Category Archives: Producers

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Nobody’s Oscar

by Nat Segaloff

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: An unceremonious tale behind the history of Hollywood and the mob. 2,125 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


In a glass case at the Wilshire Boulevard headquarters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8there stands in silent solitude a lonely Oscar statuette. It carries no name plate. And its hollow eyes stare in gilded oblivion at the countless people who pass it every day without so much as a moment’s curiosity. The award belongs to screenwriter Harper Monroe Farrow, yet it’s never been claimed. That’s because there is no such person, male or female, living or dead. Of this I’m certain.

The Academy, in its unyielding discretion, has never spoken of the orphaned Oscar. New employees are told only that it must remain under lock and key because AMPAS rules dictate it can go only to the person who won it. And no one has ever proven to be Harper Morrow Farrow.

Speculation abounds why this is nobody’s Oscar. It’s clear to me that Harper Morrow Farrow is a pseudonym. Some believe it belongs to the prolific Ben Hecht, who famously wrote or rewrote some 100 films during his colorful career and reputedly maintained a cadre of apprentices to churn out first drafts that he would polish before attaching his name and sending an invoice. Others say it was any of a number of contract writers fed up with scripting crap for their studios but who couldn’t take credit for the winning screenplay because they would have been fired for moonlighting. A few spin that it’s a blacklisted writer who died without revealing his or her true identity. Still more insist it was a Hollywood insider who dared not claim authorship of such a truthful screenplay.

The fact is that Harper Monroe Farrow won the vote for Best Original Screenplay in 1939 for the movie Beyond Utopia. Official records, of course, show that Gone With The Wind, written by Sidney Howard (but rewritten by Ben Hecht and others) was announced as the winner. Not to take away from David O. Selznick’s crowning achievement, but Farrow’s script for Beyond Utopia was deemed better written that year.

No copy of the Beyond Utopia screenplay exists anywhere — not in the Academy’s library or at the Writers Guild. Nor is the film available either because all prints were destroyed. Finally, anyone connected with the production has long since died. Trust me, I’ve searched for anything and anyone connected to this film.

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How I Produced The Oscars

by Bernard Weinraub

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: Not everyone can win Academy Awards. But the few, the proud, the drafted will produce them. 2,152 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I had been to the Academy Awards once in my life, for a film I produced because the writer and the 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8supporting actress were nominated. My dearest friend, Graydon Carter — I’m kidding — did not invite us to mix with that crowd of actors and executives whose eyes always wander over your shoulder to make sure there wasn’t someone more important than you. After my nominees lost both our categories, I took them to the Beverly Hills Hotel and we all got drunk. The writer was only thirty-two but the terrific actress was no longer young and this was probably her last chance. She burst into tears. And, inexplicably, so did I.

The Academy Awards are the most boring and self-important awards show on TV. At least the Grammys and Tonys have music. And, in a weird way, those shows are more authentic. As for the Oscars, I have four words for you: Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. What is that? Humanitarian? Who’s kidding who? That’s why the Academy moved this farce off the broadcast and into the untelevised Governors Awards. As for the rest of the show, there were all those clunky dance numbers and awards for sound effect editing and set decoration? And… I could go on and on. Yawn.

My Academy odyssey began one morning in November. I went to the Soul Cycle class in Brentwood at 6 a.m. Only the hardcore show up at that time — the producers and agents and managers and studio executives who shower afterwards and flee in their Teslas and Maseratis to UTA or Paramount or NBC to start another happy day in Hollywood.

I drove to my office on Sunset which is in the same West Hollywood building as Soho House. Julie, my assistant, was already there drinking her green health food breakfast -– a thirty-five year old woman who seemed to work day and night and was more protective of me than my mother.

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Shortlist

by Tom Teicholz

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A newbie NYC filmmaker visits L.A. after his documentary is shortlisted. 3,168 words. Art by Thomas Warming.


Rick was making $175,000 annually at a midsize law firm in New York City as a second-year associate with a 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8bright future. He did corporate work and mostly real estate transactions. There wasn’t a lot of law involved, but he had to deal with an ever-changing cast of characters. It was about who had control, who had leverage, who had cash, who had financing. No two deals were alike, and it was Rick’s job to stand up for his clients when others were behaving badly and to smooth out issues when his clients were the ones behaving badly.

The truth was Rick didn’t feel that much commitment to his work. He he felt no personal stake in it. Much of what he did was accumulate files on his desk and make them disappear to somewhere else. What Rick most enjoyed was the process of property development by transforming the most prosaic piece of land or building into something new and different at its highest and best use.

