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The Minder
Part Two

by David Freeman

He must make a choice: become the out-of-control young starlet’s BFF – or her babysitter. 2,778 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Jimmy Sakamuru talked a lot about art, but he cared more about money. It’s the only way a director can A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBget anything done. Jimmy would try to stick to dollars and cents around Barney but he was sure to look for a chance to tell us how his movie was like Italian neo-realism or some damn thing. He had directed a few studio pictures but none of them had been hits. It meant that now he could make a studio distribution deal but he’d have to find his own financing. Jimmy had lost his pipeline to studio financing. To claw your way back from that took a fierceness that wouldn’t be denied. The ins and outs of this were tricky.

And now Jimmy was bringing Caitlin Harper to our office. We mostly got business people coming through our doors. This would be our first pop diva.

Barney was wearing his best suit — a blue pinstriped double-breasted model that he wore to bank meetings. He seemed a little anxious. It hadn’t occurred to me to dress for the occasion. I was in my usual khakis and an old grey herringbone jacket. Jimmy was dressed in leather, jacket and trousers, though not the James Dean-Marlon Brando biker sort. Jimmy’s leather was buttery and so tight that it must have caused pain. He was wearing Japanese running shoes that had air pumps in them. The shoes looked like the 1980s to me but, as I came to see, those shoes and much else with Jimmy were worn in an ironic manner that mostly went over my head and certainly over Barney’s.

Jimmy showed up solo with a song and dance about Caitlin being ill. Her absence was an unmistakable sign of how things would go if we got in the Caitlin Harper business. Jimmy was full of assurances about how well he could handle her. Before Barney could throw him out, we were treated to a disquisition on the finer points of the shooting scheme for Overdrive. "I don’t want to just tell the story. Not a biopic, you know?" Barney knew what a biopic was but not much more. “The influence here is the nouvelle vague," Jimmy added with an aggressive French accent that irritated Barney.

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About The Author:
David Freeman
David Freeman is the author of seven books including A Hollywood Education, A Hollywood Life, The Last Days Of Alfred Hitchcock, One Of Us, and It’s All True. His screenplays include Street Smart, The Border and First Love. His journalism and essays have appeared in the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Review of Books.
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The Minder
Part One

by David Freeman

Who’ll be tapped to tame a young starlet with wild ways? 2,762 words. Part Two.  Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It was two o’ clock in the morning and Caitlin Harper was weaving her way east on Sunset Boulevard in her A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBCadillac Escalade. She’d had a lease on that enormous black beast for all of two days. Three of her pals were on board. Caitlin had sworn up and down to her agents, her manager (who was also her mother), her lawyer, possibly her accountant and to her one friend who had some common sense, that at night she would always have a driver. She would never, day or night, drive after drinking. She probably meant it when she said it, but Caitlin was twenty years old and famous. She did whatever she wanted to do whenever she wanted to do it. Caitlin had recently seen Bonnie And Clyde and was in a Faye Dunaway mood. She’d taken to wearing a black beret, imagining herself an outlaw on the run.

Caitlin Harper might have been the only pop diva I had heard of. That’s because everybody had heard of her. You couldn’t look at a screen or a magazine without encountering her round and lubricious face. She pouted her way across the American media with her high and swollen breasts pushed nearly out of her famous swooning necklines. I couldn’t name any of the songs she was associated with though I had seen a few of her movies.

On this night all that weaving from lane to lane, complicated by those Dunaway dreams, sent her diagonally across Sunset, over the lushly planted road-divider and into a telephone pole near the Beverly Hills Hotel. The pink palace as it was known was the property of the Sultan of Brunei, a personage that I’m sure Caitlin had never heard of though it’s entirely possible that the Sultan had heard of her. A woman in one of the big houses on Foothill Road was awakened by the noise and called in the accident. Caitlin had been drinking, which is what she was usually doing at two In the morning, unless she was having sex or possibly both at once. She was wearing her seatbelt, though I doubt it was buckled at the moment she wrapped the Escalade around that pole. It was a triumph of ingenuity that despite the inconvenience of interference from two airbags, Caitlin had enough of her wits about her to buckle up even if It was too late to do much good. Caitlin had banged her head on the side window which caused a mild concussion, but that was all. Concussions are one of the many things that seatbelts prevent. No one seemed interested in such pesky details. Her chums were bounced around a bit though the serious damage was to the pole and the Escalade.

