33 Create Your Own Network…from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video]

Watch the entire presentation – Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast | Episode # 29 here

33 Create Your Own Network...from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video]

Transcript:

Rosanne: …which is also what I say to students both in internships and within classes. You’re not going to call Steven Spielberg and become his best friend to get a job but somewhere in your group of friends that you’re all connecting with right now one of you is going to go become Steven Spielberg and that you’re all then going to stay connected to each other and help each other move up.

Host: That’s yeah as far as networking goes, I think that’s probably one of the best pieces of advice you can give to someone. It’s like understand that everything — it’s you know, it’s the right thing to be nice to people and cultivate relationships but also it’s almost like you’re moving up with your generation. Like everyone rises up together…

Rosanne:… exactly and you will immediately kick off your you know the end of your boot anybody who you don’t want to be around.

Host: That’s also true.

Rosanne: Yeah because they’ll just get in your way and they’re not going to help you. As long as you’re the kind of person who wants to help other people and with their ideas with you know doing writer’s groups together, reading each other’s scripts out loud, going to Q and A’s in town and then you know talking about the thing you saw afterwards. Running into other people at those events and you know hey let’s all get together and have a meet up two weeks from now at such and such a pizza place or a coffee house or a bar whatever it is. Building those relationships because that’s you know you’re the next generation of assistants who are the next generation of writers or executives or whatever people choose to be.

It’s always fun to sit down with students and share stories about entering the television industry and how things work at all stages and I had that opportunity the other day.

Daniela Torres, a just-graduated (Congratulations!) student of the Columbia College Semester in LA program asked me to guest on a podcast she had recently begun hosting with another college student she met during her internship (good example of networking in action!).

We could have talked all morning (the benefit of a 3 hour class session) but we held it to about an hour and fifteen minutes or so. Hopefully, along the way I answered some questions you might have about how the business works. So often it amounts to working hard at being a better writer and gathering a group of other talented, hard-working people around you so you can all rise together.

Dr. Rosanne Welch is a television writer with credits that include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, ABCNEWS: Nightline and Touched by an Angel. She also teaches Television Writing and the Art of Film at San Jose State University.

Rosanne discusses what made shows like Beverly Hills 90210 compelling, what to do and not to do when attempting to pitch a show to broadcast or streaming, what most young writers neglect in their writing process, and much more!

The Courier Thirteen Podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Audible.

21 The 2018 Version…from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video]

21 The 2018 Version...from

Transcript:

So the idea lagged for a while and then all of a sudden the Lady Gaga version comes up, which I’m sure most of you have seen. Let’s see — similarities. She’s not a rock star so much as she’s a pop star and that’s because we have the dancers behind her and we’re sort of working in a different world. He more or less though is a rock idol because it’s cooler for boys to do rock than pop right? We giggle at Justin Bieber. We think rock stars are hot. So he maintains the rock business but here’s a change that Bradley Cooper — who’s one of the writers on the movie definitely made — his dude is not jealous of her. He is supportive and happy. His problem is that he’s an addict and he can’t break his addiction. It has nothing to do — he’s an addict before he meets her. Her popularity does nothing has no change to that. So I think that’s an important difference and we’re going to talk about why that difference happens. Same thing they’re going to write a song together –a beautiful song. Again that’s a very sexy thing for them to do. At the Grammy Awards, he’s going to embarrass her but not out of anger that she’s getting attention and I’ve got a little slide I’m gonna show you on that. We’re gonna use the “one more look at you” line, so Dorothy Parker is still hanging out not only in the plot but in these lines. This time her guy — and they call him Jackson Maine because Norman is boring and so is John by the time we get to 2019. What we do is — he doesn’t cheat on her. In the other ones the woman finds the guy cheating because he finds another young girl that you know will make him feel better because his wife is better than he is. He does not do that. Bradley Cooper did not want his character to do that. Like Kris Kristofferson, though, he will commit suicide essentially on screen. We’re gonna know what he’s doing and it’s not off — lose his body and nobody has to see him. She’s gonna see his body when they find him and in the more modern world, if you want to call it that, she is just Ally like Cher is Cher right and Beyonce is Beyonce. She is Ally. So at the end of the movie, she can’t change her name but she does in fact introduce herself as Ally Maine. So she establishes that last name repetition from the previous versions.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

