Category Archives: Producers

The Horrible Not Knowing 01

The Horrible Not Knowing

by John Bensink

A writer’s lost script is found decades later by people born after his last produced credit. 2,492 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


This all started back before electronic submissions. Wilkerson had knocked out a beautiful script in three days that was a beautiful script. Wilkerson knew it was the best work he’d ever done. So did his wife Alice, who was unerringly right. She had shouted “Yes, perfect!” over and over while reading it with Wilkerson hovering, unable to sit, always desperate for her approval which he always had anyway.

He subsequently made ten copies at Kinkos on Vine, using pale-cream bond pages finished with snappy manila covers. He gave the counter guys old brass script brads he’d found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, fearing the more flimsy ones might splay and spill his precious tale. But these sturdy warriors would never surrender.

But when he put the screenplay copies on his agent Helena’s desk, she recoiled. Because she’d already read his hand-delivered original and pronounced it dead on arrival and dropped it showily into her massive metal wastebasket.

“So what’s wrong with it?” Wilkerson had challenged his agent in his first yet fatal clash with the woman who had done so much for him. Slapping her was like slapping his beloved Alice.

Helena glared. Then something flickered in her eyes like the dismissive blink of a falcon at full altitude. Helena knew people would despise the script because it was neither fish nor fowl. But she said simply, “It’s a wanted poster for unproducible.”

Yet he pushed on recklessly. “Agents only tell their writer that when they don’t get something but won’t admit it.”

They didn’t talk for three weeks.

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The Jill_Show_2

The Jill Show
Part Two

by Jay Abramowitz

TV’s top actress helps the struggling writer – but can he help her? 3,268 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Suicidal and in denial? Hysterical bleeding? This is way beyond everything I thought I understood about actors, women, anything. Jill Racine – if there’s been another actress who draws on a combination of comedic chops and sex appeal to such great effect since Carole Lombard, I’ve never seen her — is a danger to herself and me and anyone else unfortunate enough to find themselves in her orbit.

I figure I’m here because Jill had sensed my vulnerability and desperation at pre-school and assumed I’d do anything. I feel like the sap in some perverse religious film noir.

“Do we have a deal?” she says. “You don’t even have to believe me.” She grimaces in pain again. “Say yes fast,” she adds, “I need a clean fucking towel.” The moment the ink on my deal is dry, I’ll call her doctor.

The next day, I drop Ryder off at pre-school and park in what my hotshot new agent described as a spot on the studio lot “that four guys I know would kill for and one actually did.” The deal’s still verbal, nothing’s signed yet so they could theoretically take it back, but I’m not a Producer, my previous credit. I’m an Executive Producer, a huge jump in salary and status. With no history on The Jill Show and a modest reputation in the industry, I outrank everyone but Ivan, the creator and showrunner, and, of course, Executive Producer Jill herself, on the most popular television show in the land.

I’m ushered into Ivan’s enormous office. Shaking my hand and introducing himself, Ivan – a boyish, prematurely gray fellow a couple of years younger than me whom I hear is a decent guy – smiles as he asks me, on behalf of his staff, his cast, his crew, twelve million fans and a gossipy Hollywood community, what the fuck I’m doing here.

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The Jill_Show_1

The Jill Show
Part One

by Jay Abramowitz

This struggling writer is back at the behest of TV’s top actress. 2,010 words. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I have no idea why Jill Racine’s flunky just asked me if I could come to his boss’s house “right away.” A job? Sex? Right. I’ve seen Jill in passing, she drops off her daughter at pre-school every morning, and all I’ve been able to get out of her have been waves and smiles I’m certain are insincere. Why should I expect more? The day I met her, the kids’ first day, I planned to make her laugh to pave the way for hitting her up to get me in to pitch stories for The Jill Show but ended up sobbing uncontrollably in front of Jill, the other parents, two teachers and a dozen terrified three-year-olds, including my son Ryder. He’d been diagnosed with cerebral palsy just a couple days before and I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. I am now, albeit after ordering a non-existent God to go fuck himself a few thousand times. I don’t really care what this actress wants, I needed to get out of the house. But it’s all I can do to stop myself from plowing into the lovely young couple traversing this crosswalk.

I drive down a long winding driveway to a closed gate, peer up into a security camera and yell at a speaker, “Eric Ornstill.” No answer. “To see Jill,” I add stupidly.

“Come in.” The male voice in the box is different from the one on the phone. She probably has a fucking army working for her.