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About The Author:
David Freeman
David Freeman is the author of seven books including A Hollywood Education, A Hollywood Life, The Last Days Of Alfred Hitchcock, One Of Us, and It’s All True. His screenplays include Street Smart, The Border and First Love. His journalism and essays have appeared in the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Review of Books.
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Casting Call

by Gilli Messer

Short or tall. Blond or brunette. Whoever women are, Hollywood wants someone else. 552 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


SEEKING ACTRESSES AND ACTORS WITH TOTALLY ATTAINABLE QUALITIES FOR HIGH PROFILE TOP SECRET FEATURE FILM
OFFICIAL CASTING CALL: UNTITLED FEATURE FILM (MAJOR STUDIO)
*No phone calls. Email pitches ONLY*

FEMALE LEAD: Allison is effortlessly sexy but not intimidating: a true leading lady in every sense. She’s A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBthe girl next door to the girl next door; a classic beauty with an edgy quality that we cannot describe in words… but we’ll know it when we see it. Her imperfections make her who she is. Maybe she’s got a quirky birthmark on her thigh, or two different color eyes, or a penchant for wild lipstick. Surprise us!

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About The Author:
Gilli Messer
Gilli Messer is a writer and actress. She was a comedy writer for 2018’s CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, a finalist for 2018’s 21st Century Fox Writers Lab, a finalist for Film Independent’s Project Involve 2018, and for both the 2016 and 2015 ABC Diversity Showcases in LA & NY. She created and starred in the web series The Drunk Lonely Wives Book Club and co-wrote and starred in the digital series Meme Queens picked up for distribution by Elizabeth Banks’ comedy site WhoHaha, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV. Her TV acting credits include Jessie, 2 Broke Girls and About A Boy.
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American Beast
Part Two

by John D. Ferguson

Slowly and painfully, the one-time movie star comes back from near death. 2,232 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Everything hurt.

He tried but he couldn’t move; restraints held his arms and legs down. There was something A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBover his face, something heavy and damp, and there were tubes in his nose feeding cool air into his nostrils to control the rate of his breathing. Pain vibrated throughout his body but it was a dull ache, not a sharp piercing, that ran from his neck to his toes. Something was masking the real feeling. Just when he felt he could open his eyes, he would pass out again.

There were times the famous movie star Tommy Shaw heard voices hovering above but he remained in a constant state between dreams and consciousness so that the voices hardly seemed real. Were they talking to him or amongst themselves? One time he could clearly hear the conversation:

Take it easy on the morphine, Mr. Clovis… We do want him to wake up some day. Can he handle the pain, Doctor? He moans so in his sleep… Gradually, okay?… We need to lower the dosage over the next few days… We must concentrate on getting Mr. Shaw back to full consciousness and then we can regulate the pain… You can see him trying free himself… Mr. Shaw, please try not to struggle… Your wounds will bleed… Please, sir, listen to the doctor.

Then Tommy would obey the voices and stop fighting against the restraints and fall back to unconsciousness.

Tommy Shaw’s recovery from his near coma, to his weeks-long stay in bed, to his standing and trying to walk, took over a month of painful rehabilitation. He couldn’t attend Helen Porter’s funeral; her family came and took her body back to Springfield, Illinois, and they made it clear that no one from Hollywood was welcome to be there. Fans left flowers and postcards with their condolences and hopes for a speedy recovery outside the gates of the mansion. Universal Pictures sent over food from the town’s best restaurants and Carl Laemmle sent over a signed blank check for whatever Tommy needed. No visitors were allowed in the house. It fell solely to Clovis to prepare his master for life as his new self.