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32 More On Pitching…from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video]

Watch the entire presentation – Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast | Episode # 29 here

32 More On Pitching...from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video]

Transcript:

Yeah. It doesn’t even — they don’t have to like your story. If they like you they can bring you and you know that’s the other thing that happens — if they like you but they don’t buy your story, your pitch, whether, it’s a tv show or a movie whatever it is but they have a book that they have bought their rights to and they want someone to come in with what is your idea and how this book will work. That’s when they’ll go oh I really like working with you. I really feel a connection to you. Go home and think about this and come back in a couple weeks and tell me how you would attack this and maybe you’ll get that gig. So that’s what you’re trying in a meeting if nothing else happens or you know I ended up doing that Picket Fences episode because I had temped on a show that Jeff Melvoin was an executive — that time he’s a supervising producer — and so we met for like two weeks and he read something of mine and he was impressed and we stayed in touch. It was four years before he got the job where he could hire me. One, two-week job gave me a story — a script — four years later. You gotta always think about the future of the relationships that you’re making.

It’s always fun to sit down with students and share stories about entering the television industry and how things work at all stages and I had that opportunity the other day.

Daniela Torres, a just-graduated (Congratulations!) student of the Columbia College Semester in LA program asked me to guest on a podcast she had recently begun hosting with another college student she met during her internship (good example of networking in action!).

We could have talked all morning (the benefit of a 3 hour class session) but we held it to about an hour and fifteen minutes or so. Hopefully, along the way I answered some questions you might have about how the business works. So often it amounts to working hard at being a better writer and gathering a group of other talented, hard-working people around you so you can all rise together.

Dr. Rosanne Welch is a television writer with credits that include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, ABCNEWS: Nightline and Touched by an Angel. She also teaches Television Writing and the Art of Film at San Jose State University.

Rosanne discusses what made shows like Beverly Hills 90210 compelling, what to do and not to do when attempting to pitch a show to broadcast or streaming, what most young writers neglect in their writing process, and much more!

The Courier Thirteen Podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Audible.

20 A 3rd Remake?…from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video]

20 A 3rd Remake?...from

Transcript:

Here’s something that fascinates me. I remember reading this in the trades and how cool it would have been when they thought about the third remake. This is obviously some 15 years ago now. It was a natural for Whitney Houston. You want a famous female singer. You want this story and she had just done The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner which had her be a famous singer right and she has as you know — falls in love with her bodyguard, in this case, etc etc — which also became a Broadway musical believe it or not and I’m gonna do a little tangent because I love to talk about writing. Why in the heck is Dolly Parton in my picture? She wrote a song called I Will Always Love You in the 50s when she quit her partnership with a male country singer. When they did the bodyguard, they needed a song that would be the song where Whitney Houston’s character kind of declared that she loved Kevin Costner. He’s a country music fan. He said to her you know I know this song that Dolly Parton wrote like 20 years ago. Could you reuse it and she liked it. Whitney Houston said yeah and they went to Dolly Parton because they have to get rights to it because she wrote the song and they were like you know Dolly once Whitney sings this, this will be in history Whitney Houston’s song and Dolly, being a very smart businesswoman, said yes but the writer gets all royalties for the song and I am perfectly happy for Whitney to own the performance. So it was a pretty brilliant move on her part and I’m sure that you’ve all heard that song as a Whitney Houston song. So that came out of The Bodyguard. They were thinking about getting Denzel to be the actor slash rockstar slash whatever they would need him to be in this version or they were thinking about Eddie Murphy. Sadly Whitney Houston died so this version was never able to be made and I think that’s a big loss because if we’re gonna remake a movie you know let’s do new and different things and she would have been brilliant. It would have been great. It didn’t happen.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web



31 More On My Worst Pitch Meeting from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video]

Watch the entire presentation – Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast | Episode # 29 here

31 More On My Worst Pitch Meeting from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video]

Transcript:

