Critic - For Whom The Bell Trolls2

For Whom The Bell Trolls

by Daniel M. Kimmel

A commenter thinks he can do better than the newspaper’s lead film critic. 2,681 word. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Griswold had promised himself never to look at the online comments to his reviews, but he heard the snickering all over the newsroom so he finally had to see for himself. It was his review of a supposedly feminist comedy that featured such empowering scenes as projectile vomiting in the middle of a wedding, and then went downhill from there. He had condemned the flick as the witless and moronic trash that it was. It made $100 million on opening weekend.

“Shouldn’t comedies be assigned to reviewers who actually have a sense of humor? Or a life?” was one of the kinder remarks.

Many were personal attacks on the person they imagined Griswold to be: “He’s apparently too cool for the room. Go back to your decaf almond milk lattes and leave hilarious comedies like Sisters Of The Bride to a critic who doesn’t have his head up his ass.” Some attempted to be clever: “My idea of the date from hell: going to see this movie with Griswold. While all of us are laughing our heads off, he’s choking on his own bile.” A few were so profane or threatening that they were “removed by moderator for violation of rules.”

And then this comment caught his eye: “Reviews like yours are the problem with modern film criticism. You’re so obsessed with the bodily function gags that you can’t appreciate how the editing cleverly juxtaposes the protagonist’s conflicted feelings about her wedding with her incestuous interest in her maid of honor. This was patently obvious to anyone actually watching the film. Perhaps you should focus on what’s on screen instead of that tub of popcorn…”

Griswold was startled. He rarely ate popcorn at the movies. When seeing four or five films a week, such indulgence would have quickly made it impossible for him to fit into the seat to do his job. However, knowing what he was in from the hack who had directed this one, Griswold had decided to order a box. But how could this commenter have known that unless he or she was at the private press screening?

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About The Author:
Daniel M. Kimmel
Daniel M. Kimmel is past president of the Boston Society of Film Critics and founding co-chair of the Boston Online Film Critics Assn. He received the Cable Center Book Award for The Fourth Network about Fox TV. He was a Hugo Award finalist for Jar Jar Binks Must Die. His latest book Shh! It’s A Secret was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award. He writes on scifi films.
Critical Thinking - FINAL - Warming

Critical Mass

by Nat Segaloff

A film critic picks a fight with his city’s biggest theatre chain. Will his editor support him? 2,596 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Jensen Hirsch had the second most dangerous job on the newspaper. He was the film critic. If he’d held the most dangerous job, war correspondent, he might have at least received some respect. But movie criticism, as The New Yorker editor Harold Ross once told filmmaker Nunnally Johnson, “was for old ladies and fairies.” And Jensen Hirsch was neither.

“Look at it this way,” Hirsch liked to say whenever anyone dismissed his job as cushy. “A film critic is the only person at a newspaper, magazine, television, radio station, or website whose job is to criticize an advertiser. Sports writers, political columnists, and beat reporters can say what they want and nobody ever complains. But God help the journalist who takes on supermarkets, car dealerships, furniture stores, or real estate.”

Hirsch knew that film criticism was almost an S&M relationship between the movie studios who buy advertising and those who draw a salary for saying if the films are worth seeing. Sure, Hirsch would be on the other end of the occasional call or letter from a director or actor objecting to something he’d written about them. But they were always polite, assuming that Hirsch would be reviewing what they did next. The only people who routinely griped were theatre owners whose box office was dented by a negative Hirsch review. But, even then, they were making so much on advertising kickbacks and inflated house costs that they usually held their tongues. Nevertheless, every now and then some angry exhibitors would call the newspaper publisher to complain and threaten to pull their advertising unless Hirsch was fired. Sometimes they did cancel their ad buys, but they would always skulk back a few days later after the studio raised holy hell. In such cases, Hirsch’s editor, Russell Pelota, would summon the critic and warn that the next negative review could be the one that got him fired.

“Do you want me to like everything?” Hirsch always responded. “A critic who likes everything likes nothing.”

