So, I think it’s really important to teach silent films because we’re teaching the screenwriters that the visual is important. Much as I love the words more, you do have to think about how they’re shown and, of course, these are visuals that show is the emotion of the moment and I think that they are really beautiful. So, it’s fun for the students — I totally agree with Warren — to have this heritage in their life, to understand that this all came before them. That’s very, very important.
In Beauchamp’s book, you’ll see all these famous women. My great joy is that one of my students, who teaches directing, found Lois Weber in my class who wrote and directed her films back in the day and now incorporates her into the set of directors that he teaches as examples because she had that kind of career back in the day. Eve Unsell ran her own production company for Universal for 10 years. Made a ton of movies that are very very successful in the day. She also allows us to go into the place where we discuss the problems with films whether it is back them or today because she was involved in what, back then, were yellow race films which were anti-Asian-American films and so that’s something students should understand about. So, again that goes back to to the title of what we are talking about and I talk fast because I’m Sicilian. I also don’t want to eat up all the time.
So I teach history and I start in the silent film world, so I disagree with Warren. I go chronologically. This is a period they have never heard of and all the movies are free on YouTube. Nothing like telling them they can watch whatever they have to watch for free. That works, right? And so here they meet Anita Loos, Gene Gauntier — the first women — the first person to do filming on location. She went to Jerusalem to film the story of Jesus Christ — the first time it was put on film and it’s a really beautiful film you can see, for free, on YouTube. Then Jeanie MacPherson who wrote all of Cecil B. DeMille’s early movies that were successes. When she stopped working for him all his stuff failed. Nobody knows her name and she’s quite brilliant. So I thinks it’s important for women students today to know that women once ran Hollywood so all this discussion about “I don’t know if women should direct a movie” is not worth having, because they did and they were. They were the highest paid people in this town, so I think that’s important an important think for them to remember.
You got to the next question which is my first exercise in class — Name the writer. Lucky if they can. If it’s a writer/director, they can. Otherwise, they can’t and they suddenly are embarrassed because they adore the words of a person whose name they can’t tell you. If they have a favorite book they can tell you who wrote it, but they don’t know who wrote their favorite film. So it’s my goal to make them know that. I can’t stand the Auteur Theory because I think it’s bullshit. Directors aren’t the authors of their film. I don’t want to insult any directors in the class but you can’t direct something that doesn’t exist on the page first. It’s a collaborative thing and directors have lovely, but they’ve been given all the credit for far too long because, as we know, it goes back to all the book reviews in Cahiers and they came up with that theory. It’s nonsense.
This is about strategies in teaching film and television history and current events — which is what David will do when I am done — and so, gee, I’m all about the chicks so we have Dorothy Parker and we have Tina Fey. There is a direct line between those women and if you love Tina Fey then you had better study a little bit of Dorothy Parker or you don’t understand why Tina Fey works today. So, why study screenwriting history? That’s actually the first screen of a lecture that I give on this very topic to my students on opening day because when you mention movies nobody says, “You know I love that shot in… ” They say, “My name is Inigo Montoya.You killed my father. Prepare to Die.” They remember the words in the movies. They remember the screenwriting, but when we look at the history of tv and film, we’re not doing that. We’re teaching directors. Everyone can name their favorite films and they can normally name the director of those films.
I am also on the editorial board for Written By Magazine and the book review editor of the Journal of Screenwriting so if anyone’s interested in writing book reviews for the Journal of Screenwriting which publishes out of the UK, please let me know because I am always looking for book reviewers and you get the book for free, but also I have — the schools that I teach at have subscription to the journal. I have students read journal articles because I want them — it is a Masters Program — I want them to have a comfort level with that, but I have my undergrads at least do one journal article reading as well to have an accessibility to that. And then I get the schools and/or the kids to read Written By Magazine every month. We do a different screenwriter or television writer on the front cover. It’s a wonderful inside look at how the process of writing is done. The subscription is not that expensive, rather than a textbook for undergrads, but we also publish most of that online for free at the Written By web site, so they can read these articles on their own as assignments and learn about these writers. So I think all that stuff is valid for the class.
This is my background in the business. These are all the different shows that I worked on. Always with a focus on the female characters. How can I make the female characters stronger? I’m a girl. Interesting enough I have a boy — a son — and when I had him I thought, “Oh no, I’m supposed to have a girl so I can teach her to be a feminist.” and then someone went “No let me teach him to love a feminist.” and I thought, ‘Oh yeah.” So, and this is the stuff that I have written. Mostly focused on women — women in Doctor Who and how race is portrayed. Women in Aviation. I’ve just got a second encyclopedia set of women in History. I am part of the Women Screenwriters Encyclopedia and my latest book is on The Monkees and feminism in The Monkees because it was actually there in the show if you look hard enough.
This whole conference is about inclusion and convergence which made this topic seem useful to me and hopefully to you. I’ve always gone back from my childhood to learning about Abagail Adams — the woman who told John while you’re working on that Constitution, could you please “remember the ladies.” We tend to forget them in this town and int he history of this town. The other book that I’ve got there is “What Happens Next” which everyone uses in their classes and has a paragraph about the women that that entire book covers. He finds time to cover them in a paragraph and that makes my students crazy. They read 5 different books on the history of screenwriting and chronologically and they come to Frances last and they are like why, why have I not heard of her until now and that book was written in the middle so you know some men write books before that book came out. They didn’t know the women existed. Then they knew and they still didn’t’ write about them and it’s important that we are in these books. So. I thought that was my background.
