In this presentation given at the 2023 San Diego WhoCon I talked about what really happened at Pompeii on volcano day; the agricultural knowledge of the Aztecs; when Robin Hood began appearing in literature, and the bravery of Noor Inayat Khan and Rosa Parks.
While it was a pleasure to host the Screenwriting Research Network’s 2023 conference last week. I love reconnecting with all the folks we see annually in such wonderful places in the world (from Leeds to London to Dunedin to Milan). But the other great thing about this event was the chance to share the Stephens College campus in Columbia, Missouri with everyone. This article in the Columbia Tribune covered the conference’s opening night reception and interviewed some of our international guests so it gives you a lovely feel of who was there and why we gather annually:
Screenwriters and screenwriting academics are gathering at Stephens College through Saturday for the Screenwriting Research Network Conference with the theme Gender and the Female Gaze.
A reception for conference participants was Wednesday night in the penthouse of the college library.
Participants are from at least 15 countries, said Roseanne Welch, executive director the Stephens’ Master of Fine Arts in TV and Screenwriting. Stephens College is a private women’s college in Columbia.
The female gaze refers to seeing life through women’s eyes, Welch said.
“We’re seeing that happen in all kinds of recent films, not just ‘Barbie'” Welch said.
Women’s stories were more complicated in the films of the 1930s and 1940s, she said.
“There were these complete stories with women anti-heroes,” Welch said.
If you love seeing dinosaurs come to life on screen and you think they first appeared on screen in Jurassic Park, think again. In 1926 renowned screenwriter-director Marion Fairfax adapted Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World to the screen complete with the most advanced special effects of the time. It was an amazing feat for a filmmaker born in Richmond, Virginia, just ten years after the Civil War (October 24, 1875). While screenwriter Marion Fairfax lived into her 9th decade, seeing the administration of a second President Johnson, she only worked in Hollywood from the eras of Woodrow Wilson through Calvin Coolidge (1915-1926) despite being a powerhouse writer-director of her day.
September 20-23 event will highlight female influence on film, television industries
Some of the biggest behind-the-scenes stars of television and motion pictures — the screenwriters — will converge on the Stephens College campus in Columbia from September 20-23 for the 15th Annual Screenwriting Research Network Conference.
Focused on the theme “Gender and the Female Gaze,” the three-day conference will bring an international collection of film professors and practitioners from Finland, France, New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and other countries to Columbia. Attendees will get the chance to learn from experienced screenwriters, attend exhibitions, and network with other screenwriters.
Keynote speakers include Columbia native Phil Lazebnik, who has written screenplays for films including Pocahontas and Mulan, and Meg LeFauve, who was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for the Pixar blockbuster Inside Out. Along with the keynote speech, LaFauve will appear for a Q&A after a public screening of Inside Out at Ragtag Theatre on Saturday, September 23.
A military veteran, Herrera also runs the Stephens College Mission Promise Kept program. Together we spoke about the many military women whose stories have yet to be told on the big (or small) screen including the Mercury 13. Herrera was kind enough to let me talk about the Screenwriting Research Network conference we were holding on the Stephens campus that week and, of course, about the many military women who have dome through our Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting and how telling our stories helps us heal – whether we turn them into scripts or not it’s the act of talking and being heard that heals.
Host Elizabeth Herrera has served in the United States Air Force, non-profits, and managing crisis care centers for women. On her show She Served Too, she discusses current issues from her unique perspective.
I was quite honored when Script Magazine editor Sadie Dean asked me to write a monthly column giving short biographies of female screenwriters across the decades – those who came before us as I like to say – so imagine how shocked I was to find out this is my 30th one to date. Meet Bella Cohen Spewack, born in Romania, a journalist who grew up to write movies that satirized her new career as a screenwriter.
1899 saw the birth of two future American screenwriters: Bella Cohen in Romania and her future husband and co-writer, Sam Spewack in Ukraine. They each experienced the childhood of an immigrant brought to New York City and each worked as a newspaper reporter in their early careers, Bella for The Call and Sam for New York World. Eventually, they moved to Hollywood to adapt their own play to the screen and much of their later work involved adapting Broadway plays into films.
I’m pleased to have been invited as a guest panelist for a Kopenhaver Center Conversation as I share in their goal to “empower both women and non-binary professionals and academics in all the fields of communication, in order to develop visionaries and leaders who can make a difference in their communities.”
Along with my friend and colleague Rashaan Dozier-Escalante we discussed “Writing as Activism: Creating for Inclusion
On Friday, May 5th I had the honor of delivering the commencement speech at the 2023 Stephens College Commencement Ceremony for Graduate & Continuing Studies as part of having received the Distinguished Faculty Award for the year. The full commencement ceremonies for the 2023 Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting include speeches by MFA student commencement speaker Natalie Cash Petersson and Stephens College President Dianne Lynch.
Together we covered the gamut from “How Watching 1970s TV Gave me the Female Role Models to Succeed in Life” through “How to Channel your Knowledge into Action” and “How to be a Lifelong Learner – After a Well-Deserved Break”.
You can listen to the short ceremony here (the audio is a series of slides but the audio is smooth).
Since that other, of course, shows have exploded more. We were talking with some folks the other day about these guys but you start with “Inspector Morse” which again was on PBS in the 70s and then that became the spin-off of “Lewis”. So “Lewis” who is the original assistant now becomes the head guy and there’s a “Doctor Who” connection because the guy who played Hathaway was married to Billy Piper and then, of course, they blended that into doing the prequel the “Endeavor” show which is really Morse as a young man right because his real name was Endeavor but he never liked that as a name so they used it for the new show but now that’s something that Americans know a lot about. I have friends who’d never heard of Morse but they all watch “Endeavor” and so then they’re like oh let’s go backwards and see what this guy you know what happens to him later in life.
In this presentation given at the 2022 San Diego WhoCon I had the chance to trace the many ways Doctor Who changed the TV universe. By focusing on the interesting and innovative things the many writers did with the show across the years we were able to see the Who footprint by becoming the first narrative program to reach 50 years on the air, the first to create a spin-off across the ocean, and a show alongside Star Trek that created the Con-craze that brought the world of cosplay to the mainstream. Perhaps most importantly, a love of Doctor Who lead more Americans to watch programming from other countries – from Korean dramas to Mexican telenovelas – which has so enriched our culture.
One panel involved giving feedback on student pitches for TV shows or films and the other was more of a Q&A about careers in screenwriting. On both I was joined by other friends and colleagues from the writing world and the world of academia – David Morgasen (CSUF) and Jon Vandergriff (who teaches at a couple of colleges and happily one of them is the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting).
The stories we heard in the pitches were lively and several were quite unique, as were the questions about how to gain – and then maintain – a career in writing.
Afterward, the panels ended we three stood in the hallway so long continuing to answer questions such that we invited a few of the stragglers to dinner with us. Since we landed at Benihana we were joined by a father and son from Trinidad and Tobago who were in town for the father’s 30th NAB conference. During our conversation when they heard us mention Ted Lasso they had to ask how a country that doesn’t understand soccer/futbol watches a show set in that world. The film students with us were able to explain that from their generation forward, many, many young American children play on soccer teams – largely because they are co-ed in the younger years whereas baseball and softball segregate the sexes. Amazing the way a conversation ebbs and flows over flame-grilled shrimp and steak.