Category Archives: Directors

Takeout Sushi

Takeout Sushi

by Howard Jay Klein

A movie studio executive on the hotseat has to learn how to play hardball – or become the ball. 3,076 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Three hard policy guidelines had trickled down from the board of the Galaxy Gateway Film division of Global Media Corporation, arriving in the development department with the authority of Papal Bulls. The last quarter’s earnings miss had spooked Wall Street and battered the stock. The subtext: no more mammoth budget CGI comic book movies or prissy little art flicks on pain of death. The first email edict ordered the film executives to never greenlight a prestige project. (“We’re in the business of making money, not winning awards.”) The second: never touch prestige sequels to old classics. (“They rarely make money and generational memories are melting faster than ice cubes in a Scotch on the rocks on a sun deck in Palm Springs.”) And third: modern film sequels will be financed only if first worldwide grosses were over $350 million. (“Therefore, Skycatcher 2 may be our last sequel ever.”)

That morning, Amelia Donaldson, head of development, replied to the company chairman as soon as she received the directives.

“Just a fast heads-up. I expect to meet with actress Amy Harding tomorrow to listen to her pitch about a Chinatown sequel she’s salivating to produce now that we’ve bought Paramount which owns the remake rights. Yes, I did point out to her that Robert Towne’s The Two Jakes crashed and burned in 1990 because it was a disjointed clunky mess. She’s undeterred and has that passionate conviction that bats away facts like so many flies. Bottom line: I need to take this meeting but it’s a kabuki dance. I’m only listening because we need Amy to reprise her lead in the medieval Skycatcher sequel. I’m afraid if we don’t at least look like we care, she’ll find any lame excuse to take a pass and break our balls even though a sequel commitment was part of the original deal."

Hal Springer, the studio’s Chairman, emailed back:

“Amelia, think of this as a leadership test. You can shuck and jive but absolutely make no commitments. I don’t need more tsuris from New York. Just get her to confirm she’s in for Skycatcher 2. No Chinatown sequels. If Towne couldn’t bring it off, nobody can. P.S. Wipe these emails.”

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shooting star 4

Shooting Star

by Michael Brandman

Who in Hollywood can control this hugely talented film actor hell bent on causing trouble? 3,754 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


It was only after he achieved superstar status that Rick Myer’s life issues began to surface. He was twenty seven and totally unprepared for the adulation he was receiving.

He had grown up in South Orange, New Jersey, the son of an alcoholic father and an adoring mother who devoted her life to serving his every need.

At age seventeen, having previously shown no interest in pretty much anything, he announced his intention to become an actor. His mother took it in stride and arranged for him to take private lessons with a Manhattan based acting coach.

Each Saturday Rick would take a Lackawanna local to Hoboken, catch the subway to Grand Central Station, then hike uptown to Fifty Seventh Street where he studied acting in the living room of Dora Weissman’s one bedroom apartment. Weissman, a veteran performer and long time acting teacher, did all she could to guide and inform him, but soon found him to be a difficult and headstrong student. Plus, he frightened her.

One night, at a dinner party held in honor of the Yiddish Theatre luminary, Shmuel Alter, she bumped into the estimable acting guru, Frederic Augsburger, and recommended Rick to him as a possible candidate for his Actor’s Salon.

Augsburger expressed interest and the following week, having watched Rick perform a pair of scenes that he and Weissman had prepared, he invited him to join the Salon.

After barely a month of intensive scene study, and against Augsburger’s wishes, Rick hustled an audition for the upcoming Broadway play, Caged.

"You’re not ready," Augsburger told him.

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Pauline's Adventures

Pauline’s Adventure
On The Silver Screen

by Anne Goursaud

An impoverished and naïve student is tempted by film acting. Will she succeed or fail? 2,434 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Paris – 1966

Pauline was a young girl.

A busy and broke young girl.

Hustling and bustling from class to class, and working at temp jobs to make ends meet.