As a second year associate, Rick was required to do a certain amount of pro-bono work (which theoretically meant “for the public good” but actually meant “for the good name of the firm.”) Rick’s contribution was helping his alma mater Columbia Law School raise scholarship funds. A worthy cause and, in the eyes of the firm, a great networking opportunity. For this year’s annual dinner, Rick had the idea to make a short documentary about Supreme Court Justice and Columbia Law grad Benjamin Cardozo.

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Revenge, Thy Name Is Oscar

by Nat Segaloff

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A movie producer relentless at awards time is blindsided by rivals. 2,398 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Most independent producers who strike it big at least make an effort to distance themselves from their 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8bottom-feeding beginnings. Not Herschel Wechsler. It wasn’t the expensive suits that hung on his doughy frame as though he’d slept in them. It didn’t matter that he sprayed spittle when he talked. Nobody even held his flyshit toupee against him. It was that he had the kind of face you just wanted to push into the front of a 1958 Buick.

Hollywood has known its share of ogres with good taste. Joseph E. Levine, Harvey Weinstein, Joel Silver, Scott Rudin, and Otto Preminger readily come to mind. Okay, maybe not Otto Preminger. But the others possessed that rare combination of passion, guts, showmanship, charisma, and intelligence that dignified them and their productions despite the controversy they sometimes courted.

Hershel Wechsler, however, was irredeemable. You didn’t even have to use his last name. Everybody just said “Herschel.” Sure, his pictures made money — and you’d think that would absolve him of the town’s enmity. Except he did it in the one way that Hollywood found unacceptable: at the expense of the motion picture industry’s dignity. As more than one of his competitors — they bristled if called his “colleagues” – remarked, Herschel always found a way to scrape underneath the bottom of the barrel.

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When There’s Nothing Else
Part Two

by Amanda Moresco

A Hollywood male boss-female employee relationship becomes rape. 2,841 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


When they sashayed like movie stars out of the limo onto the theater’s outdoor promenade, Jenny was shocked A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBby the number of women wearing dresses just as short and even tighter than Lacey’s. She felt as if she had gone to the zoo and was now passing through the “beautiful people exhibit.” She was mesmerized by the level of perfection these women had achieved with their hair, their skin, their tailoring. And she blushed every time she made eye contact with one of the many impossibly hot men with their perfectly chiseled faces.

Suddenly, Jenny became aware of her $100 dress, the one she’d bought three days before at the mall. She couldn’t place the feeling. She still loved the dress, still felt fantastic in it. She just had the odd sensation that some force from above was holding a mirror over all of their heads, and was now taking inventory.

“There she is,“ whispered Lacey.

They looked to the red carpet receiving area where photographers were taking pictures of Anita Addington, who had just arrived. It was true. Anita carried herself with such an air of regal sophistication that Lacey’s story about her being a showbiz ninja panned out.

Just then a man said, “Hey baby…” and Jenny turned to see Todd Dangerfield putting his arms around Lacey’s shoulders. He was squeezing them tight. Todd was slightly tanned and coiffed; his tailored suit was just undone enough to make people think he wasn’t vain.

Lacey tensed but greeted him with a warm smile.

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When There’s Nothing Else
Part One

by Amanda Moresco

A female Hollywood executive takes a friend on a tour of her misogynist showbiz world. 1,957 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


On the afternoon of the evening in which Lacey Blaire’s life was irreparably altered, the sun cascaded through A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBa French window pane onto Lacey and her best friend from childhood having brunch. It made tiny prisms of light dance against the rims of two diamond-cut cocktail glasses which had been filled with blood orange vodka martinis. The crisp white linen tablecloth had a stain of red where drippings from the lingonberry-braised lamb chop, plated on fine china, had dripped.

“More cocktailS, ladies?” the waiter asked, in a tone that suggested they could request the hair of an Egyptian prince and he would gladly produce it.

Lacey glanced up at him with eyes bright, hair glossed, her 26-year-old freshly microdermabrasion-ed skin glowing. With an air of humble kindness, which meant that she belonged there, Lacey replied: “Why, yes, thank you.”

And Lacey did feel like she belonged there because she had earned her seat at Hollywood’s table. Arriving straight out of college with no help and no contacts, she’d worked her ass off as an unpaid intern until she proved that she had value. Value in keeping a desk organized, value in finalizing multiple calendars, and then, once she scored the chance to offer ideas on story and project execution, value in conceiving ideas that got her recognized as… yes, someone of value in a labor pool inundated with bobble-headed value-less people.

That struggle bludgeoned her idealism but not her drive. Tonight a movie she had helped produce was premiering. That made her worthy of white linen-ed brunches. And she was glad to show Jenny what the “good life” felt like. There was no freshly imported Swedish lingonberry back home. That was for sure.