…and then finally there was a movie that had come out — it’s a while ago now — this is an old meeting — called Indecent Proposal and it was Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, and Robert Redford. The idea was that Robert Redford was a rich man who gave offered Woody Harrelson and his wife a million dollars for his wife to sleep with him for one night. So the couple would get a million dollars and she’d have sex with the guy one night and that was the question of the movie and my joke when that movie came out had always been well there’s no question. It’s a win-win. I get a million dollars and I have sex with Robert Redford. Where’s the loss in this right? The movie made no sense to me. She brought it up and she wasn’t stupid — she brought it up — I said what I always said about the movie which was that I said it needs to be like a million dollars and Danny Devito and now I have a question right? Even though I love Danny DeVito right? I don’t mean to be insulting to him. She then was happy to let me know she had been an associate producer on that movie. Her name doesn’t appear on the poster. It doesn’t there was no, yeah I could not have known that except my agent should have set me up by giving me some of her background and he didn’t. So that was like three strikes you’re out. Buh-bye like we’re not ever going to be friends. We’re not ever going to go have coffee later and you’re not going to buy anything from me. So I’ll leave, right? At least I should have known her movie background. Maybe an agent wasn’t going to be able to tell me where she grew up but yeah three strikes you’re out. That was not a good meeting. So you need to know you need to know you’re not going to sell that woman Thank You For Not Smoking right? That’s not a piece you’re going to bring into her office. So it is very important who you’re talking to.

It’s always fun to sit down with students and share stories about entering the television industry and how things work at all stages and I had that opportunity the other day.

Daniela Torres, a just-graduated (Congratulations!) student of the Columbia College Semester in LA program asked me to guest on a podcast she had recently begun hosting with another college student she met during her internship (good example of networking in action!).

We could have talked all morning (the benefit of a 3 hour class session) but we held it to about an hour and fifteen minutes or so. Hopefully, along the way I answered some questions you might have about how the business works. So often it amounts to working hard at being a better writer and gathering a group of other talented, hard-working people around you so you can all rise together.

Dr. Rosanne Welch is a television writer with credits that include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, ABCNEWS: Nightline and Touched by an Angel. She also teaches Television Writing and the Art of Film at San Jose State University.

Rosanne discusses what made shows like Beverly Hills 90210 compelling, what to do and not to do when attempting to pitch a show to broadcast or streaming, what most young writers neglect in their writing process, and much more!

The Courier Thirteen Podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Audible.

19 Up Close and Personal from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video]

19 Up Close and Personal rom

Transcript:

Just briefly I wanted to cover the fact that so 20 years later, Joan and John are going to write “Up Close and Personal.” It’s about an ambitious female news reporter, her seasoned older male news reporter, who’s at his peak but he’s Robert Redford so he’s not failing but he’s about to fail. He’s hit the best of his career. They fall in love. They fight. Spoiler — he dies not over trying to help her but like his world is over and it’s time for him to go and then she goes on with that. It’s the same freaking basis but I wouldn’t say that it’s a remake of A Star is Born right? There’s not enough in there that makes it the same.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web



Dr. Rosanne Welch Moderates “More Than Queens and Crowns: Writing Female-Focused Historical Fiction” – Friday, January 7, 2022 – Writers Guild Foundation

Whenever I plan one of the Writers Guild Foundation panels that I host during our MFA Workshop I look for things I’m interested in hearing more about.  As I’ve enjoyed a few historical pieces recently it made sense to do a panel of writers in that genre. 

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Previous panel at the Writer Guild

More Than Queens and Crowns: Writing Female-Focused Historical Fiction
Friday, January 7, 2022
4:00 PM  5:30 PM
Zoom webinar

The WGF and Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting team up for a virtual conversation on writing female-focused historical fiction TV series.

Whether the show takes place in 18th century England or the American suburbs of the 1960s, we ask TV writers and producers about their process for researching various eras, the creative decisions behind stories about real-life people and events, their experiences adapting from novels and literary works, and other lessons learned while writing in the genre.

  • Panelists:
    • Amberia Allen – Writer and Story Editor, The Wonder Years
    • Danielle Berrow – Writer and Executive Story Editor, Outlander
    • Robbie Macdonald – Writer and Executive Producer, Dickinson

Stay tuned for more panelist announcements!