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About The Author:
Nat Segaloff
Nat Segaloff is a critic, journalist and documentary producer who also has been a teacher (Boston University, Boston College), publicist (Fox, UA, Columbia) and broadcaster (Group W, CBS, Storer). He authored 12 books including Mr. Huston/Mr. North. He is writing a biography of Harlan Ellison.
The Club FINAL2

The Club

by Thelma Adams

A veteran movie reviewer recalls her first vote as a member of the Gotham Film Critics. 2,540 words. Illustration by Thomas Warning.


"Nose punched," Rhoda said.

"Eye blackened," said her 20-year-old son.

"Technically, the black eye happened before the narrative’s frame," she pointed out.

"Technically, scalded with chicken stew," he countered.

"Shot in the toe. The gut. Bathed in bloody barf. Brain matter splattered. Never have I so wanted to wash the chunks out of a woman’s hair," Rhoda said. "That level of misogyny, well, it’s really straight-out misanthropy. So does that make Tarantino’s treatment of women less revolting? He needs therapy, not another big budget. "

After seeing Quentin Tarantino’s master-jerk The Hateful Eight, mother and son were driving home and listing the horrors heaped on the movie’s primary female character.

"I love Jennifer Jason Leigh,” she continued, “but perhaps her performance would have been better in 70mm Panavision."

Right then, in the middle of a right turn, Rhoda flashed back to 1995, the year she first voted with the Gotham Film Critics. That awards season, she influenced her peers to award Jennifer the Best Actress for her portrayal of the twisted little sister in Georgia.

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About The Author:
Thelma Adams
Thelma Adams has twice chaired the New York Film Critics Circle and penned film criticism for the New York Post and US Weekly. The entertainment journalist has written for Yahoo Movies, The New York Times Magazine, Variety, Parade and Interview. Her second novel, The Last Woman Standing, will be published by Amazon's Lake Union imprint on July 1.
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Critic

by Bernard Weinraub

Can a beloved film critic survive panning the latest Tarantino and Coen Brothers oeuvres? 3,435 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Even though he was executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, Wilson did not care much for movies. He would never admit it, of course, but his experience and interests centered on national politics, foreign policy and sports. Hard news consumed him — local news as well as news from Washington and Baghdad and Moscow and Beijing. The arts pages were left to deputy editors. Of course, he realized the newspaper’s need to cover Hollywood. The Detroit News covered the auto industry. The L.A. Times covered the film industry. That was that.

So Wilson was obliged to deal with Hollywood. Every few months, he dutifully met the studio moguls who said it was a shame that so many movies were filmed in Canada or Louisiana because of the availability of more lucrative tax credits than in California. Couldn’t the newspaper run more articles about that? In turn, Wilson urged the moguls to buy more advertising which had declined severely with the growth of Internet movie sites. Wilson knew it was a losing battle.

He found them all just a little too smug, and he preferred to spend time with the newspaper’s numerous other constituencies. The auto and real estate people who complained that the paper was anti-business, black and Latino leaders who complained that they weren’t covered enough in the paper, the police chief and his deputies who complained they were misunderstood by reporters, the Jewish leaders who complained the paper was unfair to Israel, the Asians who complained that the articles ignored them. It went on and on. But the problems of these people — as different as they were — seemed real.

The movie guys, and they were all guys, walked into his office with the noxious aroma of entitlement. “Spare me,” he told his secretary whenever the moguls wanted a meeting with him.

But Wilson was a smart editor and, whatever his personal tastes, he knew that there were readers out there who consumed the comic pages and horoscopes every day. Just like they read about the movies every day. Don’t mess around with the comic strips and horoscopes. Don’t mess around with the movies. Besides, the edict from the publisher was to boost online readership. And movies, with their appeal to younger demos, were central to that strategy along with television and music. Circulation was falling at every newspaper in the country, including the L.A. Times. More and more readers saw the newspaper only online, the key to survival.

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About The Author:
Bernard Weinraub
Bernard Weinraub was a staff reporter for The New York Times for nearly 30 years and was its Hollywood correspondent from 1991 until his retirement in 2002. He has been a produced playwright since 2007 when his first play The Accomplices was performed in NYC and LA and nominated for a Drama Desk Award. His second play, Above the Fold, premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse. He recently completed a third play and also writes short stories.
Jack Perry Show  1

The Andy Perry Show

by Ned Dymoke

A late-night TV talk show host undergoes an existential career crisis caused by an anniversary. 4,767 words. Illustration by John Mann.


