The Valley Line: USC presents annual Scripter Award

It is all over — the 2014 Winter Olympics are in the past. The colorful tents have been packed up and put away for four years before the big show opens again in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

Before final goodbyes were said in Sochi, Russia, it appeared that our own Olympian, Kate Hansen, had filed one more report, but it turned out to be a spoof in cahoots with late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel. Hansen allowed Kimmel's team to take over her Twitter account, where they sent out a link to a faked videotaped encounter with a wolf in the athlete's dorm. The prank fooled a lot of members of the media — as well as the security teams watching out for safety breaches in Sochi. But the hilarious hoax was revealed by Kimmel, with a little help from Hansen, during his TV program the next night. It turns out the animal featured in the video, estimated by its owner to be about 80% wolf, was a domesticated and friendly pet named Rugby and that the "dorm hall" featured was actually a studio set built expressly for the humorous bit.

The stray dogs of Sochi have been making news since the opening of the Games and several of the athletes have made plans to rescue and bring some of them home with them. In fact, Gus Kenworthy, U.S. silver medalist in the ski slopestyle, has adopted four puppies and their mother.

Yes, I did enjoy the Games coverage and I am experiencing severe withdrawal from the nightly telecast on KNBC. I'll recover just in time for 2018.


We are just a few days away from the big film award show, the Academy Awards. I look forward to the show and the red carpet arrivals every year. There have been a few "warm-up" award shows, but the Oscars are the granddaddy of them all.

A most unique award show is the USC Scripter Award that was recently held at the Edward L. Doheny Memorial Library on the USC Campus.

Begun in 1988, the USC Libraries Scripter Award recognizes both the screenwriter and author of an adapted screenplay.

The winner of the 26th annual award was "12 Years a Slave." Screenwriter John Ridley shared the award with relatives of the late Solomon Northup, who published his memoir in 1853.

Ridley based his adaptation on Northup's memoir, a best seller when published in 1853 by Derby & Miller. In the 20th century the work lapsed into obscurity until Louisiana State University Press issued an annotated version in 1968, following work by two Louisiana researchers to verify the story's details.

A very emotional Ridley wiped away his tears when he said, "Until I read Solomon's memoir, I didn't know what being a writer was all about. The way that Solomon wrote, the clarity with which he wrote, and more importantly, the strength of his character, what he went through without bitterness, without hate — that really taught me something."

Other nominated movies with their screenwriters and authors at the USC event were "Captain Phillips," "Philomena," "What Masie Knew," and "The Spectacular Now."

Local residents who were at the black tie award dinner included Patsy Dewey, with her granddaughter Paige, Bill Halliday with Phyllis Winnaman, Sue and Jim Stauffer, Janet and Frank McNiff, Joyce Ruygrok and Jeanne Walston.

Catherine Quinlan, dean of USC Libraries, greeted guests in the beautiful marble-clad foyer of the library before they were ushered into the Los Angeles Times Reference Room that had been transformed into a beautiful dining hall. What a delight it is to dine in a room surrounded by books, many with their golden titles glowing in candlelight.

Quinlan said the Scripter award was meant to make audiences aware that not all movies spring fully-formed from a screenwriter's mind. They are often adapted from older works and involve a transformation of one kind of story experience into another.

"A library does more than collect ambitious life stories, more than make certain the great literary, philosophical, and scientific thinkers live on to inspire endless generations of discoverers," Quinlan said. "An excellent library also creates experiences for students that inspire them to seek meaning in their studies, their careers, and their lives."

The USC Libraries also honored Robert Towne with the Literary Achievement Award for his contributions to the art of adaptation throughout his career. His daughter, Chiara Towne, presented the honor.

Towne, a native of Southern California, has set much of his work there, including his scripts for "Ask the Dust," which Towne adapted from the 1939 novel by John Fante, and the Depression-era Chinatown, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1975. He is currently working as a writer on the final season of AMC's television series "Mad Men."

In receiving the award, Towne credited the guidance and inspiration he has received from writers and other artists throughout his career, "They have given me the advantage of their perspective and given it to me truthfully. What I am standing on is their advice and help."

Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren and her husband Taylor Hackford served as honorary dinner chairs. The event raised funds for the renovation of the Leavey Library on campus. Co-chairs of the event were Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner and USC screenwriting professor and vice president of the Writers Guild of America, West, Howard Rodman.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.

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