Bender in Cannes ART

Bender In Cannes

by Michael Elias

A screenwriter is frustrated at the Cannes Film Festival – until he stops caring. 3,160 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Bender arrived at the Cannes Film Festival well armed. He had his screenplay and an appointment with a Moroccan film financier who would also give him a place to stay. He was in good health and had plenty of money for food and drink. It was now in Bender’s hands to find a way to fuck it up.

His screenplay, which he liked to think of as homage to the French New Wave of Truffaut and Godard, was about Henry, a successful American commercial director in Paris. Henry’s wife, a beautiful model, leaves him. Disconsolate, Henry takes flute lessons in an attempt to get over her. He falls in love with his flute teacher while his wife falls back in love with him. Bender knew if he could get a bankable actor to play the lead, he could find other financiers. But it was a small film, he would be a first time director and actors were wary. Hence, the desirability of independent financing which Bender fucked up.

Where did this come from, Bender’s policy of walking out of waiting rooms? What was the purpose, what was the result? Pride? Was it because from his seat on the Ikea couch of the office suite Bender could see the Moroccan talking on the phone, and Bender knew he could see him and yet didn’t acknowledge his presence? Not a wave, not even a raised hand, no sorry, give me a minute. Bender was growing angrier with each current and past issue of Variety International, Paris-Match and World Cinema.

Was this any way to treat an artist? No. A screenwriter? Maybe. One who needed three million dollars to make a romantic comedy in Paris? Absolutely. Hence, Bender, a long-standing member in the church of passive aggression, said to himself, I will give this prick ten more minutes and then I will leave. Bender didn’t stop to consider that he wasn’t in a store where one could get five million Euros and, if he didn’t like the way he was being treated, he could go to another one. Was this repressed anger at his mother for her dizzy nature that left him stranded after school with forgotten promises and unwashed spoons? All this revealed in fist-clenching sessions on Dr. Gladstein’s leather couch in the converted garage in Westwood.

But the past that illuminates the present doesn’t change the past. Bender should have waited him out like a Russian peasant, cap twisted past recognition. Thank you, Patron, for seeing me. Of course I understand that you were on the phone with the emperors of Warner’s, the caliphs of CAA, the mullahs of the Morris office and the entertainment division of City National Bank. As you know, I am humbly asking permission to make a little film behind the hovel you so kindly let me inhabit. If your majesty would grant me five million rubles, I can do it. Of course you may have my firstborn, rights to my wife and my cow in gratitude. Oh, thank you, may I kiss your hands? It’s what his grandfather would have done. Why couldn’t he?

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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.
Hedgehog ART

What The Hedgehog Knew

by Howard Jay Klein

A film financier asks something but expects nothing from the producers and screenwriter. 2,543 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Everyone there?” Mannie Jacobs bellowed, his super-lawyer’s telephone voice bouncing off the walls of the Periodic Pictures conference room.

“All here, Mannie. Me, Cal, Jim and Dex.”

“So Eric Greenhill came to see me. He’s a big hedge fund guy who wants to put $100 million into a single film with you.”

“A nut job with an agenda?” Cal asked.

“No. I checked him out. He runs a $15 billion fund. He’s 38, personally worth $2.5 billion, no scars or warts we could find. He lost a gorgeous young wife to breast cancer three years ago. Got two kids. A bit eccentric, but in another era you would call him a straight arrow.”

“Why us?” Cal Lerner, Periodic’s CEO, asked.

“He’s screened all your productions, both movies and TV series. He believes Periodic has integrity of intent. Why I’ll never know.”

“Sure he’s not a nutter, Mannie?” Dexter Foley cracked.