"Even a weak man should want to leave a legacy," Andy had said, rather off-handedly, to the man sitting next to him. It had meant nothing at the time, but years later it became difficult for his narrative to escape those ten words that had been so hastily scribbled down moments later.

They weren’t his last words, either. Those had been "Here it is."

And the first word Andy Perry ever spoke was "peas," blurted out at 14 months old from the back seat of his mother’s 1964 Ford Bronco.

Andy had said a lot of things between his first and his last words. It was in many respects his full-time job, and he was very  good at it. Every Monday through Thursday night, from 11 pm to midnight in New York City, he stood in front of a large group of people and a few television cameras and said a lot of things that in turn caused people to laugh. That was his job, and at times its sheer simplicity made him feel uneasy on a base level, as if he fundamentally should be doing something else.

He secretly envied people who work with their hands, yet found it hard to verbalize this to anyone who does lest they think he was mocking them. He could watch people cook for hours. And when he managed to escape the confines of the building’s television studio and his adjacent offices, he’d find an inconspicuous hole-in-the-wall restaurant nearby and watch the chef’s hands for hours.

This helped explain why he was an hour late to rehearsals on this particular day in late October.

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About The Author:
Ned Dymoke
Ned Dymoke is a writer whose work has appeared in Vice, Interview, Playboy, Esquire, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Channel and other media under the name Ned Hepburn. He has published two books, Brother Louie and Life's Rich Pattern, and is currently writing for TV and film. He just finished a novel.
My Life Uncovered Part Two

My Life Uncovered
Part Two

by Lynn Isenberg

The screenwriter is made a shocking offer she can’t refuse. Continued from Part One. 3,094 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Hours later I lay awake on Corie’s couch thinking about the good night’s rest I can’t seem to manage. I flip on the television set scanning channels, but it only leaves me feeling agitated. I stop on the E! Network to watch the story of legendary producer Robert Evans, who gave us Love Story, The Godfather, and many others. I’m consoled by the battles he had to endure to get his movies made. His persistence and risk-taking paid off and I hope someday mine will, too. I flip some more, this time to AMC, playing Gone With The Wind. I watch as Scarlett O’Hara stands defiant and determined to survive. Magically I’m mesmerized, as if seeing it for the first time as opposed to the forty-sixth.

I calm down, reminding myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. My father inspired a love of movies in me. Films offer strength and courage, provide life’s lessons, spark laughter, elicit tears, and create the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself, experiencing the vicissitudes of someone else’s journey, which helps you appreciate your own. I exhale and settle into a remedy of escape from my own problems in total solidarity with Scarlett.

It’s 8:00 am when Corie graciously drops me off at the mechanic’s shop. The first thing that Joseph tells me is that he’s got this cousin in the San Fernando Valley with a production company who’s always looking for good scripts. “I gave him your script last night. He thinks you’re a talented writer,” says Joseph.

“He does? He read it in one night?”

“Yeah. He wants to meet you. Go see him. You can pay me back in a month.” Joseph hands me my car keys, a bill reduced to a thousand dollars and the address to the Accent Film Company.

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About The Author:
Lynn Isenberg
Lynn Isenberg launched Focus Media for her writing, producing and marketing. Early in her career, she worked on studio films and co-created a cable design series. She co-produced the First Internet Film & Music Festival and founded the Hollywood Literary Retreat. Her first novel My Life Uncovered is excerpted here; her second novel is a fiction trilogy The Funeral Planner.
My Life Uncovered Part One

My Life Uncovered
Part One

by Lynn Isenberg

A talented female screenwriter loses her Hollywood dreams. Part Two posted. 3,212 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I can’t believe what I have just heard. I repeat the words that I think rolled off the studio producer’s tongue because I am suddenly unable to decipher the meaning of them.

“What do you mean there’s no deal?” I ask, my heart pumping furiously.

“There never was any deal,” he says, leaning back in his chair beside a pile of screenplays, contracts, and production budgets. “Who’d you say your agent was again?”

