I'll admit I was a little intimidated when I called Jaffe's office and requested a meeting. His assistant asked me to send my manuscript in advance. A couple weeks later I took a train to New York. While waiting in Jaffe's office, I looked at pictures of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep from "Kramer vs. Kramer." Then Jaffe walked in.
The first thing he said was that he hadn't had time to read my manuscript. He asked me to summarize it for him. I did. Then he said he wanted to be honest. Very few non-fiction books are made into movies these days. And he was terribly busy and probably wouldn't be able to read my manuscript for quite some time.
I said I was willing to wait. I left his office discouraged. But two days later he called me. He said that he had read the entire manuscript and that it should be made into a movie. He gave me the name of film agent Ron Bernstein in Los Angeles and told me to tell him that Stanley recommended I call him.
A call like that is what I mean about life being richer when you dare to dream. It doesn't get much better than getting a stamp of approval from Stanley Jaffe.
It took another two years to get from there to a movie deal with Lifetime. But now we're there. Soon, a much larger audience will see Susette's inspiring story. She may have lost her neighborhood. But her fight has led to sweeping changes in eminent domain laws across the country.
Now there's an O. Henry ending.
Jeff Benedict is the author of "POISONED: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat."
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