Category Archives: Film

The Story Department
Part One

by Steven Axelrod

An executive story editor tries to convince his studio to make a special screenplay. 2,489 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Mike’s job existed because no one in Hollywood wanted to read a screenplay. It made sense: they were A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBtedious. Even the best ones were a chore to plow through and the worst were excruciating. Mike had wondered about this often since he had started running the story department. Part of it was that scripts weren’t designed for reading. A screenplay was a blueprint for building a movie; popcorn was inappropriate. They weren’t supposed to be fun. But they dismantled narrative in a mercilessly clever way, leaving the pieces – chunks of single-spaced description, columns of dialog, indented transitions – scattered on the page like the ruins of a children’s toy.

The most common solution was to skip the blocks of description and just read the dialogue. But more and more scripts were all action and the only spoken lines in six or seven pages were “Look out!” or “What the – ?” So you really had to at least skim the car chases and the knife fights.

For months every bad script Mike had seen involved someone named Bubba. He had never met anyone named Bubba, which was probably a good thing. But they were everywhere in the world of bad scripts. Whatever Bubba’s occupation, he always wound up declaiming it to the drippy girlfriend who objected to his heroics. “I’m a fireman, damn it,” He would say. Or, “I’m a cop, damn it.” And the girlfriend would invariably say “If you go out that door, I won’t be here when you get back.”

Continue reading

High Noon

by Doug Richardson

A screenwriter is trapped between the conflicting demands of a film’s producer and director. 5,184 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The wallpaper was tired. And Ross Flanagan couldn’t decide if the hotel’s floral fresco pattern scheme was old 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3or just old-fashioned. The joint was clean enough. Hardly first class and suspiciously shy of the three stars it had somehow earned on Priceline.com. He didn’t have to ask how the unit production manager had settled on housing the Los Angeles-based crew at the downtown Abbey Inn — aka “The Shabby Abbey” — as the costume team had quickly coined it. This was simply the best flophouse the dusty Utah town could offer. That, and the former teleconferencing office next door provided a convenient space for the production office. Temporary. Serviceable. Not the least bit inspiring.

The graying writer had been brought onto the Western’s shoot for two reasons: his valuable past experience with the notoriously difficult and aging movie star, and he was also very available and in need of a quick cash infusion. Four kids and two divorces kept him in constant dire straits.

The air conditioner was blowing full on. Ross hoped it would create some airflow with the door wide open. The pair of second-story windows bolted permanently closed provided a view of scrubby hills scarred with stirring gashes of bright red clay. The late spring heat wave had done away with whatever snow was leftover, leaving the ground grassless and brown.

It looks like the inside of my head, Ross admitted to himself. Dull, wasted, and somewhat bloodied.

Continue reading

The Audition

by Caroline Ryder

A desperate director discovers an unlikely collaborator clued up on Kubrick. 4,050 words. Illustration by John Mann.


It is 113 degrees in Downtown Los Angeles. El Salvadoran parking lot attendants stuff their pockets with 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3cans of ice cold Coke Zero, enjoying the cool moisture on brown skin. I’m not there, of course; I’m a few miles northwest, chillaxing in the shade by my infinity pool. You can see the smog hovering above the city from my 1938 estate, a panoramic airborne sludge of green, orange and dirty white, a cap of toxic waste floating all the way from Downtown to Century City. I sniff — even up here in these Hollywood hills, the air has a faint whiff of bongwater, especially on hot days. I like it, it makes me feel relaxed. So I close my eyes, rest my hand on my crotch and imagine how my obituary will read.

“Remembering Desmond Furie, born on June 16, 19–, a super fucking cool independent film director, screenwriter, producer, set decorator, cinematographer, actor, who established himself with one teen exploitation movie in 1997, a genre-defining masterpiece of experimental storytelling called A Minor, and then he made another cool film that was equally amazing (we’ll insert the name later – Ed.). Every year since then he observed himself grow further and further removed from the youthful subject matter that had made his name until today, the first day of his sixth decade, when he languishes in loose-skinned decrepitude, exacerbated by years of drug experimentation. His favorite song was “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” by The Damned. His final words were…’It’s a trap!’ Did we mention he was cool?

The kids love my shit, always have, because it’s real. It speaks to them. My work is nasty like bongwater smog, I show them giving head, getting head, doing whippets, shooting up, doing the shit they actually dig.

