Category Archives: Screenwriters

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Another Red Carpet

by Ann Hamilton

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.)

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And The Oscar Goes To

And The Oscar Goes To…

by Robert W. Welkos

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: An actress thinks the Academy Awards are all about her. 2,991 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


The party is swirling and Eleanor Gautier is already drunk.

Charles Dumont had been silent throughout the long drive from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills and silence is rarely a good sign for the moody French director. He’s wearing that brown silk shirt that Eleanor absolutely abhors. She wonders why so many items in his closet resemble the result of an intestinal virus. He’s also smoking, another way to irritate this year’s Oscar-nominated actress who stars in Oscar-nominated Charles’ gritty cop drama Brutal Norms, which received a standing ovation at Cannes and the Palme d’Or.

Tonight’s hostess, Liz Fontaine spots the gloomy couple from across her living room and quickly makes her way around knots of party guests. “You made it!” Liz exclaims as she air kisses the pair. “I wasn’t sure you’d come. As you can see, everyone is here and they adore you both. You’re the buzz of Hollywood, you know.”

“She knows,” Eleanor says as the stir of her vodka martini punctuates her statement. When she’s drunk, she refers to herself in the third-person.

Liz introduces the couple around. Eleanor’s eyes stray and then narrow. “Is that Melanie Milapeed?” she asks Liz.

“Yes, how thrilling I have the two leading Best Actress nominees here at my party,” Liz replies.

“Are there any Oscar voters present?” Eleanor asks, her eyes tick-tocking between her rival and Liz.

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The Dull One
Part Two

by Laurie Horowitz

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: At Oscars time in Hollywood there are only winners and losers. 2,884 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


When I came back from New York a week later, Rebecca insisted on picking me up at the airport. The Los Angeles weather looked good on her. She was wearing a simple shift and sandals. Her muscular arms were tanned. Very obviously, her Oscars’ makeover had changed her.

"I have something to tell you," she said, as soon as I got into the car. She could have asked me how my business trip went, but no — she couldn’t wait to tell me what was going on with her. I waited. I could always tell her later about my boss and love interest Billy Ward finally asking me to join him for lunch on my second to last day at The W in Times Square. We ran into each other in the lobby. Billy had just checked in. I didn’t see him after that lunch, but I was sure I had made an impression.

“Shoot,” I said.

"Jaxson and I got married in Vegas." I was too flabbergasted to respond. "I know it’s a shock, but we drove out there and got a little tipsy, and before I knew it I was a married woman again." She held up her left hand to show me a slim gold band.

"You can get it annulled," I finally said.

“I don’t want to get it annulled."

"Are you in love with him?"

"Of course not." She moved her rental car into traffic carefully.

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The Dull One 1

The Dull One
Part One

by Laurie Horowitz

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: You don’t have to win an Academy Award to have your life transform. 2,476 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


By the time my cousin Rebecca called to ask if she could spend February with me, I’d already planned a business trip right after the Oscars. She said she’d be fine staying in my house by herself. And who wouldn’t be? I have a condo in Venice with a view of the Pacific. It would be a great place to visit if I didn’t already live there and, since Rebecca lives in Vermont, I can see how it would appeal to her.

We are first cousins and were born only one month apart which is a problem when it comes to her visiting because I’ve been cutting seven years off my age since I arrived out here and Rebecca is likely to blow my cover. She doesn’t even dye her hair; that’s the least a woman can do. I went trophy-wife red five years ago. I’m a regular Rita Hayworth in a business suit.

I didn’t have the heart to refuse Rebecca who, at forty-three, was a widow. Five years ago, her husband, Harold Braddock III, was lost while climbing Annapurna. Rebecca has still not forgiven him even though he left her his enormous fortune.

Rebecca would be here for my boss’s Oscar Party. Billy Ward, the fearless leader at Spectacular Talent Agency, was holding it in the The Theatre at the Ace Hotel. Digging up a date each year for the Oscar party was a chore, especially this year since my sights were set on Billy Ward who was between wives. I’d been in love with Billy since my first day at STA. He had buckets of charisma and charm enough to land the whole entertainment industry at his feet.

