Postcards From Hollywood: Cherry Blossoms

The Blackout director Daniela De Carlo’s series of short essays on her early days in Los Angeles starts with how Nora Ephron changed her life.

“Postcards From Hollywood” is an ongoing series of short pieces by writer-director Daniela De Carlo about her early days living in Los Angeles and getting her start in the film business, and her stories of encounters with such legendary figures as Nora Ephron, Alexander Payne, Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott and Peter Bogdanovich. – N.D.

When I was 14 years old growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I saw a movie called Sleepless in Seattle. To say that I loved it is an understatement. We were, to quote young Gaby Hoffmann’s character in the movie, “MFEO” (made for each other), mainly because it felt so unapologetically feminine. I was all in for it and, of course, quickly realized a woman had written it, directed it and produced it. Her name was Nora Ephron. If you can see it, you can be it … And so it was decided: I was gonna be a filmmaker.

I moved to Los Angeles in December 2001 with a student visa, and although what I really wanted to do was get an MFA in film in New York, I simply couldn’t afford it. Instead, I signed up at the UCLA Extension program for Film & TV. I told myself a little introductory course and a lot of work experience would teach me the same, if not more, than a master’s degree would. The built-in network is another big reason why people go to grad school, but I trusted my innate abilities to make meaningful connections with people and to find my future collaborators.

I was eager and ready to work, so as soon as I was allowed, I strategically started looking for internships that would go toward school credits. I didn’t have a car yet, so I needed to be able to walk or bike to work, a rare thing in L.A. Luckily, I lived in a quaint apartment in Culver City, next to the Sony lot. It had to be there. My next question was: How can I get to Nora Ephron? So I looked up who had worked the most times with her. A quick IMDb search later, and I had my answer: producer Larry Mark. I decided I was gonna get an internship at Laurence Mark Productions.

I faxed (!!!) my résumé and soon after, I got a call from the office to set up an interview. I biked my way over, the cherry trees in full bloom, to meet with the junior executive who’d be my boss. Shaun Hudson hired me on the spot. We shook hands and he gave me the grand tour, introducing me to everyone as the new intern. When I met Larry, the big boss, all I could think of was, “One degree of separation, one degree of separation!!!”

On my first day, as I biked through the legendary and oh-so-cinematic Columbia Pictures lot, it was raining white and pink cherry blossoms, and I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. “It was like … magic.”

Daniela De Carlo’s latest feature, The Blackout, was released by Gravitas Ventures and is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Originally from Argentina, she worked her way up from P.A. to writer-director-producer, collaborating along the way with a myriad of industry heavyweights such as Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, David E. Kelley, and Tony Scott. In 2010, she helmed the romcom Qualquer Gato Vira-Lata for Buena Vista International, which opened wide in Brazil to unprecedented box office success, and was one of six Hispanic directors on the 2014 feature drama Blue Lips. She was awarded the NBC/Universal Directing Fellowship and appointed to the USA Network show Royal Pains, and as a recipient of the inaugural NBC Female Forward program, recently helmed an episode of the primetime show Chicago Med. She is currently developing a biopic series about Xuxa, the most famous Brazilian pop star of all time. Daniela will exec produce, write and direct, in partnership with Xuxa and Gullane Filmes. She lives in Los Angeles. (Photo by Sari Thayer.)