Picture Up v3

Picture Up

by J.M. Rosenfield

A location manager scouts the perfect house for a film. The only problem is the occupant. 4,291 words. Illustration by John Mann.

I’m on my way to Malibu on the 10 heading west to PCH when I round the curve of the McClure Tunnel and bang, that view of the ocean and the sparkling coastline opens up and I say to myself, this is why I live in L.A. It’s for days like this.

I can groove on it too because I work outside. Not like those suits in Century City. "Hook yourself up with a production gig,” a buddy of mine told me when I first came out to the Coast. "They pay you way too much. And most of the time it’s just hang time. Everyone else is doing lunch or waiting for their money on a development deal.”  He got that right. But what did he know? Directing his first big feature, he walks straight into the tail rotor of the chopper they’re using to shoot a stunt. Long day. Magic hour.  Had the whole crew rushing to pick up a dusk shot. Typical director behavior.  Their only reality is their own reality.  He bought it good. I don’t need that kind of grief.  I’m a team player. Don’t mind doing my small part, hanging it up at night and seeing what’s on the plate for tomorrow. I don’t worry about little gold statues or where they seat me at Spago.  Or who returns my phone calls.

Don’t need the headaches, the hassles.  I’m in, I’m out.  Onward and upward.  Next.

Beach Boys on the radio, Don’t Worry Baby, as I make the hard left just before Zuma onto Westward Beach.  Roads get all squirrely out here. My Wrangler’s GPS freezes, so I reboot. It can route you all the way to Ojai before it wakes up. I see a guardhouse up ahead in front of State Beach. Surfer dude waves me through. I pull in and turn around. He comes out of the shack and hits me up for twenty bucks parking.

I say, “Where’s Cliffview.”

“There’s no in and out," he says.

I slide my shades down my nose, give him my best glare over the rims.

“Do I look like I’m here for the waves?"

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About The Author:
J.M. Rosenfield
J.M. Rosenfield has worked in many aspects of Hollywood film and media. He was location manager for On Golden Pond and Carny and produced the sci-fi feature Wavelength and its soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. He was a producer, writer, and segment director for Entertainment Tonight and newswriter at KNBC and KTLA.
Callback FINAL

Call Back

by Tom Teicholz

A producer, writer, and songstress whose careers are slipping away find one another. 4,265 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Dan Schneider was feeling desperate. It was Labor Day and he had gone into the office because he didn’t know what to do with himself. Looking at the four walls of his rented executive suite, bare save for three colored Post-its on the wall listing the three movie projects he still had to his name as a producer, he wondered what he was going to do.

Last spring, he had an office on the Fox lot, an assistant, a development exec, and a parking spot. He received a salary and a contribution was paid to his health plan. He had a movie set up at Warner Bros, with not one but two major stars attached; three movies at Showtime, two financed by Fox, the third by Paramount; a project at TNT with a director attached; and two Internet series he was developing for online streaming service Cupboard.

In July, Dan’s first-look deal at Fox didn’t get renewed. The head of the studio was under a mandate to cut costs, and she decided to cut deals. She wasn’t going to cut her own salary, was she? Dan would have enjoyed hating her, but it wasn’t long before she lost her job, too. She had spent two years screaming about how everyone else was an idiot. Now no one would hire her. No one owed her and no one wanted to be in business with her. She had pissed off too many people. Her career was over. By contrast, Dan was a producer. A salesman. He would continue to do what he did, and once one of his projects went into production, he would get another deal. Or so he believed.

Then Showtime put two of his three projects into turnaround. The TNT project died. Cupboard imploded during a mini-tech bubble correction. And the news on his strongest project, the feature at Warner Bros, was not great — his executive had left her job and the studio decided to put a new writer on the project. Dan had come up with the original idea and brought it to the writer; together they’d taken it to the executive, who became a close friend. It was as if Dan had been standing in the center of the room and was now exiled to a corner down the hall. The writing was on the wall: The project would proceed, but he would have less and less to do with it.

Since leaving Fox, Dan had lined up more than $1 million in fees from his production projects, but the effect on the current balance in his checking account was negligible. In the past year Dan had given up the following: his assistant (a huge savings as he paid her salary, her parking, and her health care); his personal trainer (for the cost of one session he joined the YMCA, which had a gym where there was no chance of running into anyone he knew); his shrink; and his business manager. A guy used to come to his house once a week to wash his car. Now he went to the car wash once every two weeks, on Tuesdays, which was bargain day.

