Sunday, March 02, 2008

and they say women change their minds...

Did you know that since the first ever Academy Awards, in 1929 (for the year ending August 1, 1928 - because we all know the year ends in August), the writing awards have gone through 14 iterations to get to the current two - "Original Screenplay" and "Adapted Screenplay"?

In fact, those two categories have only been around since 2002. For the 10 years before that, we were watching scribes win for these mouthfuls: "Screenplay written directly for the screen" and "Screenplay based on material previously produced or published." Clearly the people in charge at that point hadn't fully absorbed the "less is more" credo.

In the first 26 years, the category changed eight times. One award, two, three, back to two, it was a free-for-all, I'm telling you.

The very first year, 1927/1928, the Academy handed out awards for Writing (Adaptation), Writing (Original Story) and Writing (Title Writing), which was not awarded for any particular film - this was for writing all the dialogue "titles" that appeared on screen between scenes in the movies, which, you know, were all silent back then. That year, the Academy also saw fit to bestow a special award on Charlie Chaplin for "The Circus" as explained in this letter

'The Academy Board of Judges on merit awards for individual achievements in motion picture arts during the year ending August 1, 1928, unanimously decided that your name should be removed from the competitive classes, and that a special first award be conferred upon you for writing, acting, directing and producing 'The Circus.' The collective accomplishments thus displayed place you in a class by yourself.' (Letter from the Academy to Mr. Chaplin, dated February 19, 1929.)

I love that - "place you in a class by yourself." He was, wasn't he?

At the 2nd and 3rd Academy Awards, there was just one writing award given, "Writing - Screenplay." And, by the by, it was Frances Marion, a female screenwriter force of nature who wrote over 200 movies, who took home the statue at the 3rd Academy Awards for her movie "The Big House" - a down and dirty prison movie, which was directed by George W. Hill. It wasn't some weepy, woman's movie. Or some lovey-dovey woman's movie. It was a cell doors clanking, prisoners suffering, grimy movie. I'm just saying.

Then, for a few years, two awards were given - for "Adaptation" and "Original Story." Then these were changed to "Screenplay" and "Original Story."

It was after that that things started to get interesting. Ready? Follow me, now...
1940-41: "Original Screenplay," "Original Story," and "Screenplay"

"Original Screenplay," "Screenplay," and "Original Motion Picture Story"

"Motion Picture Story," "Original Screenplay," and "Screenplay"

1948: "Motion Picture Story" and "Screenplay"

1949-55: "Motion Picture Story," "Screenplay," and "Story & Screenplay"

"Motion Picture Story," "Original Screenplay," and "Adapted Screenplay"

1957 - 68:
"Story & screenplay written directly for the screen" and "Screenplay based on material from another medium"

"Story & screenplay based on factual material or material not previously published or produced" and "Screenplay based on material from another medium"

"Original Screenplay" and "Screenplay adapted from other material"

"Screenplay written directly for the screen" and Screenplay based on material from another medium"

"Screenplay written directly for the screen" and Screenplay based on material previously produced or published"

and, finally, we come to

"Original Screenplay" and "Adapted Screenplay"

Until they change their minds. Again.

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