Exit Left v3

Exit Left

by Steve De Jarnatt

An actor goes to an audition with dismal prospects, high hopes and a terrible sense of direction. 2,447 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

The cold metal doors slam shut, and I am sealed in, coffin-like, for a smattering of seconds or even for a minute or more. But this will pass. I will endure; I always have. Breathe now —  slow from the gut, deep down within the solar plexus. Slower — till the lungs, every inch, are full and aching. Hold. Exhale. Better. Yes. I control my fate. Breath of life, breath of life, breath of life.


My eyes open with the elevator doors, and I move to exit this vertical casket. “Wrong floor, sweetheart. I think you want seven,” warns a small corpulent woman blocking my path. We ride in silence but the woman, sensing my phobia of small spaces, kindly relinquishes as much of the elevator square footage as she can. She doesn’t know that, in my early youth, I had once been trapped in a smashed-up Buick, submerged on a river bottom with my family dead all around me. I survived off trapped air from an empty Thermos till those divers came.

Well, actually — no, that’s not really true. It had happened to my friend Kenny, not me. My invented past can seem so real. God knows I utilize it every chance imaginable for “sense memory.” Pathetic, isn’t it, to have no real trauma of your own? Is it my fault that, as the only child of diplomats, my upbringing was so uneventful? I’ve always been jealous of those raw-nerve actors with some hellish past to draw upon as grist for the creative mill. Maybe that’s why I am still a nobody with an ever-closing five year window to play leads. Yet I try to stir up faux claustrophobia to cover the anticipatory dread of an audition.

The elevator doors open, and I, Josh Barnes, the handsome-ish everyman — early 30s to mid-40s — exhale into the casting anteroom. A dozen others, all from the same narrow band of eerily similar likeness, are spaced around. Some I know, some I know too well. Most sit, many pace, all giving each other as wide berth as they possibly can. Everyone has the same three pages of ‘sides" in their hands. The room is silent but for rustling paper and the compound murmuring.

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About The Author:
Steve De Jarnatt
Steve De Jarnatt belongs to both the WGA and DGA. The two '80s cult features he directed — Miracle Mile and Cherry 2000 — were just released on special edition Blu Ray by Kino Lorber Classics and ranked Top 5 on Amazon sales charts. His first published fiction Rubiaux Rising was selected for Best American Short Stories 2009. He is presently working on novels.
Great Secrets v2

The Great Secrets Of 20th Century Show Business

by Howard J. Klein

Ken gets an impressive new title and a surprising new pal at a Hollywood agency. 3,813 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

Harry Taradash’s office door was ajar so I gave it the courtesy knock and walked in. He looked up and waved me to a chair. “Boychick, this is gonna be your office?” he asked. His face had that beatific look of sweet resignation you occasionally observe among the elderly who have come to a quiet accommodation with their own mortality.

“So I’m told. No rush about it, Harry,” I said, easing into his client chair. “I understand you wanted me to stop by before I left on the red-eye for New York tonight.”

Nobody at the Elton Talbot Agency knew Harry’s real age. In LA, that lively old guy look often radiates from men who trade in their shrunken aged spouses for shopaholic trophy wives. Some guy in accounting once told me that Harry lived with a divorced daughter. So his apparent vigor probably had more to do with his fighting spirit. He’d been at war with the agency partners over the past five years in a Twilight-Of-The-Gods struggle to force him out.

Unfortunately for the partners, Harry held a sizeable chunk of company stock enabling him to block a big merger that management had been salivating to close for a year. Finally, they sued. Harry lost a bruising court battle and the war. Today was his last at the agency. There wasn’t a thundering götterdämmerung ending — only a cloying press release emailed to the world the week before and drenched in crocodile tears about his legendary career.

Why I’d been tapped to be the lone member of his bye-bye brigade mystified me. I hardly knew the man. When I’d been transferred to the Beverly Hills office, I’d listened to the lunchtime gossip about his pathetic hanging-on. We’d exchanged corridor nods and clamped lower lip smiles. Once, we stood shoulder to shoulder in the executive restroom as we peed.

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About The Author:
Howard J. Klein
Howard J. 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.
Stranded In The Jungle

Stranded In The Jungle

by Hank Putnam

A TV team for an adventure channel goes in search of scary footage. Unfortunately, they find it. 3,502 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

And there I was.