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About The Author:
Howard Jay Klein
Howard Jay Klein is a 25-year executive and consultant in the Atlantic City casino industry. He oversaw marketing, operations and entertainment for Caesar's and Trumps' Taj Mahal and created Grandstand Under The Stars for outdoor concerts with Sinatra, Bennett, Dylan, Chicago, Springsteen and others. He publishes Casino Management Review and writes novels.
Baby-Love72line

Baby Love

by Christopher Horton

A self-satisfied agent who stubbornly doesn’t want to change his life gets a surprise. 3,113 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Jack was looking through his picture window at the neon radiating up from the Sunset Strip below. It was getting tiring to be alone. Not that he noticed that often, and not that he was alone that often. In fact, hardly ever. He was supposed to be at some club tonight for an after-screening industry party. Nothing better to make you feel alone in public. Jack knew some European philosopher had gone on about this. But he couldn’t remember which one. His mother had been far less interested in philosophy than in Shakespeare. She had just turned sixty and was a professor of literature at a small New England college. Anyway, he really believed it would be nice to have someone he could trust. Maybe he should get out of the industry. Life didn’t seem to be getting any easier as Jack got older. And no matter how much he skipped thinking about starting a family, it leeched in anyway.

“Don’t you think it’s time to think about settling down with one woman?”

“Why? I already have a cat that interrupts me when I’m doing something I want to do.”

Jack’s mother laughed. She had a healthy sense of humor. She and Jack had always gotten along. At least after he’d grown up.  She was smarter than he was, but he had an advantage. She was his mother. No contest

“I’d like to have a grandchild to spoil in my dotage.”

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About The Author:
Christopher Horton
Christopher Horton as a screenwriter sold several scripts and treatments with a writing partner to Gaylord and other companies. Then he turned to fiction writing. His stories are published online and in print (Page & Spine, Shout Out UK, Literary Pasadena). He wrote the novel The Great Big Book Of Bitches: A Love Story.
Abramowitz Brando

The Dog That Talked Like Brando

by Jay Abramowitz

A struggling actor has a career epiphany made possible by a pooch with an unexpected plan. 2,377 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I was in the bathtub about to slide the straightedge into my wrist when I heard Marlon Brando call out, “Don’t do it, Paul.”

“Ronnie?” I called back in a voice that alarmed me when I heard it. Ronnie, the closest thing I have to a friend, is an impressionist. I thought maybe Providence had made him afraid for me and sent him, like the angel Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life.

“It’s not Ronnie. Come here, I want to talk to you.”

I laid down the blade on the side of the bathtub, pulled my body out and sloshed into the main room of my studio apartment. I didn’t bother drying or covering myself. If it’s Ronnie, who cares. If it’s the ghost of Marlon Brando, let me present myself as God made me.

I didn’t see Marlon Brando or his ghost in my apartment. Only Bella, gazing up at me from the kitchen area faithfully and – I knew her so well – hungrily. I stared at my dog. A mutt, delicate, pure white, forty pounds give or take, her fur hanging down her sides long and fine but, on her head and face, short. I’d almost left her alone in the world, my personal Old Yeller to whimper endlessly over my grave. I scratched her behind an ear and sobbed as I pulled her head against mine. I’d bathed her recently and she smelled like vanilla cookies.

“I love you too, Paul,” she said in Brando’s voice. Her mouth moved, like the talking dog in Babe. She glanced behind herself and added, again in Brando’s voice, “Jeez, I wish I had balls to lick.”

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About The Author:
Jay Abramowitz
Jay Abramowitz has written and produced many sitcoms (Mr. Belvedere, Full House, etc) and comedy pilots (for Warner Bros TV, CBS and ABC) and was a head writer on the PBS series Liberty’s Kids. His first novel, Formerly Cool (written with Tom Musca) will be published in 2016.
The Wrap Party 4 final

The Wrap Party

by Adam Scott Weissman

TV FICTION PACKAGE: The flirting and gossiping ends badly for someone on this series. 3,759 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The wrap party was being held at the cheesy cowboy theme bar at Universal CityWalk. Caleb hated that development next door to the lot where he worked. Even the name grated on him: “CityWalk.” It was everything that pissed him off about L.A.. The antiseptic tourist trap was so utterly un-urban. He could rattle off at least a half-dozen bars on nearby Ventura that were far superior. But he was just a lowly writer’s assistant so it wasn’t his place to question the chosen location for the wrap party. Actually, he wasn’t surprised. He worked for a cookie cutter network procedural, and the powers-that-be had chosen to end the season in the most uninspired way possible. Little wonder that he always could predict each show’s ending.