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The Cheese Plate

by L.C. Folk

A film actor with career problems is trying to overcome anger issues. 1,986 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I  settled into the soft leather seat with a sigh. Nothing like a private jet. First class could not compare. A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBAcross the aisle, a group of reporters huddled around the latest superhero. What was the kid’s name? Jack or Jake. Strutting and flapping like hungry pigeons, the journalists darted in and out for a morsel. Better watch your step, Jake — they are just waiting for you to fuck up. God knows, they’d feasted off me for years. I’d been served up to them like an extra large pepperoni pizza tossed out of a passing car, then run over a few times and left for dead.

I had to be crazy for agreeing to this. The producer, Max, whose jet this was and who used to take my calls, had asked me to stop by his office for a chat. Just in case I mistakenly thought I could not sink any lower, I’d been asked to wait. I spent the time idly watching the studio parade pass by the large bank of windows in Max’s plush outer office. Writers, editors, directors. Leading men and women and their agents. A group of zombies. A lovely young starlet in cutoff denim shorts on a bicycle. This contained circumscribed world, more than several degrees removed from the gritty hole I’d climbed out of, had somehow always made the insistent, all too real messiness, more bearable.

“Kevin, sorry about that, I didn’t mean for you to have to wait.” Max was a small wiry man, balding and too tan. He threw up his hands and shrugged. “But you know how it is, right? Always crazy around here.”

Crossing the cavernous room, I took a seat on one of the overstuffed couches and sank into the feather down for several seconds before touching bottom. “No problem, Max, I know how it is.”

“I want to talk to you about the press junket, which you have so generously agreed to do.” Max sat at his massive Art Deco burl wood desk. It dwarfed him.

I nodded, a sense of unease slowly gripping my mid-section. “I’m all ears, Max.”

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A Hollywood Kid
Part One

by Maureen Harrington

This "son of" is smart and celeb-connected but desperate. 1,965 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Dude, I am so screwed, Jason Alden muttered to himself as he sat up in bed alone late Wednesday afternoon 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3to find his apartment trashed, as usual, his grubby sheets kicked to the floor. Earlier he’d had a fight with his girlfriend, Nicole, and she’d thrown him out of her Santa Monica beachfront condo, which her daddy, the guilty party in her parents’ nasty divorce, so generously paid for. That was considered only fair in a L.A. divorce war: he’d been caught sleeping with Nicole’s tennis teacher, then was stupid enough to knock her up and marry her.

Nicole never did get her backhand down.

Jason had slammed out of Nicole’s posh apartment’s parking lot at 5 a.m. in his three series BMW – overdue to the leasing agency, with no replacement in sight. Now he was in his own apartment on the wrong side of town. His study pad, as he described it to his parents when they rented it for him in a sort of safe neighborhood near USC. But even that was about to come to an end. Daddy Dearest wasn’t going to renew the lease and had told Jason in no uncertain terms that he’d have to cover any damage that had been done. There was plenty of that, for sure. Holes in the walls and carpets, vomit in the closets. It was a sty and now he was stuck with the clean-up.

A lot of things were coming to an end for Jason. His dad, Teddy Alden, was a washed-up director-writer-producer who was still talking about his glory days with Spielberg in the 1980s and 1990s. But the senior Alden never made Spielberg money, never had his drive and most importantly hadn’t had the sense to hire his accountants. Teddy Alden had been a partier of the first degree. Right up there with Don Samuels, the producer who famously died on his toilet, stoned on a pharmacy worth of drugs. It was a miracle Teddy was alive, but as he hit his fifties he’d started to slow down. Jason wasn’t sure it was because of the natural inclination of the elderly to get to bed early, or, that he had blown through a Hollywood-sized fortune and had to stop leasing jets to go for lunch in San Francisco.

Whatever.

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Monkey Wrench

by Steve De Jarnatt

CHRISTMAS FICTION: Two Hollywood families discover the real meaning of the holidays thanks to a transgender plumber. 3,165 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The last Sunday before Christmas, the Strider twins took their Swedish Vallhund decked out in an elf onesie 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3to the Palisades dog park. They’d came home with what to them was ho-hum news. But to their folks, it was tantamount to a shot at the holy fucking grail.

“Some boy Jared and his sister wanna come over next week,” Cody told his mother, Radha.

“Their last name is Pfeffer with three F’s, two E’s and a silent P,” said Cass who’d transcribed the names and the proposed details of a holiday playdate.

“Jared Pfeffer? Not Bobby Pfeffer’s kid?” Radha twitched.

