This year, the Best Original Screenplay category is a race between Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman – two screenplays that couldn’t be more different. One is a historical drama involving real people and real events and the other is a completely fictional story. So how is it that these two screenplays are competing in the same category?
Right now, the two categories are split into Adapted (based on previously written source material) and Original (not based on previously written source material). And while these two categories honor two separate skills, it could also be argued that writing an “original” screenplay inspired by history and writing an “original” screenplay based on nothing are also two separate skills.
How do you think the Oscars should separate the screenplay categories?
Honestly I like it how it is, except I would remove some of the silly rules such as sequels of original stories being considered as adaptations, as well as bogus ‘corrections’ on the part of the Academy like Whiplash and Moonlight being moved from original to adapted (guys, Moonlight was never really a play, even on paper). General historical research to inform your work is not the same thing as adapting a script from one specific non-fictional source, although there can be a fine line between the two. But if you’re working from a multitude of (uncredited) sources you still need to create the basic story outline yourself, even if the events themselves are factual. So it might not always be so different from creating a completely original, fictional story.
At least that’s how I see it, though I’ll admit there may be some nuance I’m lacking here. Another way around the issue could be to bring back the now defunct Original Story Oscar, in addition to the screenplay awards (and eligibility for either category would not be mutually exclusive). Though you could argue this creates another unnecessary category which we don’t need.