As he parked his car, he thought about Nora, the staff writer considered a “diversity hire.” She had once confessed to him that she loved the City Walk. Of course, Nora loved the City Walk. Caleb hated Nora. He didn’t see her talent, or what she offered to the show, or why Bryan gave her two scripts. Caleb was really hoping he’d get to co-write the finale, like Matt Weiner’s writer assistants, but instead Nora got it. Like she needed another credit.  Caleb had read her pilot back when he was Bryan’s assistant. It was fine, the dialogue was cute, but the story was nothing special. Rom-com chick stuff. He’d been working for Bryan for four years, and Nora had never worked on a show, but she was a staff writer and Caleb was the writer’s assistant. Bryan told him it was because of money. The show had spent too much of its budget on upper level writers, and the studio would pay for a “diversity writer.” That was Nora. A Korean girl from Encino… How fucking downtrodden.

While she would never tell any of her fellow writers, Nora loved Universal CityWalk. As a kid growing up in the Valley, it was the closest she ever got to actually walking onto a studio lot. L.A. kids aren’t supposed to get starstruck. But Nora just couldn’t be jaded. She wanted to belong to the business, not merely be adjacent, and write for a real primetime TV show with millions of viewers. Now that she was, Nora still liked to visit CityWalk to remind herself how far she’d come. About once a week, she’d arrive an hour before work, go to Starbucks, drink her latte and think about how she was about to go work in a bungalow on the real lot. Though she questioned whether she deserved to be there. But if she really was nothing more than a token, Bryan wouldn’t have given her two scripts. She knew Caleb resented her and coveted her job. But she was working her ass off, agonizing over every word of procedural exposition instead of scripting for people to ignore while they did their laundry. Nora had long ago learned that hard work was the best remedy for insecurity.

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About The Author:
Adam Scott Weissman
Adam Scott Weissman graduated from USC's School Of Cinematic Arts in 2010. He co-wrote a CSI: NY episode, wrote a made-for-TV movie and sold a pilot to the CW. He adapted, directed, and produced the play Might As Well Live: Stories by Dorothy Parker for the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival and won the Encore Producer’s Award. Working From Home is his novel-in-progress.
Troubador 4

Troubador

by Steven Axelrod

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A veteran producer learns from one of his teen contestants. 2,442 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


People have a lot of questions for me lately. How did I come to fire the most powerful law firm in Hollywood? Tear up the contract that governs how most reality competition shows do business? Lose the potential breakout star of my TV singer-songwriter contest Troubador?

The last one is the easiest to explain: Why didn’t I sue Brady James when he gave me and my series the finger and walked away?

He didn’t have a contract.

It started with me watching Crystal Bowersox on season nine of American Idol and thinking — that girl writes her own songs so let’s hear some of them. The idea took shape with Phil Phillips and this latest kid Mackenzie Bourg.  I quickly realized a new show could put everything I loved together in one package. I love music. I love songwriters. And as I’ve proved during a thirty-year career working with all four networks and a couple of cable newbies, I love TV. So why not air a performance contest for singer-songwriters? Forget LaPortia Renae standing up there in the laser show belting out some old Mary J. Blige number. My vision was 1974’s Joni Mitchell standing up with a guitar, no light show or pyrotechnics, and simply singing Big Yellow Taxi. Or Bob Marley performing No Woman No Cry for the first time on my stage. Or – why not, shoot for the stars, Danny! – Bob Dylan, scruffy and unknown, knocking the world on its ass with Mr. Tambourine Man. You’re telling me the world ran out of Joni Mitchells and Bob Marleys and Bob Dylans? Seriously?

Then check out Brady James. I knew he was the genuine article at the first Troubadour audition. And it was a big relief, let me tell you.

