Screenwriter Laura West Perelman: From New York to LA and Back – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, June 2022

Screenwriter Laura West Perelman: From New York to LA and Back – Dr. Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, June 2022

 

This month in my monthly column for Script Magazine – which “celebrates the female screenwriters who came before us” — I turn the spotlight on playwright turned screenwriter Laura West Perelman. She wrote 6 films, many adapted from plays she had co-written with her husband, humorist S. J. Perelman. I learned more about her when I researched them both for my dissertation “Married: With Screenplay” which studied several married screenwriting couples from the early days of Hollywood.

What I learned that happened often with married couples is that many of the female screenwriters were lost to history as newspapers referred more often to their husbands as the authors of the works. Unless the woman was equal or more famous than her writing partner husband (such as was the case with Dorothy Parker, Ruth Gordon, and Frances Goodrich Hackett) the contribution of the wifely part of the partnership was ignored, even by later oral historians. So it’s nice to have a place to bring their names back into the conversation about their screenplays.

Screenwriter Laura West Perelman: From New York to LA and Back


Read about more women from early Hollywood

 

20 The Costume from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

20 The Costume from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

 

Transcript:

So of course we have to talk about the costume a little bit. Of course, he decided on that hello. I know there was a lot of chit-chat about what is that? That’s not a great outfit. Here I am wearing it. I did like the one she was introduced in but all black is not good for lighting guys. It’s not exciting to look at on-screen for too long but see this is where I think he was smart. I’ve never noticed earlier doctors changing as much and I think whether he took cosplaying into consideration or whether he just wanted to make sure she had more things to do I really appreciate it because I’ve seen the welding cosplay at a couple of cons. I love the tuxedo and that she’s wearing the pants. I mean come on she’s not gonna wear a dress. She can’t run around and do important things and like save the world in a dress. So I think that they did some really interesting stuff and I like the way that he homages different people. Again Peter’s in here and you know Tom is in here. Every time you got to think about how’s this person going to look? What are they going to wear on a regular basis? So you know I think he did the best he could right there. Could I have designed something else? I don’t know.

 

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19 More On Diverse Characters…from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

19 More On Diverse Characters…from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

Transcript:

We even had a female Jadoon right? That’s like okay I forget – I mean they’re ugly elephant rhino characters right but there are females in there somewhere. No one ever mentioned that before. So he’s really thinking about it all the way and I’ve never forgot how cool it was – I had never heard of Noor Inayat Khan, right? I had never heard the story and now I know right? I know that there were women who were doing radio operations and all this stuff in World War II. I wouldn’t have known that except he decided to include her as an example of a female hero. So I think he’s really going wide to give us these stories and that impresses me.

 

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18 Diverse Characters…from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

bbc,chibnall,doctorwho,history,screenwriting,television,thedoctor,tv,video,Whittaker,whoniverse,women

 

Transcript:

Again he promised that all the stories would be more gendered in terms of more female-focused and so think about the people we met along the way all right. Obviously, they decided to do the Rosa story which I find interesting from an American perspective because here’s a large piece of American history we’re going to see how it is envisioned by another country right? I loved when they asked Ryan what do you know about her –– like she was a bus driver. Why should he –– like he doesn’t have to know that. We know that because we teach it to our kids more often in the same way that if we asked about certain kings I’m not sure which one did what/ Who signed the Magna Carta again? I don’t know. Do we teach that in the states as much as they you know… So it was a lovely moment to go the whole world isn’t America focused right? There’s a bigger world out there but again a great choice to do her as a character.

 

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17 Diverse Writers…from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

17 Diverse Writers…from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

Transcript:

This comes from the writer’s room and they do those a little bit differently in the UK as well. They don’t necessarily have everyone on staff meeting every day the way we do in the states but he hired a group of people to write certain freelance episodes expecting to get this variety of stories that we had not yet seen before and so he was looking to hire more women of course and more people of color which was not you know a record that Doctor Who had going well for it even moving into the Steven Moffat years. So he made a commitment and he followed through. What’s interesting about a lot of these writers is they came out of theater where there’s a little bit more chance sometimes because you can do smaller plays in smaller locations around the country and then someone can sample your writing. It’s hard to break into television even in the UK. It’s even a smaller business than here. So he was looking into other places to find new writers for these shows and I think again I think he succeeded there.

 

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New Book Coming This November – “American Women’s History on Film” by Rosanne Welch and Peg A. Lamphier

I’m proud to announce my latest book (co-written by my colleague Peg Lamphier) is set for publication this November 2022 by ABC-Clio/Bloomsbury. In it we take a look at 10 films that tell stories about famous moments or women from Women’s History in the United States.

New Book Coming This November – 

Films covered in each chapter are:

  1. Norma Rae (1979)
  2. Silkwood (1983)
  3. Joy Luck Club (1993)
  4. GI Jane (1997)
  5. Iron-Jawed Angels (2004)
  6. Salt of the Earth (1954)
  7. Monster (2003)
  8. Hidden Figures (2016)
  9. Confirmation (2016)
  10. On the Basis of Sex (2018)

We’re particularly pleased with this cover. We learned from our Encyclopedia of Science and Technology that you have to ask for what you want upfront. For that one, the art department had chosen photos of 2 male inventors and the space shuttle to decorate the cover. We asked that it be 2 male inventors and one female inventor for balance. No one had thought about including a female until we asked. So for our Civil War on Film book, we asked for that upfront and sure enough, though the bulk of Civil War films are full of dudes in uniforms they found a photo of Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln sitting beside Mr. Lincoln.