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About The Author:
Tom Teicholz
Tom Teicholz is a journalist and producer who has created print, video and social media content for Intel, The Museum of Tolerance and The Milken Family Foundation as well as Huffington Post, Newsweek, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. He also has ghostwritten and edited essays and books for private clients.
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The Comanche Kid

by Thomas McCafferty

A storm wrecked a filmmaker’s set and will ruin him unless his ex-lover rides to the rescue. 4,758 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

“Don’t look sullen, David.”

“Sullen? I was shooting for serene.”

Even at 40 — with her loose-fit trousers and black ankle boots brown with dust — Kay Winters was still the image of glamour. Though she was never fodder for People or Us Weekly, candid shots of her alongside her more famous friends appeared regularly in red carpet feeds during awards season.

Best he could, he’d maintain an outward calm. He was David fucking Pierce. A grown man. Forty-four years old but still the Comanche Kid.

He had hoped a phone conversation would suffice. He hadn’t wanted to see her, and he knew she hadn’t wanted to see him. Nonetheless, she’d told him that if she was going to humor him, if she was going to even consider rescuing his movie, well, she had to see the shit show. For one thing, she had to make sure he was really working. Had to make sure he wasn’t just wasting away on booze in his Laurel Canyon condo. Wouldn’t be the first time, after all. Another drunk Indian. What if he had a needle in his arm? A rope around his neck? What if he was just trying to milk her before checking out, making it look like she was financing a debauched suicide? The media would love that.

She had mused over the hypotheticals. Had made him bring her up to speed on the picture in detail. Had insisted on seeing his proposed budget, his actual expenses, his personal account holdings. She had reviewed his casting choices and cinematographer — an Austin transplant who’d assisted Malick — and had even read the script. A rigorous woman. A ruthless woman, same as ever. He used to love her for it. Now here she was in the flesh, nosing in. Bearing the heat. Staring out at the desert, inspecting the galleys, the proofs, the kerning, frowning at the crafty table where there used to be snacks and refreshments and where now there was only water in enormous insulated jugs and paper cups and a husk of snakeskin. A shedding. A strange decoration that someone had found and thought would make a good prop — or maybe a memento. God knew.

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About The Author:
Thomas McCafferty
Thomas McCafferty is a writer, editor, artist and chef who holds an MFA in fiction. Formerly an editor at Field & Stream magazine, he currently is the editor-in-chief of the daily literary and arts zine Hirschworth Magazine which publishes poetry, fiction, essays, visual arts, recipes, send-ups and the like.
Peloponnesia vfinal


by Tom Benedek

A screenwriter has scripted a war but finds himself battling the producer’s wife for control. 4,197 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

Roy Baker Kane didn’t think he was going to get the job and he didn’t really want it. So when he finally forced himself to hear his agent tell him live and in person that they had passed on his take and gone with another writer, Roy wasn’t particularly disappointed. But he was annoyed. He had put the time in and had tried. It had been interesting to sketch solutions to the perceived problems they had with the existing script, and going to the studio to meet with all those motion picture-related functionaries — producers and co-producers and story editors — had been stimulating.

But now there would be no summer trip to Spain unless something else materialized quickly. And without “work,” Roy would be forced to actually write something real and meaningful.  He thought about diving in and doing some writing on his childhood memoir, that he had interrupted to go after the unspeakably stupid studio train wreck he had just been denied.

He checked the time. Go to the gym, do some hard time on the elliptical trainer, then take an hour and a half with the laptop and a cup of coffee. Get back to work. Real work. On something that meant something to him personally, creatively, if not financially. Fuck all those idiots in the room at the studio. The movie would be bad just like most of the others these days. His destiny would not be tied to some Friday at the Cineplex with that piece of shit. Just fine really. Onward and onward. Downward and upward. Back to his true unconscious, his true self on the page where he belonged, where he ought to be anyway.

“What ever happened to Peloponnesia?” asked Julian Renfield, an  infinitely thin, youngish, always fashionably overdressed, shrewd, mean motion picture producer with a sarcastic sense of humor which he was not exercising now. He was deadly serious. But Roy Baker Kane didn’t look up from his noodle bowl to notice.

“It fell to the Athenians in 400 B.C.”

“I mean your screenplay, the masterpiece Paramount wouldn’t let me buy.”