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrodis an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
Fastball ART 4

Fastball

by Ann Hamilton

TV FICTION PACKAGE: An agent and writer find an executive in a compromising position. 1,834 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“She’ll buy it in the room, Kyle,” Chad says as we’re riding up the elevator on our way to the pitch meeting. “Melina Mullen already loves the one-liner.” He looks closer at me. “Did you take a Xanax? I always tell my clients to take a Xanax before they pitch.”

Melina Mullen, the network exec, is tall and blonde and more rounded-body sexy than the usual Jack Skellington-figured Hollywood female. There’s another woman in the office. We’re introduced and I immediately forget her name. She types on her iPad and never looks up.

Melina Mullen says she loved my play. I ask if she saw it in New York and she shakes her head no and tells me, “But I heard great things.” We talk about my first TV writing job on the series Melancholy, an updated version of Hamlet. I say I was super-lucky to have an experience like that with so many talented people, and I learned a lot.

And then there’s a pause. She’s waiting for me to start my pitch. I take a deep breath. And damn, I wish I’d taken a Xanax.

So I’m a playwright in New York, but I moved out to L.A. to work on Melancholy and it aired twice before the network pulled the plug. The reviews were awful and it got hammered in the ratings. More people watched a competing show, Kitty’s Krime, about a talking cat that helped solve mysteries. The showrunner, Logan, was unusually arrogant and mostly insufferable, but he did teach me how a TV series works. Another writer, Brett, was a dick and tried to screw me over, but that was a learning experience, too. After Melancholy was canceled, Logan sold a series to Showtime and Brett the dick got hired as a consulting producer on Kitty’s Krime.

And me? I was toast.

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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.
Scheft Election

The Raw Vote Is In

by Bill Scheft

TV FICTION PACKAGE: Politically incorrect comedian Tommy Dash horrifies the panelists on a cable news show about the Presidential primary race. 2,759 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Okay, enough chit-chat. Here are the jokes I never got to on the air:

  • I’m now taking orders for my new t-shirt: “TRUMP: He’s David Duke, But With A Higher Thread Count.”
  • Ted Cruz may win Indiana. It all depends on whether he can get the heavy Gestapo turnout.
  • If you don’t count Ohio, the only time John Kasich has finished first is when he was jerking off
  • Bernie Sanders spent $46 million in the month of March. And half of that was on fiber.
  • Remember, the Hillary Clinton email scandal started because she didn’t want to carry around an extra device. It’s the same thing that happened with Bruce Jenner.

Before we continue, I have several philosophical questions:

If someone is on cable television news and is under the impression that it’s okay to curse because it is cable television, is that person wrong for cursing? Strictly speaking, is the phrase “cock yahtzee” cursing? Okay, what about “turd parade”? Okay, what about “muff” or “snatch”?

Okay, I know you’re going to say “snatch” is a bit vulgar. And perhaps that’s what got me hustled back onto Sixth Avenue. I was vulgar. And you can’t be vulgar on television. You can be dirty. You can be suggestive. You can be naughty, and we hope you are. But you can’t be vulgar on TV. It’s a public trust, or whatever other hypocritical oxymoronic term you can come up with, like “rectal itching” at the end of a pharmaceutical commercial.

Gee, I hope I’m not giving away what happened last Friday when I got booked to appear on the cable news political roundtable, Right Cross.

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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 his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft
Who Was Helen Twelvetrees final

It Takes Guts

by Ronald Alexander

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A soap opera actor’s father visits at the worst time possible. 3,788 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


As he slathered lotion on his face and scrubbed to remove the morning’s heavy makeup, he couldn’t help imagining what his father might say about a grown man who worried over his appearance. Van blotted with tissues and and began to brush his hair, stiff with spray. He thrust his jaw forward and studied his reflection. He wondered about his weak chin and if that was the reason he was stuck in this network daytime soap opera with no offers for anything better.

"You there, Van?" A soft tap accompanied the meek voice.  It was the new production assistant on As God Is My Witness. "I thought maybe you’d already left to pick up your father. I brought the scripts for next week."

"I was just getting ready to leave," Van said, thumbing the pages. "What betrayals does Alexandra foist on our eternally-dim Dr. Blair Blanton next week?"

