Tina Fey's script for Mean Girls, the Mark Waters-directed comedy-drama featuring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert, was the biggest surprise among the 2005 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award nominations; after all, Mean Girls has been wholly ignored this awards season. Among the WGA Awards' other nominated screenplays were those for critics faves The Aviator, Sideways, and Million Dollar Baby.
WGA Awards eligibility
According to the WGA's press release, eligible films “were produced signatory to the Writers Guild minimum basic agreement, and released in the year 2004 under the jurisdiction of Writers Guild of America, East and West and affiliate guilds in Australia, Canada, French Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and New Zealand.” This year, there were 193 films eligible for a WGA Award nomination in one of two categories: Best Original Screenplay (109), Best Adapted Screenplay (84).
The above paragraph helps to explain why more “esoteric” fare such as Tina Fey's Mean Girls script gets nominated for the WGA Awards and why non-English-language movies are usually left out. Now, though filmed in Spanish, this year's multinational WGA Award nominee The Motorcycle Diaries (adapted by José Rivera) was deemed eligible for the award because the Walter Salles-directed drama was partly funded in the US and was produced according to guild regulations.
On the other hand, certain American films made by companies not affiliated with the Writers Guild were ineligible for the WGA awards. Case in point is Marc Forster's Miramax-distributed Finding Neverland, which was made outside the Guild's current labor regulations. The most notorious such exclusion is probably that of another Miramax-distributed movie: Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, which was left out of the 1994 WGA Awards' longlist.
Non-WGA Award contenders still in the running for the Academy Awards
Although ineligible for the WGA Awards, well-regarded non-English-language films such as The Sea Inside (screenplay by Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil), Bad Education (Pedro Almodóvar), and A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant) remain possible contenders for the Academy Awards, since the Academy has a different set of eligibility rules.
In early 2004, for instance, the French-language The Barbarian Invasions and the Portuguese-language City of God were left out of the WGA Awards' list, but both went on to receive Academy Award nominations. The previous year, so did the Spanish-language, non-Writers Guild affiliates Y tu mamá también and Talk to Her. In fact, Talk to Her's screenwriter-director Pedro Almodóvar went on to win the Best Original Screenplay Oscar at the 2003 ceremony.
Also absent from the 2003 WGA Awards list was Roman Polanski's English-language but (mostly) European-made The Pianist, ultimately the winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. And in 2001, the French-made Amelie was listed as one of the Academy Award nominees for Best Original Screenplay.
Curiously, animated films are not allowed to compete for the WGA awards. The Academy has no such rule. Shrek (2001) and Finding Nemo (2003) are two animated features that received Academy Award nominations in the writing categories. This year, the same will probably happen with Brad Bird's The Incredibles. Somewhat ironically, WGA Award nominee Mean Girls' chances at the Oscars are iffy.
Mean Girls Amanda Seyfried, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert photo: Paramount Pictures.