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About The Author:
John D. Ferguson
John D. Ferguson is Director of Broadcast Operations at Starz Entertainment LLC overseeing the quality and origination of 46 nationally televised channels via cable and DBS transmission. He began his broadcast career at AMC Networks as a tape runner and worked his way up to Manager of Channel Scheduling. In 1995 he joined the Starz and Encore Networks as Traffic Manager to create a feature movie database and content library.
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American Beast
Part One

by John D. Ferguson

A 1920s Hollywood film star undergoes a shocking change in life and lifestyle. 1,843 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The children on Sunset Boulevard would play catch or kick-the-can or hide-and-go-seek in front of the dilapidated A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBmansion and shout, “The Beast is in the house!” whenever they looked up to the top window and saw the curtain move. They did this on purpose and would scream with delight and also a touch of fear. Because they knew that they’d attracted the attention of the Beast and that he was watching them.

The children had heard all the stories from their parents. That the house belonged to the once great silent picture star, Tommy Shaw, and had been beautiful in its day. “Such a shame! What a waste of real estate to have this house, now in shambles, in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the country.”

The front yard was overgrown with wild bushes and fallen limbs. So different from ten years before it happened. Back then, the mansion stood majestically behind the carefully trimmed shrubs and bushes, the trees in constant bloom. And the walkway, all gray slate, led to the white marble staircase with the black iron railing that ended at the large front door made of oak with a brass doorknob and knocker. The mansion back then stood three floors high and had three gabled roofs; it was said to have twenty-five rooms, including twelve bedrooms and a ballroom where Shaw would entertain all of Hollywood on a Saturday night. Also on the estate were even more magnificent gardens with a tennis court, riding stables and a swimming pool. They said it was a house that Jay Gatsby himself would have built if he’d had the money!

Tommy Shaw built this mansion in 1925 when he was one of motion pictures’ highest paid stars and his name was mentioned in the same breath as Chaplin, Chaney and Fairbanks. Some said he was making ten thousand a week, some said it was more. He planned on marrying Helen Porter, a young star in her own right, and bringing her here and raising a family. Of course, that was before early 1929 when Shaw’s life and dreams were swept away within minutes.

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About The Author:
John D. Ferguson
John D. Ferguson is Director of Broadcast Operations at Starz Entertainment LLC overseeing the quality and origination of 46 nationally televised channels via cable and DBS transmission. He began his broadcast career at AMC Networks as a tape runner and worked his way up to Manager of Channel Scheduling. In 1995 he joined the Starz and Encore Networks as Traffic Manager to create a feature movie database and content library.
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Mary Pickford’s Lost Diary

by Quendrith Johnson

America’s Sweetheart was truly the Iron Lady of the motion picture world. 2,242 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


1919 — Last year, Fairbanks and me did the War Bonds; now that’s over. Victory. I can’t believe I’m almost A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBan old lady at 27. I remember 19 years old, 150 dollars a week. Like heaven, standing in front of the camera. Then $500 a week from Mr. Zukor when I was 21. I remember every year by money: how much I made. Almost more than a full-grown lady, though still an adolescent by his standards. But I let him consider me a child. “If it pays, it plays.” I didn’t mind calling him “Papa Zukor.” Tess Of The Storm Country is what he wanted me to make. After all, in 1914, it was just like playing myself in a boarding house at age 12, alone and battling to pay the rent. Stealing milk for a baby! What tripe for some, but for me almost a true story. I mean for Lottie and Jack, how we struggled. So many years since I shouted down Belasco on Broadway. I learned the word “thespian” from a British actor, a drunk. It sounded like a lisp. But when I found out it is the real word for Actor, I perked up, got all the craft out of the way, tried to read all I could.