For Women’s History in the United States, we asked to be sure to include women of color and you’ll see we succeeded at that request.

Similarly, a couple of years ago in my work as book reviews editor for the Journal of Screenwriting I asked to use a photo of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala on the cover since one major article was about her amazing career writing everything from Room with a View to Howard’s End to Jefferson in Paris. The editor agreed but then production hit a snag in that the only photo available in our price range was too small to blow up to fill the whole cover. But then someone in production had the great idea to use that small photo several times, strung along on a graphic that made it look like a strip of film with that same picture in every frame. Creative and brilliant and salvaged the idea of having a female face on the cover while simultaneously celebrating the work of a wonderful female writer.

I’m learning!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web

From ABC-Clio…

By exploring a range of films about American women, this book offers readers an opportunity to engage in both history and film in a new way, embracing representation, diversity, and historical context.

Throughout film history, stories of women achieving in American history appear few and far between compared to the many epic tales of male achievement. This book focuses largely on films written by women and about women who tackled the humanist issues of their day and mostly won.

Films about women are important for all viewers of all genders because they remind us that the American Experience is not just male and white. This book examines 10 films, featuring diverse depictions of women and women’s history, and encourages readers to discern how and where these films deviate from historical accuracy. Covering films from the 1950s all the way to the 2010s, this text is invaluable for students and general readers who wish to interrogate the way women’s history appears on the big screen.

Features

  • Focuses on 10 films with an emphasis on racial and class diversity
  • Explores where storytelling and historical accuracy diverge and clarifies the historical record around the events of the films
  • Organized chronologically, emphasizing the progression of women’s history as portrayed on film
  • Accessible for general readers as well as students

 

16 Guest Characters…from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

16 Guest Characters…from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

Transcript:

…Then he had to think about the guest actors – the people who would come and go in different episodes and I think again look at what he gave us in terms of powerful female characters right? I love Yaz’s Nan, right? I adore that episode. We’ll talk about that in a couple minutes. Yes, I know Grace? Now and we’re going to talk about that tomorrow because that’s a little bit of how Torchwood changed television in a smart way because he’s using the same trick he used on Susie right? We all thought she was a regular and then she wasn’t and that’s how else you get the modern world who reads everything out of Deadline and Variety and all online – how do you get them and you gotta have that gut-punch moment but he did a good job of keeping the character alive both in the dialogue right and then Graham saw her a few times and Ryan was always talking about her. So that’s pretty cool and then of course the two women in Witchfinders are strong powerful women on different sides of the debate of what was going on in terms of witches. So all these again strong females that he’s bringing forward.

 

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15 Strong, But Not Stronger… from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

15 Strong, But Not Stronger… from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

Transcript:

These issues of finding men who can be strong but not stronger than have happened in television before. I’m a huge Buffy fan all right. I get to – I could do many a lecture on Buffy and think about it right? We had both David Boreanaz and James Marsters. Of course, Marsters will appear in Torchwood for us again later. They had to be strong but she always was the one who solved the problem. It was her skill but did it. Whether it was the strength of her emotion that she could avoid how much she loved Angel in order to have to kill him – spoiler alert if you’re not a Buffy fan – but that’s a really tricky thing and also of course even Xander, they dealt with a character who could be strong again emotionally but he was never physically stronger than Buffy, right? You could say the same obviously for the current day Wonder Woman, right? How do you balance that out and that was Alan Heinberg, who’s a wonderful writer. Came out of the Shondaland universe and then ended up doing Wonder Woman. He’s now doing Sandman in the UK with Neil Gaiman. So again the Doctor Who connection and that’s coming out later this year and of course, this goes back to the 70s and the Bionic Woman who was surrounded by men who had to be intelligent and helpful but not better than her. So this is something Chibnall had to have in mind as he put this together.

 

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14 Even More On The Companions from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

 

14 Even More On The Companions from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

Transcript:

…and of course, Graham is overcoming cancer, so likewise could be is a stronger man but he’s actually stronger emotionally which I think is really, again, an interesting role model for us. So this was a lot of thinking. As we know, with any of the showrunners every time they invent a companion they have to really think through what am I providing the show and I think that Chibnall did a good job with that.

 

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13 More On The Companions from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

13 More On The Companions from The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years [Video] [Doctor Who]

Transcript:

What she had to do – what she – what Chibnall had to do is we’ve fallen into a pattern where all the companions fall in love with The Doctor and that was cool with Amy. That was like okay. Romantic storyline and I frankly love the fact that Martha had the guts to say dude you’re never gonna feel the way I feel and I’m not wasting my time. That to me was like the most grown-up thing I had seen a woman do. So very cool. That’s when I – yes. She really like then you’re like oh she’s like one of my favorite companions. So all right so we’re falling into that right? So how do you avoid that with the first female Doctor? Well pretty smart. We’re going to give you a young man who’s at least 15 years younger than the – of course, The Doctors years and years old – but the visual person so if you think about it Tosin is about 15 years younger than her and Graham is about 15 years older. So our brains aren’t going to immediately go hey are they going to fall in love. So he avoided that but he also had to think about the male characters. They can’t be stronger than her because that would ruin her ability to be the most important character. So we’ve got a very young man. Ryan should be as strong or stronger than as Jody Whitaker appears in life. So they gave him dyspraxia, right? They gave him a bit of a handicap that puts him a little bit behind right? So I had to think about that. It’s not a bad one. It’s not one that you know gets in the way too much but it keeps him from jumping in and saving the day, which you have to think about.

 

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