The point of this exercise was about as stupid as it sounds when you say it out loud. I was standing knee-deep in a river filled with horrific hungry creatures big enough to eat me. At night. We were launching two rubber boats so we could head out into the warm murky water and shoot dramatic footage in the dark with our star, Dr. Grady Jackson, as he caught a few of the bigger beasts. Yeah. In rubber boats. Jesus.

Yes, I just took the Lord’s name in vain. Sorry if you are offended. I am a bad man. But not bad enough, as you may soon see from the confessions I list. Why should I fear hell? Some of it was right here. At the moment, we had some huge real-life demons to deal with.

Confession #1: I absolutely hate this particular species.

You’ll get none of that noble carnivore crap from me. In India and Africa these evil mutants have been known to devour small children and old women. They are killers more ruthless than any of the other wild creatures I have spent thousands of hours watching in editing rooms. Which is where I usually was. Not now. With the extra camera, I would catch another angle for editing purposes. I was the writer-slash-producer-slash-director of this show.

My job title was not as glamorous as it sounded. In TV, if you write it, you usually have to produce it and direct it, to see that it’s done right, and that can mean shooting footage, or editing, or even narrating the piece. If you managed to read those tiny credits at the end, while the channel was promoting the next program coming up, you might have seen my name fly by.

Granted, it was kind of exciting to be out here near them in the open. But the creatures we were hunting? I detested them almost as much as I feared them. I have my reasons.

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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 the first chapter from a novel.
Cel Abuse final - Warming

Cel Abuse

by Daniel M. Kimmel

A movie exec and a toon duck give a film critic offers he can’t refuse. 2,741 words. Illustration #1 by Thomas Wearing. Illustration #2 by Mark Fearing.

I had been waiting a long time for this. Freiburg Studios was not in the habit of letting film historians go rummaging through their archives. Of course, all their pre-war files had been donated to UCLA, but that was because the new corporate owners were clearing out material they had no use for. Their animation collection was another story, and everything related to it was treated as worth its weight in gold. Frankly, given their place in cartoon history, that would have been letting it go cheaply.

As a scholarly film critic who had a secure perch on a daily cable show, I had written several books that included chapters on some of Freiburg’s most notable films, including their musical spectaculars and their stylish film noir cycle of the late 1940s and 1950s. In fact, their head of the DVD division recently asked me to autograph the noir book. Usually the only feedback studios gave me on my film writing was when they misquoted me in their ads.

“When sales of 60-year-old titles start to spike, I want to know why," he said, explaining why. "It turns out your book brought a number of these old films back into the public eye. We even had to release some titles because we were getting so many requests for them.”

I was flattered, of course. The highest compliment you can pay a film critic is not that you agreed with him but that his words made you want to check out the movie for yourself. The exec, who went by the name Stan Foster III according to his business card emblazoned with the Freiburg Studios logo, invited me to lunch the following week. He had a proposition I found hard to ignore.

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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. A 25-year journalism veteran, he received the Cable Center Book Award for The Fourth Network about Fox TV. He was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Jar Jar Binks Must Die… His latest book Shh! It’s A Secret was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for best first novel.  
Working From Home 1 v3

Working From Home

by Adam Scott Weissman

It’s his first Hollywood job. So his film producer boss changes his life – but not for good. Part One. 3,498 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“This is Cara in Arielle Castle’s office. Is this Scott?”


“So you’re looking for a job?”

I jumped out of my seat, suddenly extremely conscious of the fact that I was wearing nothing but boxer shorts. It was 104 degrees in Burbank and, despite what the advertising tells you, they don’t have air-conditioning in every unit at the Oakwood Apartments. I wanted to be in “the business” more than anything. When people told me it was a brutal industry and that I should try something else, it just made me want it more. My parents had told me in no uncertain terms that I had better get a job, and soon. "Because," my mom had said, ‘your father and I are only paying that exorbitant $1,050 for a studio apartment for one more month." I wondered if Arielle Castle had air conditioning in her office.

“Yes. Absolutely,” I answered, quickly navigating my laptop to IMDb.com. I typed in “Arielle Castle.” I had applied for hundreds of jobs online: the UTA job list, EntertainmentCareers.net, studio job portals – you name it. This was the first time anyone had called back.

“Can you come in for an interview tomorrow at 11 a.m.?”