“Scott Sher at the Significant Talent Agency,” I repeat.

“Hmmm.I thought I knew all the agents at STA. Never met him,” says Lee Weston, a high-profile movie producer on the lot of a major film studio. “What exactly did he tell you… Linda?”

“It’s Laura. Laura Taylor. And he told me the deal was done months ago,” I affirm.

My memory can’t be that bad. After all, why would I quit my job at STA, the hottest talent agency in town, if there hadn’t been a deal? Scott had told me to leave and stick with writing. I wonder, can Alzheimer’s strike at twenty-nine? Maybe it’s some sort of studio conspiracy against struggling writers. Or perhaps this guy is an imposter and the real tanned-face Weston has the contract for my screenplay with him on a sandy-white beach in Fiji.

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About The Author:
Lynn Isenberg
Lynn Isenberg launched Focus Media for her writing, producing and marketing. Early in her career, she worked on studio films and co-created a cable design series. She co-produced the First Internet Film & Music Festival and founded the Hollywood Literary Retreat. Her first novel My Life Uncovered is excerpted here; her second novel is a fiction trilogy The Funeral Planner.
Bender In Aspen chair2

Bender In Aspen

by Michael Elias

A screenwriter after a life change meets a woman he’s determined not to love. 3,242 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Bender once wrote a screenplay about a man whose wife leaves him. Heartbroken and desperate, he visits a Voodoo priestess.

“Can you help me?” 

“Yes, my darling. I can make your wife fall in love with you again or I can make you forget her. Which would you like?”

Bender could hardly believe his luck. On the other hand, it might have been his wit, recent weight loss, tooth whitener, and the really cool socks he bought in London.

That’s what Ms. Dworkin said, “Those are really cool socks.”

Adding to Bender’s sprightlier step was the feeling that he was finally over the pain of his divorce.

“Bender, I don’t know about you but I’ve had enough. We can’t go on like this. I want out.”

It occurred to Bender to suggest they stay together another ten years and then re-evaluate the marriage, but he knew he didn’t have the energy for more couples therapy or workshops at Esalen where he and Nina had taken Connecting Through Conflict, Recovering Resiliency And Reversing Depletion and finally, Letting Go And Moving On with Tom Marshalek, PhD.

Damascus occurred at a screening in the Writers Guild Theater. From his seat in the last row, Bender saw Nina enter with a middle-aged man in a Harris Tweed jacket and a brown turtleneck. Ordinarily, Bender would have pronounced him an asshole for trying to look like an English professor. Instead, he thought, my ex-wife is with an English professor. Bender’s conversion continued: the English professor looked like a nice guy and Nina seemed happy to be with him.  He watched them settle in their seats. The man put a leather elbow-patched arm around Nina and she tilted her head against his shoulder. For the first time Bender realized the truth of Dr. Marshalek’s mantra: if you really love her, why wouldn’t you want her to be happy? Nina was in good hands. The cloud lifted and the movie began.

And now he was in a taxi heading to Aspen with Ms. Dworkin, the woman he’d met in the boarding area of the Los Angeles Airport who asked him about his socks.

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About The Author:
Michael Elias
Michael Elias belongs to the WGA, DGA, the Academy's Writers Branch and its Foreign Language Committee. His produced screenplays include The Jerk, The Frisco Kid, Serial, Envoyez les Violons, Trick Baby and Young Doctors In Love. He wrote and directed the jazz drama Lush Life. He co-created the TV series Head Of The Class. His TV adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel A Dead Man In Deptford is set with John Maybury to direct. His first novel The Last Conquistador was published. Glimmer Train's Short Story Award named him a finalist.
Closing the deal FINAL2

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 done 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 the executive editor of Reuters Opinion. She was Politico's Opinion editor and Los Angeles Times' Sunday Opinion editor as well as an editor at The New York Times Week in Review and founding editor of the Washington Independent. Her brother is Joel Silver, the film and TV producer. She just completed a Hollywood novel Lulu In Babylon excerpted here.
Dinner at the Bigelows FINAL

Dinner At The Bigelows

by Linda Boroff

A Hollywood cad tries to seduce an innocent teenaged girl only to get what he deserves. 2,824 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


At age sixteen, Tessa Markey learned once and for all that fate would not be thwarted. No matter how elaborate her avoidance strategy and cautious her moves, fate simply bided its time, and then it came for her.

