Category Archives: Moguls

Studio Story even lighter and bolder

Studio Story

by Bertram Fields

A successful film studio is run with an iron fist. But is that the best strategy for its future? 2,711 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The old man was packing his things in a cardboard box – doing it himself.  I just watched. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3

Jake Simon was going – really going.  Hard to believe.  After 15 years, 15 years, of one man rule by an angry, unpredictable son of a bitch.  You could certainly say that.  And you’d be right.  But, of course, it was more than that.  Much more.  Anyway, it was over now – over and done in half an hour.

I remember the day I got here.  How could I forget?  I’d never been to a studio before – any studio.  I’d just published my second novel to mild critical acclaim; and I suppose, to Jake, I was exotic, and I was “hot” – at least hot enough to hire as co-head of feature development.

Why do I remember that particular day?  That’s easy.  I was replacing a guy named Sid Blumberg, who was being demoted.  Sid had gone to Jake and complained that I was an overrated, Ivy League hack.  Not nice of him; but, hey, I get it, that’s the business.

Anyway, Jake calls me into his office with Sid still there.  Sid stands there looking uncomfortable while Jake repeats what he just said about me.  Kind of embarrassing.  Then, Jake turns to Sid and says, “I’ve hired this man because he has rare talent – talent we badly need.  Unlike you, this man’s an artist.”  Then, suddenly, he points at my feet and shouts, “Kiss his shoe!”

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Richard Nixon Made Me Do It

by James Hayward

An artist, his dealer and a studio mogul begin the most shocking of negotiations. 2,606 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“No! No! It can’t be done. The Post Office changed the rules and they can’t be sent through the mail any longer.” Why did I pick up the fucking phone? “Going through the U.S. Mail was an essential part of each artwork.”

Sue comes stumbling down the hall, half asleep and half naked. I’m staring at her pussy when I realize she is mouthing, “Who is it?” The bull shit on the phone continues.

“I don’t give a fuck how rich the S.O.B. is. I’m not in the movie business and never heard of the dude.” Doug, my art dealer, has some studio mogul on the hook and is determined to land him. I continue trying to explain why this simply can’t happen. “The Post Office changed the rules ages ago. It can’t be done. Final! End of conversation!”

I return the phone to its cradle with a crash. Can’t do that with a cell phone. I grab my shirt from the hook and feel around for rolled joints in the pocket. One left. Perfect.

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Gone With The Gelt
Part Two

by Howard Jay Klein

David O. Selznick’s new assistant learns more than the movie biz. 2,711 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Three days later the Super Chief hissed into Pasadena, its crimson war bonnet and yellow locomotive gleaming in the sparkling Southern California morning sun. The chauffeur was waiting and hefted our bags into the trunk of the Cadillac Fleetwood limousine. The trip had been three days of valuable reconnaissance about my new boss. I’d learned that David O. Selznick was a frenetic and obsessive memo dictator, a chain smoker, a heavy drinker, a cheap-feels copper on lady friends he’d trapped in the train passageways, and, mostly, a terrible gambler.

The driver eased the car out of the train station lot and drove onto Colorado Street headed south to Beverly Hills. Selznick slapped my knee.

“Buzz, you haven’t set a foot down at the studio yet but you are, dear boy, a true gem of a hire. Now I’ve leased an apartment in the Beverly Hills flats for you. We’ll drop you there now. Relax today and come into the office tomorrow to organize yourself with Lydia Schiller, my secretary. Then clear Friday night. You and I have a date in Tijuana.”

“What’s in Tijuana?”

“You’ll see. Just wear your suspenders.”

My next few days were a frenzied blur of running errands for Selznick to his tailor, to his bookie, to his lady friends, to his doctor to pick up and wait for prescriptions to be filled between snatches of time reading Gone With The Wind.

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Gone With The Gelt
Part One

by Howard Jay Klein

It’s 1936 and a smart college student is this movie mogul’s newest assistant. 2,079 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I stood up as story editor Kate Brown arrived in the conference room. She smiled. She had a polished debutante look about her with alert eyes that seemed to hide a lively intellect. “So, Buzz, I’m assuming that Professor Hawley briefed you,” she said earnestly, glancing down at a letter. “He writes here that you did your senior thesis on Middlemarch and played first base on the Columbia baseball team. Impressive juxtaposition of talents.”

