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FEATURES Sep 3 2012 11:46PM

Powerful Voices of Women In Film

An eminent filmmaker passed away on June 26, 2012, and all I wanted to do was have a Nora Ephron marathon of every single film she’s ever made. She’s the reason I’m madly in love with Tom Hanks today (Okay, well, I did have a crush on him after seeing  Big, but Nora made me see stars).
Sam Baldwin a.k.a. Sleepless in Seattle
The name alone makes me smile because this character was everything and amazing. He was the perfect man with a real problem: The love of his life passed away, and he couldn’t fathom finding anyone half as fabulous as his wife.
But then he saw Annie in the airport…
Ephron is also the reason I watched the 1957 throwback film, An Affair to Remember. “Oh, Cary Grant!”
A love story featured in a love story. Priceless. And yes, I wept tears of “knight-and-shining-armor” love during both films at a very tender age, but that’s what made Ephron unique: She could tune in to the heart, no matter what century you were born in.
I mean, who didn’t want to meet the love of their life on top of the Empire State Building after watching Sleepless in Seattle? And there was a time I thought moving to Seattle wouldn’t be all that bad after seeing that chick flick.
Ephron’s brilliance doesn’t stop there. When Harry Met Sally,You’ve Got Mail,Julie & Julia… all were hits that made you want to fall in love during every season of the year. Come on. Who could pull off having Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as love interests five years after their original M.F.E.O. roles? Nora Ephron could. And she did it with flair.
Her entrance into the industry was by way of re-writes for a script that ended up getting canned in the end, but her first made-for-television screenwriting gig came out of it, which led to her directorial debut for This Is My Life. And the rest is history. She went on to write and direct more films in addition to writing books and stage plays that paved the way for the ladies coming up behind her, winning many awards and nominations. Ephron had her own voice and she never apologized for it. She was consistent and effective, witty and hilarious. That alone moved me and marks her as one of my touchstone influences.
Another film that spoke to me in a deep, visceral way was Love & Basketball.
Yeah. I was one of those young girls who truly thought she would be the first girl in the NBA (count the trophies…). There was a time I ate and slept basketball, and even today when I have the opportunity to sit down and watch television outside of film and one-hour dramas, I prefer ESPN. Gina Prince-Blythewood changed the game when she wrote a version of my life for the big screen. I remember seeing Love & Basketball for the first time and relating to moments that took my breath away (MeShell Ndegeocello is also responsible for that). I had the middle school BFF that transitioned into puppy love, the passion for things I couldn’t live without, and the dream of true love.
But light years beyond all that—Prince-Blythewood dropped this blockbuster in 2000, the same year my dream of becoming a filmmaker materialized, and she played a major part in that. I remember watching behind-the-scenes of Love & Basketball repeatedly for at least a month; the art of filmmaking became my thing that I couldn’t live without.
Prince-Blythewood is a UCLA graduate with writing credits dating back to A Different World. She also directed the made-for-TV flick Disappearing Acts and the 2008 feature hit The Secret Life of Bees. Like Ephron, Prince-Blythewood taps into my personal experiences, encouraging me to tell my stories. Prince-Blythewood is definitely on my list of women filmmakers who played a part in who I am today.
Okay. Yes. I admit it. I randomly re-enact scenes from movies. Usually at an inconvenient time, in public places with all the dramatic effects I can muster up. My family is used to it. My dates—not so much, but it is entertaining for those around us.
One of my favorite scenes to re-enact is taken directly from The Godfather III. It is one of the final scenes of the film where Mary Corelone (played by Sofia Coppola) confronts The Don about breaking up her mad inappropriate relationship with her cousin and is killed by Mosca. After a shot to the chest, she looks down at the wound and dramatically drops to her knees in front of The Don. Before collapsing, she says, “Dad…” then emotional mayhem breaks loose. A classic moment for many reasons…
Although Sofia Coppola’s acting in The Godfather III didn’t deserve an Academy Award by a long shot, her second feature film Lost In Translation did. She won Best Original Screenplay in 2003. I’m sure one of Sofia’s greatest influences is her father, the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, and I wouldn’t expect the apple to fall too far from the tree. Sofia has pretty much done it all—from acting and modeling, to filmmaking and television. I believe she’s found her niche behind the scenes—her eye pressed against a camera, adjusting the lens for cinematic purposes.
Ephron, Prince-Blythewood and Coppola are trailblazers. They wrote and directed their features successfully. That is my dream. Their intentions for their works stayed relatively constant throughout the creation process—from pre-production, production to post-production and distribution to the big screen—displaying love, basketball, insomnia in Seattle, loneliness in Tokyo and all else in between. 


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