Do you know what it feels like to peak on your first project? Do you, though?

Google Maps says it’s gonna take me 20 minutes to get to the intersection of Washington and Crenshaw, which is where Caviar lives.

Caviar is a rapper. Caviar’s my only hope.

Continue reading

Closing The Deal

by Allison Silver

An ex-studio boss tries to cast a crazy music superstar in the first film he’s producing. 3,704 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Ben had been working on Art Manning, hard, for almost a week now.

They had 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3done business together in past, since Manning was a powerful lawyer whose roster of A-list clients could set a deal in motion and often helped close it. He was regarded as a combative litigator, but also as a top-notch negotiator – something not always said about powerful entertainment attorneys.

When Manning came in to negotiate a deal, he never inadvertently killed it. He was not one of those lawyers whose art collections were more celebrated than their legal skills.

Ben knew that many industry lawyers were only too happy to have Manning in on a negotiation. It was one way of assuring that they would get the best possible pay-out for their client – as long as they were on the same side of the table as Manning.

Now Ben needed help for the new independent production company he was starting. He didn’t want to admit it, but he’d been unnerved by his most recent industry party. He had never thought that roughly a third of his guests would leave once he was no longer head of a studio. Was this something he needed to worry about now? Should he prepare for a life of slights? His name falling off an important agent’s call list? Never making it to the top of the queue to buy a Gursky? Ben cut off this line of thought. It was a waste of time. He had built his many relationships over years of doing business. Relationships were what mattered in Hollywood. People would always take his calls.

This picture was a good starting point. It would grab that attention of everyone in town. Over the years, many different directors and producers had tried to set up this script. But it had eluded, even stumped, them all.

Ben was certain that he had the key. Howard would make it work. Ben decided that it was going to take longer than he had planned to assemble a deal. A slog, not a quick march. But he had the skills – and patience – required to win. And winning was all that mattered.

Continue reading

My Summer Romance With Ewan McGregor

by Diane Lisa Johnson

A heartbroken woman uses the actor’s movies to get through a painful breakup. 3,015 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I wasn’t expecting any of this, but they say when the student is ready the teacher will appear.8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3

If you had told me back in January that Ewan McGregor would pull me up out of the pit of despair, I would not have believed you. I didn’t know that one day he would come to me all sexy and whisper in my ear, “Choose life.”

I should start by saying that last year was a difficult year for me.

The break-up took me so by surprise that it was like a movie with a twist ending. You have to go back and watch it again. My boyfriend turned out to be Keyser Soze and now I had to re-read every text and replay every date looking for the clues I missed. I pieced the timeline back together, now with the new plotline: his face and hers together in a picture she had posted back when he and I were together. I knew everything in that instant. His confession came much later.

There is this thing your brain does in grief, replaying the story, as if reliving it could change it. I searched for the moment when things went wrong, desperate to fix it, or at least understand it. Was it a word I said? Or maybe it was my childhood? Or maybe his?

My brain sputtered. My mind was caught in an infinite loop. All I wanted was my boyfriend back. The heart wants what it wants. There was no explaining to mine to let go, and there was no explaining to his to hang on. Thinking about it became exhausting. I had to find something else to occupy my restless mind. I knew that much.

Enter Ewan.

Continue reading

Not My Kids

by Harry Dunn

The agony and the ecstasy of one man’s experience working in the TV writing biz. 1,449 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


There are many dreaded words a father can hear from their child. “Dad, I wrecked the car.” “Dad, I’m in a Tijuana jail.” 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3“Dad, the pee stick has a plus sign.”

But none of those words could ever compare to the sheer horror of hearing a child of mine say, “Dad, I want to work in showbiz.”

Perhaps I should elaborate…

I am a husband and father of three kids. My career has been spent bouncing back and forth between life as a writer and life producing promos for a TV network. It’s been an occasionally pleasant but also frequently demoralizing. The highs are way too high and the lows are way too low. It’s career crack. Addicting, unhealthy and way too much suffering has to incur before receiving those rare tastes of joy. All those years of stories that started out with, "There’s a producer who seems to like my script…” “A big agent is going to read my script this weekend, I hope…” “The producer said if I give him a free option, he’ll try to sell it…" and then inevitably end with, "I haven’t heard back from him/her yet."

This is a profession I’ve regretted pursuing for a lot of years. And a profession I have adamantly tried to steer my children away from pursuing. You want your children to be both successful and happy, not just getting by and miserable. So I tell them my war stories to make it easy for them to reach their own conclusions.

