Geek Speaks: The Women Who Make Television

On April 3, the eve of Transforming Hollywood 5: The Future of Entertainment, an exciting event will take place across town at USC, home of TH5 co-director Henry Jenkins. Geek Speaks: The Women Who Make Television pays tribute to American Public Television’s 1973 series The Men Who Made the Movies by showcasing a range of highly creative women who are now working in the American television industry as creators, executive producers, head writers, and showrunners.

A look back on a year plus of developments which have transformed television as a medium, this conference stresses the need to push beyond its focus on masculine creativity by representing the role of women through a broad range of different forms of television programing, including sitcoms, dramas, and fantasy/science fiction programs, that have worked for both broadcast and cable networks.

The evening will consist of two sessions. The first, “Creative Process,” from 4-5:30, explores the panelists’ paths into the industry, their relationships to their mentors and creative partners, and the changing contexts in which television is produced, distributed, and viewed. Panelists include Kim Moses (Ghost Whisperer, Profiler), Alexa Junge (United States of Tara, The West Wing, Friends), Nell Scovell (Warehouse 13, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) Felicia Henderson (Fringe, Gossip Girl, Sister Sister), and Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Kyle XY). The panel will be moderated by Erin Reilly, Creative Director for Annenberg Innovation Lab and Research Director for Project New Media Literacies at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

The second, “Creative Products,” from 6-7:30, deals with the content of their programs, their relationship to their genres, issues of representation, and their perceptions of the audiences for their work. Panelists include Winnie Holzman (Huge, My So Called Life), Robin Schiff (Are You There Chelsea, Huge), Jenny Bicks (The Big C, Sex and the City), and Meg DeLoatch (Brothers, Eve, Family Matters). “Creative Products” will be moderated by Francesca Marie Smith, a doctoral student at USC where she focuses primarily on rhetorical representations of (dis)ability in mass media, situating her work at the intersection of rhetorical theory and criticism, cultural and fan studies, and media criticism.

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.

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