Moderated by Dr. Rosanne Welch, Director of Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting.

Panel starts at 4:00pm Pacific time.

Space is limited so RSVP now. After signing up, you’ll receive information on how to access the Zoom panel.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at events@wgfoundation.org.

30 My Worst Pitch Meeting from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video]

Watch the entire presentation – Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast | Episode # 29 here

30 My Worst Pitch Meeting from Worry and Wonder | The Courier Thirteen Podcast [Video[

Transcript:

Host: You have if you have a show and you’re going on you’re going to pitch it, do you have that in mind always like okay I’m going to pitch to HBO. These are the people I’m pitching to. How do they react?

Rosanne: Yeah. What do I think they want. What part of this is going to be most interesting to them? Their own personal backgrounds. I mean you need to know as much of that as possible. Also so you don’t step into any landmines, right? I mean you know everyone has a joke about the worst pitch they ever did and the worst pitch I ever did was for a movie idea and I went in to meet with someone and…

Host: What — can you share what the movie idea was by chance?

Rosanne: Yu know what? I honestly can’t even remember anymore. You do so much for this. It’s really — I don’t — I don’t remember. I just remember I had this meeting and first you do a little chit-chatting right — a little chit-chat general stuff. Who are you? To see if you even like each other and maybe if this doesn’t sell they’ll want you to do something else with them. So you’re hoping to make a connection and in the middle of the chit-chatting, I don’t know why but the concept of cheerleading came up and I said something derogatory about cheerleaders because I certainly wasn’t one in high school and you know they’re easy to pick on except the woman I was meeting with had been a cheerleader.

Host: Yes.

Rosanne: So right away, you’re like oh I just insulted her. Okay, fine keep talking — keep — let’s find a thing we have in common right? At some point later, it came up — smoking came up — and it’s generally pretty good to say smoking is stupid. It kills people. Who the hell would waste their money on a pack of cigarettes. She grew up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky.

Host: Oh my god. No. No.

Rosanne: I didn’t know that. I didn’t have the ability to get that kind of information back in the day right? I was like, oh my god, what am I going to say now?

It’s always fun to sit down with students and share stories about entering the television industry and how things work at all stages and I had that opportunity the other day.

Daniela Torres, a just-graduated (Congratulations!) student of the Columbia College Semester in LA program asked me to guest on a podcast she had recently begun hosting with another college student she met during her internship (good example of networking in action!).

We could have talked all morning (the benefit of a 3 hour class session) but we held it to about an hour and fifteen minutes or so. Hopefully, along the way I answered some questions you might have about how the business works. So often it amounts to working hard at being a better writer and gathering a group of other talented, hard-working people around you so you can all rise together.

Dr. Rosanne Welch is a television writer with credits that include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, ABCNEWS: Nightline and Touched by an Angel. She also teaches Television Writing and the Art of Film at San Jose State University.

Rosanne discusses what made shows like Beverly Hills 90210 compelling, what to do and not to do when attempting to pitch a show to broadcast or streaming, what most young writers neglect in their writing process, and much more!

The Courier Thirteen Podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Audible.

18 What’s Different?…from “Female Creatives & A Star Is Born” [Video

18 What's Different?...from

Transcript:

So what’s different in this one? In a nutshell right? We’re going to go back to — she’s ambitious but she’s a rock star. He’s a rock idol. We’re still he’s jealous. It’s hard not to be jealous. We’re going to add the component that they write a song together. That is one of the sexiest things you can watch human beings do. Come up with love words that you put to music and sing to each other and then kiss in the middle of singing. It’s friggin gorgeous. It’s a sex scene without everybody getting naked right and this is what we can do in 1976. It stimulates sex. We’re not going to the Academy Awards. We’re going to the Grammy Awards because that’s what we do in rock and roll. We’re still going to keep the line — so Dorothy Parker is still giving us …”one more look at you.” This is a huge deal. This time it was decided that it was — I don’t like the word cowardly — but it was weak to walk off into the ocean. It was far cooler and more dude-like, more testosterone-driven, to for him to get into this brilliantly beautiful expensive car and crash up and it’s just a deeply sad scene, and then, of course, she gets called and she comes to the site and she’s actually touching the dead body, right? She’s like don’t want to leave him and her manager has to pull her off of him and all that stuff. So we’ve changed a few things but we’ve not changed the trajectory of the story and again that’s what an arbitrator would look at right? An arbitrator would say, no the plot points are still. There the decoration is what has changed. So pretty big deal.

