- The virtual award ceremony was hosted by writer, actor, producer and former White House staff member Kal Penn.
Indian American filmmakers and social organizers Meghana Reddy and Angad Bhalla won the Writers Guild Award for On Air Promotion for “Get Out The Vote – Check Out Those Moves.” The 2021 Writers Guild Awards were held virtually on March 21 Los Angeles and New York. And the guild enlisted acclaimed writer-actor-producer (and former White House staff member) Kal Penn to do the honors.
While announcing the award in the On Air Promotion category, Penn said on air promos are “an overlooked art of shorty-telling that can get out an important message or make a series of films or launch a whole new streaming service.
Reddy has spent her formative years organizing in the labor movement – from student-labor organizing with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), to working on corporate welfare campaigns at New York Jobs with Justice, to organizing & serving as Communications Coordinator at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. Her focus is on satire and scripted content, bringing strategic absurdity to the fight for social justice.
Bhalla is an award-winning filmmaker with a deep commitment to community organizing. While completing his award-winning documentary “Herman’s House” he organized faith communities around immigrant rights through the New Sanctuary Coalition. The film captures the creative journey of Herman Wallace, a prisoner confined to a solitary cell, as he draws his dream house. Bhalla’s storytelling capabilities were developed as a fellow at Sundance Institute Documentary Labs and he is currently a Soros Justice Fellow.
The top honors went to Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman” in the Original Screenplay category and the Adapted Screenplay award to Sacha Baron Cohen and his team for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” The documentary screenplay award went to Mark Monroe and Bryan Fogel for “The Dissident.” On the TV side, Netflix’s “The Crown” took the drama series award.
Prior to the awards, Penn said he was “very honored that the Writers Guild, of which I’m a member, chose me to bring together a wildly diverse range of people, from liberal writers on theWest Coast to liberal writers on the East Coast.
The WGA’s virtual presentation was pre-taped, and Penn said all of this year’s nominees were instructed to send in an acceptance speech, with the winning team’s remarks making the cut. “I feel like those of us who are actors and writers are already so insecure … to have to give the speech and not know,” Penn told The Hollywood Reporter adding, “There’s something Shakespearean about that.”
Penn is best known for his memorable lead roles in the “Harold &Kumar” franchise, “House”, “Designated Survivor” and “Sunnyside”, which he co- created and co-wrote with Matt Murray for NBC-Universal and Hulu. He can currently be seen in the CBS drama “Clarice” and Disney Junior’s “Mira, Royal Detective.” He has also appeared in independent films, most notably Mira Nair’s adaptation of Pulitzer-winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel “The Namesake”, about which The New York Times called his lead role a “crackling, star-making performance.” In addition to roles on “Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “New Girl”, “24,” and “Law &; Order: SVU,” Penn has taught courses on film, media, and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
He has maintained simultaneous careers in both entertainment and public service. A campaign organizer and advocate. During the Obama administration, he was an associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement from 2009-11, where he served as the president’s liaison to young Americans, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and to the arts community.
A staunch supporter of trade unions, he leveraged his role as creator and host of Freeform’s politically-themed comedy/variety talk series “Kal Penn Approves This Message” in order to ensure that the show and its writers would be covered under the WGA’s contract. “It was important to me that the sketches in which I wear a judge’s robe and rap with a blue puppet in ahot tub were union,” he quipped to Deadline.
The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are labor unions representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The Guilds negotiate and administer contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of their members; conduct programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to writers; and present writers’ views to various bodies of government.