I spoke to Chaplin and D.W. Griffith. Well, we will stay united, “United Artists.” So we made up our minds to go into business together, and here we are, stuck together. since Feb. 5, 1919. If I hear one more person say “Lovable Little Tramp,” I’ll throw something. Little Mary Pickford is the only “Little” big star. Charlie has even horned in on my public. Little smallpox, more like it. The man is contagious, not a true actor. Just makes his pants fall down when his hat falls up. Oh the nerve of him.

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About The Author:
Quendrith Johnson
Quendrith Johnson is a journalist, novelist and awards show writer. She graduated from UCLA Film School where she won the Marty Klein Comedy Award. She has written two books: Redlight Greenlight Limelight and fiction about David Foster Wallace. She is the founder of the Screenmancer.website and included in the book Innovating Women: The Changing Face Of Technology.
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An Exception To The Rule

by Michael Brandman

Hollywood is known for horrible executives. But some are way worse than others. 1,697 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Jeff Sterling, the President of America’s pre-eminent TV network, GBN, bought Lincoln HIgh in the room. Or to A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBbe more specific, in his cavernous Hollywood office. He liked the synopsis and had listened raptly to my proposal. He said yes before I even finished. Sterling was legendary for trusting his gut, for making split second decisions based on his instincts.

"This is just what I’ve been looking for," he exclaimed.

In our youth, we had worked together for the legendary Hollywood mogul, Len Richmond, and I had shamelessly exploited that connection so as to pitch the project directly to him.

But by going over the head of Conrad Cadwallader, the Global Broadcasting Network’s V.P. Of Movies, turns out I had unwittingly raised Cadwallader’s ire.

"There’s nothing like it on TV," Jeff Sterling pronounced as he escorted me down the hall to Cadwallader’s office. "I bought it," he bellowed when we entered unannounced. "I love it."

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About The Author:
Michael Brandman
Michael Brandman is a New York Times best-selling author whose latest novel, One On One, will be released in August. He has produced more than forty films including Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, winner of the Venice Film Festival's Best Picture Golden Lion; David Mamet's The Water Engine; Arthur Miller's All My Sons; and Sondheim & Lapine's Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday In The Park With George. His and Tom Selleck's tenth Jesse Stone movie is in the works.
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The Story Department
Part Two

by Steven Axelrod

The executive story editor pitches the script to the studio boss – with consequences. 3,103 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


So here Mike was, past thirty and working in a studio story department, parking at the other end of the lot. The A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBreal question was, how did you progress from here? When the people above made enough flops or embarrassed the studio enough they were fired gently and given their own production deals. Few movies ever came out of those kiss-off vanity office suites (more time was spent on cool logos and interior decoration), but it might be possible to wring some authentic opportunity from such a sinecure. Of course, first you’d have to get promoted within the studio system to fail comprehensively. Well, Mike was good at that. He had credentials: he.was a one-man Bermuda Triangle. Let the ordinary losers try and compete with that!

Getting promoted was another issue. Mike knew the way to do it was to socialize with people he didn’t like. It was a daunting prospect, not least of all because there was no clear way to define your progress. In law school you measured your steps toward the bar exam class by class, and year by year. The path was worn down by many feet. There was nothing comparable in this world. Mike had no idea how many nights of poker he’d have to sit through, how many cigarettes he’d have to smoke, how many parties he’d have to endure, before he was eligible to get the job he wanted to lose.

In fact, he didn’t even know how to begin. He and Emma hardly went out at all. He remembered high school and desperately trying to figure out how to get into the cool group when nothing else had seemed to matter. He’d crashed parties, staged elaborate ones of his own. He even went out for the football team. But nothing worked. A geek was a geek; the social structure was absolute. It had been a grotesque ordeal and he had no desire to initiate some new version of it now.

He put the problem aside until a few hours later, when his old friend Roscoe Henderson called with the first hint of a solution.