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FairyGodmother.com
Part Two

by Peter Lefcourt

Bernard tries to find out the identity of the writer inputting hit scripts into his computer. 2,144 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Spending money was time-consuming as well as challenging. After a five-day buying spree Bernard Berry found that he still had over a million three in his bank account. He could replace the Benz with something newer and quieter but he was fond of the aging diesel. It smelled like a car, not like an airport. And he was bored.

A week passed and still Bernard had not hooked up his new computer. He missed the online companionship: the junk emails, the chat rooms, the porn sites. So he took the new machine out of the carton, wired it, loaded the new software and booted up. The familiar glow of the screen and the pulsing of the cursor greeted him like the comforting sight of an old friend. Hey, how’re you doing? Been a while…

Clicking on his e-mail program, he discovered that in his absence 59 emails had accumulated. Sent at different hours every day, all were from the same sender. And all said they same thing: “HOW’D THEY LIKE THE SCRIPT?”

Bernard didn’t reply right away. Instead he walked outside the poolhouse. There were leaves floating on the surface of the water. He sat down on a rusted recliner and blinked a few times. He was not dreaming, and this was not a movie. This was his life. His silent partner, somewhere out there in the cyberether, unfortunately wasn’t very silent. Nor did he appear to be going away. On the contrary.

Bernard reentered the poolhouse, sat down and replied to the email. “THEY LIKED IT A LOT. I SOLD IT FOR A LOT OF MONEY. WOULD YOU LIKE SOME OF IT?”

In less than a minute, a new email floated in. “NO.”

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?”

The answer was just as quick. “NOTHING. I LIKE TO WRITE.”

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fairy godmother_1

FairyGodmother.com
Part One

by Peter Lefcourt

A screenwriter working on a lousy script suddenly finds a brilliant one on his computer. 2,806 words. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


It was bad enough when the gardener ripped out the hydrangeas he had planted, at $295 a pop, making his house look like collateral damage from an air strike. And when his lawyer stopped defending him from lawsuits and started suing him instead for fees and 18% annual interest. And when his endodontist refused to look at his throbbing left rear molar, let alone write him a script for Percodan… But when his ex-wife didn’t even bother auditing his 1040 because she knew that there was no more loose change to shake out of his pockets, it was time to take a serious look at his prospects.

Which was what Bernard Berry was doing at 3:30 p.m. in the poolhouse of his mortgaged-to-the-hilt home in a neighborhood that realtors referred to, charitably, as Beverly Hills Adjacent-Adjacent. Since noon he had been trying to write an action sequence for a screenplay he had been pecking at for months. He was convinced this script, a highly derivative story that he had artfully borrowed from a hit buddy action thriller, was his last best shot at pulling himself out of the morass of debt and depression he had been in for the last year and counting.

Somehow he would finish this script, convince one of the aging Young Turks at the agency that no longer represented him nor even took his phone calls without being badgered, to read it and sell it for serious change. Then pay off his debts, replant his hydrangeas, get a root canal and reboard the gravy train he had been on before things starting going south.

His psychopharmacologist — who was among the litigants to whom he owed money and who would not renew his Zoloft even when Bernard reasoned that if he stopped being depressed he could write better and therefore earn enough money to pay his tab — said that he was suffering from a major trough in his self-esteem, caused by crevices in his chain of cognitive defensive mechanisms.

You couldn’t take that to the bank. Nor any of his past accomplishments as a well-paid B-plus list screenwriter who had made enough money over the years to have had a wife venal enough to take him to the cleaners and a lawyer who charged $750 an hour to keep him afloat. The shelf life of personal accomplishment in this town was short.

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The Concrete Mirage 03a

The Concrete Mirage
Part Three

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Hollywood P.I. McNulty pieces together the puzzle surrounding the missing TV showrunner. 2,160 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


McNulty was finishing a fourteen-hour day piecing together all the images related to the year-long disappearance of TV showrunner Dana Delongpre. The images from his iPhone. The surveillance video from the convenience store where she’d last been seen. And all the photos posted by CHP Officer and wannabe screenwriter Chet Nichols on his Facebook and Instagram pages expertly hacked courtesy of McNulty’s Nerd Ninja team.

