Personal Reflections on Nora Ephron

Features
by Melissa Silverstein
June 28, 2012 10:29 AM
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When I think of Nora Ephron, I think of two achievements that bracketed her professional life as a woman in film, though neither is one that would immediately spring to mind when her name is mentioned. First, very few people remember that she co-wrote "Silkwood" (with the formidable Alice Arlen), a movie that absolutely stands the test of time for its polemical force, fierce humanity, and dashes of sly humor.

Second, last year she participated in an extraordinary interview with Lena Dunham for the Criterion release of "Tiny Furniture." It's so inspiring to see a woman of 70 talking with a woman in her mid-20s with absolute respect, verve and parity. The decades collapse as both these female filmmakers explore common terrain and appreciate the unique voice and spirit of the other. These are less well-known sides of a woman who might not readily call herself apioneer, but absolutely was one.

Katherine Dieckman, director

Yesterday I cried hearing Nora Ephron had died.  Such a talent that gave us smart adult humor, human relationships, and romance that is slowly disappearing on the movie screen.  And she was successful at the box office that proved again and again that there is a intelligent audience that wants to be entertained without frat jokes and nonsense.  Her story lines remind me of the old grand comedies, especially with Tracy and Hepburn.  We will miss her movies that inspired us all to be funny and romantic in our works.  Two human traits we don't have enough of on the screen.

Aviva Kempner, director

I am in Washington DC visiting my mother and when she saw Nora Ephron's picture on the cover of the style section of the Washington Post she said "oh god she must have written another book" only to then look close and find out she died.  My mother is heartbroken she didn't know her personally, but she loved everything she said in interviews and in print.  My mother is 84 and has lost many of her girlfriends.  Today she found out she lost another. We are both sad.

Arleen Sorkin, actress

The Adrienne Shelly Foundation's mission is to support women filmmakers. And few personify that mission more than Nora Ephron. She was simply one of the best ever, male or female, and will be terribly missed.

Andy Ostroy, Adrienne Shelly Foundation

I first saw Nora Ephron on the Dick Cavett show when I was a teenager. She was smart and witty and self-deprecating, sharing things that women didn’t normally say on television, like imagining your husband is dead so you can fantasize an affair with someone sexier without feeling guilty. She seemed to be the exact opposite of the movie directors who were interviewed, those swaggering confident males who ordered actresses to take off their tops. When she became a director it changed my whole idea of what a director was, redefining a job that had seemed essentially masculine, especially as the very qualities she showed as a young journalist, capturing the small things that define what it is to be human, were what made her work resonate with us all.  Instead of transforming herself to become a director, she transformed the profession.

Joan Carr-Wiggin, director

Whenever I have frustrating days I think of Nora Ephron, a prolific filmmaker who accomplished so much professionally while also raising two children. It is because of her that I know I can pull off this happy juggling act successfully.

Emily Abt, director

I was at a New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) shorts program that was just wrapping up when an audience member walked up to our Executive Director Terry Lawler and shared the news that Nora Ephron had passed.  It was so unbelievably hard to hear--especially after celebrating the fact that these incredible women featured tonight had brought an audience of people together with their work.  This was the kind of news where we were really happy one minute, and the next minute just really stunned and sad. Nora Ephron, our sister, was gone.  She was an incredible gift to NYWIFT.  I will never forget what a thrill it was for me to be present three years ago at NYWIFT's "A Conversation with Nora Ephron."  Nora didn't want a moderator. She stood alone in front of us, and like the good girlfriend she was, just let it all hang out.  So much advice was given. The best was that even if your film gets financed and you're working on set, the studios still don't want to make your movie.  She was true grit and New York wit. A New York woman in film whose characters--and character--I will never forget.

Nicole Franklin, director

Nora Ephron was a highly-sensitive (and highly amusing) cultural barometer who could with great accuracy measure the subtlest changes in the atmosphere.

Carrie Rickey, writer

Late last year, the MAKERS project was elated to speak with Ms. Ephron, and capture the magnificent story of a woman with such a lasting legacy.  In moments like these, the mission of the MAKERS project feels even more relevant – to capture the lives of luminary women, providing a platform for their stories to be told.

Nora Ephron spoke about her legacy with MAKERS:

“I look at my life, and I basically made a shift about every ten years or so. Something different: newspaper journalism, freelance writing, screenwriting, directing, doing plays. Women are often able to make changes – to jump to slightly different things – in ways that men often don’t. Women are willing to re-invent themselves, and I think that is one of the secret ways that women are luckier than men.”

We will always remember Nora Ephron, and we are so grateful that she decided to share her ebullient life with us that beautiful day.

Dyllan McGee, director

Two years ago, I sat next to Nora at dinner and we talked about the difficulty of women making films. I had to pinch myself. I was sitting next to the woman who had defined for me the idea that women who didn’t use beauty or sex to define value, could, in spite of so much evidence to the contrary, be successful. Smart. Funny. Funny trumped it all, because to me, if it wasn’t smart, it wasn’t ever going to be funny. Still, that night she shared some hard truths including the insight that being Queen of the Hill was not all it was cracked up to be. There was a film she’d always wanted to do, she explained, but she could not raise financing. She’d tried for years. Decades. Wrap your head around this: Nora Ephron couldn’t make the movie she longed to make. The excuse she was given over and over again was that women’s projects didn’t sell well internationally to the mostly male audiences who consumed action films. She was frustrated. And I thought as I sat there, bowled over by her clear, candid talk from the top of the mountain, Well, you’re Nora Ephron. You’ve got connections and power. You’ve got time on your side. I’ll wait. You’ll figure it out. I didn’t know that she didn’t have time.

Diane Meier, writer
 

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