In the1950s, Nora Ephron was born into an unusual household.
Both her parents were screenwriters.
And their profession influenced their parenting.
Because whenever anything would happen to little Nora: a bully at school, her bike stolen, a horrible teacher, her parents would simply say “It’s all copy.”
Because to Nora’s parents, all life experience was material for writing.
They knew writers write best about what they know about.
So whatever happens to you is fuel for writing.
It gave her much more power in her life.
She explained it this way:
“When I slip on a banana people laugh at me.
But if I tell people I slipped on a banana that’s my laugh.
Then I win because it’s my story.”
And Nora invented a new style of confessional writing: fresh, insightful, touching.
She started out with columns for newspapers and magazines.
Then short stories, and eventually entire books.
Her writing was so popular that Nora began turning her books into screenplays.
She even began writing, producing, and directing her own movies.
One of her movies was “When Harry Met Sally”.
Nora knew everything about the way women think and feel.
Which is how she was able to write scenes like the fake orgasm in the restaurant.
It was shocking at the time, because men didn’t know women faked orgasms.
But Nora would write about the truths that no one ever spoke about.
Which made her films and books a massive success.
Writing about real life experience is the best way to go.
At BMP, I remember John Webster would always interview the planners for hours before he started work.
Not about strategy, John could do that himself.
No, he wanted to know about his audience.
What programmes did they like, where did they shop, what did they wear, what words did they use, what about their families?
It always looked to me as if John was interrogating the planner like an actor preparing for a role.
When he found a nugget he’d write it down.
Often he’d build a whole campaign around it.
Because, like Nora Ephron, John was voracious about real life experiences, not just his own, anyone’s.
Once I told him about a dog in a pub in Barking.
The dog would lie down and the owner would put a biscuit on the dog’s paw.
The dog would wait for the signal, flip the biscuit in the air, then catch and eat it.
I told him and forgot about it.
But a couple of month’s later John wrote it into a commercial for John Smiths and it won a D&AD gold award.
Another time I told John it was funny the way men always gave directions by pub names.
I forgot all about it but a couple of months later John wrote it into a commercial for John Smiths and it won another D&AD award.
Because, like Nora Ephron, John knew you don’t throw anything away.
You can’t beat the real life that’s going on around you.
If it makes you laugh, write it down, save it.
If you just pay attention and don’t waste it, everything is copy.