… in a cramped, dark portable that was shoved in behind the grip and electric buildings and rented to productions at Malibu beach front rates. They want you to feel lucky to be on the lot, proximity to services being the intended benefit. Me and my staff got hired to work on a reshoot of her latest movie, something ultimately forgettable staring John Travolta called “Numbers” and as most movies that get to that stage of reshoots was then renamed to “Lucky Numbers” for its release, and it was anything but. It was only a few days of shooting, but it required a lot of prep to reassemble the disparate parts, get back as much of the original crew, basically anyone who could help find where the bodies were buried.
No one was happy to be there. Reshoots suck. They most often do not save a film that is not working and they just cost a lot of money and time. Since my team was not with the original production, we were slightly disadvantaged: we were possibly untrustworthy and might be stooges for the studio; we did not know any of the good dirt from being on location in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the late winter; and we certainly did not know Nora.
That last one scared the shit out of me.
I was a huge fan of her movies, so much so that “When Harry Met Sally” made me want to move to my birthplace – New York City! – and live in a fantastic apartment while saying witty things and falling in love with a totally unexpected yet so-right-for-me man.
“Someone is staring at you in Personal Growth.”
Both “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless In Seattle” made me feel romantic and sophisticated and hopeful and made my guts ache with laughter. It was not until much later, and having seen both “Silkwood” and “Heartburn” when I was perhaps too young to fully understand all the themes going on there, that I realized she was the same person who was responsible for all of them. I rewatched the earlier films making me, at that point, a fully committed Nora Ephron fan.
And now I had to meet her. On a reshoot of a movie everyone hated. One that she did not write but rewrote in an attempt to make it work. And it had to be in the shitty production office. I was bound to disappoint and so did not want to.
Getting to meet your idols is a bonus of working in film production that not many of us really talk about too much to the outside world. There tends to be a lot of undue mystique about actors, and movie-making, that generates a lot of interest and curiosity, but once you’re on the inside, you only can really dork out about your obscure writer crush with your compadres. First rule of production, don’t talk about production; or similar. (Yes, there is a coolness factor, but that is merely to keep those on the outside from getting heated up which they can and do at the mention of anyone who has been in People Magazine.) I can however tell Katrina, “ohmygodohmygod nora ephron is going to be here tomorrow holyshit what do we do is she going to like us what if she hates us holyshit.” Said with love.
Anyhow, she was lovely. She was gracious and serious and funny and direct and (like Sally) she likes it the way she likes it and damn it GOOD for her. I did not have some come-to-Jesus moment with her, nor did she pick me out and say, “Kid, you’re tops, I’m taking you to New York with me to teach you everything I know.” Nope, she was totally human. All my worry about letting her much hyped (like Sally) high-maintenance needs and requirements for office and work space went out the window. She was there to work on a terrible movie that she just needed to get through as professionally as possible. She did that.
And then she kept writing. Lucky for us, we will always have her words and movies.