One day, Dimitry Fedotoff, a friend who worked as a still photographer on movie sets, announced he had a brilliant solution to Pauline’s financial woes. He had just been hired to shoot an American movie about World War II France at the Boulogne Billancourt Studio. He had learned the production was about to cast French prostitutes as extras, loads and loads of them. He thought Pauline had a great chance to be cast.

“You’re a pretty girl. You could play a prostitute,” he said.

“What exactly do you mean?” Pauline answered, slightly hurt that he could so easily imagine her playing a Lady Of The Night.

“You’re sexy — but you know that. Anyway, you could make more money than you’re are at your meaningless office work.”

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Here is looking at you Sid 01-IMAGE-02

Here’s Looking At You, Sid

by Howard Jay Klein

A once successful film director suffers flop sweat as he starts shooting a high-profile reboot. 2,173 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


News of the retrieval of Sidney Ames out of the A-list directors’ dumpster to direct Zenith Studio’s reboot of Casablanca was greeted with puzzled expressions, tongue-clucking sighs and god-what-are-they-thinking gasps in the creative community. Even though these same people were long enured to the inanities of the movie business.

Sidney was 57, hadn’t directed a major film in 30 years and had last helmed a series of ten consecutive mega-hits that ignited audiences like Chinese firecrackers through the eighties. But his last film was a nuclear bomb, an epic $100 million biopic of Jesse Livermore, the American investor famous for short selling during the stock market crash of 1929 and committing suicide not long after. It detonated on 3,000 screens and posted a twenty million dollar loss on the studio’s books that year. Ever since, Sid shed fifty pounds and two wives, spent a half million keeping a drug-dealing son out of the can, and found plenty of time to markedly improve his tennis backhand. Everyone figured his career was done, fade to black, the answer to where-are-they-now questions on movie nostalgia websites. He was rarely seen in public, ate mostly at home, watched his granddaughter’s swimming lessons in his vintage manor pool overlooking the Pacific and squired under-age-thirty five ladies on ski trips to Lake Tahoe.

Fortune does indeed follow the brave, but it also follows the lucky. And in one aspect of his crazy quilt life, Sidney had proven gifted in the genetic lottery. He’d been born with the right brother. In his case, Hal Ames, a Harvard MBA investor with an impeccable stock market track record. Thanks to Hal slapping Sid’s wrists over money issues, Sid became a multi-millionaire and stayed one. Thus he was recused from the humiliating process of having to sit through endless meetings with development people while proposing film projects he knew would evoke little more than suppressed yawns or head-shaking titters after he’d left the room.

But not his Casablanca obsession. It was Sid’s pet project for decades: a reboot of the 1942 masterpiece. So he erupted into a euphoric scream on December 26th last year when Jack Terranova texted: “Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah. The Casablanca project is go. Meet me tomorrow morning at eight.

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Max And Mona

by Richard Natale

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A director and editor have a complex relationship that’s even more complicated by Oscar nominations. 3,556 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


NEWS BULLETIN (Hollywood, CA) – Oscar-winning film editor turned director Mona Hessman, whose initial helming effort Once Upon A Midnight earned her a Best Directing nomination this year, has vanished. Hessman has not been seen since the Academy nominees luncheon on February 6, though she was not officially reported missing until yesterday when she failed to show up for her Oscar gown fitting. Hessman’s cell phone was tracked to a dumpster where it was found inside a Prada purse containing her ID and credit cards.

Mona sat up the cold leather sofa. She had a pounding headache and, as she stroked the back of her head, felt the crusted blood in her tangled hair.

She knew exactly where she was. She’d napped on this sofa for the better part of twenty-five years and was familiar with every sag and indentation. The realization of where she was brought to mind the last words she’d heard before being knocked unconscious: “You’re dead. You’re fucking dead.”

How many times had she heard those words before? But this was the first time they’d been directed at her. And she was left to wonder whether, this time, Max Barton might actually go through with one of his heated threats.

