Sundance 01

Sundown At Sundance
Part One

by Duane Byrge

A noted film critic arrives for what he expects to be just another Sundance Film Festival. 2,544 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Are you going to Shoot Mom?”

Ryan pulled off his headset and glanced up from his airline seat. A guy in a blue Cubs cap hovered over him.

A stewardess came forward, looking alarmed.

Shoot Mom — are you going to the screening?” the Chicago baseball fan repeated.

“Sir, you’ll have to sit down,” the stewardess commanded. “The warning light is on.”

The guy retreated back down the aisle. Ryan Cromwell settled back into his seat. He turned to the woman next to him who’d been watching the incident unfold.

“Sorry about that. Occupational hazard,” he said.

“You must be in a dangerous profession,” she said. “Homeland Security?”

Ryan smiled: “No, more dangerous. I’m a film critic.”

He was one of Hollywood’s chief film critics, headed to Salt Lake City from L.A. for the Sundance Film Festival. His reviews of independent film could make or break the pictures as well as launch or end careers. They were especially important at an indie film festival like Sundance where the discovery of new talent was the paramount focus. Ryan’s film reviews at previous fests had helped catapult first-time filmmakers such as Gina Prince Bythewood (Love & Basketball), Kevin Smith (Clerks), Justin Lowe (Better Luck Tomorrow), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and many other rookies. January was his favorite time of year because he was reviewing films that were not just vampire, zombie, special-effects and franchise movies that were critic-proof and, in Ryan’s view, brain resistant.

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About The Author:
Duane Byrge
Duane Byrge worked for The Hollywood Reporter as news editor, senior film critic, reviews editor, box office analyst and reporter. He is currently Coordinator of Film Studies at Virginia State University. Three of his books are published: Screwball Comedy Films, Private Screenings and his newest Behind the Scenes With Top Hollywood Producers. He has two novels: The Red Carpet and Sundown In Sundance in progress.
The Paparazzo

The Paparazzo

by Strawberry Saroyan

A meditation on what it means to be the lens watching U.S. culture created – even if you’re foreign. 1,757 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


A movie star had died. It used to be these things were good money, plus a relatively easy “get.” You had to have connections, sure, have been around for a while to make your way into the location, but Mick was an old hand and had been around since, what, 2007? The business was getting tougher.

Mick was from Slovenia. He had the body of a broken pen – slim, slightly twisted and with something coursing through it but it wasn’t always blood. He was a good paparazzo. The language barrier had hurt and helped him. It made him determined to listen, hear even the syllables, keep them straight: aah, eeh, eek, ooh. Also, to keep his receptors out at all times. He hadn’t always liked celebrities but he’d grown to do so, and even when he didn’t like someone — did anyone really enjoy working with Jonah Hill, Robert Downey? — at least he knew all their names. The shooting was a way to be independent at the same time that it paid the rent. If Mick had heard of legend Ron Galella, which he hadn’t, he might have felt a sense of tradition, even artistry. But he didn’t. Still, it wasn’t a bad gig. America was working for him.

The funeral was to take place at Westwood Memorial. He’d heard on E! that it was Hollywood Forever but no, Memorial was the place; his friend Rupert had confirmed it.

Rupert was another pap, and an ally most of the time. Mick himself got the name of the valet there — hey, you had to do leg work — and Mick told Jecky, I will help you if you help me. The words had been wrong, cracked in places of course, but Jecky didn’t care. Jecky would give him the go-ahead for a cool $250. Mick knew it might be a slice of profit but he would just have to up his game.

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About The Author:
Strawberry Saroyan
Strawberry Saroyan is a journalist and author. Her memoir Girl Walks Into A Bar was published by Random House and her fiction and non-fiction stories have appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, Salon, Spin, The Believer, Five Chapters, Open City and Zyzzyva. Her work has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and anthologized in Personals: Dreams And Nightmares from the Lives of Twenty Young Writers and They’re At it Again: An Open City Reader. She has just completed her first novel.
The Monster 01

The Monster

by Eric Bogosian

Eric Bogosian debuts an original short story: A screenwriter desperate for his movie to be made puts the project into the hands of a famous and successful actor-director-producer. That was the scripter’s first mistake. 4,873 words. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.


Hopefully, this tape will be found some day. Probably by then it’s doubtful anyone will be able to play it back and listen to what I have to say here. But I have no choice. I have to tell this story if for no other reason than to preserve my sanity during these last few hours.

As I lie here, whispering these words to myself in the dark, I can only blame my ambition. Like Icarus who flew too close to the sun, I am being punished. Whether I deserve punishment or not, you can decide.

I’m not exceptional, I’m not special. In fact I’m pretty much a boring person. But just because I was a boring person, doesn’t mean I didn’t have dreams. And desires. And hopes. And fears. And appetites. All of that. Big time. And, in the end, just big enough to consume me. I went willingly into the lion’s den. I was going to dance with the lion. I was going to become a lion.

What the fuck did I know about being a lion?

Six years ago, when I was 28, I was writing for LA Weekly. Online. I wrote an article about a young couple who got lost while hiking around in Joshua Tree. They almost died. It was a pretty good story and, as often happens in L,A,, it garnered a phone call from a studio exec. Focus Features. I pretended that I had an agent and then got this old pal who was an assistant over at UTA to rep me and one thing led to the next and all of a sudden I had a development deal with Focus to write a screenplay based on my story.

I delivered the screenplay (after six outlines), and two days later the exec who ordered it got fired and that was the last I heard from Focus. The movie was never made. And over the past six years, I’ve been able to shuffle along and write scripts for a few other studios. At first it seemed like big money. Averaged out, week by week, it actually wasn’t. But hey, if they made even one of these films, I would have been in Hollywood heaven. Or so I thought.

Lying here now in the darkness, I try to remember the state of my life only one hundred and eighty days ago. It wasn’t bad. I was making enough money that I could afford to shop at Fred Segal every now and then. I could cover my girlfriend Sandy’s side of the rent. (She’s an assistant designer at a boutique on Santa Monica Blvd.) I drove a five-year old Prius. I shopped at Whole Foods up the street from where we lived. I played poker with other screenwriters and actors like Jeremy Sisto and David Zayas. I hit the gym twice a week. I watched my weight. I made it to 34 years old and was still young enough to be “promising.” I guess I’ll never be 35.

I was floating in a dimension that had no past, no future.

And then one day, in the shower, I came up with an idea. Simple, elegant, perfect. A narrative about a returning veteran who becomes a New York City parole officer. Gritty. Full of action. A great role for a macho actor in his thirties. And it could be made for a budget. Easily shot in less than two months. Violent but also filled with pathos.

It was everything I needed to get closer to the sun.

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About The Author:
Eric Bogosian
Eric Bogosian is a Guggenheim fellow and prolific playwright, novelist, actor. He wrote the Pulitzer- and Tony-nominated Talk Radio and starred in the Silver Bear-winning film. His six solo performances Off-Broadway received Obies and the Drama Desk Award. Other plays he wrote include subUrbia, Griller, Red Angel, Humpty Dumpty, 1+1. His novels - Mall, Wasted Beauty, Perforated Heart - and non-fiction book Operation Nemesis and 100 Monologues collection are published. The actor's credits include Robert Altman’s The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Law & Order: CI and Showtime's Billions.
Speck Script

Speck Script

by Diane Haithman

A very big TV/film fan hitchhikes to Hollywood in search of something – or someone. 2,408 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


On behalf of my home planet, I’d like to welcome myself to Hollywood.

I hail from Mars. I know for decades you’ve been searching for signs of life up there on the fourth rock from the sun. We were so flattered in 2012 when you sent up that cute Mars Rover Curiosity that’s still zipping around our Gale Crater like a little golf cart. We love each and every orbiter and all those nifty NASA-type gadgets. When that stuff shows up, well, it’s just like Christmas here!

You’ve explored Mars — but you still haven’t found us. Don’t blame yourselves. We’re smaller than anything you can detect even with your most sophisticated ultra-microscope. You can take home all the digital photos, rocks and space-dirt you want— you won’t see us. No, you’re not stupid. It’s not your fault. We’re just real small, that’s all.

Okay I like you humans. You’re funny. So I’m going to share a little secret: You can see us, in a way. We are the red on the Red Planet. All of us, together: our very existence radiating a beautiful warm glow into space for the whole galaxy to share, shifting from tangerine to blood orange to terra cotta brick depending on our mood. That’s us.

We would have done purple when Prince died if we could.

But I digress. My Earth pop culture reference to The Purple One reminds me of the story I wanted to tell you as my first direct communication with Earth. About how I came to Hollywood, and why I must stay. I must stay for as long as it takes.