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About The Author:
Tom Benedek
Tom Benedek has written screenplays for Robert Zemeckis, Lawerence Kasdan, Lili Fini Zanuck & Richard Zanuck, David Brown, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollack, Richard Rush, Harold Ramis, Lauren Schuler Donner & Richard Donner, Ray Stark, Brian Grazer, Chris Blackwell and many others. He wrote the screenplay for Cocoon and other films. This is a book excerpt.

Everybody Be Quiet, We Might Have Something Here

by Bill Scheft

Comedian Tommy Dash is back, this time with a shot at a TV series. If he doesn’t blow it. 3,554 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Before we start with all the promising news, look, I’m the last guy to compare myself to Bill Murray, but remember when there was all that talk about him getting nominated for Lost In Translation and he kept saying, “Please don’t make me want this?” Same thing…

If you know anything about me, and you should by now, you know I can be a tad resentful. In fact, if I made the move over to porn, and I haven’t ruled that out, that would be my adult film name. Tad Resentful. Maybe I should go into porn, with all the people who have fucked me. I used to do a line in my act that I not only have a Shit List, I have a Shit Waiting List. Never worked, because they were idiots. Again, I am not bitter, just realistic. As Lou Gehrig said, “I know I’ve gotten a bad break.” Speaking of which, I used to do a line in my act that I went to the doctor, they did some tests and he told me I might have Babe Dahlgren Disease. I said, “Wasn’t Babe Dahlgren the guy who replaced Lou Gehrig?” And the doctor said, “Yeah. Nobody usually gets that.” So I said, “Well, what’s Babe Dahlgren Disease?” And he said, “I don’t know, but nobody gets it.” Again, it never worked, because they were idiots.

Enough. Tad Resentful out. Back to Bill Murray “Please don’t make me want this.” Guess who called? Come on, guess. That’s right. Denard Sharp. My former black agent. I mean my former agent. He’s still black. He got a call from a woman at one of the networks. I can’t tell you which network, but it’s one of the places you can say “cock.” She’s the head of development there. They’ve committed to eight episodes about a single father, an out-of-work bitter comic, who moves in with his estranged son, a successful young stand-up starring in his own new series. I know, I know. Where do they come up with these incredibly original ideas?

Let me back up for a second and just wonder out loud about why no one is allowed to live alone on television. Apparently, it’s some kind of fake law. Like paying your income tax. (Let me do a little housecleaning with my new email friends from Sacramento. Fellas or gals, when you can show me the line in the constitution where it says the government has a right to collect income tax, I will gladly pay my income tax. And by the constitution, I mean The U.S. Constitution, not whatever Schwarzenegger shot list you’re working off of.) Everyone has to move in with someone on television. Or back to their hometown. It’s one or the other. Either way, you’re fucking moving. That’s the first thing I’m going to ask this woman. Were there no affordable apartments in this guy’s hometown? Honest to Christ.

No, I’m not going to ask that. Because I want this. It’s too late for Bill Murray. They’ve made me want this. Okay, I want this. And it doesn’t go well when I ask things like that.

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Bill Scheft on twitter
About The Author:
Bill Scheft
Bill Scheft was a 16-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman from 1991 until May 20, 2015. He spent 12 years touring as a stand-up comedian until he was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night With David Letterman on NBC. He has authored 4 novels: The Ringer, Time Won't Let Me (2006 Thurber Prize For American Humor finalist) , Everything Hurts, and and his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft
Green Ey'd Monster - Warming final

Green-Ey’d Monster

by Ann Hamilton

Wannabe scripters have their eyes on the screenwriting teacher and an agent and each other. 3,683 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Selma didn’t see anything outrageous in Cyndie’s behavior at first. Lots of people bring snacks to a UCLA Extension Class, especially the first session. And Cyndie’s triple chocolate four-layer brownies were incredible.  She’d just thrown them together and wasn’t sure she’d have enough time before class started and thought maybe they were underdone. Oh no, Cyndie, they’re perfect. Ben had a hard time getting his class back on track and it didn’t help that he had a chocolate smear just to the right of his upper lip. Until Cyndie pointed it out, of course. And when Ben wasn’t able to get it the first time, Cyndie took the corner of her napkin, spit delicately, and wiped the offending spot away.