She lifted her eyes off the paper and sized me up, watching me twitch in my tweed suit, a clearly idiotic choice for a 93-degree New York City summer day.

“Mind if I remove my coat?” I asked, feeling the drip of sweat beads zig-zagging down my neck. Were I a contortionist, I’d surely be kicking myself in the ass at this point. It’s the only suit I now own. I did have a new $15 blue serge number I wore for my college graduation which, to my everlasting misfortune, shrunk in a sudden thunderstorm to a size more adaptable to a Bar Mitzvah boy than my 6’2” frame. So it was either the tweed or dungarees and a Columbia t-shirt.

“Sure,” Kate said. Then she stood up, clicked on the big fan and aimed it to sweep my tweed pants.

“Blessings on you, “ I said, feeling the waves of cool relief. “So this is an assistant job to a movie executive?”

“Mr. David O. Selznick, yes. Didn’t the professor mention that?”

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Hollywood Lazarus
Part Three

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

The showbiz murder attempts mount as famed P.I. McNulty tries to prevent more. 1,570 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Mandeville Moving Pictures was six weeks into a ten-week shoot on A Whisper In The Dark when the stalker finally made his move on Jade San Vincente, Hollywood’s newest and brightest young star who also happened to be the lead actress in Mitch and Billie Mandeville’s newest movie.

“Quiet, please!” the assistant director called out. “This is picture!”

Everybody was gathered at the far end of the Malibu Pier to film a crucial scene where Jade must wordlessly decide if her character will honor her dementia-stricken mother’s pleas to help her die. As Jade took her place at the rail, her assistant held up a parasol to shade the actress from the bright Malibu sun. After a few quiet words with Jade, the director nodded to the A.D. who then ordered the camera operator to “roll camera!”

All eyes were on Jade as a range of emotions flitted across her face. It was a touching moment and Jade was capturing her character’s anguish beautifully. Then, from the corner of his eye, private detective McNulty caught a flash of movement. Someone on a ten-speed bicycle was hurtling down the pier toward them!

The bike knifed through several crew members, knocking them down, and raced straight for Jade. McNulty saw the rider was holding a plastic drink container in one hand. Moving reflexively, The P.I. grabbed the parasol and stepped in front of Jade just as the rider squeezed out a long stream of hydrochloride acid from the container.

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Hollywood Lazarus
Part Two

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

The plot thickens and then doubles as McNulty investigates. 1,922 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Coffee bar manager Billie Franklin was startled by the sudden arrival of four men. She recognized Vanguard Studio’s Chief of Security and two of his uniformed security guards. She didn’t know who the other man was but suspected he was the private detective McNulty hired to investigate Mitch Mandeville’s hit and run. And from the looks on their faces, they weren’t there to order chai lattes.

“What’s going on?” Billie asked, clearly puzzled.

The security chief explained that they were searching the premises.

“Do you have a warrant?” she demanded.

“Don’t need one,” McNulty informed her. “The studio lot is private property and its security personnel is authorized to conduct any search they deem necessary.”

During questioning, Billie freely admitted that she and Mitch had been having an affair when she learned of his engagement to his Director of Development Tessa Gower. “He didn’t even tell me to my face,” Billie sobbed. “I had to hear about it on Access Hollywood!”

After turning the coffee bar upside down, the security chief informed McNulty that nothing was found tying Billie to Tessa’s drugging.

“My gut tells me something’s here,” McNulty insisted. “Have you looked in the coffee urns?” They hadn’t. “Empty ‘em.”

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Hollywood Lazarus
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Tinseltown’s renown P.I. is back solving movie mayhem and murder. 2,268 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Didja hear?” Micki Finch asked. “Mitch Mandeville died this morning.” She waited a beat, then added: “They say it’s permanent this time.”

“Third time’s the charm,” McNulty said sardonically. “They say how?”

“Died in his sleep at an assisted living facility.”

They were seated at a table at the Spring Street Smokehouse, a small funky joint on the edge of L.A.’s Chinatown. It was a semi-annual get-together the two friends enjoyed when they wanted to catch up over some authentic southern barbecue.

“He finally got it right,” McNulty said.

“Sure as hell had enough practice,” Micki giggled. “Is it true he died twice before this?”

“I wouldn’t say ‘die’ exactly. Murdered twice would be more accurate.”

