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:

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 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.

Hemingway’s Suitcase

by Dennis McDougal

A university PhD joins a wannabe scripter looking to get their hands on an infamous agent. 4,847 words. Illustration by The Fates Crew.

Lyle Fields wasn’t prepared for his first encounter with Hollywood. He was a misguided academic who actually believed in the Great American Novel. How stupid was that? When he wasn’t teaching, all he did was focus on writing the Big One. His work on Ernest Hemingway alone ought to have guaranteed him a berth among Stanford’s elite Harte Fellows. Yet each autumn he applied; each spring he was rejected.

Face it: he was a third-rate college prof. It was not always so. Once hailed for his promising short fiction, Professor Fields briefly basked in the rarified upper echelons of American Letters as a darling of the Modern Language Association. While still hot, he published a pair of critically acclaimed short stories in two ultra-obscure literary quarterlies.

But sprinters rarely win marathons. He labored long and hard, manuscript after manuscript, to bring forth his own Great American Novel, only to be repeatedly rewarded with “no thank you” letters. “Too literary” was the kindest and most recurrent criticism. “Bloated,” “self-indulgent” and “pretentious” also popped up frequently. He must have collected a couple hundred such rejections. It was not the track record of a Harte Fellow.

Thus, over time, everything about Lyle Fields became desperately monotonous. He reeked of also-ran. Professor Fields got the worst classes with the slowest students in the least tolerable time slots. He protested. No one listened. Lyle’s survey course was considered obligatory tedium to fulfill general education requirements so students could dig into some real classes to get them to Wall Street. Screw fiction: how about arbitrage?

“Professor Fields?”

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About The Author:
Dennis McDougal
Dennis McDougal has authored 11 non-fiction and fiction books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. He began covering entertainment for the Los Angeles Times in 1983 and has written The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood and co-authored Fatal Subtraction: The Inside Story of Buchwald V. Paramount. This excerpt is from a novel he's writing.
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Advisory: No More Paywall

by Nikki Finke

At the request of writers and readers, I have removed the paywall for Hollywood Dementia and refunded payments for access.  This website is a showcase for the stunning creative talent which Hollywood attracts but rarely nurtures. As a startup, Hollywood Dementia can not compensate writers adequately for what their stories are worth. But readers can through their donations and advertisers can through their support. And I can by giving writers increased exposure through this forum.

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About The Author:
Nikki Finke
Nikki Finke is Founder & CEO of Hollywood Dementia LLC and an authority on the entertainment industry. She is now writing showbiz short fiction for the first time. She is best known as Editor-in-Chief & Founder of Deadline Hollywood from March 2006 to December 2013. Before her 30-year Hollywood journalism career, Nikki reported on national, political and international news. @NikkiFinke
Studio Story even lighter and bolder

Studio Story

by Bertram Fields

A successful film studio is run with an iron fist. But is that the best strategy for its future? 2,711 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

The old man was packing his things in a cardboard box – doing it himself.  I just watched.

Jake Simon was going – really going.  Hard to believe.  After 15 years, 15 years, of one man rule by an angry, unpredictable son of a bitch.  You could certainly say that.  And you’d be right.  But, of course, it was more than that.  Much more.  Anyway, it was over now – over and done in half an hour.

I remember the day I got here.  How could I forget?  I’d never been to a studio before – any studio.  I’d just published my second novel to mild critical acclaim; and I suppose, to Jake, I was exotic, and I was “hot” – at least hot enough to hire as co-head of feature development.

Why do I remember that particular day?  That’s easy.  I was replacing a guy named Sid Blumberg, who was being demoted.  Sid had gone to Jake and complained that I was an overrated, Ivy League hack.  Not nice of him; but, hey, I get it, that’s the business.

Anyway, Jake calls me into his office with Sid still there.  Sid stands there looking uncomfortable while Jake repeats what he just said about me.  Kind of embarrassing.  Then, Jake turns to Sid and says, “I’ve hired this man because he has rare talent – talent we badly need.  Unlike you, this man’s an artist.”  Then, suddenly, he points at my feet and shouts, “Kiss his shoe!”

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About The Author:
Bertram Fields
Bert Fields is one of the top entertainment attorneys and his clients include performers, directors, writers, producers, studios and talent agencies. He is a prolific author having written two novels about an LA lawyer under a pseudonym, and books under his real name about Richard III, Shakespeare and most recently Destiny: A Novel Of Napoleon And Josephine. He co-owns Marmont Lane Books.