A personal take on the Nora Ephron/Robin Swicord program

by Vejune J. Baltrusaitis

At the risk of sounding snobbish or cliché (or both), when you grow up in LA, you can get jaded when in the presence of celebrities. That is, until you find yourself in the presence of certain celebrities. Once Sally Field came into a place I worked and I hid behind the bakery counter trying to catch my breath because I was so star struck. Last night’s event with writer/director Nora Ephron provided a similar experience where I kept reminding myself that she is, indeed, a real person.

Having arrived unusually late, I sat in the back so as not to draw attention to myself and proceeded to do just the opposite. My purse and another bag sank deep into the folded chair next to me and as I tried to pull them out, a strap caught on the seat’s handle yanking everything out of my hands. I felt like a juggler-in-training who was failing miserably. Thankfully, the noise created by my stuff falling everywhere was drowned out by Nora’s wit and people’s laughter. Her humor calmed me and I settled in to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

For me, the highlights of Nora’s conversation with the also very funny Robin Swicord about her book I Remember Nothing, were the comments made about her “What I Won’t Miss List,” the topic of domesticity (especially cooking), and inspiration.

I was thrilled when Robin asked Nora about not missing “Women in Film Panels” since I too wondered about that. Nora described an experience where she found herself at an event where serious topics circulated, such as the mutilation of African girls, followed by a panel on women in film. The importance of how many women directors there are in Hollywood pales in comparison to topics such as body mutilation or what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nora said that despite the definite challenges for women in film today, there are more of them than there was 20 years ago so, in her opinion, that warrants, at least, cutting back on the number of these “Women in Film” panels.

The topic of domesticity was interesting as well. Robin underscored Nora’s thoughts that being domestic is OK, that one might be out in the fields blazing the path for future women but that coming home at the end of the day and liking to be home and/or liking to be at home with your husband (or partner) and liking to cook was all OK. This resonated with me because not only do I love to cook myself (and am the only one among my friends to feel so) but I also love to decorate our home according to the season, an act for which I’ve been ridiculed. However, upon hearing a woman whom I greatly admire as a writer and filmmaker say that she likes and enjoys being domestic helps me feel more confident. It also makes me feel all the more secure in cuddling at the end of the day with my husband, even if it is amidst Thanksgiving décor.

As always, the last part of a Writers Bloc event is the Q&A with the audience. One person asked how Nora got her inspiration and how does she know in what media a story will be written. She answered that when something comes to mind, it is (usually)pictured the way it will be written. I understand this to mean that if you visualize a scene, it will be written as a scene in a movie instead of as an essay or a reflection. What Nora said next, though, intrigued me. When you picture someone you like (a character, e.g.), the story will be written as a movie. If you picture someone you don’t like, it will be a play. Apparently theatre accommodates villains in a way that film (usually) can’t. I sifted through my limited memory bank (it’s not just coincidence that I’m in love with her book’s title) and I realized that of all the plays and musicals I know, I could clearly remember only the villains vs. the movies where the heroine comes to mind first. This is the kind of information on which my mind fixates.

The opportunity to see and listen to someone like Nora was wonderful and it helps to appreciate her (and other celebrities) more not just as a writer/director, but as a person who has experiences and emotions like you. The only disappointment of the evening was that she didn’t sign books afterwards (she pre-signed them). I bought my book at a bookstore and was excited about getting it signed. Although, on second thought, it’s probably for the best since I probably would’ve hid behind a corner trying to catch my breath. It’s good to not feel jaded.