Writers for the films “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” won top Writers Guild Awards on Saturday night, boosting the films’ chances in the run-up to the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s biggest honors.
“Spotlight,” based on The Boston Globe’s investigation of pedophile Roman Catholic priests, won in a field that also included the screenwriters of “Bridge of Spies,” “Sicario,””Straight Outta Compton” and “Trainwreck.”
“This means a ton. This is your peers,” Josh Singer, who shared the award with Tom McCarthy, told City News Service. “Since I first came into the business and was working for John Wells and John Sacret Young I wanted to win the approbation of my peers, so it’s really a lovely honor.”
“Spotlight” was Singer’s second screenplay to be produced, following the 2013 thriller about the news-leaking website WikiLeaks, “The Fifth Estate.”
“Spotlight” producers Michael Sugar and Steve Golin “liked my script for ‘The Fifth Estate,’ … (and) they introduced me to Tom,” Singer said.
“At first, I was pretty nervous around Tom because he’s such a great writer and such an accomplished director, but we wound up having a tremendous bonding experience over getting to know the reporters and getting to investigate this story.
“It was that experience that really allowed us to collaborate in such a wonderful way.”
Singer began his career as a writer for the NBC White House drama “The West Wing,” whose producers included Wells and Young.
Singer later wrote for the NBC crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” the Fox crime drama “Lie to Me” and the Fox science fiction series “Fringe.”
McCarthy and Singer became the favorites in the category in the Feb. 28 Oscars where they will again be competing against the writers of “Bridge of Spies” and “Straight Outta Compton” and the writers of two films that did not receive Writers Guild Award nominations, “Inside Out” and “Ex Machina.”
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, the adapted screenplay winners, did not come backstage at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza because they had to catch a plane to attend Sunday’s British Academy Film Awards, presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, in London.
Randolph and McKay won in a field that also included the screenwriters of “Carol,” “The Martian,” “Steve Jobs” and “Trumbo.”
Randolph and McKay are the favorites in the category for the Oscars, where they will again compete against the writers of “Carol,” “The Martian,” and the writers of two films that did not receive Writers Guild Award nominations, “Brooklyn,” and “Room.”
The AMC completed period advertising drama “Mad Men” won for best television drama, beating out the writing staffs of “Better Call Saul,” “The Americans,” “Game of Thrones” and “Mr. Robot.”
“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner said backstage he did not expect to win, thinking the HBO fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” would because “it’s been winning everything and that’s sort of how it goes sometime.”
The Writers Guild best television drama award was the fourth for “Mad Men” and its first since 2011. It had been nominated in the category four other times.
Weiner called a Writers Guild Award “the highest prize in our profession.”
The award is the last “Mad Men” is eligible for, Weiner said.
Its writing staff honored tonight included the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Chinatown,” Robert Towne.
“He told me he loved the show and I asked him if he wanted to come in and work a couple days a week,” Weiner told City News Service.
Towne was part of “Mad Men’s” writing staff for its final two seasons, said Weiner, who complimented Towne for his assistance on the storyline of Megan Draper’s (Jessica Pare) move to Los Angeles to pursue acting opportunities.
“He had the best anecdotes of anybody,” Weiner said.
“Mr. Robot” won for new series writing, besting “Better Call Saul,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Bloodline” and “The Last Man on Earth.”
“Better Call Saul” won for episodic drama.
The writing staff for “Veep” won for best television comedy, beating their counterparts from “Broad City,” “Silicon Valley,” “Transparent,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Veep.”
The National Geographic Channel’s “Saints & Strangers” won for best long-form original writing over “American Horror Story: Hotel,” “Flesh and Bone” and “Sons of Liberty.”
The WGA Awards were presented during simultaneous ceremonies held in Century City and New York.
During the ceremony, “Friends” co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane received the guild’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement.
“Trumbo” screenwriter John McNamara received the Paul Selvin Award, honoring scripts that explore issues of political freedom, censorship and civil liberties.
Screenwriter John August (“Big Fish”) received the Valentine Davies Award in recognition of his humanitarian efforts and civic service.