The gate opens, I steer farther down and around and finally park near a low-water garden that fronts a huge Mediterranean-style house. The distressed ochre finish reminds me of the trip to Pompeii Leslie and I made when we had money and not mental issues and a 3-year-old we love whose body is degenerating. Not another servant but Jill herself pushes open the hand-carved front door and, with a big smile, bounds straight for me.

Her hair’s tied back, her pants are ripped at a thigh, her shirt at a shoulder. The clothes are clean, though, only her gardening gloves are browned with dirt. She shouts, “Thanks so much for coming over,” and Jill Racine gives me a hearty hug! I smell a rich perfume and wonder whether she’s using it to overpower the smell of the alcohol I’ve heard she likes to abuse. She hooks her elbow into mine and leads me into her home. I should give her a chance, whatever it is she wants; she was friendly that day we met, too, not cruel like her reputation says she is.

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Tales Of A Ghostwrier 2

Hollywood Ghostwriter
Part Two

by Robert Schwartz

When Jason and Annie’s screenwriting relationship turns toxic, he looks for a way out. 2,029 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


What little pride Jason had left after three-plus years of working for Annie headed south. She had destroyed him and he had let her. His date was right: Annie had him by the balls and the only thing that could change that was the threat of Jason working for someone else.

And that’s when fate stopped by for coffee.

A few months later on a plane ride, Jason met Aaron, a movie producer, and the two hit it off thirty-five thousand feet above Iowa. Jason was funny and charming and Aaron had nothing else to do but be entertained. Jason told Aaron about his failed TV writing career, his divorce, and his ghostwriting for a screenwriter. Aaron tried to guess Annie’s name but Jason kept it a secret. The two men exchanged numbers and agreed to get together the following week.

Over dinner, Aaron told Jason that he was developing an action-adventure script that was in rough shape and needed an overhaul. It wasn’t a genre Jason knew, but he agreed to read the draft. Jason had a few ideas about how to fix the script and Aaron flipped over them. He offered Jason five times the money Annie had ever paid him. After politely declining a few times, Jason finally relented and said yes.

When Jason told Annie about the new gig, she immediately shit all over it. She knew Aaron and explained how little respect she had for him, which was odd. Jason remembered Annie talking about how she’d love the chance to pitch to Aaron someday. When Jason told her how much Aaron was paying him, Annie had nothing to say except, “As long as you remember I come first."

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Hollywood Ghostwriter
Part One

by Robert Schwartz

Jason always dreamed of writing for TV/film. But not with Annie. 2,433 words. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


While most kids growing up wanted to be a cop or an astronaut, Jason Porta wanted to be a sitcom writer. Jason didn’t just watch TV shows, he waited for the credits to see who wrote or produced the series, then memorized the names. Eleven minutes after graduating from college, he gassed up his car, moved to Los Angeles, and got his first job faster than it takes most other writers to even secure an agent.

Jason’s career ended up being a classic case of fits and starts which happens when scripters make poor choices in writing rooms and alienate the wrong people. After some intermittent work, and a little bartending, Jason was fed up hoping the phone would ring with an offer to write witty comeback lines for millionaire 9-year-old actors. So he gave up on his big Hollywood dreams and moved back to New York where his days were spent trying to figure out what to do with his life.

One day Jason’s phone rang. It was a female voice from his sitcom days. “Jason? It’s Annie Siless. Whatcha doing?”

At that moment, Jason was introducing his soon-to-be ex-wife’s wedding dress to a pair of scissors. “Nothing. How’s it going Annie?”

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Shimmy 3

Shimmy Into The Picture
Part Two

by Maya Sloan

The Burlesque starlet must seduce this new sophisticated film-savvy audience. 1,845 words. Part One. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 1937

One hour till open. I stretch out my arms, brace myself on the wall and find my center of gravity. Then I wiggle a little and take a deep breath, sucking in the tummy. I give the signal. A few tugs, and I re-adjust by wiggling again. Breathe, suck, signal. Another round. Another.

“Harder,” I tell my new maid. On the signal, she gives a sad little tug. Nothing can be sad today. Nothing can be little. This is Hollywood and, after a month of focus, late night rehearsals and a sleepless tech run, costume fittings and interviews, the audience will rush for their seats and I’ll be in front of them. But, for now, there’s still work to be done.

