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And Four White Mice Will Never Be Four White Horses

94140BLNI got a nibble on my screenplay. It’s just a nibble. One of the producers has written back. Has to show it to producing partner. He said he liked it. Said it had promise. Promise!  And that was all. I’m not going to go crazy, not going to start dieting for the Oscars or put a down payment on my Porsche. A big producer took me through a summer of rewrites on my first script and then showed it to the one actor he had in mind for the lead, Kevin Kleine, who declined. Game over. Cinderella story gone in an email. I promised not to get bitter. Better to have loved and been swiftly dropped than never to have been swiftly dropped at all. I’m sober. I’m not casting the movie. There isn’t a director’s chair with my name on it, a baseball cap with the name of the movie on it, a baseball jacket with the name of the movie on the back and my name in gold thread stiched into the front. None of it. Fuck me dead.

What is your fantasy?

It’s a Wonder That You Still Know How to Breathe


Every question every writer has ever asked me about how long they should wait to contact an editor or agent who is considering his work  may now spit in my kasha. And every writer who has asked my advice regarding how to write a cover letter may drop a shovelful of dirt of my grave. I am in Jewish limbo which I believe is like standing on line at Katz’s and not knowing if the pastrami will hold out. Every pore on my face has been scrutinized, every blister on my foot calling out for more torture. One minute I am polishing my acceptance speech and the next I can’t seem to take another step without an infusion of peanut m&m’s.  I’m throwing food from my high chair, I’m trying on clothes in a dressing room that is one hundred degrees and nothing fucking fits, and manically thanking the Starbucks guy working the register as if he were a long lost friend. Please don’t say it’s the journey that counts. Please don’t talk about the “process.” And don’t give me any credit for finishing and getting it out there. What’s so special about special dinners? There is only thing I feel remotely good about is that I’ve started a new project so the screenplay is looking more like a piece of toast with the face of Jesus carved into it.

How sick does it get?

Stayin’ Alive Stayin’ Alive Ah Ha Ha Ha

I met a BDP (big deal producer) today who was amazing. When he was a PYT, he optioned a magazine article from New York Magazine that became Saturday Night Fever. Saturday Fucking Night Fever. Bam! Better yet, he wasn’t a one hit wonder or the kind of person who keeps talking about his one big thing. I once had lunch with an agent who had one hit, and he literally talked about it all through the lunch. I had no idea what he was talking about but played along, or played dumb. When I got back to the office, I discovered that the book he was talking about was TWENTY years old.

My BDP became a studio head, had a great run, and is producing again with a very cool slate of MMP. (Off the record, in my heart of hearts, I believe I could have been a studio exec if I hadn’t been derailed by twenty years of depression. Totally ridiculous and arrogant, but there it is.) Anyway, this man struck me as the quintessential producer: curious, passionate, disparate and wide ranging taste, the ability to bring people together, working like a conductor who brings the forty-odd instruments together in a Mozart symphony.

Tonight’s question is, and I leave it to you to  make the leap, what will be in your obit? Mine will say that I was never convicted in a court of law for allegedly putting a candy corn in Amy Hahn’s ear at Janet Granger’s sixth grade birthday party sleepover. (Her parents took us to see Dr. Zhiviago which we were very upset to discover was in black and white, and add insult to injury they brought cut veggies and wouldn’t let us buy junk food even with our OWN MONEY); I wrote a CLASSIC on writing, a sink-under-the-waves memoir, I represented some thieves and geniuses. And please remember this above all: I never lived for the present nor did I make the most of every day.

Everybody’s a Dreamer

Marisa, just in case you're reading this, and I have it on pretty good authority that you're not, I wanted you to know that my new screenplay is written with you in mind as the lead. Just so you know.


I’m going to a movie tonight, so this is going to be brief. Some people have asked why I like Hollywood so much. Here is the corniest answer you’re ever gonna get out of me. When I was a little girl (yes, it’s true, I once was a little girl), my father used to take me to the Forest Theater on Forest Road for Wednesday night “Manager’s Special,” which was a double feature for the price of one movie. In addition, without my mother’s censorious eyes, we had both popcorn and candy. (I’m a Duds girl.) The food and movies fused together into the most perfect form of escape, which is something I have always craved. I’m sure I’ve told you this before, too, but I got kicked out of NYU film school, which is why I landed in publishing, and have served that god for 25 years.

Tell me how you escape.