“On the board at the Brautigan School, Bobby Pfeffer?” her husband Rex said. The parents exchanged a telling look, then both grabbed for Cass’ notepad. Indeed, it was the same A-list family.

Thus the most pivotal event of the Striders’ entire lives would transpire three days later when Jared Pfeffer and his younger sister Blair and a couple of friends would be coming over. A previous engagement with the brood of a basic cable star had fallen through, and the Striders were now a last-minute slot filler.

But the real coup was that, after a screening of the Scrooged reboot, Bobby himself planned to stop by for coffee with his new trophy wife.

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Journey Of The Villain

by Michael Tolkin

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Tolkin debuts the beginning of his novel-in-progress about a veteran executive’s humiliation when he has to start over in Hollywood. 2,974 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Chapter 1 – Out With A Scream

For thirty-five years, I was the right hand man to John Brine Trubb, the legendary producer who would 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3have been immortal if he hadn’t died. I had the privilege of being at the old man’s side when he went out with a scream. It’s the great puzzle of Rosebud that no one was in the room to hear Kane’s last word, but three of us were there to hear the Trubb’s final adios. JBT’s attorney, Redoubtable Maize, always too fancy with his allusions, heard in the old man’s dying expression the horror of Don Giovanni dragged into Hell at the foot of the Commendatore’s statue, agony after defiance. JBT’s special friend Auspicia Renn, his Abishag, said that it was the sound her rather older lover made when he was in ecstasy on Ecstasy.  A logical guess, but wrong; from my catbird seat forward of the curtain that hid his day/nite bed on the Gulfstream, I knew too well the shape of the sordid bellow she was able to draw out of him and I can arbitrate the credit for his final yodel; she loses. No, JBT’s death shout was a blend of the old man’s two favorite moments in all of cinema, opening with the start of the cattle drive in Red River, the close ups of cowboys waving their hats in the air, calling Yee-Haw! And blended with the "Yah-hoo!" at the end of Dr. Strangelove, when the great Western actor Slim Pickens rides the nuclear warhead out of the bomb bay, setting off the end of the world. I kept this observation to myself, as JBT would have wanted. “Hum this every morning when you brush your teeth: never share your personal taste,” he used to say to the people he knew in the business, the people who looked up to him. It was a ridiculous mantra, bad advice, meant to send his enemies, which meant all of you, in pursuit of wasting someone else’s money. Pursue failure. That was the message inside the advice however justified by the circumstances. He had plenty of good advice, too, look at what he did, but he never shared it, not even with me.

The funeral service was austere but per his manifesto, surprisingly well catered for a crowd of three hundred or so, although I had no appetite after my first pass at the pastry table, when attorney Redoubtable took me aside. When his first words were, “Look, Martin,” I could have written the rest of what he said, or hired a writer to do it, at scale.

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Cocktail Of Fear

Cocktail Of Fear

by Nat Segaloff

HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST SERIES – On November 24-25, 1947, forty-eight studio moguls surrendered to HUAC’s Red-baiting. 2,492 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


As a hotel employee of some 20 years, Nino was used to keeping the secrets of guests. But this 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3was the first time they ever made him swear to it on a copy of the Old Testament. The request came as he was setting up his bar in the third floor function room of New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria. Nino knew this wasn’t a drinking crowd; if anything, they were a complaining crowd. Because whenever the Hollywood moguls stayed at the swank hotel, they bitched that business was always bad no matter how much money they were making. He recognized some of the guests from their previous visits as one powerful executive after another entered, many greeting each other in Yiddish.

A spread in Life magazine had come out that morning entitled “The Movie Hearings.” Written by Sidney Olson, the article purported to reveal how Reds were trying to take over the movies, and why the House Un-American Activities Committee had summoned a galaxy of star witnesses to expose the supposed conspiracy. Many during the October 10-20 hearings had testified willingly — but others had noisily defied the commiittee, triggering the gavel of HUAC Chairman J. Parnell Thomas. Ten writers, directors, and producers who had refused to discuss their beliefs and associations were called The Hollywood Ten. Now the suite was filling with film studio brass who not only had been friendly witnesses but also shared the HUAC Chairman’s impatience with the First Amendment.

“We’re not supposed to be here,” warned Barney Balaban, the President of Paramount Pictures. “When you get the heads of all the movie companies in one room, it’s called restraint of trade.”

“Who’s restraining trade?” asked Harry Cohn, the President and Production Director of Columbia Pictures. “We’re just talking business.”

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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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Jeremy Botz Ruined Everything

by Aimee DeLong

A woman’s boyfriend gets seduced by Hollywood. Will he take her along for the ride? 2,277 words. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.


