OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: Part Three revisits Nat and Best Actress Erin Teller’s meet cute. 2,593 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.
Backstory. Again. I’m Nat. I work in the mailroom at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and last year I went to the Academy Awards. I met Erin Teller on the Red Carpet and she wound up winning Best Actress for When The Mountain Sings with me sitting beside her as her date for the evening. We even went to the Governors Ball together. After that we sort of hooked up for a couple months and it was pretty amazing being with Erin Teller and having paparazzi following us around. My picture ended up in In Touch with the caption, “Erin Teller and her new Mystery Man share a black and white cookie at Art’s Deli.”
I still have the napkin. She wrote the date on it and did a drawing of a penguin. “It’s the only animal I can draw. Isn’t that weird?” she told me. We were eating outside because she said people in the Valley didn’t recognize her as much as people on the other side of the hill. Only one photographer took her photo. No one else approached her, not that she would’ve cared. The entire time we were together, I never saw her get impatient with fans or paps, even when they were crowding around her when she took me to the premiere of her latest starring vehicle Rogue One. I was afraid she would get suffocated, but she kept waving “hey” to people. She saw treating everyone well as part of her job. Like making sure she didn’t gain fifty pounds or get a giant ‘#RESIST tattoo across her forehead.
“It’s stupid the way some actors are so rude,” she told me later when we were in her bedroom. “Here you work your ass off to be a success in this business and you finally make it and you’ve got fans everywhere and then you go like, ‘How dare you interrupt me when I’m eating? Sign an autograph? Go fuck yourself.’ Do you think I’d have a career if people didn’t like my movies? D’oh.”
She sounded exactly like Homer Simpson. At that moment, Erin was leaning back against the headboard. You probably want to know if she was naked. And what the sex was like. I’m too much of a gentleman to disclose that. (Well… use your imagination. And then multiply that by a billion.)
What’s worse than writing for the worst TV show? Writing for dinner theater. 2,182 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
“I knew Bret was gay!”
“You don’t know anything,” Mickey snapped.
“He blew me a kiss last night!”
“Actors do that all the time.”
“In a deserted parking lot at two in the morning?”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “They gave you a car?”
Mickey may have been dying, he may have been richer than Dolores Hope, but give anybody else a dented Volvo rental or a day-old donut and he wanted one, too – with sprinkles.
While Mickey was enduring the final days of a mysterious cancer in New York, I was trapped down in Neptune, Florida, with the Sam Shepard send-up we’d written together. It was my first foray in theater after four years of uncredited script-polishing in a forgotten woodshed on the Paramount lot. I was eager to see my name on something besides a summons from Traffic Court. The play was purposely “so bad it’s funny”– but nobody seemed to get it except us. Even the Alaska Rep passed despite Mickey’s marquee cred: three Oscar noms, two Tonys and a Pulitzer.
They never dated or acted together. What if these two icons were alive and living together? 929 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
“I don’t know – check the machine…”
“He said he was going to get me in to read.”
“You pick up my prescription at Rite Aid?”
“It’s two days’ work. I could play that role – a guy from Montana runs a gas station. I told them to send over Giant so they can see me do the western thing.”
“Jimmy, I told you — you need to take everything off your résumé with a ‘5’ in front of it. They don’t want anybody who worked before 1960. I took Some Like It Hot off mine last year.”
“You ever go in on NCIS: Temecula?”
“I go in on them all. Strasberg always said that you should use an audition as the first rehearsal for the part.”
“The thing about those NCIS series is you get residuals forever.”
“Your pension check come?”
TV FICTION PACKAGE: An agent and writer find an executive in a compromising position. 1,834 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
“She’ll buy it in the room, Kyle,” Chad says as we’re riding up the elevator on our way to the pitch meeting. “Melina Mullen already loves the one-liner.” He looks closer at me. “Did you take a Xanax? I always tell my clients to take a Xanax before they pitch.”
Melina Mullen, the network exec, is tall and blonde and more rounded-body sexy than the usual Jack Skellington-figured Hollywood female. There’s another woman in the office. We’re introduced and I immediately forget her name. She types on her iPad and never looks up.
Melina Mullen says she loved my play. I ask if she saw it in New York and she shakes her head no and tells me, “But I heard great things.” We talk about my first TV writing job on the series Melancholy, an updated version of Hamlet. I say I was super-lucky to have an experience like that with so many talented people, and I learned a lot.
And then there’s a pause. She’s waiting for me to start my pitch. I take a deep breath. And damn, I wish I’d taken a Xanax.
So I’m a playwright in New York, but I moved out to L.A. to work on Melancholy and it aired twice before the network pulled the plug. The reviews were awful and it got hammered in the ratings. More people watched a competing show, Kitty’s Krime, about a talking cat that helped solve mysteries. The showrunner, Logan, was unusually arrogant and mostly insufferable, but he did teach me how a TV series works. Another writer, Brett, was a dick and tried to screw me over, but that was a learning experience, too. After Melancholy was canceled, Logan sold a series to Showtime and Brett the dick got hired as a consulting producer on Kitty’s Krime.
And me? I was toast.
TV FICTION PACKAGE: Kyle finds murder most foul among network primetime series writers. 2,454 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
I’m a playwright, I live in New York. What do I know about TV? I watch news and sports (go Mets!). Drama? A couple cable shows, GOT, Billions. Not a lot of network stuff – it’s all the same. I had a play produced last year at a small-ish theatre with some nice reviews. A brief couple of weeks where “Kyle Greene is a bright shining light.” You know, bullshit like that. But, hey, I’ll take it.
So this little window appears where I’m hot. They’re looking at playwrights to write for a new TV series. My agent tells me the creator and executive producer of the show won’t read traditional TV people because they’re “hacks” and he wants “fresh” and “out of the box.” And, yeah, I hate air quotes and when I meet the creator/exec producer, Logan, you can practically see the air quotes when he’s talking.
Logan is in New York for a couple days and could we have coffee? So I suggest a place, and the first thing he says is how thank God we’re not at Starbucks because Starbucks “is the end of civilization as we know it.” And he orders a grande vanilla latte extra foam and I know he’s a poseur. That and the scarf around his neck. I can tell he’s practiced in the mirror until he got it exactly right.
But he seems nice. Nice-ish. Talks about graduating from film school at USC, Sundance, his girlfriend Theodosia (“great rack”), how his primetime series is going to “re-invent network television” and “nothing like it has ever been done before.”
Whatever. The money is ridiculous. I get to live in L.A. for four months while my agent promises to hook me up with other development opportunities. So what if Logan’s brilliant idea isn’t exactly brilliant or original? He has an order for twelve episodes from a major network.