Writers Guild Awards

Freedom of Expression

American Fiction writer Cord Jefferson to receive 2024 Paul Selvin Award.

The 2024 Paul Selvin Award recipient is Academy Award-winning writer Cord Jefferson, in recognition of his film American Fiction, based on the novel Erasure by Percival Everett. 

The WGAW Board of Directors created the honorary award in 1990, in memory of long-time Guild counsel Paul Selvin, who served the Guild for 25 years and defended the First Amendment rights of newspaper and magazine writers throughout his legal career. The award is presented to a member whose script “best embodies the spirit of constitutional and civil rights and liberties which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere.”

Cord Jefferson. Photo by Dennis Gocer.

The script earned Jefferson the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay. American Fiction is also nominated in the Writers Guild Awards’ Adapted Screenplay category.

American Fiction follows novelist Thelonious “Monk” Ellison who is struggling to achieve mainstream success as he battles the literary industry’s projection of what they consider “Black” entertainment. After suffering through professional rejection and familial trauma, he writes an outlandish “Black” book of his own under a pen name, which jolts him into secret success. As he struggles with his book being a symbol for all he disdains, he reunites with his family who challenge his notions of happiness and prosperity. 
“One of the things that I wanted to do with the movie was to show the diversity within diversity,” Jefferson said during a recent interview for Written by. “I think very frequently people think like ‘Oh, well, we have one Black person in the room, they can share the totality of the Black experience. Or we have one woman in the room, or we have one gay person in the room.’ And I think that it’s important to acknowledge that you can’t just have one person, one Black person, and expect them to understand the entirety of the Black experience.” 

The American Fiction writer joins the class of previous Paul Selvin Award honorees including Barry Jenkins (The Underground), Rebecca Lenkiewicz (She Said), and Charles Randolph (Bombshell).

For more coverage of Jefferson’s American Fiction, read “New Black Narratives,” by Louise Farr and check out Jefferson’s interview with Committee of Black Writers Co-Chair Hilliard Guess on 3rd & Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America West.

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