Rosanne is speaking at the 2021 SCMS Conference on Thursday, March 18, 2021. If you are attending the conference virtually, please tune into this collection of excellent presentations on the “unreliable narrator” and more.
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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.
Always good to see everybody here. We’re all like on different time schedules so I’m still — I think it’s three in the morning in Los Angeles but that’s okay. Yes, we’re going to talk about this concept of chaos in writers’ rooms, which are really run in chaos, at least the ones in the United States. Just a quick background on who I am. I was in the business for several years. I wrote Picket Fences, Beverly Hills 90210 — which is a show that won’t die because they just did a live show or is just a little crazy and Touched By An Angel for a long time. So this is where I came from in television. This is what I’ve done in academia and writing. My favorite new book is a collection of essays written by many of my students about female screenwriters from the early days and giving us their backgrounds so I’m all about finding more women that we can write about and talk about in our classes. I think that’s important. I’m also the book review editor of the Journal of Screenwriting so if you have any books you’d like to review please let me know. I’d love to get you a free copy and get your review in the journal and also I’m on the editorial board for the Written By Magazine, which is the magazine of the Writers Guild of America. You can access that for free digitally online if you go to writtenby.com or go to wga.org and they’ll have a link to it, but every month we do interviews with either a film person or a television person or whole writer’s room from a show and I think it’s a great way to bring guest stars into a classroom from all over the world. Again, they’re obviously Americans although I interviewed Russell Davies several years ago so we do have some other folks come on into the magazine but it’s pretty cool.
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!
I am happy to have been invited to kick off a slate of talks for ScriptDC, the premier conference for Mid-Atlantic filmmakers including writers, directors, producers, editors, and talent to connect with accomplished teachers, consultants and industry professionals. My presentation — “Write. Reach. Represent: How Having a Female and an(Other) ‘New’ Voice in the Writer’s Room has Always Been Paramount (even at Universal)” will introduce attendees to the names of the many, many women who gave birth to the Hollywood movie industry but who have largely been left out of the history books. Their input mattered to bringing more realistic female characters to the screen. Come learn about them so the world of women won’t be left behind any longer. — Rosanne
Whenever modern day studio executives wonder if women can handle ‘big budget pictures’ we need to educate them on the many, many female screenwriters, directors and producers who gave birth to the film industry from the turn of the twentieth century through today. This talk will introduce listeners to several prominent female screenwriters from Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) to Dorothy Parker (A Star is Born) to Frances Goodrich (The Diary of Anne Frank) to Harriet Frank, Jr. (Norma Rae) to Joan Didion (A Star is Born). In all of their personal writing about writing screenplays, they mention the importance of (often) being the lone woman in the room during pitches and during the development of a screenplay. Goodrich was quoted as saying, “I’m always the only woman working on the picture and I hold the fate of the women [characters] in my hand… I’ll fight for what the gal will or will not do, and I can be completely unfeminine about it.” Joan Didion told the story of how her writing partner/husband John Gregory Dunne would often feign illness so she would attend script meetings alone after they noticed male executives ignoring her at earlier meetings. Come learn about them and many, many other powerful women of earlier Hollywood so you can school the next executive who dares to wonder if women can ‘hack it’ in the movies.
Highlighting the articles in the past editions of the Journal of Screenwriting, of which I am the Book Reviews Editor. Hopefully these abstracts will entice you to did a little deeper into the history and future of screenwriting. — Rosanne
This article examines the development of television scripts in the crime drama genre within the context of US commercial broadcasting in the network era. In 1968, public discourse around race relations, civil rights and violence reached a height following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert F. Kennedy, and the release of a government study on urban uprisings by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Ironside (1967–75, NBC) and N.Y.P.D. (1967–69, ABC) are two crime dramas that drew on recent events related to black militants and white supremacy in order to appeal to viewers with socially relevant entertainment during this time. The archival records of screenwriters Sy Salkowitz and Lonne Elder make it possible to trace the development of one episode from each series over the course of multiple drafts. This analysis of the script development process explores the relationship between public discourse, industrial context, commercial agendas and creative priorities. Ironside and N.Y.P.D. are both crime dramas, but an examination of both series yields points of divergence which help to illustrate the norms of the network system in terms of act structure, genre tropes, and the oversight of standards and practices.
The Journal of Screenwriting is an international double-blind peer-reviewed journal that is published three times a year. The journal highlights current academic and professional thinking about the screenplay and intends to promote, stimulate and bring together current research and contemporary debates around the screenplay whilst encouraging groundbreaking research in an international arena. The journal is discursive, critical, rigorous and engages with issues in a dynamic and developing field, linking academic theory to screenwriting practice.
Many, many thanks to Glaucia Davino for inviting me to Mackenzie Presbyterian Institute in Sao Paolo to speak to her conference, but especially for arranging for me to meet many of her dedicated doctoral students, including Livia, who gave me a wonderful walking tour of the campus before my talk yesterday. There is a deep and genuine interest in analyzing screenwriting among these students and of building the film and television industry here. In the years to come I believe the energy these students bring to their research will achieve that dream.
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