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Diane Haithman on twitter
About The Author:
Diane Haithman
Diane Haithman was an LA Times Calendar staff writer for two decades and now is the entertainment reporter for Los Angeles Business Journal. She frequently contributed to Deadline and Awardsline and covered Hollywood for the Detroit Free Press. Her first novel is Dark Lady Of Hollywood.
Cain And Abel 04 final 3rd revised

Cain And Abel
Part Three

by Daniel Weizmann

The Nash Bros either thrive or merely survive their appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 2,119 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Fans and cheerleaders: Do you ever marvel at how they share our world? Incredible to think that while most of us live our humdrum lives, they are out there — the superstars — mythical, rolling, unhinged. And why do they do it? They do it so we don’t have to.

Marky and Sean met on the lot and rode to Kimmel’s in a Lincoln stretch. Marky felt cooler than he had all day. Plus, he acted kinder. He asked Sean, “Hey, man, you gonna do that patriot missile gag with Kimmel, the thing with the somersault?”

Sean was humbler. “I don’t want to hog up all the space.”

“No, bro. It’s a good bit. Do your thing.”

And then it happened so fast. They were whisked through the Green Room and pancaked, and led out on the air. The band played a brass version of the pair’s biggest hit to date, “Girl You’re The 1 (For Me, For Me)”. Kimmel’s audience ran a little older but they still went ape-shit when the Nash Bros crossed the stage. Jimmy did a little mock shock at the amplitude of the girly screams. The familiar tingle of stage energy dueled with Marky’s waning inner heat. Then there was a third Marky, a phantom in the wings: watching, sober, attentive. But every smile was in place, as Kimmel stood up to fist-five them with both hands as the horns blasted big ending punches.

The crowd would not stop screaming.

“Will you calm down?” Kimmel finally admonished, setting off another wave.

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About The Author:
Daniel Weizmann
Daniel Weizmann is a showbiz writer published in the Los Angeles Times, Billboard, LA Weekly, Jewish Journal, Buzz, California Magazine, and several anthologies including Turn Up The Radio! and Drinking With Bukowski and the Rough Magick anthology. He's been a book editor and fiction author of Rolling With Golden, The Grunes Collection, and The Hollywood Testament excerpted here.
Cain And Abel 003

Cain And Abel
Part Two

by Daniel Weizmann

One of two brothers hosting a hit TV show can’t accept that they no longer have equal roles. 2,679 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Fan Club members: It is you that keep the dream alive. And that is why you must know that there was no formal ritual between the brothers. They rehearsed at noon five days a week, talked on the phone four to thirty times a day, met their press agent every other Thursday, and socially were almost inseparable. Even the many girls they took out, they did so in pairs, occasionally shooting each other a deeply knowing look mid-date to signal the switching of seats and intentions. Sean rented his own place in the Los Feliz Hills to be nearer the Burbank studio and liked to sleep late. Marky bought athree-bedroom oceanfront condo in Manhattan Beach, which was a good investment and, besides, what was the point in being a pop star if you weren’t going to live on the beach?

After dinner at Mom’s, Sean headed home to get some beauty rest before the big television interview. Marky, on the other hand, hopped in the Benz and was heading for his beach pad, intending to catch some Zs as well, when he remembered that it was Sunday, and that meant poker night at the shared apartment of Tom and Shanahan, his old high school pals. Marky was already in the old neighborhood, so he skipped the freeway onramp and maneuvered into the parking lot of the Hawthorne Arms, ready for action. He walked the dank stairwell to Tom and Shanahan’s second floor pad, and held his pop-star-ness in check. He lapsed into a joke fantasy, rare but recurring, that he was not and had never been in showbiz. Sean’s bro — the tax accountant. Or Sean’s bro — the sportswriter. If only he had been too fat, early balding like their Old Man.

“Dude!” Shanahan called out. “Total surprise.”

“Yo!” Tom said, his back to them, pulling a twelve-ouncer of Olde English Malt Liquor out of the fridge. “Do I hear Marky?”

“The man arriveth!”

Marky shrugged, then sat in the breakfast nook with the five neighborhood buffoons in Old Navy duds and hand-me-downs, some sporting baseball caps on their $20 haircuts. The homies looked happy but tired. Marky feigned a “long, hard day,” too.

“What’s up, superstar?” Tom said, high-fiving.

