News Release: January 30, 2012
The Help Screenwriter-Director Tate Taylor to Receive WGAW’s 2012 Paul Selvin Award
2012 Award Recipient
Screenwriter-director Tate Taylor has been named recipient of the Writers Guild of America West’s 2012 Paul Selvin Award for his adapted screenplay for the civil rights-era drama The Help.
The Guild’s Selvin Award recognizes written work which embodies the spirit of constitutional rights and civil liberties. Filmmaker Taylor will be honored at the 2012 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony on Sunday, February 19, at the Hollywood Palladium.
“Tate Taylor’s adapted screenplay for The Help artfully distills the empowering essence and core emotional truths of Kathryn Stockwell’s novel, translating it into a film that forcefully illustrates how ordinary people can impact positive social change. Evoking a specific time and place, the film’s message is ultimately universal and remains relevant today. Tate’s honor is well-deserved – and his script does Paul Selvin’s legacy proud by conveying the continuing power of the written word,” said WGAW President Christopher Keyser.
“I’m truly honored and humbled by this honor. In adapting Kathryn Stockett's The Help, I was keenly aware of the many heroes from such a tumultuous time in American history, as well as the heroes that continue to fight for human rights today. But to me, ordinary heroes such as Aibileen and Minny are often the ones we find most relatable and empowered by. After all, the ordinary hero hiding in each of us is often the most powerful catalyst for change,” said The Help screenwriter-director Taylor.
Based on the acclaimed #1 New York Times best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, the hit film, written for the screen, directed, and executive produced by Taylor, chronicles the relationship that develops between a group of very different, yet extraordinary women in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1960s at the brink of the burgeoning U.S. civil rights movement, who bond around a secret writing project that challenges the traditional boundaries set by race and class, putting them all at risk.
The poignant period drama, from Dreamworks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment, in association with Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi, centers on young Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), a recent graduate of “Ole Miss” intent on launching a serious writing career and leaving the confines of her small Southern town. Unlike most girls she grew up with in Jackson, her own career ambition takes priority over traditional marriage and motherhood, much to her more conservative friends’ and her mother’s constant consternation.
When Skeeter lands a job ghost-writing the “Miss Myrna” cleaning hints column in the local newspaper, the first person she seeks help from is, of all people, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), her best friend’s nurturing maid. Although tentative at first, soon the unlikely pair find themselves collaborating on a clandestine book project, where the previously silent African-American “help” reveal their candid thoughts on their white employers and experiences from the oppressed perspective. Against all odds, a remarkable sisterhood crossing color lines emerges, empowering women with the courage to transcend the rigid societal roles that define them.
Filled with humor, hope, and heart, The Help is an inspiring film that vividly demonstrates the power of words to create change and transform lives.
In addition to Taylor receiving a 2012 Writers Guild Award nomination for Adapted Screenplay, The Help recently received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and two nods for Best Supporting Actress.
Just as friendship is so vital to the central narrative of The Help, so was true-life friendship vital to the film itself becoming a reality: as director/screenwriter/producer Taylor and author Stockett were childhood friends who grew up together in Jackson, MS, in the ’70s. It was their longtime bond that formed the basis of the film’s journey from page to screen: with Stockett’s blessing, Taylor, with the help of fellow Jackson-native producer Brunson Green, acquired the film rights to The Help, and later adapted the novel for the screen, with an eye to direct the project.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi, Taylor spent time in New York before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a film career. In 2004, Taylor made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed short film, Chicken Party, which he wrote, directed and starred. The film went on to win awards at eight film festivals, placing at twelve more. Taylor's first feature-length film, Pretty Ugly People, was released theatrically in 2009. Written and directed by Taylor, the dark comedy gained him notoriety as a director and writer to watch.
As an actor, Taylor was most recently seen in 2010’s Oscar-nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize Award-winning feature, Winter’s Bone. Taylor’s TV appearances include roles on Sordid Lives: The Series and Queer As Folk.
In partnership with Help author Stockett, Taylor recently established a mentoring program based in Mississippi that provides creative and structural mentoring for writers and filmmakers.
The Paul Selvin Award is given to that WGA member whose script best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties, which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere, and to whose defense the late Selvin, who served as counsel to the Guild for 25 years, committed professional life. Previous recipients include Eric Roth, Michael Mann, Jason Horwitch, Don Payne, Robert Eisele & Jeffrey Porro, Dustin Lance Black, Anthony Peckham, and, most recently, Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth.