Ellen Brown Furman
DEGREES: BS, curriculum and instruction, College of Education, 1970; JD, Beasley School of Law, 1981
OCCUPATION: Movie mama
LOCATION: San Diego
When Ellen Brown Furman, EDU ’70, LAW ’81, earned her law degree 35 years ago, her 6-year-old son Brad looked on, wearing a suit, a tie and a big smile.
The moment was prescient for the pair, who have been working together and cheering each other on ever since. And recently, the duo collaborated on a major motion picture.
Ellen wrote the script for The Infiltrator, a 2016 drama starring Bryan Cranston. The film is based on the autobiography of Robert Mazur, a federal agent who infiltrated the drug trafficking network of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar by posing as a corrupt businessman.
Brad was the director.
“Working with my son has been so much fun,” says Ellen, who was on set to make last-minute rewrites—something most scriptwriters don’t get to do.
Brad—who also directed The Take, starring John Leguizamo, and The Lincoln Lawyer, with Matthew McConaughey—signed onto the project after he read Mazur’s book.
When the producers began interviewing writers to turn the book into a script, he told his mother to apply. “He said, ‘You won’t get the job, but pitching for it will be good practice,’” Ellen recalls.
Brad was present at the meeting and almost cost her the job, she says. “I had prepared a detailed chart to convey the financial and legal complexities of the subject matter,” Ellen says. “When Brad saw it, he jokingly asked, ‘Mom, you made that?’”
But the chart gave Ellen an edge. “They were looking for someone who could convey the intricacies of money laundering. My law degree came in handy.”
Furman started scriptwriting 20 years ago, when her son told her about his antics during a weekend spent in Las Vegas.
“I told Brad it would make a great movie. He said, ‘Let’s do it together.’”
The project was akin to The Hangover and the first of 10 scripts the twosome would write, though none were produced.
Ellen hopes her Infiltrator script will be the first of many to make it to the big screen.
“My son gave me an amazing opportunity,” she says.