James_Schamus_2011Can’t help but think James Schamus receiving the WGA East‘s Evelyn F. Burkey Award for “bringing honor and dignity to writers” is the guild’s way of making sure it thanks the now former Focus Features boss for his years mentoring art house fare from writers like Dustin Lance Black, Charlie Kaufman, Larry McMurtry & Anne Proulx, and Jose Rivera as well as himself (Lust, Caution and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Shamus was the longtime CEO at Focus before a full rethink of the business at NBCUniversal in October saw him removed and replaced by FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel, part of a plan to focus on more mainstream and genre films (at least in part) in the future. One of Shamus’ final films in Focus’ pipeline is Dallas Buyers Club, the kind of film Focus has so successfully shepherded through many an Oscar season.  “This film is very important and we have believed in it from the beginning”, Schamus told our Pete Hammond after the movie’s LA premiere October 18. “We are taking this one all the way to the altar, all the way, and I am going to be there for it.” Here’s today WGA East release, which comes a day after it said it would award The Wire creator David Simon with Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement during the WGA Awards on February 1:

wga-east__120202004540__131121163927NEW YORK, NY (December 20, 2013) – Revered by his peers for his ability to tell beautiful and complex stories, James Schamus will be presented with the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for bringing honor and dignity to writers at the 66th Annual Writers Guild Awards New York on Saturday, February 1, 2014.

A member of the Writers Guild of America, East since 1997, Schamus received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Adopted Screenplay” for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and won “Best Screenplay” at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for The Ice Storm. As the co-founder of Focus Films, he championed writers with original voices and projects that tackled thought-provoking subject matter, from Brokeback Mountain and Milk to Lost In Translation and this year’s Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Established in 1978, The Evelyn F. Burkey Award honors those who, like the award’s namesake, have dedicated their professional life to supporting and helping writers. Burkey helped create the Writers Guild of America, East, in 1953 as the union of film, television and radio writers, independent of precursor organizations. She was the WGAE’s executive director until her retirement in 1972. The Burkey Award continues her mission by recognizing a person or an organization “whose contributions have brought honor and dignity to writers.”

“As a writer, teacher and studio executive, James Schamus has honored the art of screenwriting and championed the work of his colleagues with commitment and taste, making him an excellent choice to receive the Burkey Award,” said Michael Winship, president of Writers Guild of America, East. “As a friend and associate, I am especially delighted that James is receiving this honor. The films he has written and overseen combine great style and substance, entertainment and purpose.”

Comedian W. Kamau Bell will host the New York Ceremony, which is supported by Screencraft. The Writers Guild Awards are held simultaneously in New York and Los Angles with the Writers Guild of America, West holding its ceremony at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles.