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"Repo Man" Screenwriter Alex Cox to Be Fall Semel Chair

Alex Cox, writer/director of 1980s cult classics Repo Man (1984), Sid and Nancy (1986), and Straight to Hell (1987) will teach Emerson MFA students this month as the Fall 2018 Semel Chair in Screenwriting.

Every semester, Emerson invites a working screenwriter to teach a class for students in the low-residency MFA in Writing for Film and Television program. Cox will be on Emerson’s Boston campus on Tuesday, August 21.

Repo Man will be shown in the Bright Family Screening Room at 7:00 pm, followed by a Q&A with Cox led by Senior Scholar-in-Residence Jim Lane. The screening will be free and open to the Emerson community on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We selected Alex [for the Semel Chair] because he has an incredibly strong voice as a writer and director, and he was instrumental in the very important 1980s indie movement, not only with … Repo Man, but the work he has done since that time,” Associate Professor Jean Stawarz, director of the program, said.

Many of Cox’s films from the ‘80s have connections to punk rock. Repo Man centers around a punk kid (Emilio Estevez), and features a punk soundtrack by Iggy Pop, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, and the Circle Jerks. Sid and Nancy is about Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.  Straight to Hell stars Clash frontman Joe Strummer.

During the late 1980s-early 1990s, Cox worked in Mexico, on projects including El Patrullero and Death & the Compass.

He also co-wrote 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, an adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson novel, with director Terry Gilliam, and directed Three Businessmen (1998), Revengers Tragedy (2002), and Tombstone Rashomon (2017), among many others.

“Alex has worked broadly across the face of television and cinema, including cult cinema, the Hollywood studio system, transnational cinema, and microcinema,” Stawarz said. “His experience is invaluable to our MFA in Writing Film and Television students, as they will end up in different areas of the industry.”

Most of the coursework in the two-year, low-residency screenwriting program is done online, but students spend one week in August on Emerson’s Boston campus and one week in January at Emerson Los Angeles, where they learn from masters of the craft. 

Previous Semel Chairs have included TV writer Courtney Kemp (Power, The Good Wife); Graham Moore, Academy Award-winning writer of The Imitation Game; Transparent creator Jill Soloway; Sideways writer Jim Taylor; and Jay Cocks, who wrote the screenplays for Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and The Age of Innocence.


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