OK: So this was December of 1977, and you might have guessed by now that the young woman in the scene was me. In those days, I was a young single mother of four, working two jobs. By day I was department secretary to a large group of anthropologists and psychologists at UCLA’s Socio-Behavioral Research Group in Westwood, and by night I transcribed autopsies at the nearby medical center to make ends meet. Not exactly a creative environment, and needless to say, precious little time was left for writing.
John Cassavetes was at the time, very busy preparing his movie, Opening Night, for its premiere at the Fox-Wilshire Theater, yet he took the time to converse with me and to encourage me to keep writing. He was warm and genuine and generous with his knowledge and time. A typical Sagittarius trait, I dare say. What’s more, he seemed very interested in my ideas and approach to writing, which could not have happened at a more opportune time.
This happened on one of those days when I had taken a day off from work and scheduled a meeting with yet another Hollywood literary agent with the hope of securing representation. I left the agent’s office with another cursory and condescending “…we’ll get back to you…” still reverberating in my ears, and my own terse, ‘…when was the last time you actually saw a good script?’ response still stuck in my throat. I charged through the pair of heavy glass doors and stepped out onto the sidewalk, and there he was. My favorite director, actually acknowledging my presence. And in that fateful moment in time, all the negative feelings I had experienced in that agent’s office evaporated completely.
I am convinced that our unexpected encounter happened for a reason and that one extraordinarily inspiring conversation taught me more about the craft of screenwriting than the dozens of classes and seminars I attended. What’s more, something that Cassavetes said to me that day continues to validate and inspire me. “Five minutes into my conversation with you, I knew you were a born writer.”
It’s been said of John Cassavetes over the years that “…he would talk to anybody about his work”, and would often get distracted with seemingly meaningless conversations with ordinary people. I can only say that my sense of him that day was that his words were carefully thought out, measured and concise and that those conversations to him were in no way meaningless or rambling. The fact that he took the time to acknowledge me and spend hours talking with me was a validation that has remained with me for all these years, and in the years since his untimely death in 1989, I think of him often during my own writing process and I remember him with gratitude.
Originally published at aundrawilliscarrasco.tumblr.com.