A recording of my presentation at this year’s University Film and Video Association (UFVA) 2017 conference.
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.
Books Mentioned In This Presentation
- Without Lying Down
- Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker
- The Real Nick and Nora
- Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter
- The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and Their Guild
- Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
- “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age
- Women Screenwriters: An International Guide
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About Dr. Rosanne Welch
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.