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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About The Author:
John Bensink
John Bensink has written network movies-of-the-week and pilots. His teleplay A Whisper Kills was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award Best Television Feature. His produced titles include Moment Of Truth, My Very Best Friend, Every Mother's Worst Fear, A Mother's Revenge, Nightmare in Columbia County, Naked Lie. He is now working on a short story collection: Other People's Lives Are Easy.
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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About The Author:
Jay Abramowitz
Jay Abramowitz has written and produced a dozen sitcoms and comedy pilots for Warner Bros, CBS and ABC. He was head writer on the PBS series Liberty’s Kids, which animated the American Revolution with the voices of Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal. His first novel Formerly Cool (written with Tom Musca) will be published this year.
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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About The Author:
Jay Abramowitz
Jay Abramowitz has written and produced a dozen sitcoms and comedy pilots for Warner Bros, CBS and ABC. He was head writer on the PBS series Liberty’s Kids, which animated the American Revolution with the voices of Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal. His first novel Formerly Cool (written with Tom Musca) will be published this year.
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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About The Author:
Robert Schwartz
Robert Schwartz is a TV/film writer and journalist. He worked on: Hope & Faith, Bringing Up Jack and Bailey Kipper's P.O.V. He wrote the short film Going Local adapted from his Huffington Post dating blog. His journalism has appeared in: Cosmopolitan, EW, Variety, ESPN Magazine and The Knot, and online in The Daily Beast and Medium. He is writing a comic memoir.
tales_ghostwriter_schwartz_2

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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About The Author:
Robert Schwartz
Robert Schwartz is a TV/film writer and journalist. He worked on: Hope & Faith, Bringing Up Jack and Bailey Kipper's P.O.V. He wrote the short film Going Local adapted from his Huffington Post dating blog. His journalism has appeared in: Cosmopolitan, EW, Variety, ESPN Magazine and The Knot, and online in The Daily Beast and Medium. He is writing a comic memoir.
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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About The Author:
Maya Sloan
Maya Sloan has two writing MFAs and five books published by Simon & Schuster including her debut novel High Before Homeroom. She received the Inaugural Saul Bellow Prize, Walton Foundation Fellowship in Creative Writing, Writer-in-Residence at Kerouac House, Elizabeth Kostova Foundation Fellowship in Bulgaria and St. Boltoph Emerging Artist Grant.
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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About The Author:
Maya Sloan
Maya Sloan has two writing MFAs and five books published by Simon & Schuster including her debut novel High Before Homeroom. She received the Inaugural Saul Bellow Prize, Walton Foundation Fellowship in Creative Writing, Writer-in-Residence at Kerouac House, Elizabeth Kostova Foundation Fellowship in Bulgaria and St. Boltoph Emerging Artist Grant.
No Budget-2

No Budget
Part Two

by Jon Jack Raymond

The indie filmmaker begs and borrows to finish her shoot – and feed her dog. 2,006 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Indie filmmaker Annie Grayson wasn’t young. But she had more energy than any obnoxious 22-year-old snot-nosed kid out of film school. Both crew members Nigel and Ted admired her for that. So they were onboard as much as they could be without too much self-sacrifice for a very likely doomed project.

Nigel hated to think of it like that. But Annie would not listen to reason. Yes, collaboration could make it work. But not if she refused their help and knowledge.

“First-time filmmakers don’t jump into features or even thirty minute shorts. They do ten minute shorts, or five minute shorts,” Nigel said to Ted, the sound man.

“George Lucas will tell you he started out with a thirty second short and a lot of storywriting experience,” said Ted, lighting up a joint. “Want a toke?”

“Thanks.” Nigel, the cinematographer, said and inhaled. “Then she complains that Tricia is always late. No shit. Actors are always late. They’re prima donnas, even the unknowns.” He let out the breath.

“Especially the unknowns.”

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About The Author:
Jon Jack Raymond
Jon Jack Raymond was a photographer, writer, web designer and indie filmmaker who founded Out In The Street Films. He began his movie career by producing, directing, photographing and editing his own short dramatic and documentary films including the 90-minute feature Got Healthcare? He wrote numerous narrative screenplays and blogged on film industry topics. He died in 2016 from a stroke.
No Budget 1

No Budget
Part One

by Jon Jack Raymond

An indie filmmaker likes to play the underdog. With her dog. 2,210 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


It was a hot Los Angeles summer day. Annie Grayson, the alleged author and self-proclaimed indie film authority, brought a dog to her set, which was the street in front of the Century Plaza Towers. The mangy dirty mutt with matted hair was very unhappy to be there in the heat. But Annie dragged him around everywhere. “Louie, come here!” she yelled as she pulled his thick rope leash.

