Category Archives: Directors

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The Small Gesture
Part One

by Ian Randall Wilson

A studio credits czar rules his kingdom unless or until confronted. 1,711 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Sometimes the smallest gestures had the biggest consequences, didn’t they? The pebble to the windshield A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBthat eventually cracked the whole thing. The chance meeting at a premiere that neither was supposed to attend. Say if one morning thirty years ago, a development executive at Fox hadn’t argued with his boyfriend before coming into work, Jeffrey Baummann might had sold the script that set him on the path of a successful writer. Or twenty years ago to the liquor store a minute earlier, and Jeffrey would have bought the lottery ticket that won a hundred mil and not the someone who did right in front of hm. Ten years ago if not for a missed red light, Jeffrey might have met a different woman who could have been his wife. That morning, expending not even a calorie, he crossed out a name on a draft of end title credits for one of the studio’s films.

With the flick of a pen, a black line moved a half-inch right and one less dolly grip went into the roll.

Jeffrey was the studio’s credits czar, a nickname from an old boss to make him feel better when she declined his raise. Afterwards, the late head of publicity at that same studio said at a big meeting, "Oh Jeffrey, you’re the poor bastard who has that job." It certainly got a laugh.

This was what he did: prepared the main and end titles for the studio’s films which meant he looked at lists and lists of names, deciding whose would go in. He eliminated many of them with a small gesture. There was no attempt to find the private echo, this one resonating, that one not. He had a template. He filled it in.

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How Does That Make You Feel?
Part Four

by Michael Barrie

The L.A. psychologist follows the seductive allure of his new-found showbiz fame. 3,152 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


“The mailbox is full and cannot accept messages at this time.” What a difference an anonymous tip A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBmakes.

Say hello to Dr. Dennis Corbin, Hollywood guru. My client list now rivals that of a boutique theatrical agency. The driveway is a Red Carpet arrival ceremony, sans couture. I feel bad for Caroline. She held onto Dennis Corbin stock forever then bailed before it popped. Like selling Apple in 1997 before Steve Jobs’ return.

Sitting before me is my latest celeb. Welcome to Corbin World, Monica. You may have seen her standup on one of the late night shows. Monica Reardon, with her Nordic noir hair, tattooage and piercings. I know what you guys are thinking: get a load of those big tats.

She started out doing random, disconnected jokes: I stuck a pin in a pincushion and my couch dropped dead. I like to feed unpopped corn to pigeons and watch them explode in the sun. Realized non-sequitur comedy was a dead-end and developed more personal material. The result was a trifecta of well-received HBO specials: Potty Mouth, Old Maid, and No Immediate Survivors. She dug deep and hit a gusher.

At the moment, she’s fidgeting with a soft pack of Pall Malls, unfiltered.

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Ingenue
Part Two

by Sagit Maier-Schwartz

A 17-year-old Latina aspiring actress has the best and worst day of her fledgling showbiz career. 2,073 words. Part One. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I drove back down Franklin Avenue until I reached the 101 Coffee Shop. I sat at the counter and tried to 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3come up with a game plan. I pulled up Craigslist on my cell and scoured the rental listings. Everything was too expensive. The cheapest was a share in Koreatown for $500 a month. I called the number.

“I’m calling about your furnished room. Is it still available?”

The woman who answered made an appointment for me to see it in 30 minutes. As I drove, I felt a lump form in my throat like I was going to cry. I pressed the worn out button next to Unit 3 and entered the creaky elevator. Please dont be a murderer, I whispered to myself. To my relief, the woman was in her twenties with a warm smile.

“Hi. I’m Liz. Let me take you on the grand tour,” she said wryly. The place was tiny. “I’m never around. I work all the time as an assistant in a talent agency. What do you do?”

“I just moved here. I’m a model and an actress,” I told her.

“I figured,” she said looking at me.

To rent the room, I needed to pay one month’s rent in advance. My heart sank.

“I’m filming a Target commercial next week and can give you the money as soon as I get paid.”

Liz’s face had a skeptical look.