Tessa’s father was a singer and actor who had once “turned Hollywood on its ear,” according to Tessa’s mother. But the bottle would not leave him be. His frequent absences had elongated, like a piece of chewing gum stretched, until the connection with his family became a tenuous strand. The year was 1966: Tessa and her mother now lived in a grimy white stucco apartment house in south Santa Monica that stood as a testament to the past decade’s casual building codes. The place even had a name, “The Spafford,” written with a flourish above the entrance in silver glitter gone gray and dour, like an aged starlet. Tessa thought of the suffering that resided behind every door in her neighborhood. The homes were flimsy, with cheap siding and fiberglass awnings bolted on cockeyed. The yards were patchy and sparse, littered with battered toys and obsolete engine parts. A fever seemed to emanate from the windows, from the very crevasses of the sidewalk. At night, shouting and screams pierced the dark along with sounds of shattering glass and occasional gunfire.

The Spafford fronted the deadly torrent of rush hour traffic on Olympic Boulevard, which every morning Tessa crossed at her peril to catch the city bus to school. The high school clerks knew of Mr. Markey’s fondness for pills and liquor. They also knew that, after her husband left, Mrs. Markey’s own nervous condition had worsened, limiting her to part-time work.

“Well, Mom’s in the bucket, too,” noted the junior class guidance counselor to the attendance clerk. “Either we find little Miss Markey an after-school job or she is going to end up on the wrong side of the tracks.”

So the high school placement officer sent Tessa Markey to babysit for the Bigelows’ two children. Hugh Bigelow was the vice president of finance for a large movie studio. (“I count the beans for the big boys,” he would explain.) He was a pear-shaped Texan with watery blue eyes and flaxen hair pasted across the reddish dome of his skull. His accent was redolent of sagebrush, dogies and lariats, which may have been why Ida Bigelow talked over him. Mrs. Bigelow was small and quick, with curly light brown hair that fell to her shoulders. She came from one of those states that were all jammed into the upper right side of the country and whose names had to be printed out in the Atlantic Ocean.

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About The Author:
Linda Boroff
Linda Boroff is a film scripter and award winning short story writer. She adapted the biography Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story (now titled Fast Fade) for producer Don Murphy. Her short story in Cornell University’s Epoch literary journal was optioned by director Brad Furman and acquired by Sony for a series on The Sundance Channel.
Savant

Savant

by Mark Fearing

A search for the script reader accurately predicting Hollywood’s hits and misses. 2,789 words. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.


I noticed a detail on a Tuesday afternoon that changed my life.

There I was, studio executive Ben Kurtwin, reading scripts from successfully made movies like some office assistant or film student. I know this will surprise you, but sometimes studio execs read scripts. Especially when they’re a junior exec clinging to their job. And let’s be honest – I don’t want to be fired because what the hell else can I do? I have no actual fucking skills.

Anyway, I was reading scripts from the previous few years’ biggest hits looking for the intangible that makes a popular film. All of these big-earning features had been offered to Destination Studios where I currently spend my days and many nights, but we’d bought only a few. Enough to keep on doing what we do. But I wanted to see first-hand what my dearly departed colleagues had missed and why we had passed on pictures that had gone on to make mountains of money. Maybe the answer lay on the page after all.

As I started to read Death On Mercury, the biggest moneymaker from last year, that’s when it happened. The detail I noticed wasn’t something in the script but from the coverage. The reader had given this screenplay a big thumbs-up and a high score and advised the studio to jump on it. The reader’s name was “Jody.”