“Better, dearie,” I say, biting my tongue. I can’t have her bawling; that would throw off the whole schedule. “But this time, put more oomph into it. They’re not apron strings, if you catch my drift.”

A slight lift of my chin, giving the signal. I brace myself, and… nothing. I glance over my shoulder, and she’s just standing there like a dumb hick, mouth gaping open, limp laces hanging from each hand.

“What’s the problem?” I ask, trying not to blow my lid.

“I don’t want to hurt you!” she squeaks. “Isn’t it painful?”

“Don’t worry about that,” I soothe. “You gotta wear your pain like high heels, understand? That’s how it is in this biz. Besides, no one was ever corseted to death.”

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Shimmy 1

Shimmy Into The Picture
Part One

by Maya Sloan

A Burlesque starlet finds herself at the center of a Hollywood seduction. 2,678 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City – 1937

I’d never met Millsap myself, or believed anyone who claimed they had.

Marvin Millsap – Boy Wonder, Burly Q Impresario, The Titan Of West Coast Tease – was as elusive as his success. While the Minsky brothers were never afraid to talk up their game, working the scene from Friar’s to Mulberry Street, Millsap was as elusive around Tinseltown as a ghost. Not that I cared for the Minskys so much, despite the hype. In fact, I avoided them like a plague, keeping to the occasional one-nighter gig in their Burlesque theatres if the price and terms were right for a limited engagement. They weren’t a fan of yours truly, either, or so went the talk. “Hot on the stage,” Billy Minsky was rumored to say, “but ice cold bitch in everyday life.”

To be fair, he was right. We all have our charms.

But Millsap? He was a different story, the kind that changed depending on who did the telling. Bootlegger money, said some. Inherited green. Murder Inc. wiseguy, big in the shylock biz. I’d heard he was a Rockefeller. That was the thing about show business: you heard a lot. But most of it? Just an illusion. Cheap scenery and a trick of the lights.

One thing, for sure: when it came to a Millsap show, money flowed like the Niagara. He’d only been on the scene for a couple of years but had made quite an impression. New York might have been the soul of Burlesque, but since Millsap landed in Hollywood, he’d given 42nd Street a run for its money.

That’s why, when I first heard the rumors of a new show six months earlier, I knew where the train was running. A spectacle! An extravaganza that would put the Big Apple to shame! The girls were in a tizzy, talking everybody’s ears off. But the one thing they wouldn’t say? A slot on Millsap’s roster was just a tiny step from a face up there on the big screen. The secret showgirl fantasy was a starring role in picture shows. Of the few who’d been scouted by casting directors, flown out for screen tests, even shot the forgettable cameo from time to time, they’d inevitably came back tail between their legs.

As for me, I had no comment. Unlike my contemporaries who’d never shut up – Gypsy Rose, for instance, or should I say homely Rose Hovick of Seattle Washington? – I believed less was more. At least when it came to my words.

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The 300 Mile Rule 2

The 300 Mile Rule
Part Two

by Tom Musca

The female producer busy with the film’s problems is about to be betrayed. Or is she? 3,655 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The first time Marie fired someone they actually deserved it. It was a prop man who, for some strange reason, repeatedly failed to show up with the right props on the day of a big set piece. There were no excuses because it wasn’t that difficult an assignment since most of the actors were playing well… filmmakers in a film within a film. Marie initially felt guilty because the man had kids but she ended up embracing him when he unexpectedly appeared and danced up a storm at the wrap party. She made him feel part of the group because Wisconsin Marie emerged from hibernation the second a film wrapped, jettisoning her signature on-set death stare which, by now, everyone on this New Mexico shoot had experienced at least once.

“Moving on!” yelled the 1st AD. Marie tracked her crew as they scrambled into vans and jumped on 4×4’s to get transported up to the next location. Marie had used the same 1st AD five times before but since he was originally attached to direct this script, she remained suspicious of some of his decisions regarding the shooting schedule. She believed that the assistant director, who always had to do what amounted to hours of homework after the Martini shot, had the hardest job on the set, besides her own. Would he undermine the production to get the director fired and himself promoted as a last second replacement to realize his directorial debut? Maybe, but his allegiance was to Marie, not to the director, and the inside info he shared with her was invaluable. She couldn’t pull that trigger.

