Category Archives: Big Media

The Streaming Service
Part Two

by Steven Mallas

Anna pitched The Streaming Service what she was told no one should ever, ever, do. 1,501 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Anna had been forced into participating. In terms of any successes prior, she didn’t really have any because she was basically still in high school when she was drafted by The Streaming Service. For years she had thought that The Streaming Service was a laudable institution. Who didn’t love to binge-watch mindless entertainment? It was simply part of being American. In fact, she remembered being fascinated by it when she was younger, watching with her family, enjoying herself whenever a new series would come along.

She even fantasized what it would be like to be one of those creators. Imagine: making money by thinking up stories, a sweet deal generating a high net worth based on simply writing bibles and treatments and screenplays and the like. It was everyone’s dream. The Service became a driver for new online colleges devoted to turning out the next generation’s writers and producers. Student loan debt inflated in this particular area at a higher rate than monies doled out for more traditional curriculums such as the ubiquitous MBA.

But when the drafting process came along, even she knew as a young person that something was not as it seemed. Volunteering to make content for a YouTube channel was one thing, as was submitting a screenplay for consideration to an agent. These were opportunities you chose to seek. Once it became a potentially mandatory career, Anna’s thinking on the subject changed 180 degrees. It amazed her how the public went along with it, or at least it seemed that way to her. When single-payer health care was put before the electorate, there would be nonsensical screaming devoted to freedoms being abridged. But being forced to write entertainment for a company that was already rich beyond all measure? Sign everyone up. What did it matter if someone couldn’t afford surgery so long as the sitcom was ensured?

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The Streaming Service
Part One

by Steven Mallas

What if a streaming service took over the country, and maybe the world? 1,740 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Anna walked into the Pitching Room. She was nervous. Perspiring. It was a pretty normal reaction. Seated before her were three Evaluators. It was like a parole board. Or an appellate court bench. Except she wasn’t accused of a crime. She was valedictorian of her high school class. She was a good girl. It was simply her time. Her lottery number was called up in the draft. She was selected by The Streaming Service. And she needed to hit a home run in this pitching session.

Or else.

“I have an idea for something called Unboxing.”

The Evaluators were stone. They were among the most powerful individuals. Their time was not to be wasted.

From The Streaming Service: A History: “Consolidation in the media industry was rampant for many years until all major studios were placed under one corporate roof. All the tech companies also were gathered together. All the FANG stocks were taken off the public markets. AT&T, with Warner Bros., was a hard one to swallow, but it finally got the memo. Apple eventually bought it all, and then acquired Disney, the latter having never ceased its incessant mission of becoming bigger and bigger, even after Robert Iger finally retired and became POTUS.

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Hollywood Roadkill

by Richard Natale

A humongous Hollywood merger has unforeseen consequences for all involved. 2,559 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Margaret Sewell sighed as she sat across from her friend, Lou Delray, at the Fox studio commissary’s outdoor 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3patio. She had little appetite and barely touched her salad. “My boss said, ‘I wish I could take you with me.’ And he didn’t even bother to try and sound sincere. Then he gave me a holiday gift card to Neiman-Marcus. As if that was supposed to make me feel better. ‘Hey, clown,’ I wanted to say, ‘how about a gift card to Ralphs, so’s I can buy some food after I start collecting unemployment in 2018.’”

Lou was only half-listening. He hadn’t filed for unemployment since losing his first job right after college. For the past twenty years he’d been a teamster driver on a succession of studio TV and film projects. The studio facilities would remain and his boss, Henry, claimed Lou had “nothing to worry about.” But when your boss tells you not to worry, that’s precisely the time to start making other plans.

With the departure of the television and movie production units, sooner or later, probably sooner, something was bound to give. And that usually meant the older and more expensive workers.

“They’re saying that, after the merger, ten thousand jobs are going to be lost in all. Screw Murdoch and screw Iger twice,” Margaret said as she threw her salad into the trash. A number of heads turned and nodded, some eyes rolled, and a couple of mouths uttered sarcastic laughs.

Buoyed by the reaction, Margaret added, “I might as well tattoo ‘Roadkill’ on my forehead. Am I right?”

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A Collector’s Tale

by Barbara Guggenheim

This new mogul may be expert in Big Media business but now he’s being schooled by the art world. 2,819 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Luck was with Pincus “Pinky” Peterman that day. Here he was, CEO and the largest shareholder of one of the 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3biggest entertainment conglomerates in the world, including a film studio, television network, and a lot of new Silicon Valley ventures he didn’t totally understand. And now he’d acquired a prized online news service. Immediately some CNBC analysts said once again he’d purchased at too high a price. At first Pinky was hurt and depressed. After 24 hours, he snapped out it. He may have overpaid for what he’d bought so far, but he’d also learned a lot. An education, he realized, always comes at a price. Besides, he was the newest Big Media mogul and about to enjoy it.

Tonight, he found himself at a posh dinner party seated next to the most exquisite leggy blonde he’d ever seen. Not bad for a 48-year-old guy from Merrick on Long Island, he thought to himself, enjoying the view as his dinner partner shifted in her seat and allowed her skirt to ride up a little further so he could see what pleasure lay beneath.

Then the impossible happened. Somewhere between the appetizer and the main course, this vision named Natasha Rostova ran her fingers lightly down his thigh. Could he dare to imagine what would happen later? Peterman knew he was short, paunchy, and balding and that this was happening because his hostess had told Natasha that he was powerful and worth billions of dollars. But he didn’t care. His heart — and other parts — were pounding in rhythmic overdrive.

As Natasha lifted her manicured fingers from his thigh, she handed him a card which announced that she was the director of the Michael Simeon Gallery. As it happened, Pinky’s decorator had just started his huge new Holmby Hills home, and there were lots of bare walls crying out for art. After all, he was a mogul now and needed all the high-end accoutriments.