Micki practically spit her Pinot Grigio across the table.

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The Roomers
Part Two

by Wayras Olivier

It’s easy, almost too easy, for executives to get fired at a film studio. 1,761 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My name is Santa. You may be interested to hear that I really do not exist. I use the above alias because it is an honest and decent and reliable one that generally puts the average listener at ease. Everything I say through Daniel about the Roomers ⎯ although I do not take oaths ⎯ is true.

This is the one and only time you will ever hear from me directly. If that upsets you, either because you won’t hear from me again or because you have to hear from me at all, you have only Daniel to blame for that. He has already, on account of his narcissism and his inability to properly “pitch,” butchered two rumors.

So, first off, allow me to clarify who your moldy narrator is. Daniel, to begin with, is not by my side because he committed Le Suicide. That’s not how it works. The reason he sounds and speaks exactly as I do is because I have, in my possession, his guilt which is my pleasure to keep dank and alive. His pure vivid soul is breaking bread somewhere else. (We won’t go there.)

One of the great workaholics, and with an unrivaled combination of social anxiety disorders, Daniel treated not a single one of his afflictions with psychotherapy, drugs, sex or alcohol. So when the weekend numbers for his baby The Ring Of Fire came in, none of the above vices sufficed to console him. Looking back you, too, must have noticed that ROF’s nominal losses alone (without adjusting for inflation) made John Carter, 47 Ronin and Mars Needs Moms look like hits. So when the evening of Monday, March 24th, 1997 arrived, Daniel indeed went headfirst Sylvia Plath-style into his oven.

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The Roomers
Part One

by Wayras Olivier

Ambition. Jealousy. Just another day at the movie studio. 2,435 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My name is Daniel Kennedy. I died, you may be interested to hear, on a Monday. Evening, not night, as so many of the rumors have stated. The film title Secrets & Lies was the last words I heard. A brash-looking Sonny Wortzik, who incidentally must have been on parole, had just finished running through the list of Best Picture nominations for 1997 when euphoria seized me and The English Patient won all the things that make life worth living: glory, prestige and recognition. (A quick side note: when you check out, you know for the first time who you are without the categories that define life: your age, your race, your gender and yes, your occupation.) And before you ask, the answer is no, I was not at the show. I was at home watching it on the boob. The momentary euphoria I just mentioned came from gasoline poisoning. So I here repeat my oath: anything that happened on March 24th, 1997, after the words Secrets & Lies were uttered, I myself cannot personally verify.

Prior to dying, I spread many false rumors about families and had been complicit by remaining silent whenever I, in return, heard rumors that I knew were false. My father was rare. He had an I.Q. only slightly above 50 and was put down when I was just a child. Believing that something other than natural selection (although I didn’t, of course, call it that back then) has the right to gas stupid people, I became increasingly afraid of the “steak.” Something I learned later, when correctly pronounced, is called the “state.”

My mother, who was a beautiful bird, told me that he wasn’t Darwined-out by the steak just because he was fat and dim, and promised to tell me when I turned sixteen why he went the way of the dodo, and how it involved the murders in “the Hills.” Or she may have said the murders in “the Stills.” I could never quite understand her. I never did find out what kind of monster he was, not because my mother had terrible diction but rather, right before she had the chance when my sweet sixteen arrived, she choked on her dentures and suffocated.

I was an only child; I never married, and had no children. So this is my one chance, when I tell you about the Roomers, to make things right.

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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Six

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic thinks he’s found the Cannes Film Festival killer. 2,626 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part Five. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Ingrid Bjorge stretched across the hotel bed, then opened her eyes. “Good morning. I did not know you were here,” she said as she propped herself up.

“You were asleep when I came in last night. I didn’t want to wake you.” Ryan claimed.

Just as the Norwegian actress opened the room door, Ryan’s girlfriend Delisha nearly collided with her as the fashion model leaned forward to knock. She carried a bottle of Cristal and an envelope addressed to Ryan that was left for him at the front desk.

Ryan gestured toward Ingrid. “Does she look familiar to you?”

Delisha stared at Ingrid for a long second, then gazed at her from a side angle. She pointed to the window. “Look out in that direction with your chin tilted up. Look real serious.” Ingrid followed her direction, angling her head and gazing off with a blank expression.

