A video abstract for Honey, You Know I Can’t Hear You When You Aren’t in the Room: Key Female Filmmakers Prove the Importance of Having a Female in the Writing Room.
This paper will appear in the special issue journal, Gender and the Screenplay: Processes, Practices, Perspectives (eds. Louise Sawtell and Stayci Taylor (RMIT University, Melbourne)).
I’m Dr.Rosanne Welch. I teach screenwriting and history of screenwriting to MFA students in the Stephens College MFA program.
Screenwriters are often the unsung heroes of Hollywood, a fact that is doubly true for female screenwriters. While writers can research many things and are capable of creating unknown worlds such as Narnia or Lothlorien, it is true that the subject they know best – and will protect the most – will always be themselves and their experiences. Proof of this truth of filmmaking can be found in the careers of many successful female filmmakers from the start of the Hollywood studio system to the modern world of independents. Films produced by these women illustrates how important it is to have a female voice in the room.
My paper will discuss the ways female characters were created and protected by the presence of such female writers as:
Anita Loos, famous for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which involves much more than Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”;
Dorothy Parker, who with her husband wrote A Star is Born, where a famous actress must juggle her rising fame as her husband’s career fails.
Ruth Gordon who co-authored Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike, both iconic lead characters played by Katherine Hepburn.
Phoebe Ephron wrote several films, adapted Carousel from the stage to the screen all while nurturing the creativity and career of her four daughter-writers including Delia, Amy, Hallie and Nora Ephron…
Joan Didion who co-wrote the 3rd remake of A Star is Born (the one starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson)
and Frances Goodrich Hackett who adapted The Thin Man; It’s a Wonderful Life and The Diary of Anne Frank who said the quote that set me on the path to write this piece:
“I’m always the only woman working on the picture and I hold the fate of the women [characters] in my hand… I’ll fight for what the gal will or will not do, and I can be completely unfeminine about it.”
Beyond bringing better quality female characters to the screen, these women brought more three-dimensional, equal marriages to the screen, creating role models other could follow.
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