“Dude,” Kev said, cracking a beer, “aren’t you on Kimmel tomorrow night?”

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About The Author:
Daniel Weizmann
Daniel Weizmann is a showbiz writer published in the Los Angeles Times, Billboard, LA Weekly, Jewish Journal, Buzz, California Magazine, and several anthologies including Turn Up The Radio! and Drinking With Bukowski and the Rough Magick anthology. He's been a book editor and fiction author of Rolling With Golden, The Grunes Collection, and The Hollywood Testament excerpted here.
Cain And Abel 01

Cain And Abel
Part One

by Daniel Weizmann

Two brothers have a hit TV comedy-variety show – and a less successful relationship. 2,271 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Dear Fan Club Members: They say these things don’t happen overnight. But they kinda do. The fun began at three in the afternoon in Hanger One right on the Fox Lot when 21-year-old heartthrob Marky Nash sat on the edge of the newly reconstructed stage thumbing tweets to the base on his iPhone to tell us that Season Two is coming. After a breakneck rehearsal sched, he was psyched to get back to where he belonged: the spotlight. Behind Marky sat his blond baby bro, 19-year-old Sean Nash with his feet up looking all sanguine ‘n’ shit. That’s when the Producer and the Other Producer — whose names we can never remember! — huddled with the Bros. One Producer was older, tall, skinny, full of jagged grey competence in white sneakers. The Other Producer was husky in a Dodger’s cap and Cal State t-shirt, looking like a disgruntled dirtbiker.

It was lecture time as the stage crew slid gels into the footlights and wheeled the giant behemoth TV cams into place.

“This,” the Producer said, “is our moment.”

“And you boys have what it takes to answer the bell,” the Other Producer added.

“You are already stars,” the Producer said. “Don’t believe us? Google yourselves.”

“But Season Two is a major test,” the Other Producer said.

“For everybody,” his partner added. “Not just you guys.”

“And I don’t have to tell you we have competition,” the Other Producer said. At this, the two men paused, arms akimbo, Old Jew and Junior Jew, staring down the Nash Bros for dramatic effect.

“Meno?” Sean asked, sitting up.

The Producer said, “Meno Dalmucci’s variety dogshit debuts day after tomorrow in prime time opposite you guys.”

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About The Author:
Daniel Weizmann
Daniel Weizmann is a showbiz writer published in the Los Angeles Times, Billboard, LA Weekly, Jewish Journal, Buzz, California Magazine, and several anthologies including Turn Up The Radio! and Drinking With Bukowski and the Rough Magick anthology. He's been a book editor and fiction author of Rolling With Golden, The Grunes Collection, and The Hollywood Testament excerpted here.
Heigl2 FINAL

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

by Tom Ruprecht

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


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

Clutching her resume, Ally Larson nods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also Starring Rita Lake…

by John D. Ferguson

A young actress works for a studio executive on matters more thrilling than movie roles. 2,521 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – February 1938

Inside the gates of Hollywood’s grandest studio, which specifically wasn’t in Hollywood at all but in Culver City, a young woman sat waiting inside the executive suite of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer outside the office of Finbar Gregory, Vice President of Studio Relations. That part, Studio Relations, made her smile. Because he was much more than his benign title would suggest. A former sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department, he was also the son of an LAPD police captain and had joined MGM in the late twenties as head of security for the studio. He had become the right arm or, more to the point, strong arm of MGM’s Vice President and General Manager Eddie Mannix. Mr. Gregory handled a number of delicate press and publicity issues for the studio. Rumor had it that he and Mannix never exchanged memos but met behind closed doors every morning at seven.

The young woman whose name was Rita Lake looked around the ante room and at Mr. Gregory’s secretary, Marge or Midge or something like that, and wondered if the older woman with light gray hair and a small and efficiently build, thought she was having an affair with the executive. After all, Rita had been to his office several times over the past months and since he had little to do with casting, her presence on so many occasions might be misconstrued as inappropriate.

Rita Lake wasn’t her real name; she was an actress beautiful in an unconventional way with exotic good looks that came from her father, a Russian Jew, and her mother, a Spanish beauty. She had large hazel eyes framed by neatly arched eyebrows, and thick auburn hair recently cut to the new fashion. She had a trim figure, more athletic than voluptuous, and good legs that helped her get more parts than her acting skills.