Like several other preeminent directors, Max worked almost exclusively with a female editor. Mona was part of a select group that included Verna Fields, Dede Allen, Thelma Schoonmaker, Sally Menke, Anne V. Coates and Carol Littleton. Like her peers, past and present, she was good at what she did. Damn good; the custom-fitted glove on a great director’s hand. And Max was a great director. Inventive. Fearless.

At least when he was in the director’s chair.

When he stepped into the editing bay, he lap dissolved from Genghis Khan into Chicken Little. This was Mona’s signal to take over. As editor. As surrogate mother. As therapist, confidante, cheering section and, for two months at the very beginning of their twenty-five year collaboration, lover.

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And The Oscar Goes To

And The Oscar Goes To…

by Robert W. Welkos

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: An actress thinks the Academy Awards are all about her. 2,991 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


The party is swirling and Eleanor Gautier is already drunk.

Charles Dumont had been silent throughout the long drive from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills and silence is rarely a good sign for the moody French director. He’s wearing that brown silk shirt that Eleanor absolutely abhors. She wonders why so many items in his closet resemble the result of an intestinal virus. He’s also smoking, another way to irritate this year’s Oscar-nominated actress who stars in Oscar-nominated Charles’ gritty cop drama Brutal Norms, which received a standing ovation at Cannes and the Palme d’Or.

Tonight’s hostess, Liz Fontaine spots the gloomy couple from across her living room and quickly makes her way around knots of party guests. “You made it!” Liz exclaims as she air kisses the pair. “I wasn’t sure you’d come. As you can see, everyone is here and they adore you both. You’re the buzz of Hollywood, you know.”

“She knows,” Eleanor says as the stir of her vodka martini punctuates her statement. When she’s drunk, she refers to herself in the third-person.

Liz introduces the couple around. Eleanor’s eyes stray and then narrow. “Is that Melanie Milapeed?” she asks Liz.

“Yes, how thrilling I have the two leading Best Actress nominees here at my party,” Liz replies.

“Are there any Oscar voters present?” Eleanor asks, her eyes tick-tocking between her rival and Liz.

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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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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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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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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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Hanging Around

Hanging Around

by Mark Fearing

An actor who likes being recognized finds himself playing a 30-foot reptilian alien. 1,847 words. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.


Decker Bronc was hanging ten feet in the air on a soundstage that was wrapped in green screen material ready for the motion capture shoot. He was wearing a bright green spandex jumpsuit with ping pong-sized white balls stuck all over it. His face was covered with white dots the size of erasers on pencils back when people still used pencils with erasers instead of delete keys. He also wore what could only be described as headgear, consisting of straps that tightened a metal helmet to his forehead and which supported a foot-long rod in front that held a camera lens on the end pointed at his face.

Three bored-looking young men stood hanging onto the wires and ropes and back-up ropes that supported Decker mid-air on the green sound stage. But even with all the discomfort, Decker was still glad he was there amid the grips, gaffers, best boys, computer geeks and one very overworked-looking script supervisor all rushing around. This had been a last-minute job booking and only his second credit in more than two years. It was his first motion capture gig but while his body would be animated at various times, at least he’d be back on the big screen again.

Andy Garcia, seeking to break out of playing stereotypical Latino gangsters, had snagged the part first but then dropped out at the last minute. That’s how the business worked for Decker; he had to wait for the fall throughs, the no shows, the rehab visits and the ego trips. Then he got the job.

Decker had been an almost A-lister once. Now he was probably a B-lister on his best days. And, when guest hosting game shows, definitely a C-lister. But his agent had assured him this massive budget tentpole with the latest CGI could put him back on top. After all, as the tenpercenter had reminded, both Marlon Brando and Russell Crowe had played Superman’s father Jor-El in state-of-the-art CGI pictures like this one.

A guy young enough to be Decker’s grandson who’d introduced himself as the director that morning now yelled up to Decker.

“You okay up there, Deck? Looking great!”

