Spotlight On Nora Ephron

Image by the insanely talented photographer Brigitte Lancombe.

Writer | Director | Producer

Notable Films & Awards

Short list of other awards of note:

Nora Ephron - A witty writer & great storyteller

 (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012)

By Tasha Nesbitt

Growing up in the 80’s I had enjoyed films like When Harry Met Sally (1989), You’ve Got Mail (1998) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993), but I didn't know who Nora Ephron was until years later when I came across the film Silkwood (1983). Silkwood, had been Ephron’s first screenplay-turned-movie experience though she’d been a writer and journalist for years. 

Though I was a teen when I first watched Silkwood, I was so moved by the story that I went through great effort (being that this was before the internet) to research it. I learned about the real life story of Karen Silkwood and the woman named Nora Ephron who penned the script for the movie. I’m not entirely sure, but she just may have been my first introduction to the magic of storytelling and how it can change your life. I learned the difference between right and wrong because of how the story impressed my young mind. 

Working with director Mike Nichols taught her to become a better writer. But it wasn’t until she began directing that she truly understood the nuances of how script/director/actors/crew all come together to form a truly collaborative work of art. 

In regards to working with actors, Nora believes it doesn’t matter how good a script is, it’s the actors who bring your story to life and if they don’t know how to make your material work she says, “you’re dead.”

Nora was groomed from childhood on how to think like a writer. Her parents instilled in her ways to look at the world--a writer’s “way.” Though both her parents were working writers, her mother would insist that Nora turn experiences in her young life - whether they were strange, funny or sad - into stories with a “punchline” and Nora was rewarded for the best ones. She quotes her mother saying, “Everything is copy… and p.s., I’m not interested until it is.” That is how Nora Ephron learned to tell stories. 

Her first novel entitled Heartburn (1986), a semi-autobiographical story about her life during a divorce, was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and directed by Mike Nichols. Throughout the years, Nora went on to write several books including, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts (2006) and I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections (2010).

Julie & Julia (2009), starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child, and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, is Nora’s most recent notable work. She wrote and directed the film chronicling Julia Child’s transition from an American embassy wife to a charming chef who challenges the norms of French cuisine and Julie Powell, an American blogger whose life is changed by it.

After watching your favorite movie more than once, I encourage everyone to take a step further and venture a bit deeper into how the emotional and structural elements are strung together. Something I like to do when I see a really great movie is find and read the screenplay (because I’m a geek fangirl like that). Also, a writer friend of mine likes to follow the script while watching the movie itself.  Something I haven't actually done yet, but it's on my list!

Tasha Nesbitt

Tasha Nesbitt is a producer and filmmaker in Northern California and the current president of Women In Film San Francisco Bay Area.