“Yes. I would love — That would be great. Yes. Thank you,” I sputtered, scanning Arielle Castle’s list of credits. There were 29 of them – nearly one movie a year for the past three decades, including some major franchises and Oscar winners. She was always credited as “Associate Producer”.

“Okay. Arielle will meet you at her house. It’s 974 Knob Tree Avenue, Sherman Oaks.”

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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. His novel-in-progress Working From Home is excerpted here.
Le Jet Lag Part One

Le Jet Lag

by Peter Lefcourt

A journalist, publicist and producer try their best to withstand the Cannes Film Festival’s worst. Part One. 4,883 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Who do you have to fuck to make sure you don’t win a Palme d’Or at Cannes? Can a studio publicist with a tit job and a smattering of French, along with her boss, a VP involuntarily channeling Golda Meir, manage to sabotage the chances of their own film? Is it possible for a former Academy Award winning producer, fallen on hard times, to find financing for the middle third of a movie after he’s already shot the beginning and end with money provided by a consortium of Canadian periodontists? Will a sympathy slowdown of taxi drivers, chambermaids and Perrier suppliers, in support of local sex workers striking for improved dental benefits, bring Cannes to its knees? All these questions Jack Kemper, bottom-feeding entertainment journalist, would answer in time.

But at the moment, wedged in an economy seat in an Air France jet, coming into the Nice/Cote d’Azur airport after a bumpy flight from Paris, his thoughts were concentrated on who would get the lead obit in the trades if the plane went down.

For Jack’s first trip to Cannes, he’d been a stringer for the International Herald Tribune which put him up in the Carlton. And all he had to do was file 500 words a day — which he phoned in, literally. This time his press credentials were from Moviefan.com, a startup operated by a couple of film geeks in Van Nuys. And he would be staying on the wrong side of the Voie Rapide on his own nickel in a 95-Euro a night room a 20-minute walk to the Croisette and full, no doubt, of middle-market hookers and distribution people from central Asia. What the fuck was he doing here anyway? The glamour of Cannes was long gone. It had degenerated into a bazaar, as tight-fisted and venal as a camel market in Beirut. The place was full of accountants and lawyers doing deals. The screenings, the stars, the red carpet had become the sideshow. The real action was the film market. It was all about back-end financing and capitalizing your production investment with a distribution deal. For every hundred people in town, 99 of them were looking for the one guy with the checkbook.

Kemper deplaned and headed for baggage claim where an American film publicist was speaking bad French on her phone. Kemper took a closer look at her. She had that demented, already exhausted, jet-lagged look just 20 minutes after arriving. But Kemper liked a bit of mileage on women. Ten years ago, all you had to do to get laid during Cannes was stand in one place long enough. These days, if you had a few hours free, you slept or read your email. Or, if worse came to worst, you saw a movie.

Kemper waited for her to click off and, with his best smile, said, “First time in Cannes?”

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Peter Lefcourt on twitter
About The Author:
Peter Lefcourt
Peter Lefcourt is an Emmy-winning writer and producer for TV and film including Cagney And Lacey, Showtime's Beggars & Choosers (creator and executive producer) and Desperate Housewives (co-executive producer). He has written eight novels: The Deal, The Dreyfus Affair, Di & I, Abbreviating Ernie, The Woody, The Manhattan Beach Project, An American Family, and his just published Purgatory Gardens excerpted here.
Manhunt Part One FINAL


by Dale Kutzera

TV and film collide on a serial murder case with the LAPD and a detective turned screenwriter.  4,813 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Jim Brandt was too old for this shit. He should be home in bed with his wife, not stuck in a car on an LAPD stakeout. Detective Dana Hansen sat in the passenger seat, sensitive to his every move. They both looked out the windshield of the Ford Crown Victoria to the unimpressive apartment building across the street.

The cameraman directly behind her broke the silence. “I need something white,” he said. “You got anything white?”

“You need something white?” Hansen asked. She was petite, and the cameraman could only see her crown of dark hair over the seat’s headrest.

“Yeah, white, to color balance the camera.”

“Brandt, you got anything white?”

“No,” Brandt said. “Just everybody don’t move around so much. Keep your eyes peeled.”

The car fell silent. Brandt worked the kinks from his neck. Stakeouts were bad enough with only two people confined in a car for hours, listening to each other’s grumbling intestines and breathing air scented with sweat, hamburger grease, and farts. But a stakeout with four people was impossible. He blamed the show, the goddamned Manhunt show. The brass downtown thought a network reality program was the perfect opportunity to show the progress the LAPD had made since the dark days of Rampart and Rodney King.