Watch this entire presentation

Connections at conferences matter! Through the most recent SCMS, I met Vicki Callahan, whose film history focus right now is on Mabel Normand. When she learned I could put together a lecture on the importance of the female voice in the A Star is Born franchise she asked me to give that lecture to her master students.

It made for a great opportunity for me to hone the ideas I’m working on for a chapter on that franchise that I’m writing for a new book from Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Handbook Of International Screenplay Theory. It’s always nice when one piece of research can be purposed in other ways – and it’s always fun revisiting such a female-centric film franchise – one that drew the talents of such powerful performers as Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Lady Gaga.

Find out why in this lecture!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web



Dr. Rosanne Welch Interviewed by the Journal of American Popular Culture – Fall 2021

What a lovely Christmas gift.

I was more than honored a couple of months ago when Leslie Kreiner Wilson (Associate Professor of Creative Writing & Film at Pepperdine University) asked to interview me for the special segment of the Journal of American Popular Culture called “Conversations with Scholars of American Popular Culture.

It was published this week in the Fall 2021 issue. 

Leslie and I found we share such similar interests in the ways women and their work is recorded in history that we could have stayed on the phone for hours – as it is we traversed topics ranging from how we both teach Anita Loos and other female screenwriters of Early Hollywood; how I found feminist messages in The Monkees thanks to the writing of Treva Silverman; how working on encyclopedias allowed me to curate which women were remembered; how Wally Funk, who learned to fly in the aviation program as a student at Stephens College became one of the Mercury 13 and finally made it into space on a SpaceX flight last year. 

It all boiled down to the fact that we both have dedicated our careers to writing about powerful women.  It’s nice to find kindred spirits in academia (all nods to author Lucy Maude Montgomery for teaching me the phrase ‘kindred spirits” when I read Anne of Green Gables – another story about an empowered young woman that deserves more attention).

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Americana double eagle 1900

Dr. Rosanne Welch Interviewed by the Journal of American Popular Culture - Fall 2021Dr. Rosanne Welch Interviewed by the Journal of American Popular Culture - Fall 2021

Featured Guest:
Rosanne Welch

Rosanne Welch is the Executive Director of the MFA in TV and Screenwriting Program at Stephens College where she teaches the History of Screenwriting as well as Writing the One-Hour Drama. She has written for such television shows as Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, Touched by an Angel, ABC/Nightline – as well as publishing novels.

Her critical studies books include Why the Monkees Matter: Teenagers, Television, and American Pop Culture (McFarland, 2016) and The Civil War on Film (with Peg A. Lamphier, ABC-CLIO, 2020). In addition to publishing many chapters and journal articles, she has written or edited several essay collections and encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space (ABC-CLIO, 1998); Women in American History (with Peg A. Lamphier, ABC-CLIO, 2017); When Women Wrote Hollywood (McFarland, 2018); and Technical Innovation in American History (with Peg A. Lamphier, ABC-CLIO, 2019).

Dr. Welch sits on the Editorial Board for the Writers Guild Written By magazine and the California History Journal. She also serves as the Book Reviews editor for the Journal of Screenwriting where last year she co-edited (with Rose Ferrell) a Special Issue on Women in Screenwriting (11.3). Dr. Welch holds a Ph.D. in twentieth century American history with a focus on film from Claremont Graduate University.

We talked to her about her teaching, research, and writing, which consistently empowers women.


When you were writing Touched by an Angel, were you conscious of writing a strong female-centered show? Was that discussed in the writers’ room?

Oh yes, I always felt the show was really Cagney & Lacey without guns. I’m Sicilian-American, so I’m loud and assertive. People thought I would write for Roma Downey’s sweet, quiet character, but soon realized my personality was better suited for Della Reese. I wrote her dialogue.

The series was about two women trying to change people’s lives for the better. When they resisted the change, God was mentioned, and then they changed. We were empowering women to empower others.

