For the first time this year, the Citizen Jane Film Festival at Stephens College will present the Frances Award for screenwriting achievements during the 10th annual festival, which will be held Oct 26-29, 2017.
The award will go to Linda Woolverton, an American screenwriter, playwright and novelist best known for her screenplays and books of several acclaimed Disney films and stage musicals. Her screenplays, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Maleficent,” are known for their strong female characters. She is also a regular visiting lecturer for Stephens’ Master of Fine Arts in Television and Screenwriting.
“Linda is the most accomplished female screenwriter still making strides in Hollywood,” said Barbie Banks, director of the annual celebration of female filmmakers. “We don’t always see screenwriters being honored in the animation field, or even recognized for being an integral part of what makes an animated film great. That changed with Linda Woolverton. She made the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ equally as important as the animation.”
Woolverton will be recognized at the festival but cannot be present to accept the award.
The Frances Award will be presented each year at Citizen Jane to a female or gender non-conforming screenwriter of high stature, who has advanced the creative writing of film through the years and who has made outstanding contributions to the profession of screenwriting. This year’s recipient was selected by the leadership of Citizen Jane along with professors from Stephens’ digital filmmaking and M.F.A. in Television and Screenwriting programs.
The award is named after Frances Marion, an American journalist, author, film director and screenwriter often cited as the most renowned female screenwriter of the 20th century.
In 1991, Woolverton wrote the screenplay of “Beauty and the Beast,” becoming the first woman to write an animated feature for Disney. The movie was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards. She also wrote the screenplay of “Alice in Wonderland,” a box office smash that made Woolverton the first and only female screenwriter with a sole writing credit on a billion-dollar film.
“While that is great for Disney, it also paved the way for women writers,” Banks said. “Executives who think in terms of dollars finally see that women can bring in the big bucks.”
Reflecting on her female characters, Woolverton has said: “I came up as a feminist, in my day. And when I was first approached to do ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ I knew that you couldn’t do a throwback Disney victim/heroine. We weren’t going to buy it as women after a whole awakening in the ’70s. No one is going to accept that. So that started me on a path at relooking at these Disney princesses in a sort of different way. I feel that you have to have an empowering message or you’re not going to be relevant. If you don’t stay relevant to how people are and how women are approaching life now, it’s not going to feel true.”
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