Nigel, with his DSLR camera and lugging a Flycam rig, spotted her from across the street and thought, Is that her? With the dog? She looks younger in her picture. Ok, here we go. I can’t believe she brought a dog.

He walked up. “Annie?” The dog starting barking at him.

“Louie!” she yelled. The dog got quiet. “You’re Nigel? Tricia is late. She’s always late. I’m calling her now.”

“That’s typical,” Nigel said, shaking her hand as the dog barked again.

“Louie! Shut up!” Annie said. “She can’t find parking. Here, talk to her.” Annie handed Nigel the phone.

“There are free spaces right off Olympic,” Nigel shrugged. Whatever. Actors are always late. He looked at Annie and the dog and thought, She brought a crazed wild animal to a film set and she’s worried that the actor is late? Looking back, Nigel didn’t think Annie deserved to call the dog hers. But at the time he was hired to film her project.

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About The Author:
Jon Jack Raymond
Jon Jack Raymond was a photographer, writer, web designer and indie filmmaker who founded Out In The Street Films. He began his movie career by producing, directing, photographing and editing his own short dramatic and documentary films including the 90-minute feature Got Healthcare? He wrote numerous narrative screenplays and blogged on film industry topics. He died in 2016 from a stroke.
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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About The Author:
Tom Musca
Tom Musca was the producer and co-writer of Stand And Deliver which won Oscar nominations and 6 Independent Spirit Awards. His produced credits include Tortilla Soup, Gotta Kick It Up!, Money For Nothing, Race, Little Nikita and Flight Of Fancy. He recently wrote One Mile North, co-produced Bad Hurt and associate produced Pray For Rain. In 2016 he produced Bruno & Naomi’s Blind Date and I Hate Sundays. He will direct I Love Lupe in South Florida where he coordinates the Screenwriting MFA at the University of Miami.
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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About The Author:
Tom Musca
Tom Musca was the producer and co-writer of Stand And Deliver which won Oscar nominations and 6 Independent Spirit Awards. His produced credits include Tortilla Soup, Gotta Kick It Up!, Money For Nothing, Race, Little Nikita and Flight Of Fancy. He recently wrote One Mile North, co-produced Bad Hurt and associate produced Pray For Rain. In 2016 he produced Bruno & Naomi’s Blind Date and I Hate Sundays. He will direct I Love Lupe in South Florida where he coordinates the Screenwriting MFA at the University of Miami.
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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About The Author:
Steven Mallas
Steven Mallas writes financial commentary for Seeking Alpha. He has previously contributed to The Motley Fool and TheStreet. His short fiction has appeared in online markets and in his anthology Tales From Salem, Massachusetts. He also has written the YA novel Abner Wilcox Thornberry And The Witch of Wall Street.
spielbergs_last_rev2

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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About The Author:
Steven Mallas
Steven Mallas writes financial commentary for Seeking Alpha. He has previously contributed to The Motley Fool and TheStreet. His short fiction has appeared in online markets and in his anthology Tales From Salem, Massachusetts. He also has written the YA novel Abner Wilcox Thornberry And The Witch of Wall Street.
Takeout Sushi

Takeout Sushi

by Howard Jay Klein

A movie studio executive on the hotseat has to learn how to play hardball – or become the ball. 3,076 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Three hard policy guidelines had trickled down from the board of the Galaxy Gateway Film division of Global Media Corporation, arriving in the development department with the authority of Papal Bulls. The last quarter’s earnings miss had spooked Wall Street and battered the stock. The subtext: no more mammoth budget CGI comic book movies or prissy little art flicks on pain of death. The first email edict ordered the film executives to never greenlight a prestige project. (“We’re in the business of making money, not winning awards.”) The second: never touch prestige sequels to old classics. (“They rarely make money and generational memories are melting faster than ice cubes in a Scotch on the rocks on a sun deck in Palm Springs.”) And third: modern film sequels will be financed only if first worldwide grosses were over $350 million. (“Therefore, Skycatcher 2 may be our last sequel ever.”)

That morning, Amelia Donaldson, head of development, replied to the company chairman as soon as she received the directives.

