Being asked, “How to succeed as a female writer in TV & film” makes me hum a few bars from almost any song from the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Not because you don’t need to try – and try hard – to succeed as a female (or any gendered) writer in TV & film – but because several of the clichés in the songs still ring true.
You have to “Alertly Seize Your Opportunities”, learn the “Company Way”, insist to any still-cave-dwelling males who may come your way that a writer’s assistant “is not a toy” (nor is she – or he – meant to fetch your dry cleaning or work overtime for no pay while the producer reaps all the benefits of sending a well-formatted script to the network executives for approval). You should adjust to workdays being “Long Days” and learn “How to Handle a Disaster” (like actors throwing scripts in the trash or writers throwing things across the room). You should be comfortable with the idea that there still is a bit of a “Brotherhood of Man” atmosphere in writers rooms which are still 80/20 male/female. (Having grown up with brothers or a good set of guy friends – or having played high school sports helps.) But most of all you have to remember to “Believe in You” because no one else – not your agent, not your manager, not your producer, and sometimes not your family – will always be in your corner.
If you survived that paragraph and still want to be in the business, good. Such a reality check is necessary because dreams don’t come cheap – but they do come if you keep at your writing and keep making connections along the way. That said, writers take many paths to their careers. I’ve known ski instructors who passed spec scripts off to the wives of producers who eventually hired them. I’ve known limo drivers to producers who gained their trust traveling the 405 for a year and I’ve known writers who passed spec movie scripts to the boyfriends of former college roommates who happened to be directors. (I’m still waiting for the story of the female writer who gets to pass her script off to the former female college roommate who happens to be a director so we can skip this middle-girlfriend step.)
“ The phrase ‘counter-culture’ encompasses more than just an anti-war activism. In the 1960s, and therefore on The Monkees, counter-culture included anti-authority attitudes, anti-capitalist views, less conservative clothing styles, and even the introduction of Eastern philosophies into mainstream America. “
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is a gorgeous movie and a gorgeous novel and a nice little slim novel. People should read it over the weekend, really, it’s brilliant. Of course, written by Truman Capote who was, at that time, an out-of-the-closet, homosexual and that was just a shocking thing. Nobody quite understood what that meant and nobody was sure they liked it, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Most people remember this as a brilliant performance by Audrey Hepburn, which it was. It became the film with her. Notice she’s the thing we focus on in this thing. Really, it not just her story though. This is the story of this young woman — unexplainably in the city making money because she’s friendly with a lot of rich men, but we’re not really going to discuss what that friendship entails. Right? So, we don’t say what she does for a living. She just always has rich men hanging around her. So we’ll just kind of slide that under the rug.
About this talk
Dr. Rosanne Welch (RTVF) speaks on the craft of history of film adaptations from the controversy of the silent film Birth of a Nation (protested by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1915) to Breakfast at Tiffany’s (to which author Truman Capote famously said, “The only thing left from the book is the title”) to The Godfather . Naturally, the behemoth in adaptation – Harry Potter (which depended on the relationship created by adapter Steve Kloves and author J.K. Rowling) will be discussed, as will the subject of this month’s celebration: Dune.
Date: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm
About Dr. Rosanne Welch
Dr. Rosanne Welch is a professor in the Low Residency MFA in Screenwriting Program from Stephens College, California State University, Fullerton, Mount San Antonio Community College and Cal Poly Pomona. In 2007, she graduated with her Ph.D. in 20th Century U.S./Film History from Claremont Graduate University. She graduated with her M.A. in 20th Century United States History from California State University, Northridge in 2004.
Welch is also a television writer/producer with credits for Beverly Hills 90210 , CBS’s Emmy winning Picket Fences and Touched By An Angel . She also writes and hosts her own podcasts on 3rdPass.media, her first one titled “Mindful(I) Media with Dr. Rosanne Welch.”
Dr. Rosanne Welch will be hosting this WGA panel discussion sponsored by Stephens College MFA in Television and Screenwriting, where she teaches The History of Screenwriting and Writing the One-Hour Drama.