Category Archives: Book Excerpt

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. 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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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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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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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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American Asshole 02

American Asshole
Part Two

by Pasha Adam

The Hollywood wannabe must decide between his normal life or dream career. 3,036 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Tyler Price’s film premiere party was everything you’d expect a Hollywood party to be. Ostentatious, superficial, and wholly divorced from reality. It was also the first time I’ve truly felt like I belong, at home among the eclectic mix of narcissists, overachievers, and millionaires you can only find in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it was as far removed from my actual home as you can get within the confines of middle class America.

Twelve hours after the party, Alana and I boarded our plane and traded our luxurious, all-expenses-paid Hollywood weekend for the dryer, browner, more barren pastures of Bumfuck, Arizona.

I wake up bleary-eyed, lying next to Alana in our bed. I barely slept last night, haunted by regrets and mourning a bountiful life that not only could have been, but should have been.

Quietly sliding out of bed, I stumble across the bedroom, a bubble world oasis crafted by me to escape the trappings of reality. Combining our shared love of acting and music, my passion for pop culture and Alana’s obsession with celebrities, our apartment doubles as a shrine to the entertainment industry. Careful not to step on a pile of my Nip/Tuck, Californication, and Entourage DVDs, I enter the living room and embark on a dedicated morning ritual that dates back to our first month in Arizona. Press-ups, sit-ups, protein shakes, flossing, omelets, moisturizing, multi-vitamins, Propecia, and hair styling are capped off with a healthy sixty seconds spent admiring and critiquing my appearance in a full-length mirror.

A crisp tailored black shirt, fitted jeans, Rolex, and polarized Oliver Peoples sunglasses complete my uniform. I take pride in the fact no one here dresses like me. I dress the way I wish the world was, to show the world what it can be.

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American Asshole 01

American Asshole
Part One

by Pasha Adam

A Hollywood wannabe in love is jealous of a famous, charming, successful actor. 2,262 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My girlfriend’s hand tightens around mine in excitement, cutting off all circulation until my fingers are numb. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my fucking God!” she squeals. “It’s him!”

From our pool bed in the Tropicana Pool Cafe of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Alana points frantically. I follow her line of vision until I see what she sees. Beyond the cocktail waiters and the Hollywood elite stands the man of the hour: MTV Movie Award winner Tyler Price.

When I was no more than eight years old, my mom asked me, “What do you want to be when you’re older?” As questions go it was relatively innocuous, yet has remained etched into my subconscious ever since.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

To this day I have no idea why she asked me that question or why it seemed so important to her. Maybe the years spent floundering in the lower middle class had taken their toll. Or maybe it was something Dad had said. I’m not sure. Either way, what followed was the most earnest and intense moment we’ve ever shared.

She tenderly stroked the side of my face, guiding my attention towards her caring eyes. What Mom was about to say was so important to her that she didn’t just want me to hear it, she wanted me to believe it.

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Hollywood Dodo 02

The Hollywood Dodo
Part Two

by Geoff Nicholson

The film buff father worries about his daughter becoming a Hollywood actress. 3,190 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


I realize that as a father I’m not the very best judge of these things, but come the next day I really did think Dorothy was looking absolutely gorgeous; bright-eyed, pert, quite the English rose. I was very proud of my daughter, and I felt full of confidence on her behalf. How could she not succeed as a Hollywood film actress?

In due course I dropped her off at the office of the agent, Bob Samuelson, located in a black glass building in West Hollywood. Neither of us had the slightest idea how long this meeting might take, but we agreed that we’d meet up in an hour’s time at a coffee shop we could see on the corner a block away. If the meeting went on longer than that I’d simply wait. Fathers are very good at waiting. I tried to give Dorothy a goodbye and good luck kiss but she held me at arm’s length, afraid I’d smear her make up.

I found myself thinking about Marilyn Monroe, a woman who, in general, I don’t think about all that much, but now I was recalling the story of when she was discovered by Ben Lyon, head of casting at Twentieth Century Fox. He met her and liked what he saw, so he sent her out to do the rounds of studio xecutives and he gave her letters of introduction to each of them. In every office the same thing happened. Each executive welcomed her, looked her over, read the letter, then walked round his desk, opened his fly and put his cock in her mouth. The “letters of introduction” merely said that Marilyn gave a great blowjob.

Who knows if the story is literally true? I’m inclined to think not. If Marilyn was so willing to perform oral sex on all and sundry then why would there have been any need for the letter? And even if Ben Lyon needed to tip off the other men, wouldn’t he have just phoned them in advance rather than messing about with the written introduction?