Delisha clasped her hands. “It’s crazy. Is it true? Is it true?”

“Yes,” Ryan answered.

Delisha embraced Ingrid. “Oh, my God, the star of The Ice Princess. What is going on?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Ryan said. “Delisha, you can’t tell anyone in the meantime about Ingrid’s being alive. Not a word.”

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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Five

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic gets a gorgeous surprise at the Cannes Film Festival. 2,590 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part Six tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


In the days since Ingrid Bjorge’s death, the entire Norwegian nation had taken the slain actress to its heart. The Ice Princess starlet’s murder when she and her film were supposed to open the first night of the Cannes Film Festival was a countrywide shock. Now her body would arrive on the ferry in a few minutes, then be carried by Viking pallbearers to the pyre.

The Bygdoy Peninsula is the untrammeled part of Norway’s capital city, the area with the museums and the Viking burial mounds. With its aggressive environmental protection laws, the Norwegian nation had kept it largely off limits to developers. An editorial in that morning’s Dagbladet acknowledged the irony of having the multibillionaire oil developer Gunnar Severeid, the mogul behind her movie, using it for the site of Ingrid’s funeral.

Following the autopsy, she had been transported back to her homeland on Gunnar’s personal plane, a Gulfstream G650. Her ashes had been placed earlier that morning in a magnificent oak coffin in Oslo. On this day of national mourning, Norway’s crown prince Harald had delivered a moving eulogy at the Ibsen Theater in Kungs Gate Park.

Erik Bjorge, the costume designer of The Ice Princess and Ingrid’s one-time husband, had gotten little sleep in the last several days. The Cannes police had grilled him, and, even more vexing, Gunnar had questioned him aggressively about the evening of the murder. With his fashion line positioned for the entire world to see at the premiere of The Ice Princess, Erik had believed he would be the Versace of Norway, the Gucci of the fjords. Now that dream was gone. Most of his clothing creations were still on a shipping vessel back in the Cannes harbor. He never bothered to unload it after Ingrid was killed. Instead, he went back to Oslo for her funeral.

Considering that Ryan had been up for several nights, found not one but two corpses, been chased through Cannes by what he thought were cops, had delivered an impromptu speech before a packed room of journalists, Ryan wasn’t too worse for wear. He recalled that Sean Connery line from the third Indiana Jones, where Harrison Ford is whizzing along on a motorcycle with his dad clinging on the back for dear life. “This is not archeology,” Connery groused as Indy accelerated away from the bad guys.

“This is not film criticism,” Ryan muttered to himself.

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On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part Three

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood movie critic, no longer a murder suspect, tries to cover the Cannes Film Festival. 2,640 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four tomorrow. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


When the Hollywood New Times chief film reporter swooped out of the elevator, he nearly ran down the trade’s top film critic, Ryan Hackbert.  “You haven’t returned any of my messages,” Stan Peck said as he came through the entrance to the Hotel Savoy. ”I’d like to get your side of the story.” Peck pulled out a digital recorder and flicked the switch.

“My side of the story is nothing,” Ryan answered. “The police asked me in for questioning and were satisfied with my answers. I know nothing about the murder.”

Ryan quickened his step. Peck clicked off the tape and said unhappily, “You know it’s ironic that you, a member of the press, aren’t talking to me, another member of the press.”

“I’m a very ironic guy. You can quote me on that.”

“Seriously, you were hauled in. You said in your review that she should be strangled.”

“I criticized the dialogue. A new editor mangled it with the scarf thing. The police understood,” Ryan answered.

"This murder of yours is screwing up my Cannes coverage," Peck continued. "I’ve got to go to this stupid press conference about it when I should be having breakfast with the TriCoast people. They’re going to announce a new slate." Peck paused to twist the knife a little deeper. "But a lot of people out there still think you’re guilty. That you killed that blond actress from The Ice Princess at the Carlton."

Despite the momentary high of jerking Peck around, Ryan was pissed at himself for giving Peck between-the-lines hints about the police interrogation. As much as Ryan hated to admitt, Peck reflected a fair amount of what would be movie industry opinion, as berserk as that could be. By doing nothing, Ryan was screwing up everyone’s Cannes Film Festival including his own. This was his eleventh time here. He needed to get back into his normal festival mode.

