Dr. Miranda Banks speaks at seminar on screenwriters

Ariel Themm, Staff Reporter

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Dr. Miranda Banks, an associate professor in the Department of Visual and Media Arts from Emerson College, presented a seminar based off her 2015 book “The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and Their Guild” to Oakland University on March 19 in O’Dowd Hall at 12:15 p.m.

Banks interviewed over 50 writers and explored their guild’s history, which dates back to 1941. She covered topics pertaining to the strikes the guilds hosted throughout the years over issues such as trouble with unions, the digital revolution and the rights that writers had on their work. Through detailed research and evidence, Banks spoke on the moments of crisis the industry and its people have faced.

“As a historian, I really started understanding how things changed,” Banks said during her presentation. “There were changes in technology, in the coming of new leaders and as the movement of the shuffling of the economy and the way people were being paid, this was one of the moments of crisis for the industry.”

Banks walked students through the complicated history of the Writers Guild, from their first contract signed in 1941 to modern day. She incorporated active participation from those gathered and gave real-life applications to help emphasize the relevance and importance behind the research she has conducted.

Banks presented multiple pictures in her presentation along with several quotes from famous writers, such as Michael Kanin, Mel Brooks, Edmund North and Norman Lear, to support the evidence she found of the changing history. She offered clear and simple explanations for OU staff and students on topics such as the hierarchy of power for writers, the discrimination against women and minorities throughout the years and the importance behind the historical Hollywood Blacklist, in which certain screenwriters were denied work due to accusations of alignment with communists.

Banks is part of the PI Academy program that provides mentors to 30 non-tenured and tenured track faculty on campus in order for them to grow professionally in their discipline area. Dr. She will begin mentoring with Dr. Courtney Brannon Donoghue from OU’s Cinema Studies department.

“This is a chance to share their research with Oakland University faculty and students,” said Leanne DeVreugd, the program assistant to Women In Engineering, Science, and Research (WISER). “PI Academy is a career development program focused on research and engagement. Over the course of the year, we host different events and workshops to inform others about what we have to offer.”

PI Academy was introduced to OU in September 2017. It is directed by David Stone, a Chief Research Officer at OU, and coordinated by Leanne DeVreugd.

“We want to make sure faculty know about the support and experts and external mentors offered through PI Academy that can offer grants and other ways to fund research and make sure that the everyone is learning as much as they can,” DeVreugd said.