It was only after session two when Cyndie told Ben and the rest of the class how she’d asked her psychic if Ben was the best screenwriting teacher in the extension program. And after session three when Cyndie brought her travel guitar and serenaded the class with a song she’d written especially for them. Only then did anyone suspect that Cyndie might have an agenda.

“Why are all of us here? Cause we’ve heard about Ben," Deb says to Selma. "He’s got contacts. His sister is married to an agent at William Morris Endeavor.” Deb, who is small and fierce with an uncombed tangle of blonde hair, lowers her voice even though they are the only two people in the hallway. “Ben can hook you up. Don’t you want an agent?”

Selma hesitates and Deb jumps in. “An agent is the grand slam, the Big Mac, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Get it? Ben selects one person. One. Uno.”

“So he’ll pick the best script,” Selma offers.

Deb shakes her head. "No. It should be about the writing, but the truth is, this business doesn’t play fair. Cyndie’s a snake. A shark. Some kind of predator.”

Selma thinks that over. “Oh, she’s Eve Harrington.”

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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.
Rapture In Rimini Red

Rapture In Rimini

by Nat Segaloff

A movie company, theater chain, film critic and trial judge are manipulated by a publicist. 3,765 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

It was the film that everybody wanted to see and it was Frank Webster’s brilliant idea not to show it to them. Rapture In Rimini was the art film of the year in 1973. It starred Alton Benning, widely considered to be the greatest actor of his generation, and was directed by the visionary Giovanni Scanzani, who was at the forefront of the Italian cinema’s return to romanticism after decades of gritty neo-realism. But that wasn’t what anybody was talking about, not once they got past the obligatory praise and lowered their voices to a whisper.

What Rapture In Rimini was really about was “the peanut butter scene.” Because that made it more than just a foreign language film that only students and cinephiles would line up to see. It was where Alton Benning took two fingers -– one for each Oscar he’d won in past years — and dipped them into a jar of Skippy and used them to lubricate his way into the young actress playing his mistress.

That kind of thing may have been nothing new for denizens of New York’s 42nd Street groin grindhouses, but Rapture In Rimini wasn’t intended as pornography. It was art. The problem was, the law didn’t always know the difference, and this posed a monster threat for General Artists, the company about to release it.

Faced with a potentially obscene movie being locked out of mainstream     theaters, Josh Volpe, who founded and headed General Artists, bit the bullet and called Frank Webster, the master movie publicist. Webster was an expert at putting asses in the seats. What remained to be seen was whether he could keep General Artists’ asses out of jail.

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About The Author:
Nat Segaloff
Nat Segaloff is a writer and journalist who has been a teacher (Boston University, Boston College), studio publicist (Fox, UA, Columbia) and broadcaster (Group W, CBS, Storer). He has authored 12 books and the upcoming Mr. Huston/Mr. North: Life, Death, And Making John Huston’s Last Movie. He also produces documentaries.
The Actress - John Mann Illustrations - final

The Actress

by Amy Sohn

A talented young actress finds herself on the verge of a huge break for her nascent career. 4,983 words. Illustration by John Mann.

For the first 10 minutes, the Alpine Theater was quiet. She glanced down the row at her fellow actors. A snuffle emanated from one of the front rows. Maddy feared it had come from a trade critic. As the movie went on,  Maddy began to hear more laughs. Later, when the emotional pitch rose, the audience went silent. When the end credits rolled over an indie pop song, there was a long beat, and then the moviegoers began to applaud, a few at a time. The reviewers dashed out. Maddy tried to read their body language. The house lights came on and the team went to the stage for the Q&A. Each chair had a bottle of water on it, and Maddy drank gratefully, feeling dizzy and hoping not to faint from the mountain altitude.

The moderator introduced the panel. A grandmotherly woman raised her hand. Maddy noticed, next to the woman, a young man nodding vigorously. It was Zack Ostrow, the young agent she had met at the opening-night party. He had come. At ten in the morning. He was a man of his word. Maddy squinted to see if he was with his mother. "Dan and I came up with the story together,” Maddy answered

Someone else asked if Dan considered it a women’s film. Co-star Kira spoke into her mike. “Dan gave us a gift. He writes women so well, it’s almost like he has a vagina.” Everyone laughed. “And in a sense, he does. Maddy’s vagina.” They laughed harder. Maddy stiffened. She knew Kira wasn’t trying to upstage her, but Kira was easygoing and goofy, and Maddy knew she seemed remote by comparison. Or maybe the oxygen deprivation was turning her paranoid.