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About The Author:
Dale Kutzera
Dale Kutzera co-created the VH1 series Strange Frequency and worked on CBS' Without A Trace. He wrote and directed the indie film Military Intelligence And You. He received the Carl Sautter Screenwriting Award and an Environmental Media Award and participated in the Warner Bros Writers Workshop. He has written three novels. Manhunt is excepted here.
Birthday Party v3

Birthday Party

by Ann Hamilton

A child’s fourth birthday becomes a battlefield for two fathers waging Hollywood’s agency wars. 2,907 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

Derek is supposed to be listening to his client’s pitch, a mini-series for Syfy, and he knows it’s something about global warming. Or a pandemic. Maybe both (a “contemporary dystopian take on Noah’s Ark”). But instead Derek finds himself looking at a photo of his daughter Sierra taken in Maui on a family trip last spring. Three-year old Sierra stands on the beach looking at a man in a yellow Easter Bunny suit, staring him down. Come on, bunny. Bring it on. He wonders what she’s doing at preschool right now. Gluing nuts to construction paper to spell out her name? Taking a nap?

He wants to yawn, but that would be disrespectful to Tyler, his client. Derek nods and smiles. He hasn’t been paying attention for five minutes which is dangerous in these cutthroat times when, in a blink of an eye, agencies are losing even their unsuccessful showrunners to unscrupulous competitors on the prowl.

Tyler stops and looks down at the pitch pages on his lap. “Albino twins with telekinetic powers? Too much?” says Tyler, making a quick slash with his pen. “Let me tell you about the shipping crate they find filled with Red Trolley Ale. I was thinking product placement.”

Derek nods blankly. He is thinking about the conversation he overheard his wife Kiki having on her cell in line at Starbucks with another mother over the weekend. “Dylan’s birthday isn’t until the 18th, and Sierra’s birthday is the 10th, so the 13th and the 14th are Sierra’s days. It’s the rule. I’ve booked a Bollywood dance teacher. Non-refundable deposit.”

Tyler won’t get in to pitch to Syfy. Derek has already come up with a good excuse. Staffing change. They need to sort things out in Syfy development. Oh, shit. Did he say that last time about Tyler’s canceled Sony meeting? Derek isn’t interested in Tyler anymore. Another agent warned him, pre-signing, “Tyler had one good idea five years ago, always late with drafts, bad in a room,” but Derek enjoyed the challenge of luring Tyler away from a boutique agency. Boutique means bullshit, that was Derek’s pitch. People will take you seriously, Ty. Once you’re with us.

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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.
French Do It final

How The French Do It

by Jacob Isser

A French director fond of filming nudity in his yard battles his new neighbor for the sake of art. 3,614 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Among the many achievements in my life, there are two of which I am most proud: my moustache and my films. My moustache no one can argue with. It is a handsome specimen: rich, full, and black. It measures 31 cms from tip to tip, but I keep it waxed in precise elegant curls that grace my strong cheekbones. I do look quite the gentleman when I wish to. My sophisticated demeanor and debonair appearance has, I am not ashamed to say, allowed me to escort many a young and attractive lady to my backyard for a petite rendezvous.

You may recognize my backyard from several of my films. It is my oasis — expansive, elegant and romantic — and I use it often. I know its every nuance and contour, making it a perfect setting for my bold handheld style, which some have compared favorably to Godard. Also, as a practical matter it is cost-effective, and quite frankly, less trouble. After my last two films earned an NC-17 rating in the U.S. and a public rebuke from the Ministry of Culture here in France, certain people have grown reluctant to rent me their location for filming. If you think this will somehow compromise my work, however, you are sadly mistaken.

First of all, no one cares what America thinks. Everyone agrees that France, with her proud lineage of brilliant artists from Truffaut to Jeunet (with the exception, of course, of Audiard, a hack by anyone’s standards), has always been the true center of the filmmaking universe. And second, what I wish to say about love, art, sex and culture, I can convey through the natural beauty and metaphor of my own property.