Continue reading

Hollywood Roadkill

by Richard Natale

A humongous Hollywood merger has unforeseen consequences for all involved. 2,559 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Margaret Sewell sighed as she sat across from her friend, Lou Delray, at the Fox studio commissary’s outdoor 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3patio. She had little appetite and barely touched her salad. “My boss said, ‘I wish I could take you with me.’ And he didn’t even bother to try and sound sincere. Then he gave me a holiday gift card to Neiman-Marcus. As if that was supposed to make me feel better. ‘Hey, clown,’ I wanted to say, ‘how about a gift card to Ralphs, so’s I can buy some food after I start collecting unemployment in 2018.’”

Lou was only half-listening. He hadn’t filed for unemployment since losing his first job right after college. For the past twenty years he’d been a teamster driver on a succession of studio TV and film projects. The studio facilities would remain and his boss, Henry, claimed Lou had “nothing to worry about.” But when your boss tells you not to worry, that’s precisely the time to start making other plans.

With the departure of the television and movie production units, sooner or later, probably sooner, something was bound to give. And that usually meant the older and more expensive workers.

“They’re saying that, after the merger, ten thousand jobs are going to be lost in all. Screw Murdoch and screw Iger twice,” Margaret said as she threw her salad into the trash. A number of heads turned and nodded, some eyes rolled, and a couple of mouths uttered sarcastic laughs.

Buoyed by the reaction, Margaret added, “I might as well tattoo ‘Roadkill’ on my forehead. Am I right?”

Continue reading

Staffing Season

by Adam Scott Weissman

A showrunner’s fired assistant looks for a new job as a writer. Good luck with that. 3,027 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.

Caleb was glad when the show was canceled. He felt guilty about his schadenfreude for about five minutes. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3Now he wouldn’t have to make up a lie about why he wasn’t returning or, worse, tell the truth: that he “hadn’t been invited back,” which was code for being fired.

He had done his best to make amends for his wrap party meltdown – going off on his boss for sleeping with a young female staff writer and not promoting Caleb, dissing the TV community’s push for diversity which meant young white wannabes like himself had a tougher time getting hired. After a few weeks, he’d asked the showrunner Bryan to lunch so they could bury the hatchet. Bryan downgraded the lunch to coffee.

Caleb had worked for Bryan for four years, and that hopefully counted for something now. The showrunner came through. He gave Caleb a signed letter of recommendation and a business card with the number of an agent at CAA. “I sent your writing samples to Terri at the agency. She used to be my agent Bob’s assistant. She just got promoted and she’s hungry for clients. I told her to make you a priority read. And she will. Lord knows I’ve made that company enough money.”

It was a whole lot more than most showrunners in town would have done for an ex-assistant, and Caleb felt pretty grateful.

Caleb didn’t even wait until he got home to call Terri. He texted her from his car. Surprisingly, he got an immediate reply: Will call in 45.

That was at 11 a.m. For the rest of the day, Caleb’s heart skipped a beat every time his cell vibrated.

Continue reading

Samurai Salomé

by Matthew Licht

He was a star in Japan. She was renowned in Germany. Could they film together? 1,531 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The flight from Tokyo to Dusseldorf was seriously late. The airport lay in near silent darkness. The Japanese film A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBactor-director-dancer swooped down the ramp, burst from the gate, approached the lone 24-hour car rental counter and demanded a Mercedes. “Black as a june bug on a moonless summer night. With a motor built for elephants,” he told the sleepy blonde rental clerk from a memorized script. The only word she’d understood, aside from “Mercedes,” was “black.” He slammed the desk with the palm of his hand. He wasn’t quite as menacing as his on-screen persona. He just didn’t like to waste time.

He smoked abstractedly while the car rental agent tapped at her computer. His sunglasses gleamed like the sedan he would soon drive down a deserted stretch of Autobahn. Lost in thought, the movie helmer punched all the wrong buttons on the Blaupunkt radio and heard Kraftwerk interspersed crazily with John Coltrane and the Charlie Haden Quartet as the solemn automobile rolled past martial rows of tall pines over impeccable asphalt.

He had no idea what the German town of Wuppertal looked like, didn’t know such a thing as a Schwebebahn existed, and didn’t care. He’d flown over half the world to meet a lady.

