On Thursday, February 15, 2018, Aymar Jean Christian, Assistant Professor in the School of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, and Hollywood television writer and screenwriter LaToya Morgan inaugurated the Screen Arts & Cultures Critical Conversations series, speaking to a full house in the Ehrlicher Room in North Quad.
The series began with Christian and Morgan offering brief overviews of their respective career trajectories and current projects. Dr. Christian described his research on indie media's lack of visibility and how it inspired the creation of his Open TV project, a platform for independent television creators and artists in the Chicago area. He noted the importance of developing television from the ground up and offered some success stories, including the critical attention received by Brown Girls as it moves to HBO.
LaToya Morgan then walked the audience through the phases of her career, noting how her practice of prolific, disciplined writing eventually landed her a seat in the writer's rooms of a number of acclaimed shows, including Parenthood, Shameless, TURN, Into the Badlands, and two groundbreaking projects - an Angela Davis biopic and an upcoming adaptation about the Black Lives Matter movement for AMC. She urged students to focus on writing every day, to persistently apply to fellowships, and to build a deep portfolio of spec scripts and written drafts to always have on hand.
SAC Chair Yeidy Rivero then opened up the floor to questions, and the audience asked Morgan and Christian to speak on whether or not media representation is improving, how to create discipline around creativity, and what college students can do to re-center marginal voices in mainstream media. Morgan described how being a meticulous historian and gaining experience in the writer's room has allowed her more opportunities to build complex representations and more control over visibility, while Christian emphasized the importance of distributing resources to artists around you, rather than waiting from them to "prove" themselves according to Hollywood's rules. Together, these two talented writers and practitioners reminded the standing room only crowd that investment in your personal craft and the talented artists and storytellers that surround you will undoubtedly shift the media landscape in exciting and long overdue ways.
Photo credit for all Critical Conversations photos,
Mary Lou Chlipala
This event was co-sponsored by the Departments of American Culture, Communication Studies, Women's Studies, and Afroamerican and African Studies.