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At eleven I was at the peak of my creative powers: I was writing stories and playlets, putting together poetry projects. I was absorbed by my "work." At twelve I was no longer reading or writing, just counting off days and checking them off. I was interested in survival.

What is is about seventh grade?

Is my experience, observation, and memory of this time of life unique? I don't think so.

My film attempts to explore some of the realities of the transition into adulthood that this time in life throws into relief. It is not a "coming of age" story, because I do not believe it is possible to come of age in seventh grade. The film is a comedy because that is the only way I know how to deal with excruciating torment, and I find something both funny and poignant in the struggle to endure humiliation.


I was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in the suburbs. At New York University Film School, I made several short films, one of which, "Schatt's Last Shot," was particularly popular. A screening was set up in Los Angeles, and the next day I was seated in the office of the (then) president of 20th Century/Fox, Scott Rudin. A three-picture writing deal with Fox was quickly followed by an additional three-picture deal with Columbia. Unfortunately, the only thing I really liked about these deals was telling everyone I had them. I had a script I then took to Propaganda Pictures, who then got Polygram to finance it as my first feature. This was a not a happy experience. Released by The Samuel Goldwyn Company, the movie, "Fear, Anxiety and Depression," (which I would rather have had titled "The Young and the Hopeless"), was "a disappointment." Afterwards I left "the business" (or it left me) and, lacking any marketable skill, became an ESL (English as Second Language) teacher to newly arrived Russian immigrants. Pretending I had never gotten involved in film in the first place, I lived happily for several years. But then one day, when a lawyer/friend of mine said she was able to raise financing for a low-budget independent feature, I felt it was time to have second thoughts. I had written the screenplay for "Welcome to the Dollhouse" years before, when I was still "active," in part to redeem myself from the horror of my first feature experience, and it was a script I had always been fond of. Evidently, I decided to reactivate.

1984 "Feelings" (NYU Short)

1984 "Babysitter" (NYU Short)

1985 "Schatt's Last Shot" (NYU Short)

1986 "How I Became a Leading Artistic Figure in New York City's East Village Cultural Landscape"

1989 "Fear, Anxiety, and Depression" (Goldwyn)