What attracted you to directing the MFA program at Stephens College and teaching the History of Screenwriting?

The history of film is usually taught as the history of directors, which is the history of great white men. Why don’t we equally teach women and men’s contribution to the industry? I want students to know how important women were and are to the movies and television. Stephens is a woman’s college, but the graduate program is co-ed, so we get a lot of cool feminist guys who want to know the full truth, too.

I want them to know about Anita Loos and Gentleman Prefer Blondes – haven’t we heard enough about F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby? I teach the fact that Nora Ephron got an Oscar nomination [with Alice Arlen] for a serious drama they never heard of – Silkwood. They only know her for her funny stuff. When I teach Rocky, I want them to learn about Norma Rae, written by a woman – Harriet Frank Jr. and her husband, Irving Ravetch. How can they not know about Norma Rae? How can they not know all the unrecognized contributions of women in this industry?

I liked how Fosse/Verdon showed how important Gwen was to his career. Most of my students never even heard of Gwen Verdon. I made them watch the show. You know, her daughter was a producer. I think that’s why it was so good. She was saying, “Now mom gets her due.”

I teach the women in the beginning of film, then I do the men, Trumbo, all that, then I return to the women screenwriters emerging in the late seventies and early eighties. But they need to know Lucille Kallen and Selma Diamond, the only women in Sid Caesar’s famous writers’ room for Your Show of Shows in the 1950s. And writers like Suzanne De Passe – she co-wrote Lady Sings the Blues in the 1970s and was nominated for an Oscar, but is rarely included in most film history courses.

Your first book was Why the Monkees Matter. It might surprise readers to know you have a chapter on feminism, gender, and sexuality in relation to the show.

The Monkees was my favorite show when I was a kid. I went back and re-watched all the episodes as a pop culture-cultural studies professor and realized there were a lot of feminist messages that I hadn’t caught when I was little.

I focus on Treva Silverman who was a prominent television writer in the sixties and seventies with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, The Monkees, He & She, and Room 222. She won two Emmys in 1974. Most people don’t know there was a woman in the writers’ room. A woman in the room makes a huge difference.

For example, every single girl who dated one of the main characters on the show had a job. Not one was a bubble head or waiting to get married, so someone else could take care of her. They had jobs – in record stores, television studios, reporting the news. That was an interesting message to send in 1966. Every time we met a girl, she was defined by her job first.

In the first episode that aired, Princess Bettina of Harmonica turns down the cute boy because she has “responsibilities for the welfare of [her] people.” They even flip the trope in the episode of the girl getting kidnapped and the boys having to save her. Here, The Monkees get kidnapped, and Princess Bettina has to save them. When they meet the Julie Newmar character in another episode, she’s working on a Ph.D., and they learn “the fastest way to a woman’s heart is through her mind.”

At the end of the book, I make the point that if you were to girl in 1966, you learned that if you wanted to date a Monkee you should be a woman of value. That was an interesting feminist thought – that you should think about your purpose in the world and be led by it.

You have published several encyclopedias. What is it about that form that excites you?

Choice. I get to choose who is included. When ABC-CLIO put me on Technical Innovation in American History, there were no women. They also didn’t included innovations that have made women’s lives easier such as dishwashers and vacuum cleaners. Having a say in who or what is included makes a difference in how we teach and understand history. We, as women writers, have the ability to be our own gatekeepers.

For Women in American History, I was able to include people like Cyndi Lauper who others might dismiss as a silly pop star, but she was the first woman in history to win a Tony for writing the lyrics and music without a male partner. Her Broadway musical Kinky Boots got thirteen nominations. I like having a say in who’s going to be remembered and why.

You collected essays written by your students for When Women Write the Movies and the publisher asked you to write a chapter as well. You did. Tell us why you chose to focus on Ruth Gordon.

A lot of people attribute the feminism of the Spencer-Tracey films to Katherine Hepburn, but I contend that Ruth Gordon deserves the credit. She co-wrote those films with her husband Garson Kanin who was a cool guy, and they were Oscar-nominated for Pat and Mike and Adam’s Rib.

