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Stories have always transmitted culture. If we go far back to the cave paintings of many ancient cultures, to Gilgamesh, to the griots of Africa, we have always used stories to move forward our culture, right, and movies are just the most current version of doing that.
So why do we forget who the storytellers are? That doesn’t make any sense to me, right, and I think there are some reasons that we can fix both in our own casual discussions of films and in the teaching that people might do about what is important, right? One of the first things I discovered in my research is this issue of unreliable narrators. Often we find when people are interviewed to discuss films they chose not to credit anyone who will take away their own fame.So this is one of the most egregious quotes. Alfred Hitchcock, who everyone seems to recognize — you say that you’re watching a Hitchcock film — but he did not write any of his films. He had many other writers who worked for him. This photograph is a woman named Eve Unsell and she’s from the early 1920s in Hollywood. At one point, she was sent to England to work in the studio there and she trained this young man who knew nothing about how films were made and when he wrote about her in his biography, he didn’t mention her name so you could research her. He only said “a middle-aged American woman.” He wrote her out of history as nothing but a middle-aged woman and yet she taught him everything he knows. So, in fact, his movies are Eve Unsell movies but we don’t think that way.
A Note About This Presentation
A clip from my keynote speech at the 10th Screenwriters´(hi)Stories Seminar for the interdisciplinary Graduation Program in “Education, Art, and History of Culture”, in Mackenzie Presbyterian University, at São Paulo, SP, Brazil, focused on the topic “Why Researching Screenwriters (has Always) Mattered.” I was especially pleased with the passion these young scholars have toward screenwriting and it’s importance in transmitting culture across the man-made borders of our world.
To understand the world we have to understand its stories and to understand the world’s stories we must understand the world’s storytellers. A century ago and longer those people would have been the novelists of any particular country but since the invention of film, the storytellers who reach the most people with their ideas and their lessons have been the screenwriters. My teaching philosophy is that: Words matter, Writers matter, and Women writers matte, r so women writers are my focus because they have been the far less researched and yet they are over half the population. We cannot tell the stories of the people until we know what stories the mothers have passed down to their children. Those are the stories that last. Now is the time to research screenwriters of all cultures and the stories they tell because people are finally recognizing the work of writers and appreciating how their favorite stories took shape on the page long before they were cast, or filmed, or edited. But also because streaming services make the stories of many cultures now available to a much wider world than ever before.
Many thanks to Glaucia Davino for the invitation.
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