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrod is an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
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The Story Department
Part One

by Steven Axelrod

An executive story editor tries to convince his studio to make a special screenplay. 2,489 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Mike’s job existed because no one in Hollywood wanted to read a screenplay. It made sense: they were A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBtedious. Even the best ones were a chore to plow through and the worst were excruciating. Mike had wondered about this often since he had started running the story department. Part of it was that scripts weren’t designed for reading. A screenplay was a blueprint for building a movie; popcorn was inappropriate. They weren’t supposed to be fun. But they dismantled narrative in a mercilessly clever way, leaving the pieces – chunks of single-spaced description, columns of dialog, indented transitions – scattered on the page like the ruins of a children’s toy.

The most common solution was to skip the blocks of description and just read the dialogue. But more and more scripts were all action and the only spoken lines in six or seven pages were “Look out!” or “What the – ?” So you really had to at least skim the car chases and the knife fights.

For months every bad script Mike had seen involved someone named Bubba. He had never met anyone named Bubba, which was probably a good thing. But they were everywhere in the world of bad scripts. Whatever Bubba’s occupation, he always wound up declaiming it to the drippy girlfriend who objected to his heroics. “I’m a fireman, damn it,” He would say. Or, “I’m a cop, damn it.” And the girlfriend would invariably say “If you go out that door, I won’t be here when you get back.”

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrod is an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
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High Noon

by Doug Richardson

A screenwriter is trapped between the conflicting demands of a film’s producer and director. 5,184 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The wallpaper was tired. And Ross Flanagan couldn’t decide if the hotel’s floral fresco pattern scheme was old 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3or just old-fashioned. The joint was clean enough. Hardly first class and suspiciously shy of the three stars it had somehow earned on Priceline.com. He didn’t have to ask how the unit production manager had settled on housing the Los Angeles-based crew at the downtown Abbey Inn — aka “The Shabby Abbey” — as the costume team had quickly coined it. This was simply the best flophouse the dusty Utah town could offer. That, and the former teleconferencing office next door provided a convenient space for the production office. Temporary. Serviceable. Not the least bit inspiring.

The graying writer had been brought onto the Western’s shoot for two reasons: his valuable past experience with the notoriously difficult and aging movie star, and he was also very available and in need of a quick cash infusion. Four kids and two divorces kept him in constant dire straits.

The air conditioner was blowing full on. Ross hoped it would create some airflow with the door wide open. The pair of second-story windows bolted permanently closed provided a view of scrubby hills scarred with stirring gashes of bright red clay. The late spring heat wave had done away with whatever snow was leftover, leaving the ground grassless and brown.

It looks like the inside of my head, Ross admitted to himself. Dull, wasted, and somewhat bloodied.

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About The Author:
Doug Richardson
Doug Richardson is a screenwriter, novelist and blogger. His movie credits include Die Hard: Die Harder, Bad Boys, and Hostage. He posts a weekly blog about screenwriting whose collection The Smoking Gun is published. He has authored six suspense thrillers including 99 Percent Kill, The Safety Expert, Blood Money and his latest Reaper: A Lucky Dey Thriller excerpted here.
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The Audition

by Caroline Ryder

A desperate director discovers an unlikely collaborator clued up on Kubrick. 4,050 words. Illustration by John Mann.


It is 113 degrees in Downtown Los Angeles. El Salvadoran parking lot attendants stuff their pockets with 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3cans of ice cold Coke Zero, enjoying the cool moisture on brown skin. I’m not there, of course; I’m a few miles northwest, chillaxing in the shade by my infinity pool. You can see the smog hovering above the city from my 1938 estate, a panoramic airborne sludge of green, orange and dirty white, a cap of toxic waste floating all the way from Downtown to Century City. I sniff — even up here in these Hollywood hills, the air has a faint whiff of bongwater, especially on hot days. I like it, it makes me feel relaxed. So I close my eyes, rest my hand on my crotch and imagine how my obituary will read.

