By Mary Ann Bourbeau
HOLMDEL – “Write what you know.”
Lorene Scafaria certainly took Mark Twain’s words of advice to heart in writing her latest movie script, “The Meddler.” The former Holmdel resident crafted a heartwarming story about her relationship with her mother, Gail, and how in her grief after her husband died, Gail latched on to her daughter’s life.
“He and my mom were married 40 years and they were madly in love,” Scafaria said. “They were such a beautiful couple. His loss was huge for both of us.”
Scafaria was an aspiring screenwriter living in Los Angeles when her father, Joseph, an Italian immigrant who worked in the garment business, died in November 2009. Her parents also had an apartment in Los Angeles that they stayed in while visiting her. Gail felt she couldn’t stay alone in the family home anymore, so six months later, she put the house on the market and moved to California, just a mile away from her single daughter.
“She started calling me a lot,” Scafaria said.
Scafaria and her mother had always been close, so she was happy to have Gail nearby, but all the calling, texting and dropping in unannounced soon proved too much. Scafaria decided to use the experience as a creative outlet and within a month, she had the first draft of a movie script down on paper.
“I wanted to tell this story from my mother’s perspective, how lonely she was,” Scafaria said. “The character is so tough and funny, just like my mom. It was therapeutic for us.”
As a child, Scafaria was always interested in movies, writing and performing. She began writing screenplays in fifth grade. Once, on a trip to New York City, she bought the script for the movie, “A Clockwork Orange.”
“I was so interested in the structure of a script and what it looked like on paper,” she said.
As a teenager, she and her friends would regularly perform at the Improv Jam in Red Bank and hang out at the Broadway Diner afterward. They would also go see movies at least twice a week.
“I loved hanging out in Red Bank,” she said. “Those were some of my favorite years.”
After graduating from Holmdel High School in 1995, Scafaria studied English with a writing concentration and a theater minor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and later transferred to Montclair State University, where she earned her degree. She moved to New York City, answering phones at a film company while writing scripts and submitting them to agents.
“When I got my first rejection letter, I hung it on the wall,” she said. “I was so excited that I heard from someone.”
A few days later, that agent reconsidered and told Scafaria she should move to Los Angeles. When Scafaria arrived, she found that the agent no longer worked at the company.
“I left New York thinking I had an agent in Los Angeles, and when I arrived, there was nothing,” she said.
But she powered on and soon began making money off her scripts. She wrote television shows, the screenplay for the film, “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist” and wrote and directed the movie, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”
In addition to writing the script for “The Meddler,” Scafaria also directed the movie, which stars former Edison resident Susan Sarandon as her mother, renamed Marnie in the film. Scafaria’s character is played by Rose Byrne. While much of the story is based in reality, other aspects, including a love interest for Marnie, did not actually happen.
“I added a lot of fiction,” said Scafaria. “It has more closure than exists in real life.”
Scafaria said that when she approached Gail about the movie idea, her mother was on board immediately.
“She got a kick out of it,” Scafaria said. “I think she loved the portrait of this character. My mother couldn’t believe Susan Sarandon was playing her. Susan was wearing my mom’s tops from Chico’s and driving her car. She said my father would have loved being married to Susan Sarandon.”
Scafaria even managed to get photographs of her father, and a shot of his driver’s license, into the movie.
“My father is sort of immortalized,” she said. “My mother loves it so much that she goes to see the movie at least once a day. What people don’t realize is that the real-life meddler is in the theater.”
“The Meddler” had its premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival and an April red carpet premiere in Los Angeles. The movie is currently in wide release.
“It’s been amazing,” Scafaria said. “It’s so exciting to make a film and share it with other people. My mother is really enjoying the feeling of it and the sense of pride in her daughter.”
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MaryAnnBourbeau.
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