On this particular morning Rita was dressed in a brown wool suit with a matching handbag and low-heeled shoes, the hem length of her skirt set appropriately at the knee. Rita wondered if it was her wool suit in the mild dry weather or the glacial stares that Marge/Midge was shooting her that was making her perspire. She self-consciously touched the small bruise under her left eye. The swelling had gone down and she hoped that the small amount of make-up she was wearing had been sufficient to cover the black and blue mark.

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About The Author:
John D. Ferguson
John D. Ferguson is Director of Broadcast Operations at Starz Entertainment LLC overseeing the quality and origination of 46 nationally televised channels via cable and DBS transmission. He began his broadcast career at AMC Networks as a tape runner and worked his way up to Manager of Channel Scheduling. In 1995 he joined the Starz and Encore Networks as Traffic Manager to create a feature movie database and content library.
Actress Bathing Girl 3

Bathing & The Single Girl
Part One

by Christine Elise McCarthy

The life of an actress isn’t all glamour, money, sex. Often it’s about humiliation. 2,029 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


So one morning later in the month, I was again facing the relentless onslaught of overdue bills. And once again, I faced an unpayable mortgage. I managed to stretch a few paltry residuals and my unemployment benefits to cover my cell bill, utilities and the minimum payments on my credit card balances. It struck me that “balance” was an interesting word to call mounting debt. What would they call it once it came tumbling down all around me? Bankruptcy, I guessed. Foreclosure.

My chest began its now-too-familiar objection to thoughts of financial matters and squeezed in on itself while my heart sped to a dangerous pace. I tried some exercises to prevent the stroke that I was certain was coming, but I couldn’t even get air to fill my lungs let alone the deep breaths I’d been taught in yoga classes. I was becoming light-headed.

Then the phone rang. It was my agent, Kim.

“Hi, Ruby, good news! I have an audition for you. It’s a new show. Something about cops with ESP versus vampire teens. It’s actually called Sexy Dicks With ESP Vs. Gangster Vampire Teens.”

“You have to be kidding me.”

“It’s a Mentalist/Sopranos/Twilight hybrid with amazing buzz. You’re lucky I was able to get you in.”

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About The Author:
Christine Elise McCarthy
Christine Elise McCarthy has acted professionally for 28 years on Beverly Hills 90210, ER, Body Snatchers, Vanishing Point, Boiling Point, China Beach, In The Heat Of The Night, Tell Me That You Love Me and Child’s Play 2. She wrote for Beverly Hills, 90210 and Aaron Spelling. Her directorial debut for Bathing & The Single Girl was accepted into 100+ film festivals and won 20 awards. This debut novel was inspired by her short film.
You Do The Hokey Pokey

You Do The Hokey Pokey

by Jay Abramowitz

A TV writer watching his son at preschool also watches a TV star who could help his career. 2,219 words. Illu2stration by Mark Fearing.


I sing and put my left foot in and out, careful not to stare at Jill Racine as she and her three-year-old daughter grin and sing and put their left feet in and out, too. Two other parents do stare at her – she’s dressed down in sweats with no make-up, or hardly any, I’m not an expert — and two others decide it’s more acceptable to stare at my son Ryder, who lets out a queer cry of joy as he twists his body and jerks his left foot in as the other kids are already shaking theirs about. Two other parents give Ryder the side-eye, another glances at me pityingly. By the time my boy yanks his left foot out, Jill Racine, her daughter and everyone else have turned themselves around and are putting their right feet in.

Jill Racine must be on a hiatus week from her show, since this first day of preschool is the day after Labor Day. If Denny had been on the ball I’d be enjoying a day or two off, too, instead of not having a sitcom staff job for the first time since I started out. No script assignments, either. He got me a meeting last month but I’m sure it was a favor to him, since I had to pitch my story ideas to some lame insecure co-producer with whom I was wasting my time, at best. I’ll force myself to watch that piece-of-shit show every week to make sure the guy doesn’t rip me off, although it’s hard to imagine Denny or my useless lawyer standing up for me against the studio if he does. I clearly need a new agent but everyone knows the worst time to look is when you’re unemployed.

Jill Racine seems to be enjoying the Hokey Pokey. I hear she’s a monster. Amazing what some people do when they get power. Supposedly she fires The Jill Show writers herself, won’t let the showrunner do it, because she gets off on it. Last year some writer told me that at run-throughs she’s into humiliating her stand-in, one of the most vulnerable people on any set; even making fun of the woman’s ears, which are apparently sizable. (They say Jill’s clever nickname for her is “Dumbo.”)

