A few weeks back, I announced the upcoming Transforming Hollywood 5: The Futures of Television conference to be held at UCLA on April 4. Today I want to announce a pre-conference event, “Geek Speaks: The Women Who Create Television,” which will be held at USC, SCI 106, on April 3, 4-7:30 p.m. You can register for this conference here. This event is being hosted as part of the ongoing “Geek Speaks” series, which I help to organize in my role as the Chief Advisor to the Annenberg Innovation Lab, and in this case, the event is being co-sponsored by the USC School ofCinematic Arts, which is graciously allowing us to use their facilities.
In 1973, American Public Television aired The Men Who Make the Movies, which showcased authorship in the Hollywood studio era through indepth interviews between Richard Schickel and such directors as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, John Ford, and Alfred Hitchcock. The event’s title pays tribute to this transformative series, but also stresses the needs to push beyond its focus on masculine creativity. As we look back on a year plus of developments which have transformed television as a medium, This conference seeks to showcase a range of highly creative women who are now working the American television industry as creators, executive producers, head writers, and showrunners, women who now exert some degree of creative control over what we watch on television. These women represent a broad range of different forms of television programing, including sitcoms, dramas, and fantasy/science fiction programs, and have worked for both Broadcast and cable networks. Women still face an uphill struggle to gain entry into the television industry, yet these women have shattered through the glass ceiling and can now stand as role-models for the next generation of women and men who want to change what kinds of stories television tells and what kinds of audiences it addresses.
Across these two sessions, we will be talking with these women about their careers, their creative visions, and the medium through which they work, along the way seeking to provide insights into the current state and future potentials of American television.
The first session, Creative Process, (4-5:30 p.m.) explores their paths into the industry, their relationships to their mentors and creative partners, and the changing contexts in which television is produced, distributed, and viewed.
The second session, Creative Products, (6-7:30 p.m.), deals with the content of their programs, their relationship to their genres, issues of representation, and their perceptions of the audiences for their work.
We are still announcing participants and will provide a fuller schedule here closer to the event, but below you can find bios for the speakers who have already agreed to participate. Participation is always tentative pending always unpredictable production schedules. Likewise, some speakers may be added as we get closer to the event.
4:00 Welcome — Henry Jenkins
4:15 Panel 1 Creative Process (Moderator: Erin Reilly)
Stacy L. Smith
5:45-6 p.m. Break
Panel 2: Creative Products (Moderator: Francesca Smith)
Jenny Bicks started her career in advertising in New York City and went on to write radio comedy before she began writing for film and television. Her television series credits include Seinfeld, Dawson’s Creek and HBO’s Sex and The City. She wrote on Sex and The City for all six seasons, rising to the rank of executive producer. Her work on the series earned her many awards, including an Emmy® Award, multiple Golden Globes and Producers Guild Awards and three WGA nominations. After Sex and The City, Bicks created and executive produced Men In Trees, starring Anne Heche, which ran for two seasons on ABC. She recently wrapped Executive Producing and Showrunning Showtime’s critically acclaimed The Big C, starring Laura Linney. The show, which ran for four seasons, earned her a Golden Globe and humanitas nomination and a Golden Globe and Emmy win for Linney. She is currently developing television with 20th Century Fox and recently sold Hard, a dark comedy about the porn industry, to HBO. In the feature world, her body of credits include What a Girl Wants, and many uncredited rewrites. Her short film, Gnome, which she wrote and directed, had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and went on to win awards at multiple festivals. She recently completed writing a feature film musical for Fox based on the life of PT Barnum, with Hugh Jackman set to star. A born and bred New Yorker, Bicks divides her time between New York, Maine and Los Angeles.
Meg DeLoatch has written and produced a variety of hit shows during her career. Highlights include working with Bette Midler, Jennie Garth and Ice Cube. Her credits range from family friendly shows like Family Matters and One on One to adult comedies Bette and Brothers. She also created and executive produced UPN’s romantic comedy, EVE, starring Grammy Award-winning Hip Hop artist Eve. Refusing to be boxed into just the comedic arena, Meg recently wrote and produced on VH-1’s hit drama, Single Ladies, and is completing a middle grade fantasy novel about a boy who fights demons. Currently a Co-Executive Producer on Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally, Meg has just created her most personal project to date – her three month old son, Maxx.
