Yesterday was one of the first real summer days we've had in New York this year and I relished it. My daughter and I decided it was a perfect day to travel downtown to see a new movie that had been given rave reviews.
We got off the Subway and began walking to the theatre. As we walked we passed streets with names like Allen Street and Stanton Street, and all I could think of were my parents, particularly my Mom. She had been born down here at the turn of the twentieth century. These was her stamping grounds, this was where she met my dad at some strangers' wedding they had both crashed. This was a place I had walked during my youth on most Sundays as we made our ritual visit to Chinatown. Sundays were Mom's day off, no cooking for her. All I could think of as I looked at all the new hotels and buildings were what would Mom think? Would she be amazed? In my youth, walking along the Bowery was frightening. There were men sleeping on the sidewalks, empty liquor bottles lying alongside of them. I would hold my father's hand tightly trying not to show my fear. Today it's another world.
All of these thoughts have stayed with me throughout the night. How do we deal with change? Do we grab it and relish it, or fear it? The movie we went to see, The East, added so much to my thoughts. A beautiful young woman Brit Marling, who not only wrote the film but stars in it, wrote this provocative film. She, a very well educated woman, had come to Los Angeles to break into acting. Realizing how few parts there are for women, she wrote one for herself. She co-produced the film as well. She knew what she wanted and she went for it. And she's done it amazingly well. Fantastic is a better description.
I thought of myself years ago when, after almost ten years of working as an assistant for a well-known movie producer, I was unfortunately unemployed. He had had a serious auto accident and the New York office was closing. I sent out letters to many people in the industry, attaching my resume. Several of these 'men' were anxious to hire me so they could pick my brain. I would never have allowed that to happen. One of my last interviews came via a wonderful man I had never met but whom I was very much in awe of. He was in New York on business and had his assistant set up an interview between us. I spent a wonderful half hour with him, at which point he looked at me and told me I was under estimating my knowledge and ability. I should be producing films he said, not working as someone's assistant.
I was shocked. It had never crossed my mind that I was good enough to take the helm of something. I had been programmed from childhood to take a back seat to all men. When my mother told me I couldn't go to college because it was more important my brother got the education, I totally agreed. She assured me that as long as I could type I would never starve. Well she was right about that.
This man saw my look of amazement. I tried to explain that I had two children to support, and that finding a project took time and money, none of which I had. He took my hand and said, "Honey, you find the project and I'll fund it." He gave me his number and I left his office in a haze.
I never called him; I never thought it was humanly possible for me, Honey Seltzer, to become a movie producer. I was the woman who took care of men. I was the woman who wanted to help the man I loved become a success. Throughout my life I have been the giver, not the taker. I'm uncomfortable taking.
I have never had regrets that I didn't take Norman Lear's offer, although I have always held him in my heart as a very special person. It simply wasn't in my DNA to be top dog, and so I have no regrets. Nevertheless I admire Brit Marling tremendously for being the person she is, and to all the women who have a dream and pursue it.
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