Adventures of Zen FINAL

The Adventures Of Zen Writing Coach

by Christopher Horton

Is the young Asian shaman a wise man or a con man? A Hollywood has-been can’t decide. 2,859 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

I met the Zen Writing Coach in a bar in Hollywood. The kind with rotting stuffed chairs and odd wooden tables scattered about. Dark so you couldn’t see what you didn’t want to see. The walls were painted navy blue which nicely set off the truly hideous original art work posted for sale.

I sat down next to the Zen Writing Coach at the bar. Well, I left one stool empty between us, of course. He was wearing a flowing robe that was undoubtedly Asian, but to me looked more like what those American Indians wore at Wounded Knee when the blue coats shot them down. He was a slight Asian man, as you probably figured — but young, which you probably didn’t. Twenty-five, give or take. A lot younger than me. I was disintegrating my way through my forties.

I ordered my usual for the middle of the afternoon at least: a double Americano and a piece of pumpkin bread from Lilly, a tatted waitress out of Jersey who showed no sexual interest in me. She was very hot. Also gay. I liked Lilly. She was one of the few gay women I’d ever met who didn’t automatically treat me like I had killed her dog.

The Zen Writing Coach had a laptop open in front of him and was meticulously arranging piles of note cards around it in an easy rhythm. It was almost hypnotic to watch. Like the three card monte dealers in New York. I was curious. The robe, the cards, yet he didn’t seem insane or even homeless. So I spoke to him even though I never start up conversations with strangers. But I once went out with a woman whose Native American name was “Talking With Strangers,” so I know how it’s supposed to be done.

“What are you doing?”

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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.
Pitch Perfect v2 - Warming

Pitch Perfect

by Katherine Tomlinson

Two screenwriters try to hold it together professionally and personally during a pitch. 3,267 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

“I think you should call me Efan,” Stefan said, yelling from the bathroom 10 minutes after they should have left for their pitch meeting.

"Why would you want me to call you Evan?" Chloe asked, hoping the answer would be short. She was getting anxious about the time but she knew from experience trying to hurry Stefan only made him dawdle. Sometimes Stefan put the “ass” in passive-aggressive.

“Not Evan,” Stefan said, coming out of the bathroom rolling his eyes like she was the stupidest person on the planet. “Efan, like Stefan without the Stuh in front of it”

“Um, why?” Chloe asked.

“Don’t you think it sounds edgier?”

Oh God, not that again, Chloe thought. Stefan was pushing 30 and concerned about looking “cool.” He actually used that word, which as far as Chloe was concerned, was as uncool as you could get. He was constantly tweaking and refining his image, looking for a way to stand out from the crowd of other screenwriters he was competing with.

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About The Author:
Katherine Tomlinson
Katherine Tomlinson has been a story analyst for agencies, major studios, production companies and actors. Her clients included ICM, Dreamworks, ABC Family, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr. A former journalist, she was director of development at Silver Pictures before going freelance.
West Of Sunset v2 - John Mann

West Of Sunset

by Stewart O'Nan

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival is held Oct. 10th. His final Hollywood years are imagined here. 2,557 words. Illustration by John Mann.

At forty, by a series of setbacks he ascribed to bad luck, he’d become a transient. His hope was to go to Hollywood and make enough to cover his debts and maybe buy himself time to write the novel he owed Max Perkins. There was interest at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the promise of a thousand a week, but so far his agent couldn’t get them to commit. The studio had concerns about his drinking — his own fault for publishing those mea culpas in Esquire. All March he pestered his agent for word, assuring him he hadn’t touched a drop, when his bottom drawer was heavy with empties. Metro wanted him to come to New York for an interview, so he took the first train. For two full days he was completely, wrackingly sober, and passed. Six months at a thousand a week. The next day, on Metro’s ticket, he took the Argonaut west.

He’d come to Los Angeles twice before, as two very different men. The first time, he’d entered the city triumphant, the golden wunderkind and his flapper bride, signing autographs and mugging with Zelda for the cameras as they detrained. The last, after the Crash, she was recovering in Montgomery, and he got off at Pasadena to avoid the reporters. Now as he stepped down onto the platform there was no one to greet him. He gathered his bags, flagged a cab and disappeared into traffic.

