has to lay out the entire architecture of a film word by word, scene by scene, dialogue by dialogue," Riskin said.
"But there were others, and I spoke to many, who applauded Michael Moore's work, and it was illustrated by the majority voting for this film.
"The traditional, well-written screen script will never be replaced," Riskin said. "But this does open the door for different opportunities. So I think it's very interesting that the membership selected this film out of appreciation for the story he was trying to tell and how he went about it."
David Hare won for best adapted screenplay for "The Hours," based on Michael Cunningham's novel. The poignant literary drama explores the lives of three troubled women, including novelist Virginia Woolf. Her first novel, "Mrs. Dalloway," provided the seed story for Cunningham's tale, set in three times. Hare is also nominated for an Academy Award in the best adapted screenplay category, and "The Hours" is an Oscar nominee for best picture.
Though the Writers Guild awards are not the Oscar bellwether that the Directors Guild of America awards have traditionally been, both of last year's WGA screenplay winners, "Gosford Park" and "A Beautiful Mind," went on to win the Academy Awards in their respective categories; "A Beautiful Mind" also won the best picture Oscar.
Ronald Harwood, who is nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for "The Pianist," wasn't eligible for a WGA award because the film was not a signatory of the guild.
Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin were honored by the WGA in the episodic drama category for the pilot of the 2001-02 CBS series, "The Education of Max Bickford," which starred Richard Dreyfuss.
Dan O'Shannon & Lori Kirkland & Bob Daily won the episodic comedy award for the "Rooms With a View" installment of NBC's long-running sitcom, "Frasier."
Other major television winners at the ceremony, which took place Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Pierre Hotel in New York, were Ken Keeler for best animation for the "Godfellas" episode of Fox's "Futurama," Hugh Whitemore and Larry Ramin for original long form for HBO's "The Gathering Storm" and Bruce C. McKenna for adapted long form for the "Bastogne" episode of HBO's "Band of Brothers."
Previously announced honorary awards were presented at the Los Angeles ceremony to Mel Brooks (Screen Laurel Award), David E. Kelley (Paddy Chayefsky TV Laurel Award), David W. Rintels (Morgan Cox Award), John Wierick & Jacob Krueger (Paul Selvin Award), Aaron Ruben (Valentine Davies Award) and John Gay (Edmund North Award).
Screenplay written directly for the screen: Michael Moore, "Bowling for Columbine"
Screenplay based on material previously produced or published: David Hare, "The Hours," based on the novel by Michael Cunningham
Original long form: Hugh Whitemore (teleplay and story) and Larry Ramin (story), "The Gathering Storm," HBO
Adapted long form: Bruce C. McKenna, "Bastogne" ( "Band of Brothers"), based on the book by Stephen E. Ambrose, HBO
Episodic drama: Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin, "Pilot" ("The Education of Max Bickford"), CBS
Episodic comedy: Dan O'Shannon & Lori Kirkland & Bob Daily, "Rooms With a View" ("Frasier"), NBC
Comedy/variety -- music, awards, tributes, specials, any length: written by Don Baer and George Stevens Jr., film sequences written by Sara Lukinson, "The Kennedy Center Honors," CBS
Comedy/variety (including talk) series: Mike Sweeney, Chris Albers, Andy Blitz, Kevin Dorff, Jonathan Glaser, Michael Gordon, Brian Kiley, Michael Koman, Brian McCann, Guy Nicolucci, Conan O'Brien, Andrew Secunda, Allison Silverman, Robert Smigel, Brian Stack, Andrew Weinberg, "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," NBC
Daytime serials: Kay Alden, Trent Jones, John F. Smith, Jerry Birn, Jim Houghton, Natalie Minardi, Janice Ferri, Eric Freiwald, Joshua McCaffrey, Michael Minnis, Rex M. Best, "The Young and the Restless," CBS
Children's script: Gordon Rayfield, "Our America," based on the book "Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago," by Lealan Jones, Lloyd Newman and David Isay, Showtime
Documentary -- current events: Tom Forman & Greg Kandra, "9/11," CBS
Documentary -- other than current events: Christine Lesiak, "Monkey Trial" ("American Experience"), PBS
News -- regularly scheduled, bulletin of breaking report: Jerry Cipriano, Paul Fischer, Thomas Harris, Hugh Heckman, Bruce Meyer, "Attack on America" ("CBS Evening News"), CBS
News -- regularly scheduled: Stuart H. Chamberlain Jr., "World News This Week," ABC Radio Network
News -- analysis, feature or commentary: Steve Gosset, "Pearl Harbor Day," CBS Radio Network