I am a purist, first and foremost. When I show a beautiful woman shedding her clothes, I am similarly attempting to strip away the lies and artifice of modern society. History has always cast the auteurs of the French New Wave and its descendants as geniuses, radicals, revolutionaries, but I do not see us that way. I am not out to prove anything, nor am I seeking social or even artistic upheaval. On the contrary, I am but a humble storyteller. I trouble no one, and simply use sensual, occasionally provocative, imagery to awaken the mind and spirit of my fellow man. And woman. My films are for everyone and I abhor discrimination in all forms. You would thus think that people would leave me to make my art in peace.

But my neighbor, Mademoiselle DuBose, seems to have resigned herself to the pursuit of my unhappiness, and has forced me into the role of her enemy simply as a matter of self-preservation. Who could have imagined that this young woman – an insignificant creature who makes little money and seems to own not one item of flattering clothing – could cause me this much trouble?

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About The Author:
Jacob Isser
Jacob Isser is a film and TV comedy writer who has sold, adapted and developed projects for Joe Roth, Sony Pictures, New Line, Intrepid Pictures, Propaganda Films and John Baldecchi.  His pilot script Hosers will have a live reading and panel discussion this fall at NY's Skirball Center with Fast Company, Black List Live! and 2015 Innovation Fest.
When The Paycheck After This Clears

When The Paycheck Clears,
We’ll Have A New Record

by Bill Scheft

The apologizing comedian Tommy Dash is back boasting about his new gig with a TV sitcom. For now. 3,716 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Happy New Year. Happy High Holidays. I’m planning a real show business Yom Kippur fast. I’m going to try and go 24 hours without having to eat shit.

​I missed the Emmys. Did Caitlin Jenner win for Best Editing? I read in Allure she had surgery to have her Adam’s Apple flattened. Wait a minute. She had something flattened and she calls herself a Kardashian?

I’m sorry we haven’t been in touch for a while. I’ve been busy. Which, if you know me, is not my natural state. I will say, it’s alarming to be this kind of busy, which for me means having to get up early but not because I’m due in housing court.

Oh, enough dawdling: I got the gig…

Actually, I got a few gigs on this series I Don’t Get It. We’ll get to the fucking terrible name of the show later. (And I can say “fuck,” because the show is on a network where it’s okay to do that.) Don’t go nuts. I did not get the big gig. I didn’t bag the part of the father, the bitter old comedian who moves in with his successful young comic son. But I got many little gigs. Three, maybe four. I’m something called a “character consultant,” which means I’m not technically on the writing staff but I sit in on the meetings and they pay me Writers Guild minimum, which is $3,800 a week, but they don’t have to give the Guild its taste. And neither do I, so that’s just beautiful. I have a part in the fourth episode where I play the father’s former partner from when he did a double-act in the 1980s. Somebody told me, it might have been CAA agent Denard Sharp who has swooped back in after firing me, that’s worth about five Gs. If I do well, they bring me back. And, once we start taping, I’m the audience warm-up guy, which is another sweet sweet $500 AFTRA dollars an episode. Now, you’re aware I won’t see a dime of that until Episode Six because of my outstanding dues. But after that, I become a paid-in-full working union stiff for the first time since Luke married Laura.

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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
The Afterparty v3

The Afterparty

by Robert W. Welkos

Premieres for studio tentpoles are no big deal in Hollywood. But this afterparty was out of the ordinary. 2,325 words. Illustration by John Mann.

“Amazing. Truly amazing,” publicist Roxane Silver praised as she stood in the vastness of the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. “It really does look like a 19th Century Siamese palace.”

The premiere’s afterparty for the fall release of The Lady And The Prime Minister was intended as the most elaborate ever put on by a major studio. Everything was replica, from the Royal Barges to the Temple of Dawn to the Grand Palace, including the Coronation Hall. A young Asian woman wearing a Kheynorey costume depicting a mythical half-bird/half-human from heaven danced in a Thai crown mokot around the film executives, her arms outstretched and fingers gracefully curled. Another dancer had on an elephantine mask called a Ravana of a frightening creature with wild eyes and tusks protruding from its mouth. Two men in boxing trunks engaged in Muay Thai whose bouts in ancient times often ended in death.

At least 1,000 guests were expected tonight to celebrate the Oscar-buzzed tentpole and the recreation of the Wat Phra Kaeo temple complete with ornate golden spires that gleamed under the overhead lights. Throngs of partygoers were starting to arrive, and all gawked at the enthroned Emerald Buddha, protector of the kingdom and identical to the one built during the reign of King Rama, founder of the Chakri Dynasty.