On the street after the screening, as Dan and Maddy headed up Mountain Way, a voice came from behind them. “Maddy, you were sensational.” Zack Ostrow.

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About The Author:
Amy Sohn
Amy Sohn is a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. Her diaries, columns and essays have appeared in national media. She has authored five novels: Run Catch Kiss, My Old Man, Prospect Park West, Motherland, and her latest The Actress excerpted here. She has written two movies (Spin The Bottle, Pagans) and several TV pilots.
The Assistant JDC vfinal

The Assistant

by Michelle Blair Wilker

A big-time film producer hires an assistant and experiences unintended consequences. 2,765 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

Frank’s throat burned. It was scratchy and the taste of acid crept up to his teeth. He swallowed hard and gulped down a lukewarm Red Bull. His stomach churned and tiny beads of sweat trickled down his forehead. He wiped them away violently and turned on the ignition of his trusty blue Honda.

The car started easily with a quiet hum.

“Get it together, Frank,” he said to himself.

He wasn’t going to let a little stomach ulcer ruin this opportunity. After working for two wretched years for Marty Greenberg, he was finally going to pitch him a movie. His movie. Granted it was going to be while Frank drove Marty to LAX, but at least he was finally getting a shot. Frank opened a plastic bottle of Tums and crunched down on two Assorted Fruit chalky pieces. He glanced in the rearview mirror and combed his left hand through his sweaty black hair.

It was L.A.’s version of winter, so Frank turned up the passenger seat heater to a medium three and double-checked that Marty’s soy latte was still warm. Actually It was pretty hot, so he blew on it a bit. Out of the window he could see Marty rushing towards the car, taking two steps at a time.

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About The Author:
Michelle Blair Wilker
Michelle Blair Wilker is a producer, writer and blogger whose TV credits include: Stand Up To Cancer, The Grammys, and Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. She was recently published on The Huffington Post, a finalist in Glimmer Train’s 2012 contest for new writers, and shortlisted for The Fresher Writing Prize in 2015. She is compiling a collection of short stories.
A Friend Of Dorothys3

A Friend Of Dorothy’s

by Jim Piazza

A teen has a close encounter with a movie idol and learns more about her than he wants. 3,101 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Danny and his only friend at West Lynn High, Joanie, take their balcony seats at Boston’s Colonial Theater. They’re in a sea of matinee ladies who unwrap candies and chatter about the Broadway-bound musical they’re about to see.  (“Isn’t Auntie Mame a little naughty for a musical?” “Who knew Angela Lansbury could sing?") Suddenly a hubbub in the orchestra as a late arrival makes her way down the aisle. The word wafts up to the balcony. "It’s her! So tiny! She doesn’t look so bad from here!” Danny leaps from his seat to peer over the railing. He’s mesmerized, tries to find his breath. The Hollywood legend turns and gives the audience a little wave before her escort helps her into her seat. The houselights dim with the first notes of the overture. Joanie tugs at Danny’s arm, forcing him back down.

"I think I saw that pink suit in Life magazine," he whispers.

“Danny, she’s a huge star.  She’d never wear the same thing twice."

"What I hear, she’s not exactly flush."

"Are you kidding? She must have millions!"

Four nights later, the legend is passed out across her bed at the Ritz-Carlton, still in her pink suit. The house phone rings. It’s the manager reminding her once again her bill is overdue. No amount of charm will put him off at this hour. He’s immune to Big Names on the skids trying to pay their way with promises and capped smiles. The lady in Room 1214 is particularly notorious on that score. He knows all the stories, who doesn’t by now? All those movies, headlines, breakdowns, comebacks and husbands.  As she once said about all the men in her life – they steal her heart, then her checkbook, then her pool boy.

She slams down the receiver, in desperation now, and searches for her purse containing the all-important address book with the numbers of hangers-on to assist in her hour of need. To her growing irritation, it’s nowhere to be found in the rubble of empty bottles and overturned prescription vials. All she’s managed to come up with is a schoolbag full of homework. "What the hell have I been doing?" she mutters to herself.

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About The Author:
Jim Piazza
Jim Piazza is a journalist and writer who has co-written books about the Academy Awards and the 101 greatest films of all time, including two bestsellers. He authored a biography of Elvis Presley, The King, and essays in OUT, Village Voice and The New York Times. He is currently at work on a new play Reading Angie about a movie star.
Girl Of My Dreams - John Mann illustration

Girl Of My Dreams

by Peter Davis

A screenwriter scrutinizes a 1930s movie studio mogul amid the glory and greed of a golden age. 3,536 words. Illustration by John Mann.

