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Florence Faculty: Writing in Florence

Writing in Florence

Ian Ellis James aka William Electric Black, Developing the Dramatic Script for Film or Theatre

Ian Ellis James (aka William Electric Black) is a seven-time Emmy Award winning writer (former writer for Sesame Street). Electric has been writing in the family entertainment television industry for over 20 years. His credits in family TV include Sesame Workshop, Topstone Productions, Lancit Media, Nickelodeon, Scholastic Productions, Warner Cable, Winchester TV & Film (London), and Voodoo Entertainment (Vancouver).

His theatre projects, under his stage name William Electric Black, have been seen in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. For the past seven years he has been writing, directing, and producing plays at La MaMa ETC, New York City -- where he presently runs the Poetry Electric Series. His musical, Betty & The Belrays, was performed at Theater For The New City, March 2007. In 2009 Mr. Black (Ian) directed The Lonely Soldier Monologues (Women at War in Iraq). Ian’s new rock musical, AMERICAN STAR!!!, opened in NYC 2012-2013.

In 2014, Black launched his GUNPLAYS series at TNC with "Welcome Home Sonny T", a play that spotlighted two significant forces driving the current epidemic of gun violence: the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males and the declining influence of black ministers as a force of stability in affected neighborhoods. It was followed by "When Black Boys Die", a drama about a teenage girl's journey as she tries to understand the madness of gun violence that has killed her brother and consumed her mother. "The Death of a Black Man (A Walk By)" by William Electric Black suggests the experience poetically, using using hip hop verse, chanting, songs and poetry. The audience walks through a variety of uniquely-designed theater spaces and environments suggesting the events before and after a shooting in an urban playground. The fourth play in the series - “The Faculty Room” -  is a drama that unfolds in the faculty room of an urban high school during a school lockdown.

In film, Mr. Black has had two scripts optioned. These include Slave Ball for Silver Pictures/Warner Brothers and Road Runner for MCA Records, Jerome Ade, producer and music by Teddy Riley. Electric has also written, directed, and produced two independent feature films – Copy Shop and All Fall Down.

William Electric Black received funding from Kenneth Olden and The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for an animated pilot he created to promote exercise and good nutrition for young children —Fighters For Fitness/Fitness Fighters. Black also received funding from Touro College for a prescription drug awareness cartoon: MEDI-READY.

W. Electric Black has been writing, directing, and producing animated and live-action videos on stroke prevention with the National Stroke Association and childhood obesity prevention for Hip Hop Public Health under the direction of Dr. Olajide Williams featuring music by Doug E. Fresh, Chuck D, other rap artists.

He has just completed three short films to educate the Black faith-based community and the Hispanic faith-based community on stroke awareness (Gospel of Stroke, Mi Derrame Cerebral Es Tu Derrame, Stroke of Luck). Mr. Black has received several Best Play Awards, been published by Benchmark Education, The Dramatic Publishing Co., Smith & Krauss, and received a Bronze Apple for directing (National Educational Video Award). Interactive media projects include “I Hear What You’re Saying” for Columbia University’s School of Social Work and “Virtual Harlem” (Institute of Learning/Children’s Museum, NYC).

As a professor, Ian James (Mr. Black) is a faculty member at NYU’s Tisch School (Dept. of Dramatic Writing/Open Arts, and NYU’s Summer High School Program). He has also taught at The Collegiate School, The Riverdale Country Day School, Southern Illinois University, 92nd Street Y, Teachers & Writers, and TheatreWorks USA.

W. Electric Black is presently working on a series animated music videos featuring a teen girl band – GIRL EEE GIRLZ and a graphic novel - BattleBall. Mr. Black is also the writer and director of a new short film (The Whole World Is A Taco) for several Chicago-based chefs and a short film on the topic: HIV & Teens.

Vito Zagarrio, Introduction to Italian Cinema

Vito Zagarrio received his PhD in Cinema Studies from NYU in 1995. He is a Professor at the University of Rome 3 DAMS. He teaches the Italian Cinema course at NYU in Florence.

More informaton about the summer program Writing in Florence.