Blurry-eyed from hours of frame by frame studying on his notebook screen, McNulty leaned back in his chair and knocked back the last mouthful of Glenlivet, his mind still sharp and focused. And now he was damn sure he knew what had happened to Dana. And it wasn’t murder at the hands of her husband.

“Wanda!” the Hollywood P.I. barked into the office intercom. “Get me Shamrock!”

‘Shamrock” was the code name for Killian Cleary, a former IRA soldier and roguish Irish mercenary who’d seen action as a private CIA contractor in many of the world’s hotspots. A dead shot and skilled martial arts expert, Killian Cleary was McNulty’s secret go-to guy whenever back-up was needed on an investigation.

“Got one, boyo?” Shamrock laughed, recognizing the number on the burner phone McNulty used exclusively to contact him.

“It could get sticky,” McNulty admitted.

“Where and when?” Shamrock asked.

“Tonight,” McNulty replied. “Bring the beast.” That was another coded reference for Shamrock’s armored Hummer which he’d outfitted with an impressive array of firepower.

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The Concrete Mirage 02

The Concrete Mirage
Part Two

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

The showbiz sleuth follows up on a freeway hunch in search of a missing TV showrunner. 1,965 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


A hundred yards behind where he was parked, McNulty’s camera drone hovered over an area where the 14 freeway crossed over the concrete channel of the California Aqueduct. Suddenly, the Hollywood investigator’s eyes were drawn to something glinting in the sun on the center median. As he dropped the drone lower, he could see the shiny object was glass in a broken plastic shell possibly from a vehicle’s side mirror. There also were red fragments apparently from a tail light. McNulty realized that his hunch was gaining traction.

Directly ahead were two large openings that dropped some twenty feet into the concrete channel below and encircled by guard rails but not completely. For traffic moving north, the protection was on the south end; for traffic moving south, on the north end. The cost-cutting logic being that guard rails were only necessary on the sides facing the oncoming traffic lanes.

“What could possibly go wrong?” McNulty muttered, shaking his head at the stupidity.

As he surveyed the scene, he imagined what might have happened to Dana Delongpre when she suddenly vanished from the face of the earth. He theorized that she’d been driving north in the southbound lanes, lost control of her vehicle, skidded across the median toward the unprotected opening and then plummeted into the watery channel below. It was only a guess, McNulty knew, and he needed something tangible to make it real.

His gut told him it was lying there at his feet.

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Keep Santa Monica Clean 2

Keep Santa Monica Clean
Part Two

by Pasha Adam

Dante flexes his power as both a screenwriter and a blogger. 2,950 words. Part One. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Creeping over the Century City skyscrapers, the sun’s harsh rays bathe my 1966 Ford Mustang as I take the 10 from Santa Monica towards Robertson. Ray-Bans I’ve owned since my first week in L..A shield my eyes from the glare and the breeze rushes over the windshield, tousling my already unkempt hair. If this cinematic moment was captured on 35 mm film, it would appear liberating, a sun-drenched endorsement of SoCal living. Nothing could be further from the truth. Under the crushing weight of the CO2 hovering above the L.A. Basin, this drive couldn’t be more claustrophobic and suffocating. As I light up a cigarette, combining the air pollution with tobacco and nicotine may seem like overkill, but I am nothing if not the author of my own story.

I turn west on Wilshire and, in the space of ten minutes, I reach the STA offices. I ride the elevator to the eighth floor and take a seat across the desk from my agent, Dave Chaikin.

“I love this fucking script, Dante!” he yells, slamming a closed fist on the desk between each word, a poor man’s Ari Gold in a rich man’s Armani Collezioni suit. Once upon a time, Dave was a fledgling literary agent in search of the screenplay that would make him a major player. Dave would have me believe the moment he read Galaxy Hoppers, my 120-page tome, it was love at first sight. He created enough buzz that there was a bidding war and then sold it to Global Studio Media.

Now, I stare at my latest screenplay on his desk, the one I’ve affectionately named Skylar And The Ninja Ghosts, as Dave asks, “I have to know, after all this fucking time, what compelled you to finally put pen to paper again?”