As Roxane moved through the crowd, she was told that the film’s director Barry Monk was so nervous anticipating the reviews that all morning at the Bel-Air Hotel he’d been downing shots of J&B and slices of mango. “I’m surprised he hasn’t collapsed into the arms of the Emerald Buddha over there,” his assistant confided to her.

“A Bloody Siam,” Roxane told the bartender. “Make it strong.”

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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.
Age of Anxiety - Warming

Age Of Anxiety

by Nat Segaloff

They’re Hollywood’s walking dead, deemed too old to hire. One writer fights back. 2,236 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Bernie Saffran made the mistake of turning 41 in Hollywood. He didn’t need to mark the milestone with a birthday party; everybody in town simply knew. Like an ice cube on a hot griddle, his name immediately melted from producers’ contact lists. His long-time agent Lance Steel (honest, that’s his name) handed him off to a trainee. His favorite coffee bar no longer let him sit at a window table. His multi-pierced sales clerk at The Gap suggested more suitable selections at CostCo. Here he was, nine years before he could join AARP, but the town had written him off.

He didn’t think it would happen to him, not after 20 years as a working and mildly successful screenwriter in the biz. If he could be gay or transgender or heterosexual and nobody cared, why couldn’t he be 41? But the Gen X and Y’ers named Jason and Kristin who ran the feature industry felt otherwise.

“You’re only as old as people younger make you feel,” Bernie used to joke. But when he hit 41, the punch line stopped getting laughs.

He tried to hide his age, of course. He turned his baseball cap backwards. He wore his sports shirt unbuttoned and let it hang over a Yeezus T-shirt. He listened to whatever crap his kids listened to on the radio – oops, make that the streaming audio. He sampled @midnight to gauge the lowest common denominator of humor even though host Chris Hardwick was three years older. Hell, if Lorne Michaels in his seventies could dictate the taste of SNL demos for generations below him, so could Bernie Saffran.

Or so he thought.

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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.

Hail Mary

by Ned Dymoke

A stuntwoman turned realtor is suspicious when she finds out A-list celebs are buying from her. 2,937 words. Illustration by John Mann.

"Sorry I’m late," he said.

He walked in holding a stack of binders under his left arm and a coffee in his right hand. He looked sweaty. It was air conditioned in the half-finished showroom almost to the point of catatonia yet Spader was sweating big buttery bullets.

"What’s with the stacks?" said Nicole. She shot him a disgusted look. She could smell him from where she was sitting, and she hated that he could somehow bleed into multiple senses. Nicole had the face of a Midwestern blonde beauty queen but the demeanor of a drill sergeant. She had moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis to become a stuntwoman, but had fractured her leg in multiple places falling down a flight of stairs for a movie shoot five years ago. The filmmakers hadn’t even kept the take. But she’d been left with a limp and been forced to abandon her stunt career. There had been flowers and a brief mention in the press at the time that she had been at fault. She’d since learned to swallow the memories of that whole past life of hers. She rarely thought about Hollywood the same way, and kept her head out of the industry trades. Luckily for her bank account, she had taken to selling real estate like a shark in shallow water. She sometimes wondered what she’d say if the producers of the movie ever tried to buy from her.

Nobody around the table that morning liked Spader except for Pete and even that friendship was tenuous at best, with conversations revolving mostly about the Dodgers’ team troubles. But there would be no talk of baseball today. Out of the four of them, Nicole was the most talented at actually selling.  Until this contract was over, they were stuck in this trailer from 10 to 6 every day, without fail.

"These," said Spader, "are for the meeting at 11."

"It’s 11:22, Spader," Nicole said.

"Yeah I know. I had to go and get them. And then make sure they were the right ones." Pause. "I also stopped to get coffee," said Spader, almost out of breath. The table groaned "But I think you’ll find that I did good on finding all these."

Spader was confident, and this was new.

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About The Author:
Ned Dymoke
Ned Dymoke is a writer whose work has appeared in Playboy, Esquire, Condé Nast Traveler, 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.
The Auteur 1

The Auteur

by Steven Axelrod

Not all filmmakers want their best work to be seen publicly. For good reason. 3,364 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

After 10 years, he ruled as the most sought-after director in Hollywood, but he remained a complete unknown. No critic could tell you his name, no double-dating teenager had ever glimpsed one frame of his work. But a small powerful sliver of the Hollywood elite worshipped him, and the private screenings of his movies were always packed with moguls. Sometimes the Auteur wondered how that perverse A-list cabal initiated new members of the A.V. Club – that was what they called themselves. His movies might be the only jolt of reality these strutting Bel Air toy tycoons ever saw.

