By Maureen Lee Lenker
February 10, 2019 at 12:12 PM EST
Scott Green/Bleecker Street

Awards season is typically a pretty bleak landscape for female-directed projects (and female creatives beyond the acting and producing categories altogether).

On Saturday night, the USC Libraries Scripter Award became a rare ceremony to honor a movie helmed by a woman, awarding their top prize in film achievement to Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace. The award, now in its 31st year, honors the year’s best adaptation of the written word for the screen, honoring both authors and screenwriters for feature film and television adaptations.

Screenwriters Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini took home the film award alongside author Peter Rock for Leave No Trace, an adaptation of Rock’s 2009 novel My Abandonment. Rock’s novel was itself an adaptation of a 2004 local news report about a Vietnam veteran living off the grid in the forest near Portland, Oregon. The film updates the setting slightly, making the father at the heart of the story (played by Ben Foster) an Iraq War veteran.

“Twelve years ago I was far from thinking it would become a film, I was so anxious about my first daughter being born, and that’s really the subtext of the book,” said Rock, while accepting the honor. “Various people came and went, and since then about five years ago, Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini and I walked through Forest Park in Oregon and talked about possibilities and so I want to deeply thank them for the heart and inspiration they brought.”

“This story was told in a really, really specific place, which was a very large municipal park on the outskirts of Portland,” Granik previously told EW. “We went there, we talked to the rangers, we started to talk to social workers, started to talk to cops, detectives. So those become the waitress, those become the real person.… That anecdotal content married to the book is what starts to form the new version.”

Granik and Rosellini were not able to be there to accept, but it marks a major moment in an awards season dominated by male winners, while organizations like the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to nominate eligible contenders like Granik and Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here). The Scripter Award is often a predictor of the winner of the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay, but this year Leave No Trace is not one of the five Oscar nominees.

The ceremony, held at the University of Southern California’s Doheny Memorial Library, also pays tribute to television adaptation and this year’s prize went to A Very English Scandal. Russell T. Davies took home the award for screenwriting, while John Preston was honored for his 2016 book of the same name that inspired the Amazon Prime series. The limited series follows the tale of Jeremy Thorpe (Grant), a respected member of Parliament, who found his career come crashing down when accused of conspiracy to murder his ex-lover, Norman Scott (Whishaw), in 1979.

“What makes it very typically English is that it’s about a central character who is unable to speak the truth, express his feelings, [and] be frank about what’s really going on for him,” Whishaw previously told EW. “There’s also something about the absurdity of it and the line it treads between something really awful/sad and something hilarious. That quality seems quite English to me.”

Neither Davies nor Preston was able to attend, but Davies sent his thanks by way of a video message. He paid tribute to the subjects of the series, calling them “so mad, so fascinating, and I hope so forgiven by all of us now by the passing of time.”

Unlike Leave No Trace, A Very English Scandal has received some awards love this season, scoring nominations at the Golden Globe and SAG Awards. Ben Whishaw took home the Golden Globe for best supporting actor in a limited series or television movie back in January.

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