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Keep Santa Monica Clean 1

Keep Santa Monica Clean
Part One

by Pasha Adam

A mid-career screenwriter has more fun at his secret avocation. 2,169 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Orson Welles said that, depending where you choose to conclude it, any story can have a happy ending.

My story began the night I met Grace Chase in Cabana in Santa Monica, California.

The sun was living out its final moments, painting the sky gold, and a Pacific breeze flowed through the open-air bar. Hours removed from my first screenplay sale, I spied a beautiful blonde through a haze of tobacco. The strings of “At Last” by Etta James swelled into a crescendo of anticipation as our eyes met and she flirtatiously exhaled a stream of cigarette smoke, compelling me to navigate the swarm of guys that divided us.

“Grace,” she opened.

“Dante.”

If my Hollywood story had faded to black at that moment, as the smoke cleared and I gazed into Grace’s eyes, it would have had a happy ending.

Alas, shit happens, as it is wont to do, and four years, three weeks, and two days later, a naked brunette is lying in my bed, screaming, “Choke me! Choke the fucking life out of me!”

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Collaboration

Collaboration

by Tom Musca

An ambitious scripter rethinks his relationship with his writing partner when they can’t see eye to eye. 4,233 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


They had been sitting in this airless room for six hours and the empty spaces in the conversation were becoming unbearable, at least for Alex. The morning session had passed with the usual peaks and valleys but by now time had slowed like the last half hour of algebra class. Alex was enough of a pro that he tried not to let his boredom seep into his partner’s creative process, but for the last three or so months he’d been fighting a losing battle to disguise his disgust with their lack of progress. For a second he found comfort in a fantasy where he sprinted out the door screaming, “I’ve spent my whole life with people who don’t exist!”

But instead Alex corkscrewed his 62-year-old spine, realizing the too-comfortable chair he was anchored to neutralized his caffeine rush from an hour ago. His interior rant about fictional characters was, in screenwriter parlance, First Thought Theatre, a bad idea that built a bridge to a more workable one. He had to leave, but a tantrum would be counterproductive. His frustration needed to be dramatized with nuance. So Alex strode along the wall of framed movie posters to the office’s lone window and cranked it open, letting in a slight, cool breeze that carried signs of life from the street three stories below, hoping to lure Santiago’s thoughts to the outside world.

Santiago was sprawled on a convertible sofa that had yet to be used as a bed. He started to speak and then stopped, discarding his idea mid-sentence, further irritating Alex. As the only one in the room with an IMDb film credit, Alex’s primary job was to pitch ideas. Santiago’s was to evaluate their worth. This was teamwork, although there was an unacknowledged competition that occasionally resulted in Santiago’s bruised ego. Alex was the pliable one — the matador, not the bull. Alex was also the manipulative one since it was relatively easy for a writer with his acumen and experience to come up with suggestions with a minimum of effort. Occasionally, he even sat on a good idea till he felt Santiago was ready to hear and understand it. Once, at a dinner party, Alex sat across from a cardiologist who asked him where he got his ideas. “It wasn’t coming up with ideas that was difficult, it was eliminating the ones that got in the way.”

Even though he wasn’t born into wealth like his Dominican benefactor, Alex had worked hard to give himself the bearing of a New England preppy, and every woman he had ever dated thought he was two inches taller than he measured. Santiago, with his hunched posture and endless involuntary burping due to a lack of rigorous exercise, looked like a character actor in a sci-fi B movie who advised the handsome lead on the chances of survival if they took the shortcut through the meteor storm. Santiago was 90% blind in one eye and completely blind in the other since his Caribbean boating accident at age eight, one that cost his twin brother his life. So even though he knew what most things looked like, he had to visualize them from distant memory. This enabled him to add distortion to visual concepts that on rare occasions produced a happy screenwriting accident, lifting them out of the realm of the mundane. But most of time Santiago was just rampaging in Alex’s china shop of ideas.