The Auteur smiled, thinking of it, as he adjusted the lights and added a blue filter. He checked his supply of film stock – Kodak double X, rated for tungsten light. He hadn’t shot a scene in daylight since his last Reebok ad. He checked his watch: the young woman would be arriving in less than an hour.

The Auteur’s own mainstream film career had never amounted to much – some commercial work, and the occasional NCIS or Law & Order episode. After a few years of teaching film at UCLA, the industry had dismissed him as a festival circuit one-hit wonder who’d retreated into academia. It was an acceptable way to give up, and it had turned him into the ultimate invisible man: the Hollywood filmmaker without ambition. He wanted nothing and he had nothing to offer anyone but a passing grade in Post-Production Sound or Experimental Media.

He had never used one of his students in any of his own films — though he had been tempted often. It was too risky: the first time would have to be the last. So he played it safe, choosing 21-year-olds he met at bars, or roller skating at Venice beach or waiting on line for Jonas Brothers tickets.

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrod has written for directors Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood and for Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of Hollywood writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing a series of mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This excerpt is from his noir thriller Heat Of The Moment published by Gutter Books.
Fool's Errand final 1250

Fool’s Errand

by Barry Strugatz

A struggling writer hopes to start a script for a famed director before their careers flatline. 4,370 words. Illustration by Fates Crew.

After the cheapest available 12-hour two-stop flight from JFK, Paul Slater walked out of the LAX terminal stiff and exhausted. A computer bag slung over his shoulder, he pulled a roll-a-way suitcase and moved towards the curb and the Totaled Car Rental courtesy van.

Paul look older than his 36 years. He was trying to suppress his alternating feelings of anxiety, desperation and fear.

Two days before in Brooklyn, Paul had suffered his first panic attack. His life was coming apart. He was a talented but unsuccessful fiction writer. He had one novel published to a few good reviews yet no sales. He’d had 20 stories published in respected literary magazines. He worked as an adjunct writing instructor at a local community college for very little money. His wife Willa was a proofreader at a law firm. They had a four year old son. They barely scraped by. Bills were piling up, disconnect notices arrived in the mail. Once patient and supportive, Willa had become cranky and critical. Paul didn’t know how to get out of his deepening hole. As he sat in his small apartment, Paul was filled with hopelessness when the phone rang.

“Hey, Paul, how are you? It’s Scott Blake over at Inspired Artists.”

“Scott? It’s been a while.”

“Has it?”

“About a year. You didn’t respond to my manuscript or my messages so I assumed you weren’t interested in being my agent anymore.’

“I’ve gotten some movie interest in one of your stories.”

Paul was stunned. “Which one?”

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About The Author:
Barry Strugatz
Barry Strugatz is a screenwriter whose film credits with his writing partner Mark R. Burns include the breakout hit Married To The Mob and She-Devil. He got his start as a production assistant and location scout working under Miloš Forman and Woody Allen. He is currently finishing a documentary he directed, The Professor and developing a comedy feature Emergency Furlough for Melissa Leo.
Dark Lady Ghost Story - Warming

Enter Ghost

by Diane Haithman

Is it the dying exec’s cancer or conscience playing tricks on him? Or too much TV? 2,716 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

"Hence, horrible shadow!  Unreal mock’ry, hence!" That’s uttered by Macbeth in Macbeth. Anyone who believes you can read every tragedy ever written by William Shakespeare and still plot a murder without seeing a ghost hasn’t, well, read every tragedy ever written by William Shakespeare. You cannot escape your ghost, even here in Hollywood.

I’d like to apologize in advance for this ghost. Like all apparitions, mine hails not from somewhere in the ether but from the mind. It can be no more inspired than my own imagination — and my personal knowledge of ghosts is pretty much limited to the Mr. Magoo version of A Christmas Carol. If I were put on the spot about optioning this script, I’d have to say my ghost is not a believable character. But please believe me when I say that seeing a ghost, any ghost, shoots white-hot molten terror into the very marrow of your bones, no matter how poorly that ghost is written.

At least Shakespeare’s ghosts had the decency to appear in the dead of night. Mine shows up at rush hour while I’m on the 101 on my way to the studio lot in Burbank.

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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.