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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?

I Put a Spell on You*

Ilan is the one on the right. Visiting Auschwitz.

A little known fact about Betsy Lerner is that she rolls with a posse of young men who all worship her. To this day my hottest, youngest ex-boyfriend is always texting me, asking after Lerner. What would Betsy think of this? Will she come to my new girlfriend’s housewarming party? It’s eerie. She just connects with the young men in a way that I think eludes most of us. Or maybe it’s not just guys – she also worked her magic on me when I was a girl of 25, and she’s totally tight now with Yale’s best offering to America, the great publishing intern, Casey Blue. But my favorite of all her boys is Ilan Zechory, the young man pictured at left. He’s happily pre-engaged with a very capable girlfriend, but if I were even five years younger I’d try to show him my vulnerable side. That’s how funny and cool he is. Anyway, now we’re both just happy to be part of the Lerner Posse, and I thought ya’ll would like to hear from him about it.

Ilan, for the folks at home, how did you and Betsy meet? Betsy and I took a screenwriting workshop together at Yale. I was an undergraduate and she was the continuing education lady. During the first couple classes, every time someone said something stupid or bizarre, she’d desperately scan the room to see if anyone had noticed. I noticed, and we bonded. We quickly moved on to pre- and post-class chit chat, snack-sharing, etc.

Do you have other older-than-you woman friends or is Betsy the first? My grandma is the OG killer lunch date, but she’s a shrink, so she tells great stories. Betsy is, however, the first mature woman I can talk to about NSFMom content (nudity, violence, strong sexual content, my “art”). This has been psychologically fortifying. Betsy’s not going to like this answer at all…

I know, but I think it’s cool. She really is so down and gives the very best advice. For me, recently, we were talking about relationships and she said, “You know how everyone always says that you have to love yourself  before you can really love someone else or be loved in return? I’m here to tell you, you don’t.” She always says exactly the right think in the moment. Can you remember a piece of advice that BL gave you that was really good? With me it’s a lot of of “No no, no, it’s NOT shit” type stuff, trying to keep my self-loathing in check. I could look back through my emails and find something more aphoristic. One time she told me “Your twenties just suck…” and that I should hold out for a better decade. That’s a thought that’s sustained me pretty well for the past few years.

Your first job in NYC was with Google, right? Are you writing? What are you doing now? After college I went to L.A. to work as a writing intern for David Milch. After a while L.A. started to make my teeth bleed, so I googled “good job in new york” and ended up with a job at Google in New York. Betsy wrote me a killer recommendation letter littered with false statements. I quit that job at the height of the recession (baller!!), and now I split my time between practicing clinical hypnosis and running Rap Genius, a website that explains the meaning of rap lyrics.

See what I’m saying? Don’t you think Lerner should open a school for wayward youth?

Wonderful Commenters: Besides wanting to hear your favorite Lerner one-liner or advice, what I really wanna know is: have you ever been hypnotized? And what was it like? What does it do? Should we throw Ilan some business? Can I watch?

*Betsy Lerner is on vacation so this post was written by Erin Hosier

Don’t Step on Greta Garbo

People always seem surprised when they ask me what I’m working on and I say screenplays. Is it that I fail to give off a Hollywood vibe (size 0, painted hair, pilates abs, Balenciaga handbag, etc). Or is it that I can’t figure out how to use my Bluetooth? Or that I’m entering a decade you are not allowed to even whisper in that town. People are also always astonished that I love LA. Not just like it, but love it. Is this because I fit more easily into the Woody Allen neurotic Jew jello mold of life? Or perhaps it’s because the ship of my life has sailed, only no one told me.

I was 46 when I audited a screenwriting class with a bunch of Yale undergrads. For weeks before the class, I dreamed I couldn’t find the room. The day of the class, I arrived a half hour before hand, sweat trickling down my back. Over the next 12 weeks, I read a pile of screenplays, got Final Draft and learned the format basics, workshopped a short script, and made friends with two guys who are still willing to read anything I write. Not too shabby for a middle-aged literary agent with stars in her eyes.

I like screenplays because you can tell stories using concision and compression in a way that reminds me of poetry and it’s like a big puzzle. Fiction is a bitch I just can’t wrap my arms around. I also love movies more than life itself. My idea of heaven: a twelveplex. What’s your form and why?