She Can Turn the World On With Her Smile

“Will book publishing finally get the comic portrayal it deserves? Production of a CBS pilot is moving ahead for agent Betsy Lerner’s sister Gail Lerner’s sit-com “Open Books.” Lerner, who has been co-executive producer on Ugly Betty, said last fall that ‘publishing is a lot like sitcoms. Although both are supposedly dying, that only makes people more passionate about creating the next great novel or show.’ Tony winner Laura Benanti has been cast as the lead, a book editor at a small New York publishing house, and Aisha Tyler has just joined the cast as her best friend. Scott Foley will have a standing guest star role as “a charismatic free-spirited writer who once had a fling” with Benanti’s character.
–Deadline Hollywood

They neglected to mention that the “mother” is played by Patti Lupone, and my “mother” has already graciously volunteered to help Patti prepare for the role of a lifetime. (Evita, Gypsy, Mrs. Lovett, whatevs.) It’s all incredibly exciting; my sister shoots her first pilot next week. Then it’s up to the network gods to choose which anointed few will actually ever see the light of night. The odds make getting a book in print look like child’s play. One saving grace about this industry is that if you write a book, and a publisher gives you a contract, the book will be published unless something completely unexpected happens like that old crack habit. Movies and tv are even bigger, baggier monsters and they are far more likely to get short-circuited than green lit.

We are all pulling for Gail. My Dad always wanted to be a comedy writer. He used to take her to the Museum of Film and Television where they would watch old Jack Benny routines. He took me to see Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby, which pretty much explains everything.

Anyone else have stardust in their eyes besides me?

The 82nd Academy Awards: I LOVE YOU MORE THAN RAINBOWS – Guest Post by Erin Hosier

I went over to Betsy’s Sunday night to watch the Oscars. Her family plied me with reheated pizza, artichoke salad and birthday cake. In return I honored them with a yappy dog and this non-live blog.

OVERALL, the whole thing was appalling. I’m mostly referring to the aesthetic of the show, its alarming tackiness, the preponderance of uncomfortable moments, not to mention the horrible posture of so many of the presenters –
Kristen Stewart should be banished until she can stand up straight. But at least James Cameron didn’t win. Some random notes…

THE FASHION was a mixed bag. An orange Sarah Jessica Parker looked as if she were dressed by Barbara Streisand‘s coke dealer. Samuel L. Jackson, again with the Kangol cap. Meryl looked cool in white, and Miley Cyrus looked like Satan’s whore. (And someone needs to teach these young actresses how to speak.) Kate Winslet appeared weirdly 90’s in a silver sheath; why she would depart with McQueen is anyone’s guess. Sandra Bullock talked on the red carpet about “the journey,” but she looked perfect and Betsy defended her for leaving LA, producing her own movies, yeah, yeah. Gabourey Sidibe has personality plus and was regal in Marchesa. When Oprah feted her from the stage it was like being kissed by God. Vera Farmiga’s scarlet cream puff was a little too JonBenet for my taste; but thank God looking at Rachel McAdams is like looking in the mirror.

BEST DRESSED: Charlize Theron. J’adore Dior.

COMMERCIALS: Whoopi Goldberg‘s 10-minute shill for Poise, a product that deals with, um, “I just peed a little” female incontinence was simply unforgiveable. Fire your agent. Additionally, Cervical Cancer borrowed Breast Cancer’s ad agency for a spot aimed at making us feel unsure about our wombs, a total downer.

BEST MOMENT: Did you catch Samuel L. Jackson’s eye-roll when Mo’Nique walked off with Best Supporting? Genius!

BETSY’S KEEN OBSERVATIONS: Betsy nodded off throughout the night, claiming her early writing hours were to blame; I still wanted to check her arms. She liked “An Education” well enough even though Peter Saarsgard is creepy. She also claims to know that Jeremy Renner was a porn star. She didn’t miss Jack Nickolson. She thought the Martin/Baldwin co-hosting “worked.” She is basically in love with gentle giant Katherine Bigelow. She thought Jeff Bridges seemed pretty high. (Hhe reminds me of Bill Roorbach. Actually, Betsy thought most of the actors were stoned. She would know. Oh, ots of Jewish jokes, which Betsy laughed at too hard. I have to admit I didn’t get half the jokes in A Serious Man; do you have to be Jewish?

AND THE WINNER IS: Nobody doesn’t like Sandra Bullock. Holy Veronica Lake, not bad for 45, but I was hoping for an upset in this category.

I’m kind of glad “Up in the Air “got shut out. Clooney’s okay but Vera Farmiga‘s character was all wrong. I love that actress but she was forced to wear satin blouses from 1992 and the big reveal in their relationship is one of cinema’s unlikeliest fantasies. Anna Kendrick reminds me of the most uptight editorial assistant ever to pinch her size 8 foot into a corporate heel from Talbot’s.

Good for you, Kathryn Bigelow. “The Hurt Locker” was pretty good. Sorry everyone is being sued now by the real-life dude whose story it is.

Crazy Heart: the feel good alcoholic story of the year. Am I alone in my disappointment with that one? Spoiler alert: nothing happens. Jeff Bridges still manages to look cool even when he’s fat and dry heaving. I guess he’s broke or something? The journalist gal with the C-section scar falls for him, but then he loses her kid at a bar and goes to rehab and learns his lesson. My favorite scene is when he’s in the ‘hab and hanging out in the gazebo having a coffee, and one of those entertainment lawyer types comes over, puts his hand on Bridges’ shoulder, squeezes, and says, “We’re really glad you’re here.”

