Suso Cecchi d’Amico is known as coming up with the “Ladder” or “The Little Staircase.” This idea of outlining a film so that it would have steps and you would see the story progress. Seems obvious to us today but coming from a time when people just grab cameras and ran around and did whatever they could take film of, the idea of planning became very important and so again she’s taking Jeanne’s idea. She’s moving it forward. As we know of her, she’s key behind several very important Italian neorealism films starting with “The Bicycle Thief” and we’re going to see how these images match up with some movies in another period which I’ll get to in a second.
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At the recent Screenwriting Research Network conference in Vienna, I gave this talk titled “From Jeanne to Suso to Julie to Spike: How Jeanne Macpherson’s Manual on Screenwriting Influenced Italian Realism which Influenced Black Independent Film in the U.S.”
In the talk, I trace the ways a manual about screenwriting by silent film writer Jeanne Macpherson influenced Suso Cecchi d’Amici who began to utilize Macpherson’s ideas and became the queen of Italian neorealism screenwriting in Europe. Then those Italian neo-realist screenwriters in turn inspired the Los Angeles School of Black Independent Film Makers (the L.A. School). In turn, such as Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, Haile Gerima, and Julie Dash and their ideas fueled Spike Lee. Finally, when he became the first Black man to head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival (where Suso had once served) his choice of films influenced yet another generation of screenwriters.