I Met Nora Ephron On The Lot At Paramount…

… 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.

On The News of bin Laden’s Death

The last six days of my life have been, for lack of a better description possibly due to the overload, extremely eventful,  on a personal , national and global level.  I want to pause to focus on the global for a moment, and offer up a quick personal reflection on the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hand of an elite American SEAL team, the CIA and the command of President Obama.  There is a part of me that is quite satisfied that the last thing he saw was an American bullet hitting him in the left eye, but mostly I am in deep thought and throwing out a few prayers in my own way.

First, I offer up my sincere and humble gratitude to the military and intelligence community for their service and tireless efforts to protect all Americans and in fact, most citizens of the world.  The sacrifice involved in making that kind of commitment to a duty is one that I have not pondered enough to fully grasp, but know without a doubt that it is deeply honorable and deserves respect.  So, I thank you again and again, and support your service that keeps me and our country safe.

Tonight, after the speech from President Obama declaring that we had killed bin Laden, I watched the reports of crowds in front of the White House and then took a look at Facebook to see the reactions.  For the most part, I felt dismayed, not by the genuine release of emotion at this news, but by the semi-thoughtless way in which people were basically celebrating his death.  I felt strongly it was not the time to break into chants of “USA!” but instead to gather for humble reflection at what the symbolic power of his death is about.  Yes, this perhaps brings a sense of peace for those who lost family and friends on 9/11 and in the ensuing 10 years of war, but mostly, it should be time to find that strength and unity so palpable immediately following the attacks.  I know this is idealistic and some would say naive, but I know it is possible, because I experienced it in the months right after… before it became a quagmire of politics and war.

On the anniversary of 9/11, I have often shared the following photos of my brother and me on top of the World Trade Center, or as we liked to call them, the Twin Towers.  They were taken on a hot July night in 1983, on a sunset trip to the viewing deck with our aunt.  We were on a  month long vacation to visit our family in New York and hit all the biggest and best NYC tourist spots.  We are wearing tee-shirts that we had gotten at a make-your-own shop in a mall in Albany the week before, mine is emblazoned with a decal of Duran Duran, also the same photo that hung in a massive poster on the ceiling above my bed.  Oh, to be 12 again.

In this photo, we are horsing around on the pay phones, and undoubtedly were looking in all the coin returns for forgotten dimes.  My brother has the visitor’s guide book in his back left pocket.  The copy reads, quite chillingly, “The closest some of us will ever get to heaven.”

Next is my favorite photograph, one that makes me tear up and smile nearly every time I see it.  My grandmother wrote on the back of the photo, ” …doing cartwheels in the sky.”   I actually have a memory of doing  that row of cartwheels, down one side of the deck, seeing the sun setting and the city lights brighten.

My thoughts and prayers are with all Americans today, especially those directly affected by bin Laden’s hateful attack.  Let us rise up together, with all our myriad opinions and backgrounds and stories and go forward, if for no other reason than  to honor those who died that terrible day.

Top 40, Sweet Cheeks

It is the night before my 40th birthday and I was unceremoniously puttering: sweeping the kitchen floor, ordering photo books online, making a lunch date, catching up with my best friend on the phone, all while wearing a very old but very warm man-size Patagonia fleece jacket because it is cold in the casita.  Instead of running, (yep, hooky again, there goes my PR on Sunday for the trail-run half… hmphf, or maybe not!) I ate an entire order of pad thai because I can and it was delicious and I was really hungry and then the puttering.  Puttering usually spurs on some writing, but instead of being on mile four with no computer I can stop and compose and so I am.

So again, it is my 40th birthday eve.  And I am equally unaffected as I am amazed that I am the age when I have a vivid memory of both my parents on their 40th birthdays and at that time (ages 8 and 12 respectively), they seemed both old and ageless all at once.  Perhaps that is the magic of 40; it is the fulcrum for looking back and forward with a sense of balance.

As I was sweeping, I thought about my 30th birthday and the party I had to celebrate it.  My best friend and I have our birthdays nine days apart, so for our 30th, we went retro and rented out a roller rink, brought in a keg and booze and put our friends and family in skates.  It was a blast and a half.  (I expect to come across all those photos in the coming weeks as I am doing a much-needed photo and memorabilia project for December.  No tree for me this year!)  We all got drunk, did all the groovy skate-dances, fell down hard and laughed even harder.  Other than the ridiculous fight my then boyfriend-soon-to-be-husband-finally-to-be-ex-husband picked with me right before it started, it was a damn fine time.

And then, a month later, I got fired.  Welcome to adulthood!

I had never been fired before and have never been fired since and it was a big ol’ political nightmare mess, and even though I HATED the job, I was pretty shocked and devastated for the first several days which also included having my boyfriend’s 11 year old Golden Retriever die in my arms on the beach.  I remember feeling angry that I didn’t get to quit (although I had never done that before either) and that even though I had been pondering a whole massive change in my career path during those six months especially leading up to the sacking, it never entered into my carefully laid plans that I would have to face it with such urgency and a really bruised ego.  Many friends and colleagues who had been humiliated with a firing before me were stupendously supportive and wise and funny and checking my availability for their next jobs.

There I was, fired at age 30, but with a great resume, a big, fat Filofax of contacts, wonderful friends and that boyfriend.  My 40 year old self would have had a very serious talk with my 30 year old self once I saw how she so expertly stuffed important information about feelings and anxieties and ideas and dreams and concerns way down where he or anyone else could not find them.  My 40 year old self would have very tenderly told my 30 year old self to take a few months off, go see family in New York, New Mexico and also go to Italy for chrissakes instead of toddling along to be on location with her boyfriend, at his beck and call.  My 40 year old self could have talked my 30 year old self into it.  She is the only one who knew how bad it was when no one else was around.

But, I had to get to 40 to learn how to be kind and gentle to my 30 year old self simply by passing through all the years of strife and joy from then to now.  I now know just how spooked and anxious and impatient I was for so many of those early years in my 30’s and how that led to several really bad decisions.  Becoming 40 is a relief and a gift.  My 40’s are forgiving my 30’s.  And if I hurt or confused anyone dear to me along the way, please forgive my 30’s as well.

Now to get this financial mess sorted once and for all.  It has to be done in the next three weeks.  Nothing like a good solid deadline to keep me focused.

(And Italy, I am coming to see you as soon as I can.)