Because Jill Racine is invulnerable. She’s such a huge star and her show such a massive hit and she’s so rich that she can say or do anything she wants to anyone.

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About The Author:
Jay Abramowitz
Jay Abramowitz has written and produced a dozen sitcoms and comedy pilots for Warner Bros, CBS and ABC. He was head writer on the PBS series Liberty’s Kids, which animated the American Revolution with the voices of Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal. His first novel Formerly Cool (written with Tom Musca) will be published this year.
christmas cottage

The Christmas Cottage

by Gordy Grundy

An artist thinks he’s come up with a wonderful way to find film content and wow Hollywood. 2,674 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I had never been treated so rudely in my life. I was in a meeting at a major Hollywood studio, sharing my creativity and insight with a top executive, only to be given the bum’s rush by three security guards. As if the humiliation of being dragged out of that office, down the hall and through the lobby wasn’t enough, I was also thrown, literally tossed, onto the street. Onto asphalt, not gold.

The indignity began that November when I read that a major movie studio had bought the film rights to The Christmas Cottage. Not only was opportunity knocking on my door, it was ringing the bell. Hollywood, an insatiable beast, had run out of ideas. Filmmaking was and still is a lowly art form rising to its greatest level of incompetence. While most studios keep producing re-remakes and re-re-remakes, this studio was trying to be an innovator.

The Christmas Cottage is a painting by Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” as he is affectionately known in America’s shopping malls, who composed a warm-hearted landscape featuring a snow-covered cottage nestled in cozy woods.

I saw this new development as opening a Pandora’s Box in the world of cinema. Why stop with a painting? There are many images and objects that can have a high concept. Hollywood has already made films from board games and Legos. Sculpture, conceptualism, postcards, Campbell Soup Cans and traffic signals could also be made into blockbuster entertainment.

I wasn’t sure what the studio had in mind for its feature about The Christmas Cottage. Wouldn’t Picasso’s Guernica make a better movie? How about the hard “R” of any Odalisque by Matisse? Or, given the current trend for Christian entertainment, would not The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Bosch scare a heathen back to God? But who was I to question the superior intellect and creativity of the Hollywood sensibility.

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About The Author:
Gordy Grundy
Gordy Grundy is a contemporary fine artist, columnist and creative producer. He has written for Artillery magazine, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and numerous art journals. He is the author of two collection of essays on art: Artist’s Pants and Blood And Paint.
Ebenezer Scrump

Ebenezer Scrump
A Christmas Story

by Howard Rosenberg

Ghosts visit a nasty old showman to unmask his not-so-entertaining lies and life. 836 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The darkened penthouse of Scrump Tower on Christmas Eve….

Ebenezer Scrump, asleep after hours of heavy tweeting, is jolted awake by loud clanking sounds and a terrifying sight.

Scrump: Who are you?

Ghost: Look upon me, Scrump, for I am the Ghost of Your Past.

Scrump: What do you want of me at this hour, ghost?

Ghost: I’m here to show you the errors of your ways.

Scrump: Errors? Where are you taking me?

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About The Author:
Howard Rosenberg
Howard Rosenberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic at the Los Angeles Times for 25 years. He now teaches critical writing and a TV symposium at USC's School of Cinema and Media Studies and formerly taught news ethics in the Annenberg School for Communication. He authored a satirical mystery novel Up Yours! and two non-fiction books: Not So Prime Time and No Time to Think (with Charles S. Feldman). He writes the blog Rosenbeast.
Walt's Last Wishes revised

Walt’s Last Wishes

by Nat Segaloff

The pioneer of children’s entertainment gives the leaders of his legacy some adult advice. 1,075 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


When Walt Disney passed away on December 15, 1966, he left an artistic and commercial legacy that his successors are still mining. He also – according to persistent rumor – left behind a private film that was to be shown to his top executives exactly one year after he died. When the anniversary day arrived, they were led into “the sweat box,” the tiny airless room where animators used to screen their rough footage, and shown to assigned seats. The lights went down and Walt appeared on film. He spoke to each of them by name and told them exactly what they were to do for the next five years. When the film ended, the stunned men returned to their corner offices and the sole existing print they had just watched was destroyed — again, on Walt’s posthumous orders. Always known for meticulous, if not compulsive, planning, Walt had issued instructions for the completion of Walt Disney World in Florida, its expansion into European and Asian countries, and development details for WED Enterprises and RETLAW. He even cautioned against releasing the animated features too quickly on home video, a medium whose commercial debut was still nine years off but which his studio contracts had been predicting for decades.