Citizen Jane Film School An afternoon of educational- and fun!- film industry discussions!
Studio A @ Stephens College, 1405 E Broadway
Screen Grab: From Screenplay To Big Screen, Who Will Win? Judges: Sarah Haas, Ken LaZebnik, Steph Scupham, Kimberly Skyrme
Screenwriters vie for an exclusive production deal pitching their films to a panel of esteemed judges. The top five entries will be discussed and critiqued live before the audience. The winner will be announced before panel’s end. Producer, Sarah Haas, awaits to bring the project to life-a screenwriter’s dream come true!
Moderator: Dr. Rosanne Welch Panelist: Amy Banks, Krista Dyson, Cara Epstein, Betsy Leighton, Laura Kirk, Sarah Whorton
The Stephens College MFA in Screenwriting Program is proud to present six of our fabulous students who will introduce the audience to six female screenwriters whose bold, brash, brilliant words have enhanced our film experience, but whose names have been left out of the textbooks. Help us write them back in and remind us all that Women Ran Hollywood once and are on their way to doing it again!
REHERSED: A CJ TABLE READ WITH GREENHOUSE THEATER PROJECT Sager Braudis Gallery, 1025 E. Walnut
Sun / Oct 29 / 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
A staged reading of this year’s Screen Grab competition winner. Experience the art of Sager-Braudis Gallery, and watch as one of Columbia’s favorite theater companies reads a short screenplay. Refreshments provided by Harold’s Doughnuts and Fretboard Coffee.
I teach the history of screenwriting, not film, to an MFA program for Stephens College, a low residency program. We do workshops at the Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood for 10 days twice a year and then the students do the rest of their work online. I’m also an adjunct at Cal State Fullerton, so I’ve had the pleasure of teaching all three of these gentlemen. So that’s been a lovely thing but I don’t teach this class there, so they haven’t actually seen me do this. With them, I’ve done screenwriting and workshopping, but here I’m going to talk about why I teach this class for a couple of reasons and I gave it this particular name, “Giving Voice to Silent Films…and the Far From Silent Women Who Wrote Them” – you’ll see that one of those books is by Carrie Beauchamp and it is, “Without Lying Down.” The life story of Frances Marion and the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood in the entire Silent and early talkie period and none of my students have ever heard of her and I think it is very important that we hear about her and Anita Loos and a bunch of other important women.
I was pleased to be asked to participate in a panel designed by former student (and current kick-ass professor) Warren Lewis. The panel included two other former students from the MFA in Screenwriting program at CSUF: David Morgassen and Lucas Cuny. For the panel’s theme — “What Else Do We Teach When We Teach Screenwriting: Context And Controversy: Strategies For Teaching Film And Television History And Current Events To Screenwriters” — I chose to present on: “Giving Voice to Silent Films and the Far From Silent Women Who Wrote Them”.
It involves the fact that when teaching screenwriting history, I begin chronologically. In essence I force students to watch the classic films of the silent era (happily accessible for free on YouTube) first because that is when women ran the town as evidenced in Cari Beachamp’s Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood”.) Beauchamp’s book is on my reading list so that they can encounter the careers of Frances Marion, Anita Loos, Lois Weber, Adela Rogers St. Johns, Eve Unsell and a host of other women who ran their own production companies for many years.
Secondly, knowing women once ran Hollywood makes it harder for today’s executives to wonder if today’s women can do the same.
Third, I have learned that teaching silent films reminds modern students that in screenwriting the visual is as important as the verbal.
Fourth, recognizing the birth of major iconic archetypes helps them recognize those archetypes in modern films and develop their own characters more three-dimensionally.
Fifth, I had to embarrassingly realize that in my zest to focus on forgotten females, I forgot to cover the careers of forgotten men and women of color and so expanded my viewing list to include the work of Oscar Mischeaux and other artists of color from the era.
Finally, I stretch back to the silents as a reminder that all artists stand of the shoulders of those who came before them – be they women or men.
Rosanne Welch, PhD has written for television (Touched by an Angel, Picket Fences) and print (Three Ring Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work and Kids and The Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space). In the documentary world she has written and produced Bill Clinton and the Boys Nation Class of 1963 for ABC NEWS/Nightline and consulted on PBS’s A Prince Among Slaves, the story of a prince from West Africa who was enslaved in the 1780s, freed by order of President John Quincy Adams in the 1820s and returned to his homeland.
Welch teaches the History of Screenwriting and One-Hour Drama for the Stephens College MFA in Screenwriting. Writing/producing credits include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences,ABCNEWS: Nightline and Touched by an Angel. In 2016 she published the book Why The Monkees Matter: Teenagers, Television and American Pop; co-edited Women in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia; and placed “Transmitting Culture Transnationally Via the Characterization of Parents in Police Procedurals” in the New Review of Film and Television Studies. Essays appear in Torchwood Declassified: Investigating Mainstream Cult Television and Doctor Who and Race: An Anthology. Welch serves as Book Reviews editor for Journal of Screenwriting and on the Editorial Advisory Board for Written By magazine, the magazine of the Writers Guild.