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JULES  AZENBERG 04

Tyrannis Rex
Part Three

by Richard Natale

The screenwriter’s challenge for Act Two is seamlessly threading the studio mogul’s public and private lives. 2,260 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Hollywood – 1969

The second act of his screenplay, the Untitled Jules Azenberg Biopic – First Draft, gave Dave problems as second acts generally do. Determined to push ahead, he rose every morning at seven and, hangover or not, sat down at the typewriter with a pot of coffee and waited for his fingers to magically click into action. On a day when his hands just sat there stiffly poised on the keys and not a single coherent scene emerged, Dave took a break. He and his pal Joel Rodgers went out on the town for a movie, dinner and drinks at Trader Vic’s where Joel regaled him with the details of the latest showbiz scandal. Dave listened, but without much enthusiasm. Like most current gossip, it was graphic and tawdry and destroyed what little illusion was left about movie stars’ private lives. What was Hollywood without glamour? Without fantasy?

When the muse finally revisited Dave, she came equipped with a metaphor. Act Two opens with Jules at a gaming table tossing dice in a visual motif establishing the studio mogul as an inveterate gambler and a smart one at that. For Jules proves himself an expert crapshooter, knowing exactly how long to play, how high to raise the stakes, and when to walk away from the table.

By the early 1930s, his Argot Pictures is on a roll. Most of its B-movie competitors fall by the wayside, victims of the Depression. Argot slowly buys up all the rivals and establishes itself as a viable rival to the A-list studios like MGM and Warner Bros. Here, the script hones close to the real story by assigning Jules due credit. Given his brother Mort’s cautious nature, Argot might have survived the transition to sound but not the economic reversal of the times. It took more than business savvy to keep Argot afloat: it took Jules’ ingenuity and daring.

His risky gamble is to jump head-first into larger budget movies at a time when everyone else, including the established major studios, is cutting corners. And for that he needs an ally because Jules feels inferior to the task of convincing talent to sign with Argot rather than a more deep-pocketed institution like MGM. He needs someone with the polish and finesse to talk to theater types. So he enlists a celebrated and ceaselessly charming German-born director and appoints him vice president of production. It’s a curious choice and, at first, the board expresses concern that a creative type will run financially amuck.

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Snake-Man 01

Snake-Man

by Thomas Roberdeau

A character actor from a hit horror trilogy remembers how good his life used to be. 1,702 words. illustration by John Thomas Carlucci.


Are you ready? Start your tape recorder.

In the movies they used to call me Snake-Man. They did. I was the only one they ever called Snake-Man before or since. I was.

I made three movies, a trilogy. I made them five years ago in the City. Another time, another life. They weren’t bad. They were good action pictures. We made all three of them in about a year and a half. We first did Dawn Of The Snake-Man, then we followed that up with The Thing Called Snake-Man, and the last one was political so we called it Rabooba: Snake-Man’s Revenge. I carried a .44 Magnum in that one.

I don’t carry a gun no more, though. No more guns for me.

They called me Snake-Man because that’s exactly what I looked like, a Snake-Man. There weren’t too many actors who could have pulled it off, I know that. I used to play a lot of foreign spies, just small bit parts, before I got a chance to be Snake-Man in my own shows. Before I got to star.

Oh, I think just about everybody saw a Snake-Man picture. But I don’t go to the movies too much anymore, since I left the business.

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Steaks on a plane

Steaks On A Plane

by John Kane

She was a nasty vengeful Hollywood publicist. It’s hard to change even after retirement. 2,571 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The children at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica waved to the aging woman as she passed by their playground every morning at ten. Wearing a sun hat and denim sneakers, she reminded them of a grandmother. They had no way of knowing that she had been, until recently, the most feared woman in Hollywood.

The name Kit Perkins used to bring on a sickly dread among the studio executives who had to deal with her. She had been the first publicist to recognize the power of celebrity in modern culture. Kit understood that if you controlled the star, you could control the story. So she had ridden herd on an enviable movie posse, forcing print and TV journalists to sign over writer approval, photo approval, and quote approval. And, of course, to make her clients always the cover story.