George Cukor gets the credit for the film because he directed it. However, Ruth’s voice comes through in the feminist message of Hepburn’s character. Gordon essentially invented the popular culture image as a feminist that Hepburn enjoyed – more from the power of the characters Ruth wrote than the events of Hepburn’s actual life.

Gordon is more famous as an actress – she won an Oscar for Rosemary’s Baby and starred in Harold and Maude, which has become a cult classic – but she was an accomplished writer and hard worker – working and writing plays and films all the way until her death.

In 2020, you published The Civil War on Film with Peg A. Lamphier. What was the most interesting thing you learned in writing and researching the book?

Right up front, we asked the publishers to make sure there was a female in the photo chosen for the front cover, and they listened. Sally Field as Mrs. Lincoln appears on the cover along with Daniel Day Lewis. Yes! Usually, Civil War studies only feature the men – and usually men in uniform glorying war which was not the message of our book at all.

You know, Glory is the film that historians and scholars point to as the best, most accurate Civil War movie ever made, so I was surprised that they didn’t include the fact that Harriet Tubman was a spy at that point and could have been included in that story – a young woman running around doing things – not the old lady in the rocker – the one image we have of her.

Written by boys. Produced by boys. Reminds us why it’s important to have a woman in the room. I’m writing a chapter right now about the women who created A Star Is Born. When Dorothy Parker wrote it – and Joan Didion remade it for Barbara Streisand – I could see the female gaze, but the last version by Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, and Eric Roth focused on the man’s point of view. It didn’t work creatively. Frankly, it became more like A Star Is Dying.

What’s the most interesting story from your first encyclopedia Women and Aviation in Space?

The Powder Puff Derbies are interesting – women flying in races all across the country from Cleveland to Los Angeles. You know, they said Amelia Earhart was not the best flyer – others were better than she was, but she had a publicist for a husband.

Women were tested as Mercury 13 astronauts, and they did very well – better than the men in some cases – but the program was quickly cancelled.

But the most interesting story is the WASPS. Over a thousand women were flying in World War II – the Women Airforce Service Pilots – civilian volunteers flying all the military planes. They delivered the new ones to bases, worked as test pilots, hoped to join the military, but that program was cancelled after two years.

It would be many years before women got their due. One of the original Mercury pilots Wally Funk just went up in the Blue Origin launch at the age of 82. She said she can’t wait to go up again. Happily enough, she learned aviation as a student at Stephens College in the run up to World War II.

I have so much respect for these women because they love one thing so much they don’t want to do anything else. It’s passion. I feel that as a writer. I must write. It’s my passion.

What’s next? What are you writing now?

I’m editing the ABC-CLIO Women Making History Series, a set of biographies with primary documents (so we can let these women speak for themselves). We’re working on Ida B. Wells, Sally Ride, Delores Huerta, and Wilma Mankiller now. We’ve recently published books on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Helen Keller.

I’m also writing a chapter for Palgrave – “Women Screenwriters in Early Silent Film” and one for Bloomsbury on A Star is Born. The next book I’m finishing is similar to the Civil War one – this one on Women’s History on Film – a collection of films about moments in women’s history.

And in a completely other vein, though still connected to celebrating empowered women, I just published a chapter in Doctor Who New Dawn: Essays on the Jodie Whittaker Era which details the work of screenwriter/showrunner Christopher Chibnall in creating the first female incarnation of this fifty year old sci-fi icon.

So you enjoy writing about powerful women.

Clearly, women who make things happen fascinate me. In fact, last year I published a novel about Giuseppe Garibaldi, the man who united Italy in 1860, and in the research I discovered his Brazillian-born wife, Anita, joined his band of soldiers and fought side by side for that dream. I enjoyed bringing her story to the forefront of his oft-told (at least in Italy) tale.

Interestingly enough, Anita Garibaldi brought me back to American History when she crossed paths with journalist and Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller, who was the first correspondent sent to Italy to cover the fight for unification. The two women worked together as nurses for fallen soldiers. Imagine what they talked about as they created their cross-cultural friendship.

So even when writing about an international couple, I found my way back to an icon of American popular culture.

Fall 2021
Leslie Kreiner Wilson, Interviewer and Editor