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The Monster 01

The Monster

by Eric Bogosian

Eric Bogosian debuts an original short story: A screenwriter desperate for his movie to be made puts the project into the hands of a famous and successful actor-director-producer. That was the scripter’s first mistake. 4,873 words. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.


Hopefully, this tape will be found some day. Probably by then it’s doubtful anyone will be able to play it back and listen to what I have to say here. But I have no choice. I have to tell this story if for no other reason than to preserve my sanity during these last few hours.

As I lie here, whispering these words to myself in the dark, I can only blame my ambition. Like Icarus who flew too close to the sun, I am being punished. Whether I deserve punishment or not, you can decide.

I’m not exceptional, I’m not special. In fact I’m pretty much a boring person. But just because I was a boring person, doesn’t mean I didn’t have dreams. And desires. And hopes. And fears. And appetites. All of that. Big time. And, in the end, just big enough to consume me. I went willingly into the lion’s den. I was going to dance with the lion. I was going to become a lion.

What the fuck did I know about being a lion?

Six years ago, when I was 28, I was writing for LA Weekly. Online. I wrote an article about a young couple who got lost while hiking around in Joshua Tree. They almost died. It was a pretty good story and, as often happens in L,A,, it garnered a phone call from a studio exec. Focus Features. I pretended that I had an agent and then got this old pal who was an assistant over at UTA to rep me and one thing led to the next and all of a sudden I had a development deal with Focus to write a screenplay based on my story.

I delivered the screenplay (after six outlines), and two days later the exec who ordered it got fired and that was the last I heard from Focus. The movie was never made. And over the past six years, I’ve been able to shuffle along and write scripts for a few other studios. At first it seemed like big money. Averaged out, week by week, it actually wasn’t. But hey, if they made even one of these films, I would have been in Hollywood heaven. Or so I thought.

Lying here now in the darkness, I try to remember the state of my life only one hundred and eighty days ago. It wasn’t bad. I was making enough money that I could afford to shop at Fred Segal every now and then. I could cover my girlfriend Sandy’s side of the rent. (She’s an assistant designer at a boutique on Santa Monica Blvd.) I drove a five-year old Prius. I shopped at Whole Foods up the street from where we lived. I played poker with other screenwriters and actors like Jeremy Sisto and David Zayas. I hit the gym twice a week. I watched my weight. I made it to 34 years old and was still young enough to be “promising.” I guess I’ll never be 35.

I was floating in a dimension that had no past, no future.

And then one day, in the shower, I came up with an idea. Simple, elegant, perfect. A narrative about a returning veteran who becomes a New York City parole officer. Gritty. Full of action. A great role for a macho actor in his thirties. And it could be made for a budget. Easily shot in less than two months. Violent but also filled with pathos.

It was everything I needed to get closer to the sun.

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Speck Script

Speck Script

by Diane Haithman

A very big TV/film fan hitchhikes to Hollywood in search of something – or someone. 2,408 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


On behalf of my home planet, I’d like to welcome myself to Hollywood.

I hail from Mars. I know for decades you’ve been searching for signs of life up there on the fourth rock from the sun. We were so flattered in 2012 when you sent up that cute Mars Rover Curiosity that’s still zipping around our Gale Crater like a little golf cart. We love each and every orbiter and all those nifty NASA-type gadgets. When that stuff shows up, well, it’s just like Christmas here!

You’ve explored Mars — but you still haven’t found us. Don’t blame yourselves. We’re smaller than anything you can detect even with your most sophisticated ultra-microscope. You can take home all the digital photos, rocks and space-dirt you want— you won’t see us. No, you’re not stupid. It’s not your fault. We’re just real small, that’s all.

Okay I like you humans. You’re funny. So I’m going to share a little secret: You can see us, in a way. We are the red on the Red Planet. All of us, together: our very existence radiating a beautiful warm glow into space for the whole galaxy to share, shifting from tangerine to blood orange to terra cotta brick depending on our mood. That’s us.

We would have done purple when Prince died if we could.

But I digress. My Earth pop culture reference to The Purple One reminds me of the story I wanted to tell you as my first direct communication with Earth. About how I came to Hollywood, and why I must stay. I must stay for as long as it takes.