Here is a complete list of winners:
— “Spotlight,” Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy; Open Road Films
— “The Big Short,” Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay; Based on the Book by Michael Lewis; Paramount Pictures
— “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” Written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films
— “Mad Men,” Written by Lisa Albert, Semi Chellas, Jonathan Igla, Janet Leahy, Erin Levy, Tom Smuts, Robert Towne, Matthew Weiner, Carly Wray; AMC
— “Veep,” Written by Simon Blackwell, Jon Brown, Kevin Cecil, Roger Drew, Peter Fellows, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Sean Gray, Callie Hersheway, Armando Iannucci, Sean Love, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Andy Riley, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO
— “Mr. Robot,” Written by Kyle Bradstreet, Kate Erickson, Sam Esmail, David Iserson, Randolph Leon, Adam Penn, Matt Pyken; USA
LONG FORM ORIGINAL
— “Saints & Strangers,” Written by Seth Fisher, Walon Green, Chip Johannessen, Eric Overmyer; National Geographic Channel
LONG FORM ADAPTED
— “Fargo,” Written by Steve Blackman, Bob DeLaurentis, Noah Hawley, Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert, Based on the film “Fargo”; FX
SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA – ORIGINAL
— “Back to Reality” (“Weight”), Written by Daryn Strauss; weighttheseries.com
SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA – ADAPTED
— “Chapter Two: Phoebe” (“Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters”), Written by Zach Craley; nbc.com
— “Housetrap” (“Bob’s Burgers”), Written by Dan Fybel; Fox
— “Uno” (“Better Call Saul”), Written by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould; AMC
— “Sand Hill Shuffle” (“Silicon Valley”), Written by Clay Tarver; HBO
COMEDY / VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) – SERIES
— “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Writers: Scott Carter, Adam Felber, Matt Gunn, Brian Jacobsmeyer, Jay Jaroch, Chris Kelly, Bill Maher, Billy Martin, Danny Vermont; HBO
COMEDY / VARIETY – SKETCH SERIES
— “Inside Amy Schumer,” Head Writer: Jessi Klein Writers: Hallie Cantor, Kim Caramele, Kyle Dunnigan, Jon Glaser, Kurt Metzger, Christine Nangle, Dan Powell, Tami Sagher, Amy Schumer; Comedy Central
COMEDY / VARIETY – MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES – SPECIALS
— “Jimmy Kimmel Live: 10th Annual After The Oscars Special,” Written by Jack Allison, Tony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, Joelle Boucai, Greg Dorris, Gary Greenberg, Josh Halloway, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Jimmy Kimmel, Bess Kalb, Jeff Loveness, Molly McNearney, Danny Ricker, Joe Strazzullo, Bridger Winegar; ABC
QUIZ AND AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
— “Hollywood Game Night,” Head Writer: Grant Taylor; Writers: Michael Agbabian, Alex Chauvin, Ann Slichter, Dwight D. Smith; NBC
— “General Hospital,” Writers: Ron Carlivati, Anna Theresa Cascio, Andrea Archer Compton, Suzanne Flynn, Kate Hall, Elizabeth Korte, Daniel James O’Connor, Elizabeth Page, Jean Passanante, Katherine Schock, Scott Sickles, Chris Van Etten; ABC
CHILDREN’S SCRIPT – EPISODIC AND SPECIALS
— “Gortimer, Ranger and Mel vs. The Endless Night” (“Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”), Written by Gretchen Enders & Aminta Goyel; Amazon Studios
CHILDREN’S SCRIPT – LONG FORM OR SPECIAL
— “Descendants,” Written by Josann McGibbon & Sara Parriott; Disney Channel
DOCUMENTARY SCRIPT – CURRENT EVENTS
— “American Terrorist” (“Frontline”), Written by Thomas Jennings; PBS
DOCUMENTARY SCRIPT – OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS
— “The Great Math Mystery” (“Nova”), Written by Daniel McCabe; PBS
TV NEWS SCRIPT – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT
— “Cuba” (“60 Minutes”), Written by Scott Pelley, Nicole Young, Oriana Zill de Granados, Andy Court and Robert Anderson; CBS News
TV NEWS SCRIPT – ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY
— “The Storm After the Storm” (“60 Minutes”), Written by Sharyn Alfonsi, Michael Rey and Oriana Zill de Granados; CBS News
— “Marking the End of Vietnam: 40 Years Later,” Written by Andrew Evans; ABC News Radio
RADIO NEWS SCRIPT – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT
— “Remembering New York Icons,” Written by Thomas A. Sabella; CBS Radio News
RADIO NEWS SCRIPT – ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY
— “Passages,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News
ON-AIR PROMOTION (TELEVISION, NEW MEDIA OR RADIO)
— “The McCarthys and Under the Dome Promos,” Written by Erial Tompkins; CBS
— “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” Lead Narrative Designer John Stafford; Narrative Designer Cameron Suey; Lead Writer Rhianna Pratchett; Additional Writer Philip Gelatt; Microsoft
City News Service and Reuters contributed to this article.