“Just a fast heads-up. I expect to meet with actress Amy Harding tomorrow to listen to her pitch about a Chinatown sequel she’s salivating to produce now that we’ve bought Paramount which owns the remake rights. Yes, I did point out to her that Robert Towne’s The Two Jakes crashed and burned in 1990 because it was a disjointed clunky mess. She’s undeterred and has that passionate conviction that bats away facts like so many flies. Bottom line: I need to take this meeting but it’s a kabuki dance. I’m only listening because we need Amy to reprise her lead in the medieval Skycatcher sequel. I’m afraid if we don’t at least look like we care, she’ll find any lame excuse to take a pass and break our balls even though a sequel commitment was part of the original deal."

Hal Springer, the studio’s Chairman, emailed back:

“Amelia, think of this as a leadership test. You can shuck and jive but absolutely make no commitments. I don’t need more tsuris from New York. Just get her to confirm she’s in for Skycatcher 2. No Chinatown sequels. If Towne couldn’t bring it off, nobody can. P.S. Wipe these emails.”

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About The Author:
Howard Jay Klein
Howard Jay Klein is a 25-year executive and consultant in the Atlantic City casino industry. He oversaw marketing, operations and entertainment for Caesar's and Trumps' Taj Mahal and created Grandstand Under The Stars for outdoor concerts with Sinatra, Bennett, Dylan, Chicago, Springsteen and others. He publishes Casino Management Review and writes novels.
Doubles 3

Doubles
Part Three

by John Kane

The Hollywood agent learns that every offer comes with consequences. 1,813 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Cliff crossed Mulholland and drove into the Valley, through Sherman Oaks, past Studio City. As he passed through the cemetery gates, he saw the beautiful lawn and how expertly it had been maintained. The network of streets was challenging, but the Hollywood agency chief had a map with him. Five minutes later, he was kneeling and staring at a stone that read: EDWARD A. GEHR 1931 – 1987, Beloved Husband and Father.

Cliff knew he should cry, but what he felt instead was an absence. The absence of a father who had always been on the road selling insurance. And the absence of a boy who had covered up his hurt and come to understand that a father isn’t always there. But had it really been necessary for Cliff to skip his Dad’s funeral to exact revenge?

The tenpercenter leaned over and touched the headstone. “I’m sorry, Dad. I shouldn’t have missed your funeral. I should have” – and here Cliff choked for a second – “loved you more. I miss you. Dad.”

Cliff pulled back his hand and let the lump in his throat dissipate. How long had he promised himself he would do this? Well, now it was done and who was to say that be wouldn’t do it again in another month?

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About The Author:
John Kane
John Kane is the author of the comic novels Best Actress (published in six languages and made into a cable TV film) and Somebody Is Killing The Trophy Wives Of Beverly Hills. His play The Eleven O’Clock Number won several prizes. He has been an entertainment publicist for HBO, FX, Showtime, United Artists, AIP and Solters Roskin.
Doubles 2 Alternative

Doubles
Part Two

by John Kane

The Hollywood agent decides to go for it. 2,134 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


They threaded their way through the warren of tiny Chinatown streets, past chicken wire crates of bok choy and racks of silk kimonos for sale, and wound up at a noodle shop that Mr. A was fond of. He smoked while Cliff asked questions.

“How can my double know how to behave?”

“Your brain waves and emotions are digitally transferred to your double. He is acting out your feelings, so he always does what you would do in a situation.”

“How do I know what he’s doing while I’m off playing?”

“We provide you with a video that’s recorded everything your double does. You need only view it to be aware of what has transpired.”

“What if my double malfunctions or breaks down?”

“You have so many questions, Mr. Gehr,” responded Mr. A. “In three decades of business, with over two thousand international clients, that has never happened.”

“How expensive is this?” inquired Cliff.

“Very. Now have some of the chow fun. The sauce is delicious,” said Mr. A as he scraped a bounty of soft noodles onto Cliffs plate.

“As a Hollywood agent, I negotiate everything,” Cliff stated firmly. “Give me your opening price.”

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About The Author:
John Kane
John Kane is the author of the comic novels Best Actress (published in six languages and made into a cable TV film) and Somebody Is Killing The Trophy Wives Of Beverly Hills. His play The Eleven O’Clock Number won several prizes. He has been an entertainment publicist for HBO, FX, Showtime, United Artists, AIP and Solters Roskin.