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Western Spaghetti

Western Spaghetti

by Matthew Licht

An American screenwriter becomes entangled with a zealous Italian film director. 2,780 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Rome, with the voice of all its sparkling fountains, said to me, You can’t leave. Los Angeles never spoke so imperiously. Or maybe she did, but since I was always in my car or in my office on the studio lot, I never heard the message.

In any case, I left.

Rome didn’t offer me a job, or a place to live, or a Vespa to get around. Language was a hurdle, but before too long I could order a plate of spaghetti alla carbonara alongside Pasolinian primitives without drawing a second glance.

The San Calisto bar in Trastevere was a decent substitute for Schwab’s as a place to sit and watch the world go by. The management put rickety tables outside on fair afternoons and evenings. Pretty often, they left them out when it was lightly raining so the drunks could watch the rainbow skies and the fountains carved from travertine marble which gurgled within earshot. Rome’s water is tasteless, or maybe taste-free. But I’d never drunk anything half as refreshing.

A well-dressed perfumed young man stared through face-making eyeglasses. When he came over, I expected tentative pick-up overtures. Instead, he explained his film theory.

“When you ordered white wine, I knew that you are American. From the world of spectacle. This is synchronicity at work. An Italian-American director has usurped an autochthonous genre, with great success” – he was talking about Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece – “at roughly the same time that an Italian director attempted an American-style road movie, which, at least in my view, is a dismal failure.” Maybe Sergio Leone’s Giù La released the year before? “My mission is to re-appropriate and re-subvert a classic theme to re-ëstablish purity of form.”

Ah, he wanted to make a Western.

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Mygalomorph mallas

Mygalomorph

by Steven Mallas

A wannabe filmmaker finds an unconventional way to get his horror script made. 3,216 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“You understand what I want you to do?”

“Yeah,” I said. It was easy to say it. Flowed off the tongue. I wasn’t even worried. What was that line from that Hannibal film, the one with the lambs? His pulse never got above a certain number, he was so relaxed? That’s how I felt. Relaxed.

“Great.”

“And you finance my film.”

“Absolutely.”

“And I get gross participation, backend, off-the-top. The works.”

“The works,” he agreed.

I didn’t smile. But I should have. You don’t smile, though, when you make a Breaking Bad deal like that. I don’t mean a deal with AMC; I mean, a deal that will put you on the other side. For good. I was about to become a Walter White. And I was only in my early 20s.

Got to start sometime in Hollywood.

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JULES AZENBERG 05

Tyrannis Rex
Part Four

by Richard Natale

The screenwriter’s script is completed. But how will the studio mogul react to the brutally honest biopic? 2,802 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


After finishing Act Two, Dave went on a one-night bender, polishing off a fifth of Jack Daniels and falling into a deep sleep on his living room sofa. He awoke with a start in the middle of the night and ran to the typewriter. Through bleary eyes and a cracking headache, he began to type out the opening scene of Act Three: a close-up of a television set.

The Argot Pictures board keeps a safe distance from the blond wood TV cabinet, as if it were some alien life form. But studio mogul Jules Azenberg approaches the contraption and gently strokes it. With that one motion, he demonstrates to the members that he is not threatened by television and that he plans to tame the medium just as he did the movies.

Forced to divest itself of its theater chain following the 1948 Consent Decree, Argot is running a deficit for the first time since the early ‘1930s. There is the smell of blood in the boardroom and Jules must convince the members that he is still in control of the situation. The advent of television gives Jules a new sense of purpose after the prolonged depression he suffered in the wake of his sons’ WWII deaths.

Rather than retread radio stars for television, Jules strikes on an original idea. The next scene is set in a quiet isolated booth at The Brown Derby where Jules is lunching with Madeleine Devane, one of Argot’s biggest stars. Her contract is up for renewal and the aging actress is clearly nervous. They chat for a while as she waits for the boom to fall. In the middle of the meal, Jules lays his napkin on the table and lets out an extended sigh. The color drains from Madeleine’s face, fearing that she’s about to be fired.

“How would you like us to renew your contract for five more years?” he asks.

“Don’t tease me,” Madeleine responds tersely.

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