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About The Author:
Mark Fearing
Mark Fearing is an author and illustrator who has worked in TV and New Media for Sony, Disney, Nickelodeon, Freemantle, Adobe, Apple, Dreamworks Online and Microsoft. His children’s books have been published by Chronicle Books, Disney-Hyperion, Dial Books, HMH Books, and soon by Knopf Books and Candlewick Press.
Dark Place FINAL Warming

The Dark Place

by J.M. Rosenfield

A TV reporter looks to explain a surprising tragedy on a female filmmaker’s movie shoot. 2,184 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The plane was taxiing to the gate at LAX when the text came in, instructing me to turn around. No time even to run home, shower, and change. I caught the next flight back to Albuquerque where I met the crew, a local camera guy Juan, and his soundman Pete, the same two I’d used the day before. Their minivan was still packed with gear, so I sent them ahead and re-rented the dusty Grand Cherokee that I had turned in only a few hours earlier. There was some nervous talk from the news desk about efforting a live shot in time for the New York feed. But that plan went away after I explained it was at least a two-hour drive to Taos, and another fifteen minutes to the bridge. We’d be lucky to roll on anything before losing the light.

When I had first arrived at the location the day before, the film company was shooting their final scenes. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is the fifth highest in the U.S., a graceful configuration of inverted steel arches that towers hundreds of feet over desert scrub and sinister black basalt. The view extends to infinity across an immense crack in the earth’s crust, where vast open sky collides with flat scarred rock. You stand suspended on this desolate patch of two-lane highway and it feels like you’re floating over the edge of an abyss. It’s no accident the apocalyptic sight lines have graced wide-screen epics like Natural Born Killers and Terminator Salvation.

But the atmosphere on the set that day was relaxed. The light was bright and flat, the air crystalline. The road was closed to traffic and a few dozen cast and crew were going about their business, pleased to see us. There was one page in the script left to shoot. It was some walk and talk with the leads. Easy stuff. No action. Nothing too dramatic. All the heavy lifting had been done after eight weeks on location. It felt like a going away party, good vibes and plenty of practical jokes to go around. Lots of backslapping and “see you on the next one.”

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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.
Nod 1 - Carlucci

In The Land Of Nod

by Richard Natale

A famous actor and renown director find themselves in a terrifying scene together. 3,867 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Lew Baird removed his suit jacket and hung it in the closet, pleased to find actual wooden hangers, the kind that most hotels are afraid the guests will steal. He thought of removing his pants as well, just to keep them from wrinkling, but on the off chance that a maid popped in and found him in his BVDs, he decided against it. She’d probably sell the information or post it online and his Twitter account would explode with the pros and cons of his underwear choices.

Picking over the fruit and cheese basket, he decided to sample neither. The cheese would give him stink breath and the pineapple fiber might get lodged in his teeth. He had brought neither a toothbrush nor floss to the film junket. Of course, he could always ask some publicist to run out to a drugstore and get some. Seemed like an awful lot of trouble; not the act of dispatching someone to CVS, but rather the effort of having to summon a flack and convey his wishes.

Hang in there, just one more interview and the day will be over, he told himself as he eased into an armchair, shut his eyes and took a few of those deep relaxation breaths which Bo, his trainer, had taught him. If Lew could only think of a way to blow off that meeting tonight with Alice and her investor and ask Greta up for dinner. They could have Chinese or Italian and watch one of the Academy screeners gathering dust on the shelf of his home screening room. Then he remembered that his assistant had flown home for a family emergency. And since Lew didn’t travel with a posse, he had no one to pick up take-out from Mr. Chow or Spago. He couldn’t very well expect Greta to bring her own food; and he certainly didn’t want to be seen in public with her. The relationship was too new for that.

Before he could think on it further, he had fallen asleep. He was awoken by a meek looking woman. “Mr. Baird,” she said in a supplicant tone. “Sorry to disturb you, but we’re ready for your 4:15.”

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About The Author:
Richard Natale
Richard Natale is a film journalist and writer whose short stories have appeared in Wilde Oats, Chelsea Station, Gertrude and Off the Rocks. His recent novel Café Eisenhower was an honorable mention at the 2015 Rainbow Awards. His latest novel is Love On The Jersey Shore. Natale wrote/directed Green Plaid Shirt, an indie feature which played at film festivals globally.
Twitter art v1000

The Twittermorphosis

by Diane Haithman

A female screenwriter heeds her agent’s social media advice with unexpected results. 6,129 characters. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Truth is stranger than fiction, but nothing is stranger than Twitter. Which is too bad because I might be spending the rest of my life here.