In Japan, he was a living treasure. In Germany, Pina Bausch was more of a hidden pleasure. Her admirers were fewer but no less rabid. He was among the most fervent. Enraptured by her dance moves, he wanted to capture them in his film.

Continue reading

The Publicist

by Nat Segaloff

I didn’t make my boss look like a crook even though that’s what he tried to do to me. 2,692 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Bobby van Arnold wasn’t corrupt. He just knew how to game the system. “It isn’t cheating,” he insisted. “It’s working the A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBloopholes so guys like us can make a living.” He underscored his point by poking me in the chest when I handed him my first weekly expense report after he’d hired me in 1970.

He grunted, “What’s this?” and went through all my neatly arranged figures and doubled them, turning $5 into $10 and $10 into $20. “How the hell can I turn in my expenses when send them this? You want to make me look like a crook?”

“But that’s all I spent,” I said weakly.

“So what? You think the producer is gonna be happy with a cheapskate publicist? You want him to think we don’t care enough about his film to spend the hell out of it? Fill out a new one and don’t make the same mistake.”

I quickly learned that movies weren’t a job, they were a racket. Bobby made this clear to me right after I doubled my expense report since the company was paying me poorly. That’s how it worked.

Continue reading

Kinky

by Alan Swyer

A young executive learns too much information from this studio mogul. 2,243 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“I need you!” Walter Shepherd bellowed into the phone, causing Barry Nash to cringe.

First as an agent, then as a A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBproducer, and finally as a studio head, Walter Shepherd was a Hollywood legend whose behavior was considered off-the-wall, and whose thinking was deemed out-of-the-box, long before those terms became fashionable. It was Shepherd who showed the movie biz that hits should be separated into two totally distinct categories – those that boys, girls, or sometimes both, saw three, ten, or even twenty times; and those that attracted people who didn’t, as a rule, go to the movies. It was Shepherd who predicted first the rise, then the rapid fall, of the new 3-D technology.

For Nash, who was far from earning V.P. stripes of his own, the chance to work with such an icon as Shepherd seemed like a dream. After hitting a wall as an aspiring screenwriter, then toiling in obscurity as a freelance script reader, the opportunity to learn from a honcho was not just what his friends termed a new lease on life. It also gave Nash the wherewithal to marry his college girlfriend, with whom he quickly produced an adorable daughterplus a chance to see the way Hollywood really worked.

Continue reading

Day And Date

by Steven Mallas

A studio’s marketing maven is on a quest to destroy the distribution windows. 2,880 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“It’ll never fly.”

“You’re not listening to me,” Kathleen Berg pleaded with him. A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EB“We’ve got to be the first media conglomerate to do this. We’ll not only make history, but we’ll set a trend.”

That sounded incongruous; it didn’t matter if they set a trend or not, only that it was successful.

“Day and date will never ever work. Give it up. I’m getting tired of having this conversation with you, day in and day out! Out!”

Mentally crestfallen, Kathleen rose from the chair and left the executive’s office. The idiots would never learn. She’d have to convince them. Somehow.

As she walked away, the executive – another in a long line she’d spoken to about the subject — admired the shape of the lower half of her body in the snug power skirt.

Continue reading

Burning Desire
Part Two

by Daniel M. Kimmel

The director makes the hottest film of his life – at the expense of everyone else’s. 2,157 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


If the goal was to keep film director Frank O’Leary intrigued, then Abigor Productions & Effects had already succeeded. Apparently, Seth Abigor was rolling the dice to impress him. Not that he would let Abigor know that. As a company with no track record, the helmer figured he should be able to get its services for a song. Fair is fair. The effects house would cash in after Firebug was released and everyone was blown away by its work. O’Leary simply had no reason to pay top dollar for it.

Abigor removed a gold cigarette case from his jacket and offered O’Leary one of its contents. The helmer passed but examined the case. He’d only seen such things in old movies. Placing a non-filtered cigarette between his lips, Abigor snapped the thumb and forefinger of his right hand together and lit it with his fingertip.

O’Leary responded with a nervous laugh. “You’re quite the magician.”

“Nothing magical about it, Frank. Haven’t you guessed who I am?”

The director glanced at the door to make sure he had a direct exit in case the situation got any stranger. “Why no, Seth, who do you think you are?”