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Only Scoundrels

by Nat Segaloff

HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST SERIES – Decades after the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings, a son confronts his father’s accuser. 4,692 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


We were halfway through Silas Raymond’s funeral when I realized that the fellow mourner I had been 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3struggling to recognize was the man who had blacklisted my father. Two days later, I saw him again at Musso & Frank’s. He sat alone in a booth, watching the door as if he expected J. Edgar Hoover to burst in and arrest him. Then I thought, no, they won’t arrest him, they’ll arrest the people he named to Silas Raymond’s Motion Picture Industry Council.

Silas Raymond was the most notorious Red-baiter of the witchhunt era. Even though he didn’t sit on the House Un-American Activities Committee, he walked in goose-step with them. He said he could spot a Red within five minutes, and he decimated Hollywood’s creative community with a campaign of intimidation, guilt by association, and outright lies. That’s why I went to his funeral back in 1995; I wanted to make sure the son of a bitch was dead.

They planted him at the stroke of noon (though the stroke of midnight would have been more fitting) at Forest Lawn, and I remembered thinking that the low turnout for such a one-time heavyweight wasn’t because he was forgotten. It was because he’d outlived all of his friends and most of his enemies. I was one of the latter.

I behaved myself during the services, even though I wanted to put a stake in his heart right there in one of Forest Lawn’s smaller chapels. I needed to see who would show up to honor him. Among his handful of mourners were, appropriately, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

And Marcus Gottfried.

That was the name I finally connected with the face. A former film director, he was now in his low eighties, twenty years older than my father was when he died. We swapped glances during the services and then went our separate ways. Maybe he was wondering who I was, too.

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Keep The Good Pieces

by Anne Goursaud

A film editor gets the opportunity of a lifetime with the world’s greatest director. 4,163 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I liked Martin from the get-go. He was extremely polite, with an unexpected sense of humor, and eyes so 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3intelligent and intense that most people feared him. Fortunately, I had grown up around a man with fierce eyes, my grandfather. Being his favorite, I was the only one of his grandchildren permitted to sit on his knee and – privilege of privilege – play with his beret.

This day of my interview to work at Kaleidoscope Studio, Martin was wearing a checkered brown and white shirt and brown corduroy pants, but no beret. Not that day.

“May I ask a question?” I say. He nods. “Why am I here?”

Martin breaks into laughter. “We have three films and three films in trouble,” he declares. His producers Forest and Gary nod in agreement.

Martin wants to take me on a tour of the studio. Once outside, something quite weird happens. He points to a black bicycle leaning against a wall.

“Come on the bike.”

“What?”

Martin repeats, “Come on the bike.”

“I haven’t done this since I was two years old,” I tell him. But I jump on the front of the bike and off we go.

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The Fatal Allure

by Allison Silver

An ex-studio boss hosts Hollywood’s hottest acting couple at a dinner party that turns disastrous. 4,268 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Ben Robbins was sitting at his desk, considering the best approach to take with Rob Tracey. Many in Hollywood had 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3tackled this test. Few had passed.

Tracey was nothing if not elusive. He had been pursued for many projects over many years. Early on, he had learned always to say yes. So he did. The most seasoned veterans would heed his siren song. Even those who knew that “yes” was his fallback position could not resist. Having Tracey star in a movie was worth any amount of effort. Years were lost, sometimes the entire project, as filmmakers tried to get a script into the shape he wanted. He seemed far too young to have enticed so many pictures onto rocky shoals.

But getting him from that first “yes” to the first day of shooting could prove a treacherous, even deadly, effort for any project.

Tracey, was a serial enthusiast, warming up to an idea quickly, only to drop it without a backward glance. That’s what lawyers are for. He was a master juggler – keeping projects in various stages of limbo, as directors or producers or studio executives or other bankable stars waited for him to decide up or down on moving forward.

He was the Svengali of reworking. Subplots were changed, or added, or subtracted; supporting roles beefed up – unless they cut, changed from men to women or women to men. Or he might want the location shifted to Europe or China or New York, with appropriate supporting roles and accents gained or lost; or moved from mountains to coastline or small town to megalopolis – or the reverse. He might need key plot points re-focused or details blurred. Or positive traits made provocative, or negative traits written out.