Nevertheless, you’re bound to feel that the story is symbolically true. Or perhaps we just want it to be true. The moral, I suppose, is that even a goddess like Marilyn Monroe had to degrade herself before she got a break in the movies.

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Hollywood Dodo 01

The Hollywood Dodo
Part One

by Geoff Nicholson

A father accompanies his actress daughter to a first meeting with a Hollywood agent. 3,202 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


I was sitting with my twenty-one year old daughter Dorothy on a Boeing 777, London to Los Angeles, in October, the skies more than usually turbulent. We were traveling in business class since we were indeed going to L.A. on business of a sort, or at least my daughter was; and also because, given my size and shape and great bulk, I have some difficulty fitting into the narrow confines of a coach class seat. Shameful but true. And I was thumbing through the airline magazine to see what movies were going to be available on my “personal in-flight entertainment system,” and I was thinking of some of the many things I hate about the movies.

The thing I was hating most at that moment was the way that aeroplanes in movies are always so pleasant. They’re spacious and airy, so well lit, so quiet, the passengers have so much leg room, the aisles are so unnaturally wide, it’s so easy to get a drink. In the real world it is never like this. Even in the ruinously expensive business class none of this, in my admittedly limited experience, is ever the case.

I’m not a fool. I realize there’s a perfectly good reason why movie aeroplanes don’t much resemble real aeroplanes. Moviemakers want their movies to look good. They need lots of light. They need quiet so that the dialogue is audible. And I suppose the gangways have to be unnaturally wide so that the crew can wheel the camera up and down between the seats. But these rational, practical considerations weren’t making me hate movies any the less at that particular moment.

Now, I know you could say that the above was no reason to hate the movies. In fact you could say that it was actually much more of a reason to hate real life, and at that time I certainly thought I had every reason to hate my real life, but in the circumstances I decided it was preferable to hate the movies instead. It seemed to me they were in business to deceive and trick us, to make us believe the world was a more glamorous, colourful and desirable place than it really is. Does this seem like enough motivation for hating movies? Perhaps not.

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American Pride4

American Pride
Part Four

by David Ker Schermerhorn

The agent has a career-altering meltdown because of his wife at a client’s Halloween party. 3,095 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It was now an hour later and Casey couldn’t find Lori anywhere. He’d called her cell phone a dozen times, but it had gone straight to voicemail.

Casey was standing by Cheyne’s massive swimming pool, now unrecognizable because it had been transformed into another Halloween set for the Dump Trump bash. It could have been a scene out of a big budget Hollywood movie. Dry ice gave off a smoky effect and magnified the scene of a sinking ship with a fake Donald Trump at the bow, his red baseball cap on and a megaphone in his hand. “We’ve got this in the bag!” he announced. Off to the side were Paul Ryan and Chris Christie figures wearing rat ears and jumping off the sides.

Casey cursed out Cheyne for being so blasphemous towards the one man who could turn this country around. Now the agent just wanted to find Lori and get the hell out. “Lori, you out here?” Casey called, trying to spot her through the thick dry ice smoke. He spotted a dwarf, dressed as a nuclear warhead, walk by with a tray of tequila shots and grabbed two, hoping they’d take the edge off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this angry.

Casey seethed as he stormed across the patio and back into the house. He headed for the stairs with reluctance. He’d already checked every room downstairs and the entire second story, with no trace of his wife. Now he was going to the third floor to find her. There, he spotted his assistant who was dressed as Harry Potter. The kid had a big goofy smile.

“Have you seen my wife anywhere?”

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American Pride3

American Pride
Part Three

by David Ker Schermerhorn

The agent changes costumes unexpectedly and arrives at his client’s Halloween bash. 2,492 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Later that evening, Casey drove his Lexus to his Brentwood home. “Lori,” the agent called out. There was no answer. “Lori? You up there?” he called again, mounting the stairs. “You’d better be dressed and ready to go, babe.” When he walked into their bedroom, Lori was sitting on the chaise wearing a robe. “Didn’t you hear me?” Casey asked.

“No,” Lori said, barely moving.

“I was calling you,” he said, loosening his tie. He tossed it on the bed and unbuttoned his shirt. “I need you to get your costume on right now. Seriously, Cheyne’s Halloween party is going to be a mob scene and the sooner we get there, the less time we waste waiting to get in.”

He threw his shirt on the bed. “Where’s the costume box?” he asked.

“There,” she said, pointing to the bathroom.

He went in. “What the hell is this?” he said, sounding as if he’d ordered a New York steak rare, and the waiter had brought him a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.