Continue reading

Burning Desire
Part One

by Daniel M. Kimmel

A semi-successful film director has a burning desire to reach the next level. 1,983 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


This movie was going to be his claim to fame. Frank O’Leary was no Scorsese or Tarantino, no Spielberg or Nolan. But he wasn’t exactly a hack. His films garnered good reviews as often as not, and while he hadn’t won any Oscars, he had several nominations from the Golden Globes, the Director’s Guild, and the People’s Choice Awards. His mantelpiece might be bare, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

His problem was that he had no personal vision. He would be brought into projects developed by a studio or some actor’s production company, and they knew he would turn out a solid film on time and on budget. Several of his films had been big hits, although it had been a while since the last one. Audiences didn’t have a clue who he was, and the announcement that he was attached to a project never went beyond the trades. Who cared about “A Film By Frank O’Leary?” Even fanboys were hard pressed to name his last big hit, though it had topped $200 million worldwide. Unfortunately, most of that came from overseas as the film had tanked in its U.S. release. Bad luck it released the weekend that the U.S. President was removed from the White House in a straitjacket. O’Leary couldn’t blame anyone. It was the biggest spectacle since Election Night.

His latest was Firebug, a thriller that would mark the film debut of Jon Petroni, a pop star whose last three albums had gone platinum and fan base was in the millions. The so-called bad boy of the tweens and teens, he had a few tats and a ring through a pierced nipple that got prominently displayed in every video he did. He had an exclusive recording deal with Galaxy Entertainment, whose film division had looked for a project that would take him to the next level. In Firebug, he was playing a disturbed young man, Dante, who sets fires, leading to a massive manhunt. However, the script made him a sympathetic figure: abused as a child, he tried to avoid hurting anyone. His goal was to destroy property, not people.

As far as O’Leary was concerned, it was all claptrap. If the director had developed the script, the character Petroni played would be a psychopath, and the hero would be the investigator who brought him to justice. There would be a fiery climax all right. It would be Dante burning in the electric chair.

Continue reading

The Bot That Shook Hollywood
Part Three

by Robert W. Welkos

The embezzlement plot thickens. Is the humanoid studio chief responsible? 2,357 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


A burst of applause erupt from the guests gather tightly around the stage as the sequined and feathery-topped Afro Brazilian Samba dancers sway and jiggle and prance and twerk — isn’t that the expression? — their bronzed asses atop several stationary floats inside the cavernous Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport. My arm candy, the actress Romy, grinds her hips, drink in hand, as the paparazzi go wild. She ass-bumps me as I lift up my arms and clap to the beat. “Get loose!” she orders me above the din.

Who does she think I am? A studio boss doesn’t get loose. But I can fake the appearance of having fun on such occasions. I mean, I am programmed to enjoy parties like these staged by the studio. And this is such a lavish after-party for the world premiere of our new film Endless Juggernaut.

“Romy! Over here! Romy!” the photogs scream as the humanoid lifts up her skirt and gives them a glimpse of bronzed leg. She’s drunk on camera flashes. What am I to do but go with the flow? After all, publicity is a game and, as studio chief, I must play my part. As I say, I take no delight in such extravagant affairs, but I see the need for them. They are part of the studio marketing effort for a film I inherited from my human predecessor Les Freeman as he was being kicked to the curb. No matter how you look at it, Endless Juggernaut — the title I suggested for the North America release, mind you — is now my responsibility although I never would have greenlit the film had I been in charge at the time.

Continue reading

The Bot That Shook Hollywood
Part Two

by Robert W. Welkos

The robot studio chief is interrogated about embezzlement. 2,011 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I have a home. It is a penthouse on the Wilshire Corridor. My apartment features floor to ceiling windows with a view of the coastline and concrete ribbons of freeway. Many of my guests say the view is breathtaking. Beverly Hills is up the street. The studio pays for the digs: sophisticated Jamie Drake décor. Poggenpohl kitchen. Boston ferns situated about.

I am meeting Tanner Gilroy in a few minutes. Jonathan will accompany him.

This should be interesting.

The doorbell rings and the maid answers. “And who shall I say is calling?” I can hear her ask.

“He’s expecting us,” Jonathan replies.

I am a state-of-the-art humanoid and the first of my kind studio chief of Titan Pictures. My executives wait for me in the living room and then I make my entrance. Shake hands.

“Richard, this is Tanner, our head of security,” Jonathan says grimly.

I nod politely. “Gentlemen, shall we have a seat?”

Continue reading