“Remembering Desmond Furie, born on June 16, 19–, a super fucking cool independent film director, screenwriter, producer, set decorator, cinematographer, actor, who established himself with one teen exploitation movie in 1997, a genre-defining masterpiece of experimental storytelling called A Minor, and then he made another cool film that was equally amazing (we’ll insert the name later – Ed.). Every year since then he observed himself grow further and further removed from the youthful subject matter that had made his name until today, the first day of his sixth decade, when he languishes in loose-skinned decrepitude, exacerbated by years of drug experimentation. His favorite song was “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” by The Damned. His final words were…’It’s a trap!’ Did we mention he was cool?

The kids love my shit, always have, because it’s real. It speaks to them. My work is nasty like bongwater smog, I show them giving head, getting head, doing whippets, shooting up, doing the shit they actually dig.

Do you know what it feels like to peak on your first project? Do you, though?

Google Maps says it’s gonna take me 20 minutes to get to the intersection of Washington and Crenshaw, which is where Caviar lives.

Caviar is a rapper. Caviar’s my only hope.

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About The Author:
Caroline Ryder
Caroline Ryder chronicles popular culture for the NY Times, LA Weekly and Dazed&Confused magazine, and interviews celebrities for many media. Her feature script Mimi And Ulrich was short-listed for the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and she is a recipient of USC's Frank Volpe Writing Scholarship. @carolineryder
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Pool Boy

by Ann Hamilton

A narcissistic actress meets the one man she can’t have. 2,546 words. Illustration by John David Carlucci.


When Jacqui decides to rent a house, the most important item on her wish list is the position of the pool. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3The wrong exposure, too much shade – deal breaker. No tanning beds or crfeams, Jacqui enjoys the sun. She has zero interest in people who obsess about skin cancer. God created sun, didn’t he? But did he create dihydroxyacetone, the creepy stinky chemical in self-tanners that does who knows what to your immune system? She visits her dermatologist once a year to get checked out and she’s doing just fine, thanks. SPF? Not for Jacqui.

Jacqui never wanted to be an actress. She moved to L.A. with a high school girlfriend who had the acting bug. Jacqui figured she’d get a job, then marry a nice man. Enough of a reason to leave Fresno. The girlfriend took acting classes and one night, after a showcase, Jacqui was approached in the lobby by an agent who said he admired her performance.

“I wasn’t in the show,” Jacqui told him.

“You should’ve been,” the agent told her, not missing a beat.

Jacqui married the agent, did some guest spots on TV shows. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Quantum Leap. She learned her lines, got along with everybody, became known for her pretty face and nice body. But L.A. was filled with actresses like Jacqui. Fortunately, there also were plenty of men who admired them. Divorce, alimony. Another marriage, another divorce. Alimony again. Star Trek: Voyager, NCIS, a couple Lifetime movies. She was aware of getting older, of losing roles to younger women. But Jacqui didn’t care. She had money – not a huge amount, but enough. She still worked. Other actresses talked about their plastic surgeons and line fillers and boob lifts, but Jacqui was oblivious. Because, no matter what, Jacqui always had the best tan.

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About The Author:
Ann Hamilton
Ann Hamilton is a TV and film writer and producer. Her TV credits include Haven, The Dead Zone, Grey’s Anatomy, Saved, Party of Five, Thirtysomething and numerous pilots. She was twice nominated for an Emmy award, and was the winner of a WGA Award and the Humanitas Prize. Her first novel Expecting was published in 2014.
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Closing The Deal

by Allison Silver

An ex-studio boss tries to cast a crazy music superstar in the first film he’s producing. 3,704 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Ben had been working on Art Manning, hard, for almost a week now.

They had 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3done business together in past, since Manning was a powerful lawyer whose roster of A-list clients could set a deal in motion and often helped close it. He was regarded as a combative litigator, but also as a top-notch negotiator – something not always said about powerful entertainment attorneys.

