Scribner PR Chief Turns Indie Filmmaker

By Neal Comment

Elizabeth Hayes worked on some small theater productions before she joined the publishing industry sixteen years ago, but she’s the first to admit that she’s hardly a seasoned show biz veteran. Nevertheless, after just six months as Scribner‘s publicity director, she’s leaving her job to work as a producer on Dancing With Shiva, the next Jonathan Demme film. She met the director through her role, back at Simon & Schuster, as the longtime publicist for Jimmy Carter, while Demme was making a documentary about the ex-president during the tour for Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

“Book publicity can be, visually speaking, painfully boring,” she recalls telling the film crew, but they ventured forth—and one day, as they were all crowded together in the back of a limo after an event, Demme—impressed by Hayes’ work orchestrating Carter’s itinerary—suggested that the two of them should work together again some time. She wrote it off as typical industry chatter, she says, “but darned if he didn’t do it,” asking her help in producing a film from a script by Jenny Lumet (Sidney’s daughter), to which Anne Hathaway has already been attached. “[Scribner publisher] Susan Moldow was so gracious about understanding my opportunity,” Hayes says. “It’s intimidating to start all over, but I would never have forgiven myself if I didn’t take this chance.”

Hayes’ replacement, Brian Belfiglio, comes to Scribner from the PR firm Hilsinger-Mendelson East, and has also run the publicity for three different imprints at Crown and served as marketing director for Workman. “That makes me feel a little bit better about giving this up,” Hayes admits, confident that she’s leaving the Scribner legacy in capable hands once she signs out Friday afternoon. And she doesn’t even have to go to Hollywood; Demme’s production offices are based in Nyack, allowing her to stay at home in Chelsea for most of the production cycle.