Along with control, vengeance was her mantra. “Don’t cross me,” Kit used to warn people, “because I’ll get you in the end.” Raised on a West Texas ranch by an alcoholic father and an Avon Lady mother, Kit learned early on to take care of herself. At ten her father taught her how kill the rattlesnakes that turned up in the backyard; after that, the Hollywood publicity wars were low cotton to her. Asked one time how it felt to be called “tough as nails.” She replied, “Untrue. After all, nails bend.”

Her game began to go south when the trifecta of social media, the paparazzi and tabloid TV took over coverage of Hollywood stars 24/7. “You can’t control anything anymore,” complained Kit.

The buyout offer came at the right time. Kit never thought she’d enjoy being idle, but now it thrilled her to wave to some schoolchildren. She had divorced her husband twenty years ago, her two sons had their own lives, the stars never called her anymore, and three years ago she quietly ended the discrete relationship with a female tennis player that had lasted for over a decade. For the first time in her life, Kit was responsible for no one but herself. The surprise was how much she enjoyed it.

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Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch

by Howard Jay Klein

You’ve never heard of the curse of Hedy Lamarr? This screenwriter experienced it. 2,225 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Fifty-three year old Steven Harris could recite the ten worst if only moments of his life in Hollywood in perfectly chiseled narrative prose, in a voice resonating with regret that ended in either a deep sigh, a shoulder shrug or another belt of strong coffee since he’d been in recovery. He’d related his woeful tale so often, it had become as polished as the best of his screenplay exposition dialogue. His last project, just passed on after a lot of studio bullshit happy talk, demanded a heavy session of commiseration. For that his ex, Ellen Owens, was his go-to safe place. Theirs had been one of those quirky marriages you hear about: horrible living together, utterly joyous after the divorce.

One of the reasons was Ellen’s magical ability to listen with patience and insight to his mewlings about the downward trajectory of his writing and directing careers. And, as always, his sorry tale began with that fleeting elevator moment, thirty-two years before, with Hedy Lamarr.

Ellen had agreed to meet Steven at the Intelligentsia coffee joint in Silver Lake at a quiet corner table where the lamentations, all familiar and chronologically precise, flowed from his mouth to her ears for the umpteenth time since their divorce ten years before. As she came inside, he got up, and they did their hugs and cheek kisses, and he curled back into his gloomy shell, prepared to spew forth the top ten list of why his career had gone into the crapper.

He tapped his laptop and said glumly, “It’s my best script ever. Fox just passed. Nobody left to see it. That’s project number five in the toilet this year. A new record. Want something besides coffee?”

“Just coffee. So, honey, talk to me,” she asked, planting elbows on the table, curled fists on her cheeks. “What’s the great project they shit on this time?”

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the Business 3

The Business
Part Three

by Ian Randall Wilson

The wannabe director must decide whether to keep working in showbiz or keep dreaming. 2,306 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


On occasion, while circling the office and delivering the mail, Max tried to engage the studio’s executives in a conversation about a film that had especially impressed him or a book that he’d found particularly moving. Right, Max," was generally the disinterested response. Then they would ask him to make sure that their delivery got right over to Parker or Simons or Goldstein or whomever.

"Ratings, Max. Concentrate on the ratings," one of the executives finally told him. The man’s name was Drew Oberlin and he was only a few years older than Max. He had a big office, designer furniture, and a secretary who could have modeled. Max stood by the door looking in, his hair matted, his shirt clinging to his underarms. Oberlin spoke from behind his desk. "Concentrate on the ratings," he repeated. "That’s what matters."

Oberlin was immaculate in a dark suit and white shirt that snapped in starched perfection when he moved. He offered Max gleaming white teeth as if practicing for an audience, Max his mirror.

Max returned the smile, hesitantly, with more of a grimace.

"I’m giving you good advice here," Oberlin said. "Never mind art. Ratings. That’s all that matters. Say, could I ask a favor of you? I have some laundry that needs to be picked up…"

At Max’s urging, Oberlin read Max’s screenplays and reluctantly proffered the advice that Max might write better as part of a team. "Your work, well, it’s got class. But you’re not attacking the center of the marketplace."

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