Control was not only Amos Zangwill’s goal but his gift. He could smell when a picture was going bad, and this was most often because he could smell the people on it losing confidence. "Mossy" didn’t so much understand films as he did filmmakers: writers, directors, producers, stars. Not that he didn’t know what he liked and, with even greater decisiveness, what he disliked; but his gift was in knowing who to hire and when to fire. If a writer groused to Mossy about being made to write a script that was only a reworking of a standard formula, Mossy would say, “Formula! Formula? Do you know what formula is? It’s what works, what will work. Okay, I’m a baby and I’m crying, so go out and make me some formula. But make it new and fresh, the stale stuff gives me indigestion.”

Loving his pictures, Mossy also loved having power over his audiences. Once we walked together into a theater playing one of his movies. “Look at this,” he said as the opening credits finished. “In four minutes I will cause the people in this theater to laugh. In 22 minutes they will be scared out of their wits, and in 37 minutes I will make them cry.” And so it came to pass.

Mossy was the Jubilee Pictures studio chief — double-breasted and gold cuff-linked, dark reddish hair shining, nose pointing like the prow of a ship. Yes, I knew Amos Zangwill, knew him before the war. He was different then. This is what happened when I was in my twenties in the Thirties, a story of wilting bloom. Picture a time when left was right and right was wrong. We came, we wished, we dined out on promise. Seeing that tumultuous dawn break over us like a great wave, who could know if we’d be borne on it toward a gleaming new world or drowned in its foaming fury? Compared to the Big Strike in San Francisco, Hollywood’s guild wars were milkshakes. Compared to the Communist Party, Jubilee Pictures was anarchy itself. Compared to the Depression, our salaries were not merely astronomical but pornographic. I, slave to regard, was shackled to the keep’s lowest rung.

Driving to work that morning, I was queasy. Movies and fame: what a perfect marriage, each dependent on projection. In the search for identity that was my Grail over these teeming months, I attributed divine powers to those whose prominence endowed them with a magical existence. What was a star’s glamour anyway? Glamour was no less than the radiant moment extended and absorbed into personality. It became a defiance of inevitability, of time and death. It made up for something that wasn’t there or that had been but had vanished. My wait for a portion of this existence, I assured myself as I approached the studio gates, was over.

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About The Author:
Peter Davis
Peter Davis is an Emmy and Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker whose credits include The Selling Of The Pentagon, Hearts And Minds, Jack, and the Middletown series of six films. This son of two screenwriters also authored the nonfiction You Came This Way, Where Is Nicaragua? and Hometown. His first novel Girl Of My Dreams was just published in May and is excerpted here.
Believe Me Sheft

Believe Me It’s Better This Way

by Bill Scheft

The  comedian who says what Hollywood doesn’t want to hear is at it again – apologizing. 3,375 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

"Hollywood Dementia Exclusive: Tommy Dash Responds."

Okay, this did not go quite the way I wanted it to go.

Let’s catch up.

Two weeks ago, I published a letter of apology on this site to Clint Eastwood. I was trying to – what’s the expression, make amends? – for some past behavior in the hopes (I’d say “in the hope” but there was more than one incident) my agent could send me up for his new movie. Well, we still haven’t heard from Clint, Clint’s people, or Clint’s people’s people.

But that’s the least of it.

There was some other stuff around the letter of apology, which I rambled on into a tape recorder. Colorful stuff. Colorful stuff that I may or may not have meant to be included. But I never gave any specific instructions to my daughter, Janey. I mean Abby. So, Abby just transcribed everything and sent it in and the website posted everything. All of it. That was not my intention. I’m not exactly sure what my intention was, but it was definitely not that. I think I was trying to figuratively clear my throat as I worked my way up to the letter of apology. If I had seen the transcript before it was sent, I might have edited some things out. Some of the more colorful things. Like saying my agent sounded like a black guy. He is, but that’s not the point. Just like it’s not the point that he called me a “Jew motherfucker.” Or just like it’s not the point that he is no longer my agent.

The point is Abby should have shown it to me before she sent it, before it came out, before I asked her, “Were you ever going to get around to showing me what I said, Janey?” and before she answered, “First of all, I’m Abby. And I was planning on showing it to you when you got around to telling me you had a new girlfriend, not when I had to hear it on the fucking tape.” So, I had that jackpot to deal with, which turned into the friggin Powerball when she asked how old my new girlfriend is (27, which is the Powerball number). So now, Abby is not speaking to me, which kind of simplifies things because Janey, the daughter I keep confusing her with, hasn’t spoken to me since 2008, when I did a show at Hermosa Beach and made her pay the cover.

Let’s run through the good news. Last week, I got a SAG/AFTRA foreign residual check for an episode of Ed I did in 2000. Usually, they hold all the checks and apply them to your outstanding dues. And frankly, my dues may be the only outstanding thing about me. But this residual slid under the tent flap. $42.86. I used the money to buy one of those cigarette lighter-shaped routers that finds free Wi-Fi. I’m now one of those assholes in the Valley who sits at a sidewalk table staring at an old laptop that looks like something he has to return to the Church library by four. But I can do my own typing and submitting through my new email account: tommybahaha@yahoo.com.

Here endeth the good news.

You have no idea how many people read this last post. No idea. Let me tell you, it was a lot. A lot. I had no idea I was a draw. I’m not, but it was a big house. On the one hand, it was humbling how many people still remembered me. How many people remembered Tommy Dash. It’s the kind of thing I would love to share with my daughters, if we were talking.

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Bill Scheft on twitter
About The Author:
Bill Scheft
Bill Scheft was a 16-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman from 1991 until May 20, 2015. He spent 12 years touring as a stand-up comedian until he was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night With David Letterman on NBC. He has authored 4 novels: The Ringer, Time Won't Let Me (2006 Thurber Prize For American Humor finalist) , Everything Hurts, and and his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft
Hollywood Eclipse v1

Hollywood Eclipse

by James Dawson

The twin brother of TV’s hot sitcom kid grows up a film junketeer and grapples with near infamy. 4,511 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

"Hey, I know you, right?"

The overpaid megastar who asked the question leans forward intently, flashing his trademark lopsided grin. His elbows are on the immaculate white linen tablecloth that goes all the way to the floor. He stares at me. This ruggedly handsome prick seems genuinely amused by the concept that he might actually recognize someone he knows in a setting like this, where everyone else is supposed to be his social inferior.

Oh, Christ, I think. Here we go again.

Here we fucking go.

I try smiling and maintaining eye contact, but that’s like staring down a goddamned god. He’s so clean-shaven it’s as if his flawless face has been waxed. That doesn’t keep him from appearing unmistakably masculine, though. A stylist probably took half an hour putting his thick blond hair in such deceptively casual disarray. The top two buttons of his blue oxford cloth shirt are undone. His sleeves are rolled up far enough to show off his thick, well-tanned forearms.

Mr. Wonderful flashes a mouthful of radiantly white teeth and adds, "I’ve seen you in something, haven’t I?" He makes the question sound like friendly conspiratorial banter. All that’s missing is a knowing wink.

One of my fellow journalists — although using that term to describe this talentless, eager-to-please asshole is like referring to a two-dollar whore as a physical therapist — starts to speak up. Round-headed neuter Bennie Doolan already has a receding hairline and a gut, even though he’s only in his mid-twenties. He freelances for some website with a name as idiotic and hard to remember as most of them. God only knows how the thing gets enough hits to stay in business, much less pay its writers. Then again, Bennie may be one of the countless losers in this line of work who thinks that seeing his byline in print is reward enough for his inept efforts. Or seeing it in pixels, as it were.

Bennie says, "Actually, he’s the…"

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About The Author:
James Dawson
James Dawson is a film critic and feature writer and fiction author whose work has appeared in places as diverse as the Los Angeles Times, Marvel Comics prose anthologies and Penthouse Forum. He has written numerous articles and more than 1,000 movie reviews. This book excerpt is from his novel Hollywood Eclipse.
Lipstick NEW horiz


by Michael Burns

A successful film actress auditions for TV and receives the two biggest surprises of her career. 6,436 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

She had turned 52 in September, a Virgo, a beautiful woman whose looks could still excite. Her skin was supple and her face clear. Lovely curves in the right places. Double Cs, natural. Great legs. Twenty-six inch waist. Long red hair. White wonderful smile. But her agent hadn’t returned her calls and it had been three days.

She hoped another agency, one of the big ones, would call, but they hadn’t, and she was afraid to call them. Hollywood was a small town. If she tried to make a move, her agent Ron Astor would find out. He could fire her, and if that happened, everyone in a matter of days would know the public stigma inevitably attached to actors fired by their agents. The other agencies would ask questions. Was she too difficult to work with? Was she unreliable? Was she washed up?

She might never work again.

Laurie Blane lived in the Hollywood Hills in a home she had purchased 30 years earlier, now worth about $14 million. At the time, the asking price had seemed exorbitant – $1.2 million – but the year before she had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress and that had led to several high paying jobs. She’d paid cash.

From her back patio, the night views of the city below were mesmerizing. Laurie felt the urge to throw a party, wanted to show herself off and let people know she was still alive and able to work. But she was broke, down to her last $5,000.

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About The Author:
Michael Burns
Michael Burns is an independent writer and author of nine works of fiction including a collection of short stories. He also has written two unproduced screenplays, one adapted from his novel The Horn and the other from Lipstick, his short story posted here. He is not the Vice Chairman of Lionsgate.
Dark Lady Of Hollywood v3

Dark Lady Of Hollywood

by Diane Haithman

A dying TV comedy executive seeks his muse in Shakespeare’s enigmatic Dark Lady. 4,730 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

I’d forgotten how my immediate supervisor, Danny Gordon, never really shook hands. He’d just put his in yours and leave it there, like a small, limp package waiting for UPS. We’d been holding hands like this ever since he walked into my office to welcome me back. Sweet. I decided it was up to me to end the non-handshake and gently disengage myself from it. Dan still said nothing. The pause was clammier than his hand. “Say whatever the fuck it is you have to say, Dan,” I suggested pleasantly.

Danny winced; his small brown eyes had been fixed on the floor. Now, as he looked up, they darted every which way behind the narrow glasses — furtive weasel eyes trying to escape from his desperately hip green rectangular frames, from his head, from my office. From me. “The thing is, Kenny, I’ve been in communication with the writers, and they don’t think they can work with you anymore under these conditions. I mean, your condition. Trust me, if we had time to find comedy writers who can function when they’re depressed, I would. I just don’t know what to say, Kenny.”

That was three too many Kennys. I willed myself to stay calm but my heart began to rocket around inside my ribcage. I pressed one hand against my chest in the guise of straightening my tie. Even my heart wanted to leave me now, and you know what, I couldn’t blame it.

“Do me a solid, Kenny. Patty’s Going Out and He’s On The Force both got canceled, and it’s only October.” I’d honestly begun to believe that He’s On The Force would be the perfect comeback vehicle for that former child star after two years in a minimum-security prison. I thought Patty had what we were looking for. People loved her on America’s Got Talent but fat is only fine for competition where there’s crying. Now our only hit was about a young veterinarian. Problem was, he didn’t like animals, and animals didn’t like him.  It was called Bite Me.

Dan erupted into inappropriate giggles that contorted his thin frame into what looked like a hip hop pose, one heel kicking out and splayed fingers crossed in the vicinity of his groin. “Kenny, one of the writers has come up with such a great story line for the next Bite Me. The working title is ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ Do you love it? It’s from Shakespeare. "How cool is that? I had to take Shakespeare at Palisades High, but the only thing I remember is the kid next to me having to memorize the line ‘Alas, poor York, I knew him well.’”

“It’s not ‘York.’ It’s Yorick," I corrected. "And it’s not ‘I knew him well.’ It’s ‘I knew him, Horatio!’ Hamlet’s standing next to an open grave with Yorick’s goddamned dried-up skull in his hand, and he’s talking to fucking Horatio.”

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Diane Haithman on twitter
About The Author:
Diane Haithman
Diane Haithman was an LA Times Calendar staff writer covering entertainment and arts for two decades. She is a frequent contributor to Deadline and Awardsline and other publications. She was West Coast Bureau Chief and film reviewer and Hollywood columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She serves on the adjunct faculty of the USC School of Journalism. This excerpt is from her second book and first novel.
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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 or 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 has movie credits including Die Hard: Die Harder, Bad Boys, and Hostage. As a novelist, he has authored five suspense thrillers: his most recent are 99 Percent Kill, The Safety Expert, and Blood Money. He also posts a weekly blog and will soon publish the first collection titled The Smoking Gun.