Many movies had improved during this process of trying to lure him in – emerging as better iterations. Some hadn’t. Projects could be caught in the Tracey quagmire for years, only to be substantially overhauled for another actor or actresses. But many other projects died waiting for him to commit.

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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 – 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 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3to 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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Vanilla Shake

by Antonia Bogdanovich

The daughter of a Hollywood VIP grows up too quickly after she meets his best friend. 5,517 words. Illustration by The Fates.


I sat back on the soft white leather couch and watched Charlie meticulously roll a joint. The leather 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3smelled clean and, looking around the apartment, I noticed that the decoration was sparse — only a standing lamp and small coffee table were used to fill out the rest of the room. He still looked good: sexy, handsome and alert. At that moment, he looked up and I could tell he was wondering what I was thinking. This time I had decided we both would get what was coming to us, what we had been waiting to happen for some time. I was 17 and had known Charlie almost half my life…

It all started at The House, which was sprawled out along a plot of land that seemed to go on forever. I could whistle on one side of the house and not a peep could be heard on the other. There were no wall-to-wall carpets – only thick Spanish tiles, which often cooled off my bare feet on hot summer days. Or, wearing socks, and carrying a big bowl of Sugar Corn Pops filled with milk, I could slide along the smooth floor confident that not a drip would fall to the ground. Outside, there was a heart-shaped pool and a hip little cabaña to go with it. The House seemed to have everything a grown person could ever want — but of course that was never enough.

I often wondered what it would feel like to be surrounded by adults who had enough. Did such people even exist? People who would be satisfied with a large creamy vanilla shake in a glass sweating pellets of condensation down its sides, a funky transistor radio, and a moderate sized apartment, just big enough to hang their hat and rest their sleepy head. I wanted to know these strangers, but for years when I was young they only existed as characters I could play with in my head, characters that wouldn’t be put off if I asked them for a sip of their shake or a crayon to color with — an adult who might even take the time to color with me — not just to gain favor from the man of the house, but simply because they wanted to.

There were always people at the House. As the voices grew louder, the place seemed to swell, as if at any moment it would reach its breaking point and suddenly pop like a balloon. Most just seemed to be using my father, buying time I guess, perhaps anticipating the day when they would have to get up off the couch and make it on their own, instead of just hanging out and leeching off Dad. There were production assistants, chiropractors, lawyers, playwrights, producers, and high-profile dentists. In my mind, they all somehow seemed to morph into one. Maybe they thought if they just stayed around long enough my father’s genius would rub off on them.

Now Pops, he got The House from making movies, lots of them.

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The Failure Tactic
Part Two

by Steven Axelrod

Will ambition kickstart his movie career or kill his marriage? 2,292 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


“So, yeah, this is risky. But life goes fast, Emma. We’re both starting to realize that. In two years we’ll be invited to our fifteen-year high school reunions and the next fifteen years will fly by. I want to have fun making films.”

“No, I think you want to feel like an important filmmaker. You want to drive some German sports car around Beverly Hills and sit by the swimming pool with movie stars and get the cool table at Craig’s. You want to read about yourself in Variety. You want to be respected by people you hate. Fine. But there’s no way to get that stuff unless you gamble with both of our lives. You can’t spin it, Mike. Paramount is safe, that’s a fact. You have friends there. If something happens, they’ll find you a job somewhere else. You’re always telling me that getting fired is the best way to get a promotion by moving from studio to studio. It’s a club and you’re finally a member. If you turn your back on that, they’ll be rooting for you to fail. And when it happens, you’ll be tainted goods. Is that what you want?”

Mike spoke very slowly into the burning silence of her stare. “I am not going to fail.”

“Really? So then tell me: when have you ever succeeded?”

“That’s not fair.”

“My life is at stake. So, sorry, fair doesn’t matter to me right now. What matters is making you see the truth before it’s too late.”

Mike rummaged helplessly for something to say back to Emma. It seemed that all the words had been used up. There were just three left.

“I want this.”

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The Failure Tactic
Part One

by Steven Axelrod

Every movie career has ups and downs. But every marriage has a breaking point. 1,924 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Jim pushed his glass aside and leaned forward.

“Let me tell you what’s really going on,” he said. “Bill Terhune has a deal going.”

