I’m a total sucker for the Spirit Awards and Oscars. I know, but I am. I completely geek out, squeal with excitement and break out into enthusiastic applause when someone I’m rooting for gets the win. I know it’s gauche to have a competition between artists — and I shouldn’t refer to them as “winners”. It’s disturbing for it to come down to marketing and ratings. But, still, I love them.
Since I was a little girl watching the Academy Awards (which I have done religiously since I was six), I saw it as the great night. One in which the industry recognizes the work and celebrates the craft. Back then, all the awards were given out on the telecast, and the speeches could go on for days. The best ones were always the foreign films or documentaries and the winners, who had worked so hard for so long on the film, would give speeches that would leave me in tears. Heart welling up because you knew it meant so much. The speeches were always the best part. Now, you have to say all that in less than a minute (less than that if you are in a group of winners). Unless you win at the Spirit Awards, and then you can go on for days and curse all you want (and who doesn’t love that?).
I was thrilled with the wins Milk received, and Dustin Lance Black bringing home both the Spirit and Oscar awards for Original Screenplay. It was absolutely deserved I squealed and burst out into applause for him. And, on both shows, he delivered beautiful speeches for what it all meant to him. (Don’t even get me started on Sean’s speech…brilliant.)
But, as friends and I talked, we were wondering if a story based on history, should be considered “adapted” as opposed to “original”? Typically, an adapted screenplay is one based on a published work: Short story (Brokeback Mountain), Stage play (Doubt), Book (Slumdog Millionaire). But what about history? Newspaper articles, interviews with witnesses, friends and family? Wouldn’t that in fact make something like Milk, an adapted work, since it was biographical?
This, of course, does not take away from the originality of the piece, the art and skill it takes to write it. We are all inspired by something in real life that makes us rush to the page and put it all down, so one could argue what isn’t adapted from something. It just sparked an interesting debate — not about the awards or relevance of the work, but the category in which it fell. I’m wondering what you might think, as writers, filmmakers, audience members. Or is this only interesting after a couple of glasses of wine?
In any event, here’s to all those who made movies last year. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment to be celebrated. And here’s to those who will make movies this year. Let’s hope they will be appreciated, and that there will be more work to come.