24 Studios and “Work For Hire” from Why Researching Screenwriters (has Always) Mattered [Video] (1 minute 10 seconds)

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So why didn’t everyone do that? A couple of reasons. These guys are famous studio heads back in the day, Jack Warner, Louis B. Mayer, and Carl Lemley. Carl Lemley was of Universal Studios. They, when they created the studio system, went to the United States government and they said that writing a movie was more like working in a factory — that a bunch of people came together in an assembly line and assembled a piece and therefore one person didn’t need credit for everything and that was important to them because it meant that the author legally of any movie is not even the director nor the writer it’s the studio that made the film. So Paramount Studios is the author of every Paramount film. Writers give away their ownership forever. If you write a movie and it has a character in it that they want to make a sequel to they don’t have to hire you to write the sequel. They own that character and they gave it away this early in the history of the business because they didn’t take the business seriously. They thought it would disappear so quickly and then a hundred years later we’re still talking about it. So right away this was an issue.

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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