Felicia Henderson graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a BA in Psycho-Biology. Henderson spent five years in business, and later attended the University of Georgia for an MBA in corporate finance. U After working as a creative associate at NBC, Henderson realized she wanted to become a writer, and soon became an apprentice on the sitcom Family Matters and on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air two years later. She co-produced Moesha and Sister, Sister, and developed Soul Food for television, which became the longest running drama in television history to star a black cast, and earned several NAACP Image awards. She and three other black women in the entertainment industry created the Four Sisters Scholarship in Screenwriting, Henderson worked as a co-executive producer for the teen drama series Gossip Girl and a co-executive producer on the first season of the science fiction television series Fringe, before leaving to begin as a writer on the DC television series Teen Titans and Static Shock.
Winnie Holzman is the writer (with acclaimed songwriter Stephen Schwartz) of the hit musical Wicked. For television she created My So-Called Life which starred Claire Danes. Winnie got her start performing and writing in a comedy group, and writing syndicated comedy sketches for Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. Her big break came when she was invited by Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick to join the writing staff of their groundbreaking TV series thirtysomething. Her work on that show earned her a WGA nomination and a Humanitas award. She went on to collaborate with Herskovitz and Zwick again, first on My So-Called Life, and later on Once and Again. More recently she created the short lived but much loved ABC Family series Huge with her daughter, Savannah Dooley. Her less well known musicals (with composer David Evans) include Birds of Paradise, Back to Back, and Maggie and The Pirate. She has written one unproduced feature film and one produced one: ‘Til There Was You. Also an actress, she played Larry’s wife’s therapist on Curb Your Enthusiasm and the chocolate-obsessed divorced woman in Jerry Maguire. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Paul Dooley. Their ten minute play Post-its: Notes on a Marriage is performed frequently across the country. They recently wrote and starred in their first full length play, Assisted Living. She is currently working on a new play. Winnie is a graduate of Princeton University, the Circle in the Square acting school, the NYU Musical Theatre program, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
Alexa Junge is a television writer, producer and screenwriter. She is best known for her work on the series Friends. Four-time Emmy and WGA Award nominee, Junge grew up in Los Angeles, attended Barnard College and continued her education at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Junge wrote for Friends from 1994-1999. Nominated for two Emmy Awards and two Writers Guild of America Awards, Junge also won the National AOL Poll for writing the “All Time Favorite Friends Episode” for “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.” Junge went on to write for Once and Again, Sex and the City, West Wing (where she was nominated for two Emmys and two WGA Awards) as well as Big Love and the BBC comedy Clone. Junge also wrote lyrics for Disney’s Mulan 2, screenplay and lyrics for Disney’s Lilo and Stitch 2. A frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s This American Life, Junge performed live for their 2008 “What I Learned From Television” tour. She served as Executive Producer and Showrunner for the first season of Showtime’s series The United States of Tara and worked on Tilda for HBO. Junge is currently the Executive Producer and Showrunner for NBC’s Best Friends Forever.
Kim Moses has developed and served as an executive producer on over 600 hours of primetime television programming. She is currently serving as executive producer of two upcoming series, Reckless, a new CBS Network drama developed and produced by Sander/Moses Productions in association with CBS Studios; and Runner a FOX Network drama developed and produced by Sander/Moses Productions in association with FOX Studios. Recently, she served as the executive producer and occasional director of Ghost Whisperer, which ran for five years on CBS. She also co-authored the book Ghost Whisperer: Spirit Guide and created and wrote the award-winning Ghost Whisperer: The Other Side web series. As founder of SLAM Digital Media, Moses pioneered the Total Engagement Experience (TEE), which is a business and creative model for television that uses each show as a component of a broader multi- platform entertainment experience. Using Internet, mobile, publishing, music, DVDs, video games, AOP (Audience Outreach Program) and more, TEE establishes an infinity loop that helps to drive ratings, increase revenue streams, and create viewer loyalty. Moses has been named to the Newsweek’s Women and Leadership Advisory Committee and was honored with the WOMEN IN FILM’s Woman of The Year Award in 2011.