"I’d never treat a man the way she does," the assistant replied, averting her eyes, blushing, then turning to make a quick exit.

Van scanned until he found Dr. Blanton’s dialogue, and began to read aloud: "Of course I’m not accusing you, Alexandra. But a colleague mentioned to me at the hospital that he ran into you at Capriccio having dinner with Tony Agnello, when you told me you were playing mahjong with the girls at the club. And you’ve been so outspoken about how arrogant you thought Tony was, always bragging about his airplane and his polo ponies and beach house. You never mentioned any benefit for the homeless that the two of you were co-chairing — "

Van dropped the material on his dressing table with a scowl. No one except for his sister and a few seldom-seen cousins back in Indiana, and the nation’s unemployed, was impressed with the soap or his role. His father thought Van was wasting his life.

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About The Author:
Ronald Alexander
Ronald Alexander is an actor and writer. He has appeared in many television commercials and print ads, and his fiction has appeared in The Huffington Post, Los Angeles Review and Chicago Tribune. He is the author of the novels The War On Dogs In Venice Beach and Below 200. His essay for the Chattahoochee Review was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has an MFA in fiction and teaches fiction at the UCLA Extension Writers Program.
Programmin Futility

Programming Futility

by Mark Fearing

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A reality executive gives the presentation of his career. 2,201 words. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.


Marty Nordin was sweating at his desk. He had a presentation due in 10 minutes and it wasn’t just unfinished but he hadn’t even begun to write it. It would be his last opportunity to keep his job. Because he couldn’t count on the shows he had developed to save him.

Some 13-year-old boy in Norway was getting 19 million views per week on a YouTube video while Marty’s series on the Watch-it! Network were lucky to attract 35,000. Fuck. And what was the kid doing that was so goddamned compelling? Playing a kazoo and simultaneously playing a video game. Crap.

Marty was 48 years old and had spent his entire adult life trying to create a hit TV series. To be honest, he’d really spent most of that time just trying to stay employed. But making a hit was the goal. He had tried at one point to develop quality dramas, but he had ended up in reality shows just like everybody else with half a brain. Scripted TV was deemed too formal. Viewers no longer wanted beginnings, middles and ends. They wanted chaotic stuff stitched together.

He could thank the cable industry’s package pricing for the proliferation of channels like the Watch-it! Network that get less than 50,000 viewers. Marty was responsible for developing Eat-it! where several people ate gross stuff and made each other eat gross stuff and then talked about eating gross stuff. And he launched Play-it!, a show with a room of “famous” people with very different POVs on life playing board games until it disintegrated into name calling and brawling. Shove-it! didn’t even make it past pilot but Marty felt it had more dramatic arc than anything on YouTube, dammit.

Now the pressure was on. New bosses. Ratings that sucked. A media landscape that just didn’t make sense anymore. The channel was being shopped to whichever buyer took control of a chunk of Congruent which was the giant corporation that owned the corporation that owned the Watch-it! Network. Between the corporate bullshit and the kids on YouTube, Marty was starting to think it time to get a real estate license. How long did that take?

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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.
The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away

by Hank Putnam

TV FICTION PACKAGE: An adventure channel crew reconsiders after a scary encounter. 2,347 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


After the monster bit our boat, we got the hell out of the river.

Our star, Dr. Grady Jackson, laughed as we climbed up the bank and made our way in the dark to the van. Nothing seemed to slow him down. Not even an evil villain sent straight from hell. Less than an hour ago, we were standing knee-deep in a Central American river filled with horrific hungry creatures big enough to eat us. At night. So we could shoot dramatic footage in the dark with Grady as he caught a few of the bigger beasts. In small rubber boats, no less. Me, I almost saw the headline flash before my eyes when he went under the water: “REAL LIFE ACTION HERO KILLED MAKING TV ADVENTURE SERIES.” People do die making our shows.

Top that, Hollywood.

“Pura Vida!” Grady said.

“Or Aloha,” I said. “Whatever.”