Lori didn’t look up. She kept her gaze directed at the wall as if she were seeing something that wasn’t there.

Casey shot out of the bathroom and stopped a foot in front of her, holding a large plastic bag labeled: KAREN’S KOOKIE COSTUMES. “This. What the hell is this? Where’s my Samurai or your Geisha outfit?”

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American Pride2

American Pride
Part Two

by David Ker Schermerhorn

The agent anxiously sees his end-of-year bonus before heading to a client’s Halloween party. 2,746 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Global Talent Assets was located in the heart of the Beverly Hills business district. Casey sat in his office with the door closed. He was speaking very quietly on his burner phone with a partner from the competing agency Synergy. Casey was ready to hang up if anyone came to the door.

“You guys just need to sweeten the pot a little more,” Casey assured Michael.

“Come on, man. We agreed that you’d be signed by end of business today. Billy and Mark are starting to think you’re jerking us around. Do you want this or not?”

Casey loved working two different agencies to his own advantage. “Of course, I do. We could be done if you guys give me what I’m want.”

“Casey, no one else in our lit department is getting money even close to what you’d be getting,” Michael argued, his voice growing impatient.

“That’s because no one else is bringing in The Goose,” Casey reminded. “Cheyne Gold is the top action writer in this town. Of course I want to negotiate the best deal for myself. You’d do the same if you were in my shoes, Michael. Just go back to the guys and tell them what I need.”

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American Pride1

American Pride
Part One

by David Ker Schermerhorn

On Halloween night, an agent considers a huge career move that will impact his wife and his clients. 2,808 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Dressed head to toe in Armani, Casey Glynn was thirty-four but still carried himself like a college frat-boy. He sat in his newly remodeled kitchen in Brentwood with his espresso, a bran muffin, and an open script on the table which was a $9,000 marble-topped Calcutta model.

He was skimming through the script quickly, skipping past large chunks of pages to find snippets of dialogue he could quote back to the writer before they met this morning. The agent was courting him as a client. True, Casey’s assistant had already emailed coverage. But the rep’s goal was to give the impression he’d read the script thoroughly himself.

“Any good?” his wife, Lori, asked from across the kitchen.

“Pretty lame, actually,” Casey said, shaking his head.

“What’s it about?”

Casey snickered before answering, “A kid who masturbates a lot.”

“Gross,” Lori said, scrunching up her face in disgust.

“So you’re not going to sign him?” Lori asked.

Casey tapped the script. “No, I definitely want this guy.”

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Necessary Monsters 05B

Necessary Monsters
Part Four

by Steven Axelrod

What’s a first-time producer to do when a world-famous actor is sexually harassing the women working on his film? 2,549 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John David Carlucci.


She came to Mike Garth’s hotel room at midnight.

It had been an arduous day of location work for the first-time movie producer at an off track betting parlor on Broadway and 94th Street. The film had been forced to abandon the last set-ups because the continuity person had quit unexpectedly and the world famous actor had once again barricaded himself inside his trailer. No one knew what had happened between them. One minute Emily Culhane was talking to Douglas Troy, then she threw away her notebook, thus scattering the vital pages that inventoried the physical details connecting every shot, and fled.

It was unusual behavior for Emily, a small and tidy and intensely well organized woman who usually was supernaturally calm. No one had ever seen her angry or heard her raised voice before this afternoon. On the most chaotic sets, over a 22-year career, she had always been the serene one with the mug of Earl Grey tea whose job was to keep each appallingly expensive film from drifting out to sea on the tides of inspiration and ego.

There was awkward confusion after Emily left. The AD and a couple of grips scrambled desperately to gather up the storm of pages while Mike tried to find her. He made a few calls, got the production’s permit extended for another day, ate alone at Sichuan Balcony, then took a cab back to the hotel. When he could barely keep his eyes open, he climbed into bed without even brushing his teeth and fell asleep instantly.

A few hours later, insistent knocking woke him from an anxiety-filled dream. The digital clock on the dresser showed 12:01 a.m. The bed sheets felt like a full body straitjacket. He thrashed his way free, stumbled to his feet and pulled on a pair of jeans. The banging on his door was relentless and loud enough to wake up guests in other rooms.

"Who is it?" he asked in a hoarse stage whisper that was supposed to communicate the need to be quiet.

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Necessary Monsters 04A

Necessary Monsters
Part Three

by Steven Axelrod

A first-time producer is caught in the middle when a famous actor creates problems in the middle of filming. 2,443 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


It began with the coffee. Hollywood’s most famous movie star Douglas Troy would show up at the Unfinished Business production offices at odd times and always unexpectedly. He’d sit in on meetings with the production  or location manager, coiled and silent, as inconspicuous as a boa constrictor on a bed sheet. The first time he appeared, it interrupted a meeting about the costume designer’s preliminary sketches. The PA hadn’t known he was coming and didn’t have the right coffee on hand.