Wish I could have said the same.


Count the Headlights On the Highway

A client accused me of being a tease today. It was warranted. I dropped a hint about some positive feedback for his project during my trip to LA. I think I might have said that they were creaming for it in my usual tasteful and delicate way. The last thing this writer needs, as he is polishing his manuscript for submission to publishers, is for me to dangle diamond studded carrots before his eyes.

Am I tease? I guess I wanted him to know that I was pitching his book, and that people seemed genuinely enthused so far as you can use the word genuine with respect to anything in LA. And I’m not going all negative on Hollywood. I’m not. But I put the Hollywood cart before the Publishing horse and it was a misstep.

I think it’s important to know what information to give your clients and when. They are not children, but there’s only so much a person can take. I also e-blurted it out because it’s fun to drop big Hollywood names. But again, stupid. It sets up unrealistic expectations. Though I’ve got to say, I would have never lasted 25 years in publishing if unrealistic expectations didn’t course through my veins.

Would you rather know more or less? Only concrete information or every nibble? Tell me everything or wake me up when it’s over? Straight up or with a twist?

She stood there bright as the sun on that california coast

Home. Very happy to be home. It’s no secret that I always wanted to work in Hollywood, and that I’m still chewing on a screenplay (#4), etc. But the real secret is that I could kiss the tarmac at JFK and everyone I’ve ever met in publishing because when you find an editor who loves a manuscript and offers you an advance, a contract comes, and in a year or so a manuscript is completed and put into production, and eight or nine months later, an author holds a book in his hands that is the culmination of his creative dream. And people have a chance to read it.

When I was a young associate editor at Ballantine, one of the first novels I acquired got a million dollar movie deal — overnight. The author and I went to the Brasserie, ordered steaks and martinis to celebrate. When I got back to the office, I threw up in my garbage pail and passed out on the floor. Those were the days! Of course, nothing like that has ever happened since, and I’ve learned over the years how complex a process it is to get a movie off the ground. Complex is a euphemism for fucking mind fuck. Still, I love it, I love movies, and the level of difficulty only spurs me on . I’m cool with Hollywood breaking my heart; but does it have to shit on my face, too?

You Know Sometimes Words Have Two Meanings

Whenever my mother expressed pride in anything we did, she would immediatly chase away the evil eye lest the wrathful gods punish our hubris. Tonight was the HBO screening of the movie based on Temple Grandin’s life. And I’ve got to say, I was busting with pride. I worked as Temple’s editor on Thinking In Pictures, and continue to serve as her agent.  It was extraordinary to see her life captured so intelligently and emotionally. But it’s Temple the scientist and  Temple the visual thinker who clearly captured the imagination of the writer and director, and together they found a way to portray Temple’s autism without going all Rainman or I am Sam. Instead, it’s her genius you see. It’s her genius I salute. And lucky me, I get to have breakfast with her tomorrow.

When You Got Nothing, You Got Nothing To Lose

National Book Awards  failed to recognize two of my clients. Big mistake. 


I was going to tell you what books have influenced John Cusack (thanks to O Magazine), but I’m in too shitty a mood. Instead, this is an open letter to John Cusack’s agent and manager: WHAT THE FUCK? How come you guys can’t get him anything better than some dumbass martian kid movie and that other widower one that stares at me from my video store shelf like some filthy sock puppet that the dog doesn’t even want. Do I have to remind anyone how hot and sensitive this guy was? And I was a Sean Penn girl myself. Okay, I’m sure we don’t need to elaborate on that (Hamm v. Byrne, etc.). Still, I’m a book agent and I think I could get him a better movie part. A monkey could. Proof: In production he has something called “Hot Tub Time Machine,” and in development, “Cosmic Bandit.” I rest my case. Or is there something about him we don’t know, something some genius publicist has kept out of the papers? If so,  she works hard for the money. Does everybody know some secret about Cusack but me?

Okay, I’m feeling a little better.Here are the books that influenced Lloyd Dobler:

JC: Fear and Loathing, To Kill a Mockingbird, Bob Dylan Chronicles, The Great Thoughts, The Shock Doctrine

 Here are the books that influenced Squeaky Lerner:

BL: Carrie, In Cold Blood, I Am Third, Helter Skelter, Ariel.

And last, I just pulled this quote from Cusack on IMDB: 

“Martian Child was just a movie the studio [New Line Cinema] offered me and it was the best job I could get at the time. It was about a relationship between a guy and another kid, and I thought that was good. It was a sweet movie. They offered it to me and that was the extent of that. Grace Is Gone was something I REALLY wanted to do.”

Now I feel REALLY bad. I’m going to rent Grace Is Gone, aka Unwanted Sock Puppet. But seriously, I think it’s time for him to do an HBO tv series, if anyone at WME is listening. Hello? John, call me.