Helping Grady was exhilarating, but for me it represented a new low point in my career. I was glad to be outdoors, shooting video in an exotic location. It sure beat smoking crack next to our headquarters in the middle of downtown Washington, D.C. on my lunch breaks every day. But this was getting too weird. Even for me. No, I don’t really smoke crack. It’s a metaphor. My job now was chasing killers more ruthless than any of the other wild creatures I have spent thousands of hours watching from the safety of editing rooms.

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About The Author:
Hank Putnam
Hank Putnam was a senior writer and producer at the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Explorer and supervising writer producer for National Geographic Channel. He freelanced as a writer, producer and director for Travel Channel, Animal Planet, PBS, Discovery Health and others. This is a chapter from his novel.
Wasted Talents

Wasted Talents

by James Dawson

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A wannabe writer seeks help from a college pal who’s now a TV exec. 2,642 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Michael Thompson wished he had taken his filthy Honda to a car wash at least once during the past six months. He tried consoling himself with the thought that his car’s appearance wouldn’t matter. It was pretty unlikely that Phil Brentlinger would greet him personally in the Everest Studios parking lot or walk him back to his clunker when their meeting was over. But if he did… well, too late to worry about that now.

Choosing what to wear had been another headache. Everything Michael read about TV people said they always dressed casually, sometimes even in t-shirts, jeans and running shoes. But that was after they already had positions, credits and big fat staff salaries. As a complete nobody, Michael didn’t feel comfortable dressing down. He settled on a blue oxford cloth shirt, khaki pants, a navy blazer and a yellow tie. The outfit seemed like a safe choice before he left the house. Now he wondered if he looked like a used-car salesman, or just a dipshit.

Too late to worry about that now, too.

He rehearsed what he would say to Phil, taking both sides of the conversation and talking out loud. He didn’t give a damn if other drivers saw him. This was Hollywood. People here either thought you were an actor or a wacko if they saw you talking to yourself, and neither was regarded as unusual.

"So, Phil, what did you think of the samples I sent you?"

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About The Author:
James Dawson
James Dawson is a film critic, feature writer and author whose work has appeared in places ranging from the Los Angeles Times to Marvel Comics. He has written several novels, short story collections, 1,000+ movie reviews and erotic fiction for men's magazines. Excerpts appear here from his novels Wasted Talents and Hollywood Eclipse.
Greenspan Pitch more color

Greenspan Pitch

by Steven Axelrod

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A TV writer has only one shot to impress or blow the meeting. 3,004 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


"I’d tell you to start writing your Emmy acceptance speech," her agent barked at her over the phone that morning, "but first you have to get the assignment. You have a pilot pitch meeting with Carl Greenspan in an hour. So get over there."

The L.A. skyscraper was perched above Sunset and Doheny and Greenspan had a suite of offices on the top floor, with a prime view of the smog. Rachel expected to see framed one-sheets from Greenspan’s TV shows, but instead an extraordinary series of David Hockey photo collages hung on the beige corridor walls. Greenspan surprised her, too. She’d expected someone small and squinty with designer running shoes and a Lakers cap. But he stood at least six foot three and was wearing a fringed leather jacket and alligator cowboy boots. His blonde hair was an obvious dye job, but it looked good on him. He waved her to the couch, and she was sure the huge mug of coffee he held was going to spill. But he had it under control.

“Come in, sit down, good to meet you.”

Rachel nodded to the floor-to-ceiling windows. “Nice view.”

He bellowed out a nasty laugh. “When you can see it. I know all about you so let me tell you about me. I bankrolled The Coppingers with my own money, every cent I made out of FDNY. When it went into syndication, I got a check for a hundred million dollars. CBS made a billion on that show. Since then I’ve been building homes and suing contractors and I’m sick of it. Retirement sucks. So I’m back. I’ve got a blind put-pilot deal at CBS, a budget through the roof and a punk star with the biggest Q rating on the fucking planet. Rick Haigley. Which brings me to the point.” He gulped the last of his coffee and set the mug down on his giant empty desk. “I want to do a terrorist show – Homeland for network TV, 24 with brains, Sleeper Cell with ratings. They have to use whatever I give them, but crap is all I’m getting. That’s where you come in.”