The accountant annoyed her. The stereotype of the uptight, one-dimensional numbers man was not something Marie subscribed to after dealing with one years ago who deftly fleeced $275,000 from a budget. Marie disliked this guy although she wasn’t sure why. Still, he was universally disliked, and all crews focus their dislike on someone, so his firing would mean that the crew would waste time finding a new person to dislike, not to mention the fact that he had possession of all her petty cash receipts. He could have made Marie’s life miserable with an audit if she gave him a reason for revenge.

Shading her eyes from the mid-morning light, Marie began to wonder if she were looking to fire someone just to keep the tradition going. A thought that fifteen years ago would have depressed her, now gave her confidence. Was she over-compensating for her gender or had she just become someone who fed on the need to sacrifice an innocent to the filmmaking gods?

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300_mile_Musca_1

The 300 Mile Rule
Part One

by Tom Musca

A demanding female film producer is just doing her job. Or is she? 2,949 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Four weeks into a six-week shoot, the crew was starting to drag. An iffy subplot was omitted due to uncooperative weather and the lack of a cover set, yet the production was still three days behind schedule and that was before yesterday’s disaster. It was a long hike up a steep hill shooting in the rugged sticks of New Mexico, and the supposedly trained horses, which Marie secured at a discount, had been spooked by the ginormous 12K HMI lights that sparked uncontrollably during last night’s downpour. Despite weather reports to the contrary, the rain turned into a flash flood that wiped out the corral still under construction and nearly cost a young carpenter his life.

The scorching morning sun sucked surface water from the muck and made the live trees croak and the dead ones reek. Slogging around ground zero of the production where they parked the honeywagons, trucks, and trailers, Marie’s head-to-toe cowgirl getup shielded her from the elements and proved why even the Indians eventually adopted the attire of their oppressors. She hitched up her Wranglers and adjusted the red cowboy kerchief that kept the grit off her face so she could better inhale the breeze that bugled the crew to attention. She needed to shake things up and the most efficient way to do that was to fire someone, eliminating a laggard and putting the rest of the crew on notice.

Marie considered getting rid of the young carpenter who didn’t follow the weather emergency protocol. The one she had communicated on the call sheet in great detail the first day of principal photography. But because he hadn’t been informed personally to leave the corral set, and since the set medic painstakingly nursed his abrasions while complimenting the injured party on his courage and commitment to the project, the young carpenter’s firing might be an invitation to a lawsuit Marie would rather avoid.

As the breakfast burritos were handed down from the catering truck, Marie confirmed the unwritten rule that Above-The-Line personnel could prioritize themselves without explanation. She cut in the front of the line and grabbed a burrito without sausage or bacon, scanning faces for the best candidate to can if anyone dare object to her power play. A few feet away at the craft services table, several crew members halted their small talk and stepped out of her way as Marie’s assistant, known affectionately as Little Marie, robotically handed her boss a cup of java with an extra kick of espresso. Marie inhaled the coffee before she stained it with a drop of low fat milk and took her first sip. She had had phone sex with Mr. Steve to relieve the tension of the night before, but like instant coffee that has no residual aroma, the tension remained.

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Spielberg's Last Film 2

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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Spielberg’s Last Film
Part One

by Steven Mallas

A wannabe screenwriter might get his dream job – if the world doesn’t end. 2,001 words. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I used to work at a toy store. The one with the even-toed ungulate mascot. Then I became a screenwriter. Of course, I had been in the hell of retail for a long long time – over 20 years. Figured it was time to change careers. Had an itch to become a writer. Wish I hadn’t tried to scratch that itch – it’s almost impossible to succeed in the Industry. But, as fate would have it, I got an agent in a most unexpected way.

After submitting queries and contest entries that probably numbered into the hundreds, I had the Hatchimal craze to thank. That happened during the holiday season of 2016. I have no idea what Hatchimals were, but the perception among kids was that they had to have them. Go figure.

There was a long line waiting for the store location I worked at in Los Angeles to open. When it came time around 5 a.m. to hand out the tickets that would ensure customers got their piece of overpriced plastic. I was the one doing that. Finally, I came to the end of the line. The guy immediately behind the woman who received the final coveted slip of paper winced noticeably. That wasn’t so bad. But the many would-be-acquirers-of-potential-eBay-gold behind him were another matter. Profanities flew freely.

Randy, a co-worker, came up next to me. He informed the unruly crowd that the store might have another delivery in a day or so. That seemed to calm most of them. Eventually, they left. But that guy who just missed his opportunity was lingering. That’s when I said to Randy, “I have this idea for a script, although it’s not fully formed. What if people are waiting in line not for one of these things or the latest video game console, but for something.”

