The WGF Blog:

Dispatches from the far reaches of the WGF.

Our Amazing Historical Find: THE PHOTODRAMATIST

by

Here’s one for the Hollywood history geeks out there. We recently discovered this remarkably pristine copy of the first issue of THE PHOTODRAMATIST from July 1921. THE PHOTODRAMATIST – and we wouldn’t blame you for not knowing this, for reasons that’ll become clear soon – was the official publication of The Screen Writer’s Guild, or the organization that would later become the Writers Guild of America. It’s not in mint condition, but considering it’s nearly a century old, it’s pretty astonishing how well it still hangs together.

But the book’s condition pales in comparison to its role in the history of screenwriting. Prior to discovering this book, we believed THE SCREEN WRITER, which began publication in 1945, was the first official publication of the Guild. We also used to believe that the Guild only existed as a social club, and not as a professional organization for writers, before 1933 – but the existence of THE PHOTODRAMATIST proves otherwise.

Our library and archive director – herself an expert in Guild history – didn’t even know that the Screen Writer’s Guild was referred to as such before 1933. And then we discovered THE PHOTODRAMATIST. Here it is:

photodramatist_cover

And here’s the proof, right on the second page, that it was the “Official Organ of the Screen Writer’s Guild of the Author’s League of America.” No giggling at the word “organ,” please:

photodramatist_official_organ

Like most trade publications, PHOTODRAMATIST was packed with articles about the craft, as well as resources for writers looking for work, like this “photoplay market” listing:

photodramatist_market

And, of course, ads for courses and tools to make you a success in Hollywood:

photodramatist_write_better

…But unlike, say, Plumbing & Heating Contractor News, the Guild’s trade publication had poetry in it:

photodramatist_sonnet

It even had a gossip section:

photodramatist_gossip

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the WGA – and of screenwriting as a job, an industry and a craft – check out our archive.