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

Too Much TV

by Diane Haithman

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A PhD researcher may have inadventently killed her pilot deal. 1,932 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It was like watching Geraldo Rivera attempt the salsa in a Donald Trump wig on Dancing With The Stars. I, Dr. Janet Ling, could not tear my horrified eyes away from the Hollywood news story that might sink my nascent TV career:

LOS ANGELES — Just weeks before 2016’s May network upfront sessions in New York, a joint Caltech-UCLA study is sending shock waves through Hollywood by proving there is too much TV. The document draws a direct causal connection between the volume of TV series programming (the networks tallied 412 scripted series that aired last year) and brush fires, drought, deepening fault lines, traffic congestion, gluten sensitivity, identity theft, arguments with Siri, muffin top, ADHD, man buns, California roll, dog breed names ending in ‘doodle,’ bears in swimming pools and the viral growth of new gastropubs serving craft beers and small plates. “Who knows what will happen next?” said Caltech researcher Don Boswell. The scientific research bears out the ominous words of John Landgraf, president of FX Network, who sparked a heated debate at last summer’s Television Critics Association Press Tour by stating: “There is simply too much television.”

It’s not that I didn’t know. I’m one of the authors of the study.  I’m an associate professor of neurobiology, a promising young researcher at UCLA’s renowned Brain Institute. But seeing our findngs on the front page of the Los Angeles Times still gave me the shivers. I sucked anxiously on my Big Gulp of Red Bull Sugarfree — although if anyone knows the carcinogenic effects of artificial sweeteners, I do. My cat, Higgs Boson, could sense my agitation as he cuddled in my lap.

Was I horrified because, as a responsible scientist, I now feared for the well being of our country? No, I was nervously nibbling Exotic Mango polish off my nails because, while working on the study, I had also been taking a UCLA Extension course in television writing. (Never take these how-to’s in hopes of meeting Mr. Right: all the dweebs who sign up still live with their parents. But I digress).

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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.
TV Story FINAL copy

Nightmare At 212 Feet

by Robert W. Welkos

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A media mogul considers cutting the cord on his life and career. 2,799 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City – 1:37 AM…  Charles “Ace” Spader, the fifty-six-year-old CEO of Dynamo Broadcasting Corp., stands on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge and stares at the briny swirling abyss below, his cheeks stung by biting winds, his features reflected in silvery moonbeams. “Which one do I use? Right or left?” He laughs and then mutters, “Always important to get off on the right foot.” He lifts his right leg and watches it tremble. “Or maybe the left?” he says, switching legs. Perhaps this isn’t the moment after all, he tells himself, settling back on both feet. Should he execute a precision dive? After all, he was a springboard champion back at Harvard. Or, maybe do a reverse? Perhaps an arm-stand followed by a dazzling triple twist? Of course, a simple swan dive would suffice. Or, maybe just cannonball off the steel span.

Taking a final glance at his cellphone to check for texts, he returns the device to his pocket and turns his back to the twinkling Gotham skyline. “And that’s the way it is…” he mumbles, spreading out his arms in crucifixion pose. He closes his eyelids, swallows hard, and falls backward, a descending human missile hurtling silently through the night toward the cement-hard surface of the Hudson.

But just as he is about to go splat, something catches him. Something with strong arms. Then Ace Spader blacks out.

When he awakens, he realizes that he’s on a bench in Manhattan and seated beside him is a wiry man with bristly hair combed to one side. The man’s lips are curled in a wry smile. Inserted between his index and middle fingers is a lit cigarette. He is wrapped in a trench coat, a woolen scarf circling his neck. He is hatless. And, at this moment, he is staring at his socks.

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About The Author:
Robert W. Welkos
Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the film industry for 15 years for the Los Angeles Times. Before that he was an assistant city editor for the paper's Metro section. He previously was an AP correspondent in Reno. This excerpt is from a second novel he’s writing. His first, The Blue Poppy, was published in 2012.
FRN Memo_2

The FRN

by Larry Amoros

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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