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Turn To Kill 1

Turn To Kill

by Daniel M. Kimmel

A movie producer and a studio head begin a tough negotiation that ends with a surprise twist. 1,524 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


“Mr. Allen will see you now.”

The middle-aged secretary barely looked up from her computer screen as she flicked her head in the direction of a short hallway just beyond. When no further direction was forthcoming, Movie producer Tim Munson realized it was time for him to move. He rose from the barely comfortable seat in the powder blue outer office, fumbled with his briefcase, and headed past several closed doors to the one that was ajar at the end of the hall. He tentatively poked his head in, not quite sure if this was where he was supposed to be.

At the far end of the room, behind a broad mahogany desk, sat I.F. Allen, head of Tigerslair Pictures. His white hair and neatly trimmed beard were countered by his lively eyes. At this moment, they were focused on his electronic tablet, while he also tapped his ear. He was wearing a Bluetooth and seemed to be engaged in a conversation. He looked up and saw the young producer and waved him in.

As Munson tried to figure out which of the many seats available was intended for him, Allen was wrapping up his conversation. “Look, Barry, it’s my way or the highway. If you think you can make a better deal elsewhere, good luck to you. I’ve got to go.” Without so much as a goodbye, the conversation apparently concluded.

Allen put the tablet aside and then swiveled to face the new arrival, who had taken a seat to the left of the desk. A long table piled with scripts and other documents extended from the center of the desk, forcing visitors to choose whether to go left or right, never being quite sure if they had made the right decision, and Allen never indicating where they should sit. It was one of the many ways that those bringing their projects to Tigerslair were kept off-balance.

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Oscar revenge

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 bottom-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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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 supporting 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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Kaelin2

The Incalculable Hours
Part Two

by James Kaelan

The fustrated filmmaker goes on a TV talk show to save his movie. 2,295 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 1969

It was nearly four o’clock when Tall parked in a loading zone at the CBS lot, and ran into Stage 17. From the lobby, Tall could hear The Dean Keller Show orchestra welcoming a guest, and the audience applauding. Above a set of double doors, a red “Live Show Recording” sign blinked.

“Mr. McCollum!” a woman said in a low, excited voice.

Tall turned to see Tandy Dale, the associate producer who’d handled him the day before, walking toward him with a clipboard against her chest. “When I heard the door open,” Tandy continued, “I thought a civilian was trying to sneak in.”

“Would it be possible to get backstage?” Tall asked. “My wife Diana lost a little enamel compact that belonged to her mother when we were here last night for my appearance, and it’s the only place we haven’t looked.”

“They cleaned this morning, and didn’t turn anything in. But I suppose it could’ve fallen in the couch cushion?”

Tall followed Tandy around the perimeter of the stage. As she unlocked a door marked “PRIVATE,” she looked back at Tall. “Would you like to know your audience scores from last night?”

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Kaelin1 NEW2

The Incalculable Hours
Part One

by James Kaelan

A rebel filmmaker struggles to deter professional and personal disaster. 2,334 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 1969

“You’re a fucking kamikaze pilot, Tall,” said Jack Benton from behind his teak desk. “And you just crashed into your own fucking ship!” He wore a chambray blouse and a necklace of mahogany beads, but on his wrist dangled a gold Rolex. And only two days earlier, Jay Sebring had flown back from Las Vegas just to give him a haircut.

“And you didn’t just kill yourself,” Benton continued, pounding the heel of his palm onto a year-old issue of a Black Panther newspaper he’d never read. “You killed me, you killed your wife, and you killed that little band of outlaws you have marooned out there in the desert with you. I’m sure they’ll pretend like it’s a blessing — since they think they’ve transcended the fucking material world like an order of fucking Tibetan monks. But let me tell you a little secret. If anyone had gotten famous from this stillborn movie of yours, they’d be buying Jaguars and houses in fucking Malibu.”

“I just earned you lines around the block!” yelled Tall, standing in the middle of the office, rocking from his toes to his heels with the violent energy of a wrestler on his starting line. He was short, but broad across the shoulders, so that with his arms crossed, his buckskin jacket stretched taut across his upper back. His old tan boots chirred as he pitched onto his toes, and his wavy blonde hair curled down his neck.

“How the hell do you figure that, Tall? From my experience, people go to movies to be entertained — not to feel like they’ve fallen off a roof.”

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