When Manning came in to negotiate a deal, he never inadvertently killed it. He was not one of those lawyers whose art collections were more celebrated than their legal skills.

Ben knew that many industry lawyers were only too happy to have Manning in on a negotiation. It was one way of assuring that they would get the best possible pay-out for their client – as long as they were on the same side of the table as Manning.

Now Ben needed help for the new independent production company he was starting. He didn’t want to admit it, but he’d been unnerved by his most recent industry party. He had never thought that roughly a third of his guests would leave once he was no longer head of a studio. Was this something he needed to worry about now? Should he prepare for a life of slights? His name falling off an important agent’s call list? Never making it to the top of the queue to buy a Gursky? Ben cut off this line of thought. It was a waste of time. He had built his many relationships over years of doing business. Relationships were what mattered in Hollywood. People would always take his calls.

This picture was a good starting point. It would grab that attention of everyone in town. Over the years, many different directors and producers had tried to set up this script. But it had eluded, even stumped, them all.

Ben was certain that he had the key. Howard would make it work. Ben decided that it was going to take longer than he had planned to assemble a deal. A slog, not a quick march. But he had the skills – and patience – required to win. And winning was all that mattered.

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About The Author:
Allison Silver
Allison Silver is an NBC News consultant. She was executive editor of Reuters Opinion, Politico's Opinion editor and Los Angeles Times' Sunday Opinion editor as well as an editor at The New York Times Week in Review. Her brother is Joel Silver, the film and TV producer. Marmont Lane just published her Hollywood novel Lulu In Babylon excerpted here.
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A Killer Review

by Howard Rosenberg

A prominent TV producer’s death is both mourned and celebrated simultaneously. 3,192 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Melody Grant observed life through a writer’s eyes, composing on a laptop in her head. That way she could8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3 imagine her husband’s recent death — ninety-five per cent factual, with dabs of embellishment for color and drama — as a passage in one of her novels:

On the eve of his greatest glory, Arnold Chafis was not merely upset, he was thunderbolt-shaken and enraged, Vesuvius about to blow. He had tried to remain calm while continuing to read, grinding his teeth as his volcanic anger built, until pain erupted in the middle of his chest. Then his arms, then his jaw. Suddenly, eyes clouding and brain swimming, he felt faint — then fear. Arnold, a prominent TV producer, was 63 when he died in Hancock Park. His wife, the mystery novelist Melody Grant, found him in the evening, slumped over his banquet table-sized desk in front of an open laptop. He’d been reading reviews for Remorse, his highly anticipated weekly TV drama about a young doctor accused of malpractice. It was to premiere the next night on ABC.

Notices for the series had been blurb-ready and glowing:

Congenitally glum Val Steinway of The New York Times cheered: “Hats off to a brilliant and vibrant new feather in TV’s cap!” Roger Kale of the Wall Street Journal, famously unkind to anything attached to a broadcast network, toasted “this HBO-worthy Chafisian work of genius.” Politico’s resident skeptic Carrie Rice-Wentworth rated the new series “many times smarter than ABC’s Shondaland and — no exaggeration — nearly equal to The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.” And in Variety, difficult-to-please Vince Nichols forecast “a ton of Emmys for this stunningly boffo TV.”

Only one major critic panned. It was this scathing review — by usually-measured, never-shrill, bordering-on-dull Dean Formento of the Los Angeles Times — that Arnold had been reading when his heart stopped.