Julie Plec skillfully juggles work in film and television as both a producer and a writer. She is the co-creator and executive producer of The Vampire Diaries and is currently the Executive Producer of two new series for the CW: she created The Vampire Diaries spin-off, The Originals, which tells the story of history’s first vampire family, and she collaborated with Greg Berlanti and Phil Klemmer on The Tomorrow People, which is the story of a small group of people gifted with extraordinary paranormal abilities, making them the next evolutionary leap of mankind.Plec got her start as a television writer on the ABC Family series Kyle XY, which she also produced for its three-year run. She will produce the feature @emma with Darko Entertainment. Past feature production credits include Scream 2 and 3 Greg Berlanti’s Broken Hearts Club, Wes Craven’s Cursed and The Breed.
Robin Schiff has been working as a Hollywood writer-producer for more than twenty years. She has numerous credits (feel free to imdb her), but is best known for the cult classic Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion starring Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino. She is currently writing a pilot for Amazon called Down Dog, which she will produce. Robin was a member of famed The Groundlings comedy troupe. She has served two terms on the Board Of Directors for the Writers Guild Of America west. She also does an interview series once a year for the Writers Guild Foundation called Anatomy Of A Script where she and Winnie Holzman (writer of the musical Wicked) discuss the craft with other well-known writers. Robin also teaches a writing class with Wendy Goldman (who she met at The Groundlings) called Improv For Writing. In her free time, Robin likes to watch TV and nap.
Stacy L. Smith (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1999) joined the USC Annenberg faculty in the fall of 2003. Her research focuses on 1) content patterns pertaining to gender and race on screen in film and TV; 2) employment patterns behind-the-camera in entertainment; 3) barriers and opportunities facing women on screen and behind-the-camera in studio and independent films; and 4) children’s responses to mass media portrayals (television, film, video games) of violence, gender and hypersexuality. Smith has written more than 75 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media. Smith’s research has been written about in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Slate.com, Salon.com, The Boston Globe, and USA Today to name a few. She also has a co-edited essay in Maria Shriver’s book, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (2009). Since 2005, Dr. Smith has been working with a team of undergraduate and graduate students to assess portrayals of males and females in popular media. Over two-dozen projects have been completed, assessing gender in films (e.g., 500+ top-grossing movies from 1990 to 2009, 180 Academy Award® Best Picture nominations from 1977 to 2010), TV shows (e.g., 1,034 children’s programs, two weeks of prime time shows), video games (e.g., 60 best selling), and point-of-purchase advertising (e.g., jacket covers of DVDs, video games). Currently, Smith is the director of a research-driven initiative at USC Annenberg on Media, Diversity, and Social Change. The initiative produces cutting-edge, timely, and theory-driven empirical research on different entertainment-based minority groups. Roughly 20-30 undergraduate and graduate students are conducting research on gender and race in her lab each year. Educators, advocates, and activists can access and use the research to create sustainable industry change on screen and behind-the-camera.
Erin Reilly is Creative Director for Annenberg Innovation Lab and Research Director for Project New Media Literacies at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Her research focus is children, youth and media and the interdisciplinary, creative learning experiences that occur through social and cultural participation with emergent technologies.Having received multiple awards, such as Cable in a Classroom’s Leaders in Learning, Erin is a recognized expert in the development of resources for educators and students and conducts field research to collect data and help shape the field of digital media and learning. She is most notably known for co-creating one of the first social media citizen science programs, Zoey’s Room. Her current projects include PLAY!, a new approach to professional development that refers to the value of play as a guiding principle in the educational process to foster participatory learning and The Mother Road, a chance to explore collective storytelling through the development of the Evocative Places eBook series.
Francesca Marie Smith has been a part of the Hollywood entertainment industry for nearly 25 years, beginning her career as a young actor involved with film and television projects for Nickelodeon, Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, and a variety of other studios and networks. Currently, she is a Provost’s Fellow pursuing her PhD at the University of Southern California, where she is also a research associate with the Annenberg Innovation Lab, situating her work at the intersection of academia, technology, and media industries. Her research (as well as her teaching and public speaking) has spanned a range of topics–from argumentation, ethics, mental health, and public shootings to 1980s computer advertisements, Sherlock Holmes, and Batman’s Joker. Currently, however, she focuses primarily on issues of transmedia storytelling, rhetoric, and (dis)ability. As one of the early Google Glass Explorers, she is avidly interested in the role of second- and multi-screen technologies, especially as they might be used in entertainment contexts. More broadly, she is working to trace the contours of the oft-ambiguous concept of “engagement” and how it might be facilitated and/or measured across a spectrum of audiences, narratives, and technologies.