“This isn’t Starbucks’ Breakfast Blend,” he said to the young woman.

“It’s not? I didn’t – “

“No. It’s not. And it was brewed in some sort of drip coffeemaker.”

“Is that a problem? Because I can –“

“Yes, it’s a problem. My coffee has to be made with a Chemex. What’s your name?”

“Alice.”

“Do you have a last name, Alice?”

“Bendetson?”

“Was that a question?”

“No, no, it’s… I’m… my name is Alice Bendetson.”

“There’s skim milk in this coffee, Alice Bendetson. I take half and half. Not cream, not milk, and certainly not skim milk.” From his tone of voice, Troy could have said “dog piss.”

He had everyone’s attention now.
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Necessary Monsters 02B

Necessary Monsters
Part Two

by Steven Axelrod

A famous actor interrupts a studio meeting with a struggling scripter, first-time producer and inexperienced director. 2,871 words. Part One. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Most Hollywood executive offices are piled high with scripts, their titles magic-markered on the spines. But there were none in Bob Janse’s second floor office at the Wilhelm Brothers executive building. No framed movie posters from the studio’s movies. Not even a computer. The only phone was an old black rotary model, but the inconvenience of dialing didn’t matter to Janse. People called him. On the rare occasions when he returned a call – there were still five or six people more important than he was – his secretary handled the mechanics.

Shrewd and MBA-educated, he was given to vivid turns of phrase so that someone years ago had christened him “Sam Goldwyn with brains.” And however bitter and resentful they might be, the people he fired generally left with a quote or two to share with their next employers. No one wanted to be the target of Janse’s conversational ice-pick. But the group he had assembled in his office today was even more uneasy than usual. Because they were going to have to explain why they were proceeding with this misbegotten movie. Lenny Feinstein, Executive VP of Production, had brought the project to Dwight Goforth, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Production, who had just green-lighted a $125 million budget for a film written, produced and directed by unknowns.

They weren’t “hot off the film festival circuit” unknowns. They weren’t “music video and British TV ad” unknowns. They were just unknown.

The writer Jim Hotaling had scripted some episodic TV, the producer Mike Garth had worked for some Video on Demand outfit, and the director Bill Terhune who was the ringleader in this circus and hadn’t done anything except make friends with the world’s most famous and highest paid film star, Douglas Troy. The actor hated everyone so that was an accomplishment in and of itself. But perhaps not one sufficient to warrant a film budget for quite this many millions of dollars. The answer was simple and obvious: Troy wanted this director to make this film. That’s why Troy was at the meeting. Having Troy’s young actor sidekick Rick Haigley on the picture and in this confab wouldn’t hurt matters.

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Necessary Monsters 01A

Necessary Monsters
Part One

by Steven Axelrod

A director with no studio deal enlists a struggling screenwriter, a first-time producer and a world famous actor to make a film. 2,717 words. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


For months after it happened, Hollywood speculated about what a first-time producer could have possibly said to the highest paid movie star that would cause him to stalk off the set in a rage and quit the film a day later, sinking it at a net loss of close to forty million dollars to the studio. The trades reported “artistic differences.” But the crew on location in Manhattan saw Mike Garth leaving actor Douglas Troy’s trailer with a split lip — and suspected that art had very little to do with it.

Garth was famous for a while, as a curiosity rather than a hero — the way a self-ordained lesbian priest might become famous for throwing a custard pie at the Pope. But he never told anyone what actually happened on that autumn afternoon, and Troy never spoke about it either. With the dramatic finale unexplained and unresolved, interest in the whole matter eventually faded.

But Mike thought about it often. Despite the consequences to his career and the industry consensus that he had been an irresponsible self-destructive prima donna, he found his behavior impossible to regret. He hated bullies. They had ruled his childhood in the form of big kids, teachers, and camp counselors. The memory of those despots could make him, at unexpected moments, fierce, even dangerous, though the results were often dire. Some bullies actually were as strong as they pretended to be. And Douglas Troy had turned out to be one of them.

It had begun with Bill Terhune; things always seemed to begin with Bill Terhune in those days. Mike was sitting on the tiny terrace of his Westwood apartment one October morning, having coffee with screenwriter Jim Hotaling, when the film director called. Mike picked up his burner flip phone on the second ring and pushed the button to open the connection.

“Hello?”

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