That’s right. I’m a successful screenwriter, stuck in Twitter. Find me. @GinaS

Correction: Truth not stranger than fiction, just way more stupid. Especially here in Hollywood.

Backstory: I’m Gina, 42, and I’m good. Writing creds: 2 dramas right out of USC, 3 romcoms and new script (all-girl theft ring on cruise ship).

Beating the odds, right? WGA 2015 stats say 89% screenwriters male. And over 40? Well, I can’t even. But I, Gina Sampson, was nailing it.

Also had boyfriend with no kids, no exes and no mommy issues. At 42. BOOM!

But no, not good enuf for my agent (male). Pious confabs urging Hollywood diversity just made him scared of losing the beach house.

Instead of encouraging me with new Meryl Streep program funding over-40 women in H’wood, my male agent just got more spooked.

So, wait for it: my agent (56, b’day party at Sugarfish) pulls me aside to say I’d seem more youthful if I had more Twitter followers.

Smash cut to me throwing up my yellowfin.
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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 and published her first novel. She was film reviewer and Hollywood columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She serves on the adjunct faculty of the USC School of Journalism.
Bill Scheft 10 Sean Penn

My Time Is Up, You’ve Been Great

by Bill Scheft

The incorrigible Tommy Dash appears to be up to old tricks. But he also has some new ones. 3,742 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I’m writing this in the Admirals Club at LAX. Normally, I would just wait at the gate and time my Placidyl for ten minutes before I think they’ll start to board. But the red-eye to Newark isn’t for another three hours and I need to be clear-headed in case Sean Penn shows up to interview me.

That’s why I gave the guy checking names 50 bucks, and I can now drink for free and eat my weight in party mix.

I feel the need to write this post here, at the airport, because I’m still technically in LA. If you’re going to run your mouth on a show business site called “Hollywood Dementia,” you really should be here. Here. The Greater Hollywood Area. Actually, the Greater and Less Than Hollywood Area, which extends all the way to the prison where Liberace’s old boyfriend has a time-share. And you really should be in show business: film, television, long-playing records. They have yet to rule on whether stand-up is show business, although a maître d’ in a Vegas lounge once said to me, “You’re just a buffet that tells jokes.” Where I’m going doesn’t count, and whatever I’ll do when I get there certainly doesn’t qualify.  Reminds me of The Odd Couple when Felix, who has been ghosting Broadway reviews for Oscar, appears on a TV panel posing as Oscar’s doctor while Oscar feigns laryngitis. At one point, he snaps at John Simon, “You call what you have in Los Angeles theater?” Same thing.

Jesus, I haven’t even finished my first Wild Turkey and I’m quoting a 40-year-old sitcom? What a fucking hack.

Maybe that’s why I finally got shit-canned three weeks ago. Because I’m a hack.

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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 his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft
Heigl2 FINAL

The Assistant To The Assistant For An Actress Not Ms. Heigl

by Tom Ruprecht

A new assistant to a famous actress gets hired only to find out the reality of working in showbiz. 2,354 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


“First off, you’re not going to meet the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl, so let’s just get that little fantasy out of your head right now.”

Clutching her resume, Ally Larson nods.

Nicole sternly continues. “The job is to be my assistant. You assist me. I assist the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl. You get it?”

Again, Ally obediently nods although she really didn’t need the stalker chat. She has no burning desire to meet an actress who’s not Katherine Heigl.

“Seriously, you can forget that fantasy you probably have that you and the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl will be drinking Cosmos while she solves the problems of your love life,” Nicole scoffs.

Cosmos? Ally thinks everything about that screams 2008. Well, aside from the problematic love life. That is still very much a thing with 2016 Ally.

“Whatever,” Ally replies in keeping with the “I love 2008“ theme. “I honestly didn’t come here with any expectations.”

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About The Author:
Tom Ruprecht
Tom Ruprecht is the head writer of Comedy Central's The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. He previously wrote for How I Met Your Mother, Alpha House, and Late Show With David Letterman nominated for 11 Emmys. He wrote the book, This Would Drive Him Crazy: A Phony Oral History of J.D. Salinger.