Juggling her newborn daughter and script deadlines, Ann Cherkis says screenwriting is “probably the best profession you can have if you want to be a hands-on parent.”
But success and recognition as a writer have been a long time coming.
The Brown U. lit major got her first taste of the pic biz working as an assistant for Arnold Kopelson in the 1990s. “That taught me very quickly I didn’t want to be an executive,” she says dryly. “I started to realize I needed to write, but I had to support myself while teaching myself to write. I figured I should get a job in the business that paid me the most money for the least amount of work — that ended up being at a studio.”
Cherkis took a job with a creative exec at Disney. “The most important thing he did for me was let me write on his desk.”
She finished several scripts, among them divorce drama “Broad Beach,” which got her representation and a few jobs. Within a year of writing full time, she was hired by helmer Luc Besson to pen a Japanese remake. “The Secret” took five years to be made and was never released Stateside. After that, Cherkis says she didn’t work for two years. “I realized I had to get back to my original voice.”
That’s when “Man Under” was born. The script, now set up at Scott Rudin Prods. and Miramax, is a combination of things Cherkis knows well: family strife, photography and the thrill of Manhattan on the weekends.
“She has a great voice,” Miramax production prexy Keri Putnam notes.
As “Man Under” heads towards being made, Cherkis remains vigilant.
“For every Diablo Cody, there are hundreds who are writing and can’t get their scripts seen,” she says. “Even if you get discovered quick, you’ve got to stick at it and keep up the quality.”
Influences: “The divorce trifecta,” Cherkis says: “Ordinary People,” “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Shoot the Moon.” Plus, Charlie Kaufman’s work, early Woody Allen, Wes Anderson and New York City in the late ’70s.
Favorite unproduced script: “Broad Beach,” a family divorce drama from the kids’ perspective, set in Malibu. “Even though I don’t think it’s a perfect script, it’s very honest.”
Up next: “Man Under,” and writing another original script
Reps: Agents: Jeff Gorin, Carolyn Sivitz and Elana Barry at WMA; manager: Margaret Riley at Brillstein Entertainment; attorney: David Matlof at Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof & Fishman