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Marian Rees Associates records

Identifier: IWA0274

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Scope and Contents

The Marian Rees Associates (MRA) records date from 1981 to 2000 and measure 86 linear feet. The records document the production of each Marian Rees Associates film since the company was established in 1981. The records are arranged chronologically by airdate, starting with the earliest films produced by Marian Rees Associates. Although the titles of some films changed over the course of production, the series titles reflect the final titles used for the film when it was broadcast.

In the box list, this "As Broadcast" title is followed by the earlier versions of the title and by the films' original broadcast date. There is some variation in the process that a production takes from concept to final product, bit in general the process follows a certain order. This order is reflected in the subseries that are common to most, but not all, of the productions: Script library, Production files, Post-production files and Publicity. In particular, the records of the earlier productions are sparse and do not include all of these series. Some productions include additional subseries: Pre-production files, Location files and Awards.

Whether the project being developed is an original idea for television or an adaptation of an existing literary work, the Script library illustrates the transformation of an original idea or the printed page into a television program. This subseries often includes drafts that have been submitted by various writers along with their revisions reflecting the process of character and story development. Notes from the producers and directors offer insight into the process that within the MRA organization can often take several years; this subseries generally ends with either the final shooting script or the "As broadcast script."

The subseries Production Files focuses on the practical elements necessary to move a project from the script library and onto film. This sub-series often includes correspondence with networks and corporate sponsors, agents, crew and cast members. Information can be found regarding financial, accounting and budget realities and research on locations and shooting schedules. For most of these productions the last folders will be called "Production Book" while in other productions these folders will appear at the end of or after, the Post-Production files. Regardless of the location, these folders contain the day-to-day progress of the production as recorded by Production Executives. The Production sub-series illustrates the range of practical and material challenges that face different productions from shooting and travel schedules to daily script revisions and shipping film from often remote locations.

The Post-production files subseries often highlights the steps that shape the end product. From the Post production crew list to editing, negative cutting and continuity, dialogue repair and musical scoring this sub-series focuses on the ways in which raw film footage becomes a "movie." In many of the productions, information on "Publicity" will be included in the post-production files; for other productions, there exists a sub-series titled Publicity; both will contain much of the same type of information.

In the case of some but not all productions, there may be subseries that do not exist in other productions. One of these sub-series is called Pre-Production.Where it does exist, it may contain preliminary historical information and research that relates to the period of the story. When necessary, information on clothing and customs of the period are also included. Another one of these occasional sub-series is called Location files.This subseries will have information particular to filming in a particular location such as local contact information on housing and goods and services necessary to the film company.

The subseries Publicity folders will include a range of information from Inter-office correspondence announcing network airdates to newspaper and magazine cast interviews and reviews. Generally, Press Kits are included in the the Publicity subseries. These are mostly comprised of publicity "stills"- photographs from the film of the cast along with biographical information on the cast, MRA and Production Executives. Awards information is related to the Publicity subseries and is at times a subseries in its own right. For many of the productions, especially those that have won critical acclaim and received numerous awards, there will be multiple folders with reviews, interviews and print information. There may also be photographs and programs from the event itself as in the case of the Emmy awards or the Monte Carlo Film Festival.


  • Creation: 1981-2000


Conditions Governing Access

The records are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

University of Iowa Sociology alumna Marian Rees (Bachelor of Arts 1951) created her production company, Marian Rees Associates (MRA) in 1981. During her first 29 years in the television entertainment industry Rees worked with legends such as Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra and with Producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin on groundbreaking programs such as All In the Family. Rees' response to realizing the limitations of working in a male-dominated industry holding few real opportunities for women and an awareness of declining in quality in television programming, was to create a company offering unlimited possibilities for women with a focus on quality content.

Beyond offering work and creative possibility, MRA has also built a solid reputation in the industry by producing television programming that informs and entertains. In one interview, Rees states that she sees television as having the potential to "reform" the public's ideas on social issues. Rees saw herself as a "working sociologist" and as such, MRA brings to television different perspectives on contemporary and complex social issues. It is the goal of MRA to do so in such a way that the television viewing public is made aware of issues such as drunk driving, child abuse, adoption issues, and discrimination based on age, race and/or gender. The stories MRA produces are often true tales of challenges overcome by "real" people.

Since creating MRA, Rees has served as Executive Producer for the company's many "hand-crafted" films, which have aired on the three major networks and cable networks including HBO (Home Box Office) and Lifetime. To date, eight of these productions have been for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. As of April 2002, MRA productions have won eleven Emmy awards and thirty-six Emmy nominations as well as two Golden Globe awards, six Christopher Awards, the Humanitas Prize, a Peabody Award, two Gabriel Awards, two Monte Carlo Television Awards and numerous other industry and public honors.

There are several characteristics that go into making MRA productions notable; one of these is production values that are a hallmark of the company. Marian Rees is on record as referring to MRA films as "hand-crafted" - pointing to her direct involvement in MRA production processes and on an insistence on the highest quality at all levels of production; from the writing to the final editing. Another distinguishing feature of MRA is the range of topics on which the company has chosen to focus and the impact that MRA movies have on millions of viewers. Some examples of this include the productions of "Love Is Never Silent," "Miss Rose White," and "Resting Place."

Airing in December of 995, "Love Is Never Silent" won several Emmy awards and has the distinction of being one of the first programs on television to be close captioned for the hearing impaired. The story focuses on the personal and social challenges a family faces when deaf parents struggle to raise a daughter in a hearing world. In order to remain true to the spirit of the novel "In This Sign" by Joanne Greenberg, MRA staff and production crew learned American Sign Language (ASL). This provided insights to the challenges of deaf community members and also made possible communication with deaf cast and staff members. One of the more important aspects and aims of this production is to illustrate that there exists a culture of deafness that defines the world for the hearing impaired but that is unrecognized by the hearing world.

Another winner of multiple Emmy awards, "Miss Rose White" deals with issues of anti-Semitism, immigration and the process of becoming "American" within the context of a family that has survived the holocaust through separation and loss. Adapted from the play "A Shayna Maidel" by Barbara Lebow, the story looks at how a young woman comes to terms with her Jewish heritage and history. Some of the issues the movie addresses include a father-daughter relationship that is often in conflict, the importance of extended family, personal sacrifice, survival and self-acceptance.

"Resting Place" (April 27, 1986) is an adaptation of the short story written by Walter H. Davis. The story centers on a small community divided over the burial an African American soldier killed in Vietnam in the town’s only cemetery; one for "whites only." The story takes an honest look at issues of racism, loss, and the ways in which prejudices negatively shape perceptions. An interesting side note is that MRA productions casting directors have displayed a talent for utilizing young rising actors before they become famous. Some of these actors include Denzel Washington, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lawrence Fishburne, Stephen Dorff and Bill Pullman.


86.00 Linear Feet

1 items (Videocassette [V538] shelved with videocassette collection)

9 Cassettes (9 audio cassettes [AC 1595] - [AC 1601], [AC 1605] - [AC 1606] shelved with audio cassette collection)

Language of Materials



Film production company founded and directed by University of Iowa Sociology alumna Marian Rees.

Method of Acquisition

The records were donated by Marian Rees Associates.

Related Materials

Marian Rees Papers, IWA.

Sandi Solis, 2001-2002
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)