It was therefore an extraordinary moment when the transcript for this film was discovered between the pages of story conference notes for The Jungle Book, the picture Walt had been developing when he died. We present it here for the first time as a tribute to the man who built an empire upon a mouse:

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About The Author:
Nat Segaloff
Nat Segaloff is a journalist, producer, author and critic whose memoir Screen Saver: Private Stories Of Public Hollywood is published by Bear Manor Media. He has been a teacher (Boston University, Boston College), publicist (Fox, UA, Columbia) and broadcaster (Group W, CBS, Storer) and writer of more than a dozen books. He is writing a biography of Harlan Ellison.
Western Spaghetti

Western Spaghetti

by Matthew Licht

An American screenwriter becomes entangled with a zealous Italian film director. 2,780 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Rome, with the voice of all its sparkling fountains, said to me, You can’t leave. Los Angeles never spoke so imperiously. Or maybe she did, but since I was always in my car or in my office on the studio lot, I never heard the message.

In any case, I left.

Rome didn’t offer me a job, or a place to live, or a Vespa to get around. Language was a hurdle, but before too long I could order a plate of spaghetti alla carbonara alongside Pasolinian primitives without drawing a second glance.

The San Calisto bar in Trastevere was a decent substitute for Schwab’s as a place to sit and watch the world go by. The management put rickety tables outside on fair afternoons and evenings. Pretty often, they left them out when it was lightly raining so the drunks could watch the rainbow skies and the fountains carved from travertine marble which gurgled within earshot. Rome’s water is tasteless, or maybe taste-free. But I’d never drunk anything half as refreshing.

A well-dressed perfumed young man stared through face-making eyeglasses. When he came over, I expected tentative pick-up overtures. Instead, he explained his film theory.

“When you ordered white wine, I knew that you are American. From the world of spectacle. This is synchronicity at work. An Italian-American director has usurped an autochthonous genre, with great success” – he was talking about Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece – “at roughly the same time that an Italian director attempted an American-style road movie, which, at least in my view, is a dismal failure.” Maybe Sergio Leone’s Giù La released the year before? “My mission is to re-appropriate and re-subvert a classic theme to re-ëstablish purity of form.”

Ah, he wanted to make a Western.

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About The Author:
Matthew Licht
Matthew Licht spent nearly five years as a Hollywood writer. His story collections The Moose Show and Justine, Joe & The Zen Garbageman, were nominated for the Frank O'Connor Prize. His novel Lo Niglu is published as an ebook by Stanza 251. The Withering Fire is published as an ebook by Spider & Fish. Two books of his YA stories are coming out this year.
Virtual Reality 02

Virtual Reality
Part Two

by Michael Burns

Which is most fulfilling: real sex or virtual reality sex? These teens find out. 1627 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 2030

Hollywood High School seniors Aidan and Jennifer have reached a new plateau in their friendship. For the first time, they have admitted they are virgins.

“I’ve thought about it,” Jennifer said.

“Me, too.” Aidan replied, wistful. “I know I’m clean. How can I not be? I haven’t ever fucked anyone.”

“We’re both clean,” Jennifer assured him, “because I’ve never fucked anyone either.”

They make direct eye contact. Exchange serious looks. They haven’t been exposed to the antibiotic resistant super-gonorrhea — superum neisseria gonorrhoeae – sweeping the world. A fastidious gram negative diplococci bacteria that usually proves fatal and is keeping global populations from having sex.

When they arrive at the Sensorsex VR Cinema on Wilshire, the teen couple see a line, but it’s not very long. Jennifer turns and puts her arms around Aidan. “Thanks for coming with me. I can’t wait to try this.” Her voice is filled with anticipation.

Aidan becomes embarrassed. Jennifer’s warm body against his is giving him an erection. He turns to hide the bulge in his pants.

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About The Author:
Michael Burns
Michael Burns is an independent writer and author of nine works of fiction including a collection of short stories. He also has written two unproduced screenplays, one adapted from his novel The Horn and the other from Lipstick, his two short stories posted here. He is not the vice chairman of Lionsgate.