“Bill Terhune always has a deal going,” Mike replied. “He probably had deals going in kindergarten – ‘You cover for me during nap time and you can have my cookie at snack.’”

“This is real."

“So was that. Not to mention the black market Lincoln logs. And the crayon exchange. Apparently he had the only sharpener.”

Jim had to laugh. “I mean it, Mike, this is serious. He found someone with money.”

It was the one sentence guaranteed to knock the smile off Mike’s face and silence him. This was what everyone was looking for, the seam of gold in the mountains, the genie in the battered lamp, the copy of the Declaration of Independence on the garage sale table: someone with money to make movies.

“Who is it?”

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White Out

by Morgan Hobbs

Temping in Hollywood can be boring or blissful or even brilliant. 2,886 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“It’s an insurance company,” she said, idly swiveling in the black leather manager chair with the receiver cradled against her shoulder. “Yeah, Culver City. It’s in the movie business but as borderline as you can get. It’s all they had for me this week. I got bills to pay, babe.”

She looked up, startled to see a man standing over her desk. “Gotta go,” she said, hanging up the phone.

“Hi, I’m Brad,” he said, beaming down at her.

She straightened up. “I’m Sara from the temp agency,” she replied, “filling in for Todd Pierce’s secretary while she’s on maternity leave.”

Sara gave Brad a quick once-over: tan skin, angular jawline, aristocratic nose, blue eyes and blond hair. His perfect teeth glistened through a radiant smile.

“Welcome to Fortress Insurance.” Brad said and started to leave, then stopped. “By the way, how you were holding the phone,” he cocked his head to the side, “you’ll get a crick in your neck. Use the headset.

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Dyin’ To Direct
Part Three

by Tom Musca

The director has some last filming to do before it’s the end. 2,792 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Ivan acted like a tyrant with a giant ego but Gail knew he was even tougher on himself. When the director looked back on his body of work all he could see were his mistakes. These two never watched TV together.

Gail was suppressing the real emotions waiting for her at the starting gate of the end of Ivan. “At least you’re still you.”

Ivan declared, “Is that a good thing?” His voice was weak enough for that to come off as funny.

Ivan was now the actor who had only a few more days on the picture and wanted to make sure it was acknowledged he could make things difficult until he was wrapped and his performance handed to the editors.

Ivan stared straight ahead for the next five minutes and reviewed his life, starting from his first memory of falling down the stairs before he learned to walk. Most people had no memories before the age of three but Ivan was different. He remembered nearly everything in moving images that he could summon with little effort.

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Dyin’ To Direct
Part Two

by Tom Musca

A director stages and blocks the actors for his waning days. 1,868 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The next morning, to combat his feelings of extreme insignificance, Myles insisted on bringing cappuccinos. He needed to make some sort of contribution walking to Ivan’s room in Gail’s company. But it was hard to feel helpful in a hospital setting.

Suddenly, they heard yelling coming from Ivan’s room. Gail lengthened her stride.

“How dare you, You don’t know anything about where I’m going. Who are you kidding? Forget global warming — the world is going to end when I die! Count on it, you motherfuckering-cocksucking-fuckface. People in Asia don’t exist unless I’m walking the streets there. You’re all here as supporting characters in my movie!”

The priest of Indian descent fled Ivan’s room, bumping the cardboard coffee tray in Myles’ hands. Myles bent over and dropped the recycled paper napkins that couldn’t adequately soak up three spills. At Starbucks the biscottis would have come in secure plastic pouches and could have been saved. Instead, the homemade and unpackaged ones that were purchased at the hippie coffee shop were now inedible, crumbling under Myles’s feet. Anyway, the mess in the hall would soon be someone else’s problem.

Myles walked into the room, nodding hello to Ivan for the first time in over a decade.

“I’m not only the star but the entire fuckin’ audience.” Ivan softened his last syllables as Myles drifted to his bedside.