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The Hard R
Part Two

by Gordy Grundy

The movie marketer needs to know who misspelled the mega-producer’s name. 1,839 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Normandy was frosty. "Do I have to worry about the deadline?" she snipped to Buzz.

"Have you ever?" he smiled and snagged the passing waitress. "Can you bring us some more wasabi? My friend likes it hot. Thanks."

They were sitting at Katsu-Ya near the Burbank border of Studio City. The restaurant was Normandy’s favorite because it was the hot cool spot for all the studio marketing and publicity elite.

"Normandy. I want you to go back to the office and tell your boss that this misspelled sample is a gift that may grow in value, like a misprinted stamp or a miscast coin. Think Sotheby’s. The Smithsonian. Film history. Fore Score. One of a kind."

She smiled at that. "Do I get one, too?"

"Absolutely not. I think I’ll send you to the Rihanna concert instead." Her eyebrows twitched and she began to soften. An extra ticket would give her a sweet advantage in the socially competitive marketing department at the studio.

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The Hard R
Part One

by Gordy Grundy

Movie marketing is hard enough without misspelling the mega-producer’s name. 1,777 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The phone on Buzz’s desk beeped twice. He picked up the receiver and punched the blinking light and it beeped again. The receptionist said, "Normandy on Line Five."

Buzz replied, "Thanks, Stinky." After the shenanigans of the Valentine’s Day office party, everyone in the company now lovingly called her Stinky.

He punched Line Five and greeted Normandy with an excitement that bordered on the romantic. Her reply was unusually tense and chilly. He caught the drift immediately.

"It’s Bruckheimer," she said, "Brrrr-uckheimer." This was out of the norm. She was his most important client and he was extremely sensitive to her needs, attentions and moods.

"Brrrr-uckheimer. Huh?" he puzzled.

"Ginger just got back from CinemaCon. She looked at the cap and said, ‘Brrrr-uckheimer.’ I said it was a sample. She asked who made it and I said you’re fixing it." Her last three words were pointed.

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The Big Skedaddle
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

P.I. McNulty is back to uncover a major con by a moviedom con artist. 1,764 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The big muscled middle-aged guy stormed through the front doors of LAPD’s Hollywood Division police station so forcefully that the duty officer instinctively reached for his holstered sidearm. There was no telling what kind of freaked-out meth head or crazed gangbanger might come bursting through those doors at two a.m., but this dude, apart from being pissed-off, was clearly none of those.

“I need Detective Whitley,” the man barked, the fire in his eyes as intense as a blast furnace. “Tell him McNulty’s here.”

A quick phone call later, the private eye was issued a visitor’s badge and directed to the desk of Detective Owen Whitley. Not that McNulty needed directions. The infamous investigator had been here many times before, usually to bail out some of Tinseltown’s higher profile celebrities. The last time was when his late friend Lenny Hazeltine was clocked doing 120 mph on the 101 in a brand new Ferrari and arrested for speeding, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. (“Like I told the officers,” Lenny said, a twinkle in his eye. “My first wife ran off with a cop. I thought they were bringing her back!”) But there was nothing funny about McNulty’s early morning visit now.

“Where is she?” McNulty snapped.

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Spielberg’s Last Film
Part Two

by Steven Mallas

A screenwriter may achieve everything – if there’s enough time. 2,041 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I hate beginning this part with, There I was, but it seems the only way. There I was, sitting in a room with Steven Spielberg. At a conference table. Amid a very rich-looking corporate interior design. Steven Spielberg and some associates and my agent Luis Vendaz. Mostly, though, Steven Spielberg.

My handicap emerged; I was so nervous. I know most people probably are, but most people can get through it. Even if this meeting goes well, I’m going to have PTSD for the rest of my life which may be shortened significantly along with the lives of everyone else because of the micro black hole on its way to Earth.

Luis was next to me, but he didn’t even register; only Spielberg and my nervous-demon.

“I want you to write my last movie.” The mogul said this after I sat down and shook his dry hand with my absolutely not dry one. I think he did say something before that, a bit of small talk segue, but it didn’t surprise me that he was all-business and got to the point with immediacy at the forefront of his mind. “This script,” he said, placing his palm on The Last Trial, which was on top of the table, right next to him, “is genius. This is what I need as the final script I ever direct. Assuming it is the final thing. No one knows, of course.”

“They don’t.”

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