Until that day I had never been to Hollywood, and I still have never met Jeremy Botz with the red hair, 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3not really. He was an A minus celebrity, the street cred version of a producer. Two thirds of the people I’d mention his name to would say, “Jeremy Botz? Who’s that?” And when I told them, they’d nod their heads and say, “Oh yeah, that guy.” So he commanded respect. OK, props. But he still ruined my relationship.

It started casually enough. My boyfriend Brody had this friend – an actor, “super talented,” whose work “showed his diversity.” Anyway, this actor showed Brody’s novel to Jeremy Botz who got a major hard on for it and informed the actor that Brody’s novel “had Sundance written all over it.” Published over a decade earlier, it was a roman a clef about a writer who develops severe agoraphobia after his divorce.

It sold well enough. There was buzz — not bee buzz, more like fly buzz — but still buzz. There were even write-ups, the kind that are sufficiently impressive like Vanity Fair or The Guardian. Brody managed to never sound like he was humble-bragging when he brought these up, thank god, just regular bragging. With a big personality like Brody had, he could get away with shameless bragging because people assumed he was being self-deprecating somewhere deep inside even though he wasn’t. It’s the best way to network.

Mr. Botz sent emails on the regular about turning the book into an independent film because he really liked Brody’s “juvenile yet scathingly sardonic sense of humor.” Then Brody told me that Jeremy Botz — “get this” — really liked his “juvenile yet scathingly sardonic sense of humor.”

But, before I continue, let me explain about Brody and me.

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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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Working From Home

by Adam Scott Weissman

It’s his first Hollywood job. So his film producer boss changes his life – but not for good. Part One. 3,498 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Scott

“This is Cara in Arielle Castle’s office. Is this Scott?”

8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3“Yes.”

“So you’re looking for a job?”

I jumped out of my seat, suddenly extremely conscious of the fact that I was wearing nothing but boxer shorts. It was 104 degrees in Burbank and, despite what the advertising tells you, they don’t have air-conditioning in every unit at the Oakwood Apartments. I wanted to be in “the business” more than anything. When people told me it was a brutal industry and that I should try something else, it just made me want it more. My parents had told me in no uncertain terms that I had better get a job, and soon. "Because," my mom had said, ‘your father and I are only paying that exorbitant $1,050 for a studio apartment for one more month." I wondered if Arielle Castle had air conditioning in her office.

“Yes. Absolutely,” I answered, quickly navigating my laptop to IMDb.com. I typed in “Arielle Castle.” I had applied for hundreds of jobs online: the UTA job list, EntertainmentCareers.net, studio job portals – you name it. This was the first time anyone had called back.

“Can you come in for an interview tomorrow at 11 a.m.?”

“Yes. I would love — That would be great. Yes. Thank you,” I sputtered, scanning Arielle Castle’s list of credits. There were 29 of them – nearly one movie a year for the past three decades, including some major franchises and Oscar winners. She was always credited as “Associate Producer”.

“Okay. Arielle will meet you at her house. It’s 974 Knob Tree Avenue, Sherman Oaks.”

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The Writer’s Cut
Part One

by Eric Idle

Book excerpt from the Monty Python legend: a wisecracking, ambitious and horny film/TV comedian goes to a pitch meeting. 4,096 words. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Los Angeles – January 2003

My name is Stanley Hay and I’m a professional writer. I write movies, I write sitcoms, and I write gags 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3for TV shows. You may have heard some of them. “I believe in the separation of Church and Planet.” That was mine. Caused quite a stir. I don’t mean to cause trouble. It just seems to be what I do best. I make a pretty decent living writing and rewriting, but I have always wanted to write a novel, and this year, in January 2003, I decided it was time.

It didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned.

Steve Martin says that the problem with fiction is you’ll be happily reading a book, and all of a sudden it turns into a novel. You should hear the way he says that. “It goes all novelly.” He’s a hoot, Steve. He cracks me up. It’s the way he says things. “Alllll novelly.” But it’s true isn’t it? That is the problem with novels. They are so palpably fiction. Maybe we’re a bit sick of plots with stories and characters, the usual bull. Oh she’s going to end up in bed with him. He’s going to do it with her. They’re all going to run away and join the navy … After all we’ve been reading books for centuries and watching movies and TV for years, and we’ve sat through hundreds and thousands of tales by the time we’re adults, so we know all about plot twists, and sudden reversals of fortune, and peripeteia and all that Aristotelian shit they cram into you at college. But real life doesn’t have a plot, does it? It just kinda rambles on.

So that’s what I set out to write. A reality novel. A novel about a Hollywood writer who is writing a novel about a Hollywood writer writing a novel about Hollywood.

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