July 22, 2003 by Claude Brodesser
Gotham shopaholic pays off debt, lands lucrative deal
Getting deep into credit card debt: $20,000.
Getting a book and movie deal for doing so: Priceless.
Karyn Bosnak, the high-living twentysomething ex-Manhattanite who gained notoriety for her lack of restraint with credit cards, will adapt her life story for the screen, with Sony Pictures-based Escape Artists producing the pic.
With a taste for Gucci, Prada and the finer things in life, Bosnak eventually decided to rein herself in with credit counseling. But then she lost her job as a segment producer on syndie yakker “The Ananda Lewis Show.” With no immediate job prospects, and having moved to Brooklyn and taken on a roommate to save money, Bosnak decided the way out of debt was to create www.savekaryn.com — a Web site that begged for cash from the general public.
Directing donors to her Web site through the city-specific, cut-rate version of eBay,www.craigslist.com, her online appeal quickly, and astonishingly, gained momentum.
“By the end of the first week, I’d gotten 100 hits,” she told Daily Variety. “By the second, I’d gotten 300. And by the end of the third week, it was in USA Today and had gotten 20,000 hits.”
Not all of the messages were positive. Some offered to pay money if she’d send a pair of her underwear or pose nude online. Others simply lambasted her; one Web site —www.dontsavekaryn.com — sprang up to decry her lack of financial responsibility.
But not only did her Web site appeal raise more than enough to pay off her creditors (some 2,700 people sent in between $1 and $5, though one man sent $500) — she also got a book deal at HarperCollins after RLR & Associates lit agent Jennifer Unter saw her site mentioned in USA Today.
“I think after Enron and Worldcom, people just responded to the honesty of it,” Bosnak said of her brazen approach. “I didn’t make excuses. I just said I’d spent too much.”
The book is due out in September, with some 75,000 copies planned in the first run, according to RLR topper Bob Rosen.
With little formal training as a screenwriter, Bosnak said she is relying on the movies she loves and the study of a few scripts furnished by Escape Artists to get the hang of screenwriting.
She admitted that, like her favorite movies “Forrest Gump” and “Clueless,” Bosnak the protagonist is a sort of hapless type who stumbles into and out of trouble with equal aplomb.
“I never thought it would work,” she said of her site, which now is used to highlight and help other overextended debtors. “I just felt like, ‘I’ll never catch up.’”
But as a result of its success, she said, she is now a changed woman. Her book advance is held by a corporation, which pays her a salary. But the real test of her resolve occurred the other day atBergdorf Goodman.
“I saw this Marc Jacobs purse, $900, and I thought, ‘I can really afford this now.’ But I didn’t, and I felt much better. I went on eBay and found a pair of Gucci shoes for $61! They’d only been worn once!”
Escape Artists has of late become the go-to producer in the unbelievable-but-true story department. Besides making “Antwone Fisher” at Fox Searchlight last year, the company last week acquired “The Untitled Chris Gardner” project, about a homeless single dad who became a millionaire stockbroker after raising his son in San Francisco’s public transit restrooms.
Company principals Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch and David Alper will produce the pic, which was brought into Escape Artists by development exec Lacy Boughn.