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 attended my first Broadcast Educators Association (BEA) conference last weekend on the invite of Dr. Ed Fink, my former department chair, and greatly enjoyed hosting a pitchathon for graduation bachelor students interested in creating their own television shows.
My co-panelists included two fun colleagues who have become good friends – Jon Vandergriff (Stephens College) and David Morgassen (CSUF). We gave feedback on 9 different pitches and followed it up with a Q&A about the world of being a professional writer. The audience was so interested and engaged that after our session ended, we all grabbed a table together and kept talking until we closed the venue down for the night.
Meeting potential MFA candidates is one reason to attend events like this one – but mostly it’s to make new friends in the academic world and strengthen the friendships you’ve already created; to learn how they approach the teaching of screenwriting or media history and bring those ideas back to my own classrooms.
On this trip, I met professors from Illinois and Michigan and reconnected with folks I’ve worked with at CSUF and elsewhere. Having lunch and hashing over which films or television shows to teach and how to best help students learn to analyze these in order to improve their writing is the heart of such a conference. Meeting the students and hearing their ideas is the icing on the cake.
During every Residency Workshop the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting Executive Director, Dr. Rosanne Welch, joins with the Writers Guild Foundation to moderate a panel on a topic of interest to female writers. This year we planned one on Writing Diverse Families – but in the last day before our panel 2 panelists had to drop out due to… family duties. So we pivoted, realizing the panelists who were able to appear all had shows that involved 3 generational families lead by matriarchs.
Hence the title: It’s All Relative: Writing Matriarchs.
This gave us a chance to explore how these female TV writers have expanded depictions of the relationships between grandmothers, mothers and daughter over the years and how they’ve developed storylines that reflect the complexity and universality of these inescapable bonds. Panelists include Sheryl J. Anderson – Creator and Executive Producer, Sweet Magnolias; Lang Fisher – Co-creator and Executive Producer, Never Have I Ever; and Valerie Woods – Co-executive Producer, Queen Sugar. Everyone shared memories of their own family matriarchs and the inspiration they continue to provide each woman’s writing.
Due to Covid we recorded this panel live at the Jim Henson Studios where we host our Workshop in front of the live audience of MFA candidates.
Dr. Rosanne Welch gave the welcoming remarks at this year’s commencement ceremonies for the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting for the Class of 2021, reminding everyone of the program’s motto: Write. Reach. Represent.
I had a lot of fun on my first Twitter Chat last Sunday. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman of #Scriptchat had invited to talk about how to behave in a writers room alongside what are the benefits of an MFA in TV and Screenwriting (such as the one we offer from Stephens College).
Happily, I had just interviewed Gloria Calderon Kellet who had an MFA and who had said so astutely that no one requires that in Hollywood but taking 2 years to invest in herself and her craft meant she had material that was truly of high enough quality to offer up when future producers offered to read her work. So that was nice!
As to Twitter, I knew being short and concise is the bread and butter of Twitter but… wow… I’m clearly a much longer storyteller and kept running over the limit and having to use ellipses to extend a sentence or a thought. But folks seemed to enjoy it and even said I had ‘dropped pearls’ so that was nice to hear as well.
Check out #Scriptchat every Sunday night at 5pmPST/8pmET for more fun guests.
In this clip from a recent Starcatcher podcast film professor (and MFA alum) and host – Chase Thompson – interviews Tech Theatre professor (and MFA alum) Michael Blake about their time as MFA candidates in our Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting program.
They both mention the great feedback they received from their writing mentors, which made me thankful for the dedication of the many marvelous mentors in our program. Then the part that made me smile the most… They each reflected on how important it was in the History of Screenwriting courses to learn about all the female screenwriters who founded Hollywood and how often those women were left out of mainstream histories of the era.
It’s a very powerful example of how history takes time — and deep research — or someone(s) will be left out.
Join me for a conversation with Stephens College’s Director of Production, Michael Burke. A former graduate of the Stephens Theatre program, Michael talks about his path to production, his background, why Theatre majors are so good at saying thank you, and his predictions on where the road Theater is heading after the pandemic is over.
Explore the low-residency MFA in TV + Screenwriting with Executive Director Dr. Rosanne Welch. Our mission is to increase the impact of women and other under-represented voices in television and film. Our faculty and mentors include some of the best working writers in Hollywood, and our curriculum includes an in-depth look at the business side of TV and screenwriting.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Alex Miller, the Senior Director of Admissions at Stephens College the other day to talk about our MFA in TV and Screenwriting.
Alex had collected some of the basic questions asked by applicants so we answered them over this short 10 minute video.
If you’d like to know what sort of activities fill the days during our 10 day residency intensive or wonder about the composition of our cohorts, or what type of classes we offer that are unique to our program — here’s the place to find out. — Rosanne