Like a new schoolboy dreading his first day, he was afraid of being late, waking to the strange room at three-thirty, and four-fifteen, and again at five, to birds shrieking in the trees. He packed his briefcase with fresh legal pads and pencils and set out early, arriving well before the prescribed time. The façade of the studio was an imposing colonnade of Corinthian pillars, and, like everything there, a monumental fake, made of lath and plaster. They had his pass waiting at the gate, or one for a Mr. Francis Fitzgerald.

His last time on the lot he’d been a guest of the real boy wonder, Irving Thalberg, chauffeured around in his Rolls like a prized pet. Now that Thalberg was dead, and Metro’s best intentions with him, Francis Fitzgerald had to find his own parking spot. He left the Ford behind the paint shop and walked back up Main between the numbered, warehouse-like soundstages, slipping into the flow of gaffers and grips and extras dressed for a Western.

The old Writers’ Building, a stucco block the color of chopped liver, had been replaced by a poured concrete mausoleum the size of a high school named, unjustly, after Thalberg. The lobby was as cool as a theater. In a nod to honesty, the roster by the elevator didn’t list a single writer, only the producers on the fourth floor.

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About The Author:
Stewart O'Nan
Stewart O'Nan is the author of 15 novels, including The Odds, Emily Alone, Songs For The Missing, A Prayer For The Dying, and Snow Angels. His 2007 novel Last Night At The Lobster was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. Granta named him one of America’s Best Young Novelists. His latest, West Of Sunset, is excerpted here.
A Collector's Tale - final

A Collector’s Tale

by Barbara Guggenheim

This new mogul may be expert in Big Media business but now he’s being schooled by the art world. 2,819 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Luck was with Pincus “Pinky” Peterman that day. Here he was, CEO and the largest shareholder of one of the biggest entertainment conglomerates in the world, including a film studio, television network, and a lot of new Silicon Valley ventures he didn’t totally understand. And now he’d acquired a prized online news service. Immediately some CNBC analysts said once again he’d purchased at too high a price. At first Pinky was hurt and depressed. After 24 hours, he snapped out it. He may have overpaid for what he’d bought so far, but he’d also learned a lot. An education, he realized, always comes at a price. Besides, he was the newest Big Media mogul and about to enjoy it.

Tonight, he found himself at a posh dinner party seated next to the most exquisite leggy blonde he’d ever seen. Not bad for a 48-year-old guy from Merrick on Long Island, he thought to himself, enjoying the view as his dinner partner shifted in her seat and allowed her skirt to ride up a little further so he could see what pleasure lay beneath.

Then the impossible happened. Somewhere between the appetizer and the main course, this vision named Natasha Rostova ran her fingers lightly down his thigh. Could he dare to imagine what would happen later? Peterman knew he was short, paunchy, and balding and that this was happening because his hostess had told Natasha that he was powerful and worth billions of dollars. But he didn’t care. His heart — and other parts — were pounding in rhythmic overdrive.

As Natasha lifted her manicured fingers from his thigh, she handed him a card which announced that she was the director of the Michael Simeon Gallery. As it happened, Pinky’s decorator had just started his huge new Holmby Hills home, and there were lots of bare walls crying out for art. After all, he was a mogul now and needed all the high-end accoutriments.

He suggested that Natasha check out his needs — all of them — by having dinner with him at the house the following evening.

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About The Author:
Barbara Guggenheim
Barbara Guggenheim is a partner in the renown art advisory firm Guggenheim Asher Associates. She holds a doctorate in art history from Columbia University, has taught in colleges, worked at Sotheby’s, headed two departments at Christie’s and lectured for years at the Whitney Museum. She writes articles and commentary for magazines. Her latest book, Art World: The New Rules Of The Game, comes out this fall.
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 I typed in “Arielle Castle.” I had applied for hundreds of jobs online: the UTA job list,, 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, 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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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.