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About The Author:
Howard Rosenberg
Howard Rosenberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic at the Los Angeles Times for 25 years. He now teaches critical writing and a TV symposium at USC's School of Cinema and Media Studies and formerly taught news ethics in the Annenberg School for Communication. He authored a satirical mystery novel Up Yours! and two non-fiction books: Not So Prime Time and No Time to Think (with Charles S. Feldman). He writes the blog Rosenbeast.
B47619F5-1A8B-4817-8810-46F997008502

My Summer Romance With Ewan McGregor

by Diane Lisa Johnson

A heartbroken woman uses the actor’s movies to get through a painful breakup. 3,015 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I wasn’t expecting any of this, but they say when the student is ready the teacher will appear.8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3

If you had told me back in January that Ewan McGregor would pull me up out of the pit of despair, I would not have believed you. I didn’t know that one day he would come to me all sexy and whisper in my ear, “Choose life.”

I should start by saying that last year was a difficult year for me.

The break-up took me so by surprise that it was like a movie with a twist ending. You have to go back and watch it again. My boyfriend turned out to be Keyser Soze and now I had to re-read every text and replay every date looking for the clues I missed. I pieced the timeline back together, now with the new plotline: his face and hers together in a picture she had posted back when he and I were together. I knew everything in that instant. His confession came much later.

There is this thing your brain does in grief, replaying the story, as if reliving it could change it. I searched for the moment when things went wrong, desperate to fix it, or at least understand it. Was it a word I said? Or maybe it was my childhood? Or maybe his?

My brain sputtered. My mind was caught in an infinite loop. All I wanted was my boyfriend back. The heart wants what it wants. There was no explaining to mine to let go, and there was no explaining to his to hang on. Thinking about it became exhausting. I had to find something else to occupy my restless mind. I knew that much.

Enter Ewan.

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About The Author:
Diane Lisa Johnson
Diane Lisa Johnson is a screenwriter and filmmaker with a USC MFA. Her shorts have screened at 30-plus festivals and won 18 awards including from the DGA and an Audience Award from USC's First Look Festival. Her original pilot Living With Linda won the Empire Award at the New York Screenplay Contest. She sits on the board of USC's Women Of Cinematic Arts and is co-chair of their East Coast Chapter. She is currently working on a screenplay entitled Summer Of Ewan. @dianelisa
FRN Memo_2

The FRN

by Larry Amoros

A newly hired channel executive thinks up the best for the worst. 1,195 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


To:       FRN Staff
CC:       Skip Delicious, Executive Consultant
From:  Jack Ahze, President, Fake Reality Network

8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3I am proud to welcome Mr. John “Skip” Delicious, Executive Consultant, to our FRN family. Mr. Delicious will be responsible for reimagining Fake Reality Network’s programming and turning it into a premiere niche network in at least 17 of the 48 continental United States and maybe Guam.

Mr. Delicious has had a long and storied career as an Executive Consultant in a variety of industries, from medical technology (The Ouchless Catheter) to fast food (Ox ‘n’ Brew). And his rate of success as an Executive Consultant is unparalleled in the annals of consulting. In fact, he was born to be a consultant. When he was seven years old, he used to walk down the street and stop random passersby and say things like, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” and “Might I suggest you diversify?”

I first became aware of Mr. Delicious in 1994, when he was working as a Executive Consultant in the field of Public Relations, and he advised Al Cowlings to “drive slower and put O.J. on the phone – you’ll get more face time.” I knew, even way back then, he and I would work together some day. And today is that day.

In the coming weeks you’ll all get to know and work with Mr. Delicious, and together we’ll make FRN destination viewing!

To:         Jack Ahse & FRN Staff
From:    Skip Delicious, Executive Consultant

First of all, CALL ME SKIP!!! I am happy to be a part of the FRN team and make us the best fake reality network we can be. Let’s hit the ground running!

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About The Author:
Larry Amoros
Larry Amoros is a comedy writer whose third consecutive Joan Rivers book is on the NYT bestseller list. He worked on her E! Fashion Police show, internet talk show, Showtime special and world tour. He has collaborated with Susie Essman, Joy Beharm, Tovah Feldshuh and Barry Manilow. He wrote for the NHL Awards, NASCAR Awards, ESPY Awards, Friars Club Roasts.