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).
I promised to clean my desk before a full semester of online learning began… and I did. See? There’s room for my cat Spotted Leaf (named after a character in the Erin Hunter series of books about cats who live in the woods – Warriors). Spot (as we call her for short) enjoys hearing me talk to students about everything from films to fiction. Maybe in one of her past 9 lives she was a humanities professor, too!
Carol Barbee, creator and showrunner of Netflix’s Raising Dion came to speak to the combined 1st and 2nd year students during January’s workshop. She outlined how she pitched her take on the original IP, how she hired her writers room, and how the create stories for the first year series – which has been given a pickup for season two so watch for it!
Screenwriter Thomas Dean Donnelly (Conan the Barbarian, Jax of Heart) lectured on How to Increase your Writing Productivity at the January workshop for the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting.
Here’s a great photo of my current (and nearly graduated) Columbia College Writers Round Table class together with the marvelous actors who joined us for the last 3 weeks. The did table reads of all 9 student scripts. The actors are: Erron Jay (on the right in the back row), Khanisha Foster (2nd row #6 from the left/standing next to me), Juan Villa (last one on the right in the 2nd row) and Christina Nieves (in the middle in the front row). Kudos to Khanisha for gathering them all for us because they went above and beyond the call of duty by giving great notes for the (inevitable with all writing) rewrites to come. All in all, a fun and productive 3-week collaboration!
I had such a fun catch up lunch with 2017 Stephens MFA alums and Val yesterday at, of all places, IKEA because alum Amy Banks was in town to attend an all day workshop at the Disney Studios for writers with First Nation backgrounds (in their continued work to provide diversity on their channel).
Amy set it up with me and fellow mentor, Val Woods. Then alums Julie Berkobien and Lauren Smith were also free to drop by. I loved hearing about the various work they were all doing and how their MFAs both helped them get hired and, more importantly, helped them excel in their new positions! It also served as an accidental reunion of several writers of our When Women Wrote Hollywood book of essays, which we will be launching to the Columbia, Missouri community in just a few weeks, during the Citizen Jane Film Festival!