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Dyin’ To Direct
Part One

by Tom Musca

This helmer finds himself in the hospital for his final scenes. 2,033 words. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


2016 was a banner year: Prince, Mary Tyler Moore, Nancy Reagan, Alan Rickman, Gary Shandling, Garry Marshall, Patty Duke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Abe Vigoda, John Hurt, Gene Wilder, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, followed a day later by her mother Debbie Reynolds and, most relevant to Ivan, directors Curtis Hanson and Michael Cimino. Dead and buried, or incinerated and turned to ashes if they were politically correct, and most were. After all, we’re talking Hollywood A-listers.

Ivan wasn’t sure if he would have enough produced credits to qualify for the “In Memoriam” feature at next year’s Oscars or Emmys. Embracing the uncertainty of outcome when it came to living fascinated Ivan. But dying was certain and, at least so far, had proven to be far less interesting than he thought it would be. He had moved to Hollywood, Florida, so his Hollywood, California, acquaintances wouldn’t feel obligated to watch him wither away. People in L.A. didn’t like unhappy endings. They liked sequels.

Now with just days to live, Ivan would direct his death, if only to keep himself entertained.

The hospital room was a visual prison for a man who made a living finding interesting frames and giving depth to images. But since he was directing without interference from a producer, studio or network, he could experiment.

Although he did drape an extra blanket over the metal chair to dampen sound, there wasn’t much he could do about the acoustics. But the lighting he could control. When he could still navigate his hospital room without assistance, he covered the overhead light with an amber gel that produced softer skin tones, and he flagged his bedside lamp so its illumination bounced off the back wall, affording his visitors fill light.

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Monumental
Part Two

by Richard Natale

The Venice Film Festival goes from great to horrible for these moviemakers. 2,233 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


As they were packing, Philippe Renoir called to inform the filmmakers that they would finally be meeting their financier Errivo Monsour on the Red Carpet at the Venice Film Festival. After the screening, they would be swept off to his yacht for a lavish fête. Philippe dropped several A-list names before hanging up.

Cynthia spent the next three days in Beverly Hills trying to find the perfect dress. Harlan bought that Ralph Lauren tuxedo he’d promised himself.

Venice was not the picture postcard they’d envisioned. The late August weather was the equivalent of being locked inside a sauna that hadn’t been cleaned in months. The canals gave off the stench of rotting vegetables marinating in a dull brown broth. The streets were clogged with sweaty overbearing tourists. But at least the hotel didn’t disappoint. It was elegantly gaudy and the employees bowed and scraped every time the couple walked past. And room service was delightful.

The filmmakers had flown in a few days early to screen their passion project Monumental for distributors; several seemed genuinely interested afterwards but were loathe to commit until they saw the feature with an audience. The one firm offer they did receive, a direct to cable deal, they turned down flat. Monsour’s representative, Philippe, expressed his annoyance, he being of the bird-in-the-hand school. Harlan said he felt confident a distributor would bite after the premiere. But it was Cynthia who had to point out a contractual obligation he’d forgotte: in the agreements, both leading ladies had inserted a provision demanding a theatrical release. So no streaming services or pay channels were possible.

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Monumental
Part One

by Richard Natale

The Venice Film Festival was the culmination of their dreams. 1,719 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The source material for their project, an obscure novella called “Fork In The Road,” was the story of two life-long female friends whose paths diverge. One pursues a career as a medical researcher, the other becomes a hardened criminal. But in the end, it’s the latter who has the more emotionally satisfying life. She becomes an angel of mercy in prison, redeeming herself through altruism. The story was tersely written, and because it was delivered without even a trace of sentimentality or bathos, earned the tears Cynthia shed when reading it.

She passed it on to Harlan, who also found the story compelling but pointed out “as a movie it screams ‘woman’s picture.’ The only male characters are incidental. And before you give me ‘the lecture,’ I’m only telling you what every producer in town is going to say, even the female producers. Just trying to prepare you.”

Married just two years, but together for six, they’d discussed several co-scripting projects for Harlan to direct but so far nothing had jelled. Cynthia was keeping them afloat with residuals from a long-running TV series in which she’d been a supporting cast member, and a combination of TV commercials, voice-over work and guest-starring assignments. She was regularly cast in pilots, none of which ever went to series. Harlan, meanwhile was directing local theater and temping as a teacher.

Like many of their aspiring friends, they were just getting by, stuck in gear, in desperate need of forward momentum.

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