Winners of the 45th Annual HUMANITAS Prize were announced in a ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel today. HUMANITAS, which honors and empowers film and television writers whose work explores the human condition in a nuanced, meaningful way, also announced that Emmy Award-winning writer-producer Jenny Bicks has been named the organization’s new president, succeeding Ali LeRoi, who has served in the role since 2013.
The HUMANITAS Prize Winners are as follows:
- Comedy Teleplay: VEEP, “South Carolina,” written by Alex Gregory & Peter Huyck
- Drama Teleplay: THE HANDMAID’S TALE, “Useful,” written by Yahlin Chang;
based on the novel by Margaret Atwood
- Children’s Teleplay: ELENA OF AVALOR, “Changing of the Guard,” written by Kate Kondell
- Documentary: THIS IS FOOTBALL, “Redemption,” written by John Carlin & James Erskine
- Comedy or Musical Feature Film: JOJO RABBIT, screenplay by Taika Waititi; based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens
- Drama Feature Film: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster; inspired by the article “Can You Say… Hero?” by Tom Junod
- Family Feature Film: FROZEN 2, story by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Marc E. Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez; screenplay by Jennifer Lee
- Independent Feature Film: END OF SENTENCE, written by Michael Armbruster
- Limited Series, TV Movie or Special: WHEN THEY SEE US, “Part 4,” teleplay by Ava DuVernay & Michael Starrbury; story by Ava DuVernay
- Short Film: KITBULL, written by Rosana Sullivan
A total of $95,000 was awarded to HUMANITAS Prize winners. Continuing a tradition that began in 2018, each winner or team of winners (with the exception of the Short Film and Independent Feature Film categories) designated one or more nonprofit organizations as the beneficiaries of their prize money. Among the recipient organizations are: BLOC – Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, Planned Parenthood, Common Goal, and Alight.
College Fellowship Winners
The Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship, which was launched in 2017, and the David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship, which was first awarded in 2003, each include a $20,000 award. They are open to undergraduate and graduate students from participating universities, and are intended to recognize and reward the talents of young writers with financial support to empower them to tell meaningful stories.
- The Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship: FROM JUNE TO JULY,
King Lu (Columbia)
- The David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship: LADY LAZARUS,
written by Sheridan Watson (USC)
NEW VOICES Winners
Winners of the NEW VOICES program for emerging writers receive a $7,500 grant and write a pilot script under the supervision of one or more seasoned showrunners. As previously announced, this year’s recipients were Robert Axelrod, Christina Brosman, Jeanine Daniels, John Doble, Obiageli Odimegwu, and Roniel Tessler.
The ceremony also honored acclaimed film and television creators Ava DuVernay and Greg Berlanti, who were presented with the Voice for Change Award and Kieser Award, respectively. THE FAREWELL screenwriter and director Lulu Wang won the Breakout Writer Award.
Legendary television writer-producer Norman Lear presented the inaugural Norman Lear Award. This new award honors groundbreaking writing that holds up a mirror to society and inspires viewers to accept personal responsibility and take action for positive change.
“It is an honor and a privilege to help recognize the work of this extremely gifted group of writers, who have each in their own unique way entertained, enlightened and challenged us in the past year,” said LeRoi, who will remain on the organization’s board of directors. “I look forward to working with incoming president Jenny Bicks, my fellow board members, our advisory council and staff to continue the important work of supporting excellence in writing.”
Added HUMANITAS Executive Director Cathleen Young: “With our nation and the world facing tremendous political and social challenges, we turn to great writers and artists to help us make sense of our experiences and to remind us that, whatever our differences, we are all part of the human family. That’s why it is so essential that we recognize the work of master storytellers like today’s prize winners and make every effort to nurture the next generation of content creators.”
A New Generation of Leaders
Bicks, who will serve a one-year term beginning today, will be succeeded by David Hudgins in 2021. Also in line to ascend to the presidency over the next decade are Cindy Chupack, Carter Covington, Felicia Henderson, Rob Lotterstein, Melanie Marnich, Silvia Olivas, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Tom Schulman, Robin Swicord, and John Sacret Young, all of whom have joined the organization’s board of directors.
“Jenny Bicks’ appointment by the executive board ushers in a new generation of leadership for HUMANITAS, which will ensure that the best and the brightest continue to invigorate our mission,” said Young. “Jenny cares deeply about the next generation of writers, and she’s always willing to roll her sleeves up and make things happen. We are thrilled that Ali LeRoi will continue the amazing outreach he has been doing on behalf of the organization, including the recent partnership with the Austin Film Festival to create the new HUMANITAS Originals prize.”
“I am extremely excited to take over the reins of this great organization,” said Bicks. “I’ve always been an enthusiastic supporter of HUMANITAS’ mission to empower and support writers whose work entertains, uplifts and enhances the lives of viewers. I’m also a firm believer that those of us fortunate enough find success in this industry should do what we can to pay it forward by nurturing gifted writers in the early phases of their careers.”
Bicks’ series credits include SEINFELD, DAWSON’S CREEK and SEX AND THE CITY, for which she wrote on all six seasons, rising to the rank of executive producer. Her work on that show earned her an Emmy, multiple Golden Globes and Producers Guild Awards and three WGA nominations. Bicks went on to create, executive produce and show-run the comedy LEAP OF FAITH and the dramedy MEN IN TREES. She also executive produced and show-ran all four seasons of THE BIG C, for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination. Her feature writing credits include WHAT A GIRL WANTS, RIO 2 and THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, which garnered three Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and grossed $435 million worldwide. Most recently she executive produced and show-ran the second season of DIVORCE on HBO. Bicks has taught and mentored at the Sundance Labs, Hedgebrook, HUMANITAS and The Austin TV Festival.
Emcee and Presenters
Writer-producer Bill Lawrence emceed the ceremony, which included a tribute to HUMANITAS founder Father Bud Kieser, presented by John Sacret Young. Awards presenters included Melanie Marnich, Jay Kogen, Ted Sullivan, Carol Mendelsohn, Carter Covington, Tanya Saracho, Gil Robertson, Cindy Chupack, Silvia Olivas, Jennie Snyder Urman, Ali LeRoi, Josh Welsh, Julie Plec, David Hudgins, David Shore and Jenny Bicks.
About the HUMANITAS Prize
Since its inception in 1974, the HUMANITAS Prize has awarded over $4 million to more than 360 deserving television and motion picture writers whose work examines what it means to be a fully realized human being in a world struggling with racism, terrorism, sexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, political polarization, religious fanaticism, extreme poverty, violence and unemployment. By deeply exploring the cultures, lifestyles, sexual orientations, political views and religious beliefs of people who are very different from ourselves, we can dissolve the walls of ignorance and fear that separate us from one another. For more information, please visit the HUMANITAS Prize at www.humanitasprize.org.