He suggested that Natasha check out his needs — all of them — by having dinner with him at the house the following evening.

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Self Promotion
Part Two

by Mark Fearing

A TV VP who jumped up the corporate ladder finds out that the HR head is on to him. 2,399 words. Part One. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.

Pulling into the Conglom Worldwide Entertaindom garage the next morning, the newly self-promoted Vice President of Domestic Television Production, Original Programming and New Material noticed his freshly painted name on the wall. The first floor parking spot was carpeted on this level, which made it nicer than Bruce Walker’s living room.

He rode the elevator with Stacy, the head of HR on the fifth floor.

“Bruce, I see the parking spot was taken care of.”

“Yes, thanks so much for your help.”

“Well, that’s my job. To be there for the employees. It just amazes me that your promotion was issued so quickly,” Stacy pressed.

“I told you it went through a month ago. Took that long for it to get on the phone list.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Stacy disputed. “If it happened a month ago, I’d have received an Executive Assistant Jobs Posting, something that can only come from the Heaven floors. I have only one from last month and your assistant wasn’t on it.”

Bruce knew to never trust HR. They may say they are on your side, but they know who pays the bills for those holiday parties and open bars.

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Self Promotion
Part One

by Mark Fearing

Hollywood wannabes grow tired of climbing the corporate ladder. So this guy jumped. 2,601 words. Part Two. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.

On another beautiful Los Angeles morning, Bruce Walker pulled into a parking space a little before 9:00 a.m. He parked on the Basement 9 floor which was actually eleven levels down but entertainment corporations have their own way of looking at numbers. As a halftime coordinator and part-time reader for Entertainer Entertainment, Bruce was lucky he even got to park in the headquarters.

Entertainer Entertainment created everything and anything that ended up on TV. A dozen years ago, the company was bought by Conglom Worldwide Entertaindom and now the “Conglom” building, as it was called, took up three blocks in every direction and was topped by a rooftop garden for the enjoyment of the almost unseen executives who worked on the 8th and 9th floors. This elite area was called Heaven.

Cathy sat at the front desk coolly answering, transferring and chatting, using a phone control pad that belonged on the space shuttle. Cathy had been up front for longer than Bruce had worked there. She was smart, efficient, good-humored and did her thankless work so well that she would never be promoted beyond it. So much for excelling at your job.

Most everyone ignored Cathy, but Bruce enjoyed spending a few minutes each morning receiving her rundown on everything happening in the building. “Three calls came in for Swain this morning from the Heaven floors,” Cathy confided, leaning over the front of the desk in mock dramatic fashion. “I think your favorite boss is having a tough time.”

“Maybe the six-hour lunches are finally catching up with him,” Bruce replied. “I don’t know why he doesn’t just use the restaurant on Robertson as his business address.”

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Day Of The Dead

by John Kane

Television executives know what it is to work for horrible bosses. Then there’s Niles. 2,261 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

The electronic display on his alarm clock read 4:13 a.m. when Peter Hallerman awoke in his heavily mortgaged home in Encino Hills. The emptiness in his stomach, the kind you get when someone breaks up with you or the doctor gives you bad news, made trying to go back to sleep futile. Careful not to wake his wife, Peter grabbed his grey terrycloth Polo robe and walked downstairs to the dining room.

He pulled a deck of cards out of a drawer in the dining room table and began to play solitaire. The ritualistic quality of the game, red on black, black on red, one match leading to another, lulled him into a contented stupor. His father had always told him that playing cards was a great way to relax. “And remember,” his dad, thirty one years a bus driver in New Jersey used to tell him, “it’s not the hand you’re dealt. It’s the way you play it. You make your own luck.”

Peter paused, not sure which pile to pick. And then it occurred to him: what did it matter? He let the card drop to the table. He would be at GPTV in four hours. That was all that really mattered.

GPTV was the brainchild of Auguste Gaumont, a French billionaire who had moved into broadcasting when he bought a second rate cable channel and decided to turn it into an American television network. Like Steve Ross and Sumner Redstone, Auguste had made his original fortune in another business. That business was urinals, which accounted for his company’s name, Gaumont Pissoirs. Naming the network GPTV seemed a way around that, and the marketing department went further, dubbing GPTV “the sixth network.” That backfired when many people in the industry began to call it “the sixth sense,” implying that GPTV was dead as a business only it didn’t know it yet.

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The Invisible

by Richard Natale

As protector and pal to a Hollywood VIP, he did everything the boss asked. Everything. 3,470 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

If you look at any photo of the famous media mogul Magnus Byers taken over the past thirty years, chances are I’m in it. Not my face. No, never my face. But my arm, my shoulder or my flank. Right there next to the boss (I always call him boss, never Mr. Byers, and for sure not Magnus).

I’m there but at the same time invisible. And indispensable.

I’m not tooting my horn here. Just stating the facts. I contributed to his success from the very start and in ways that only he can appreciate. I know the boss better than anybody, better than my parents – and they gave birth to me. I know the good stuff and the bad stuff and he knows I know. But he trusts me. And I never gave him reason not to.

Hardly anybody outside Magnus Byers’ close circle knows my name or exactly what my responsibilities are. Most of them think I’m his bodyguard, just some big tough who doesn’t say much probably because I’m a little soft in the head. And that suits me fine. Keeps them from asking questions. Annoying questions. Awkward questions.

I don’t like being asked questions.

Except for some hoax kidnapping threat about twenty years ago, keeping people out of the boss’s face is the least of my duties. I just step out front, fold my arms and give them the old stare down. They back off pretty quick. Just the same, I always keep a sidearm handy. Perfectly legit. Got a permit and everything. Practice firing it every week at the Beverly Hills Gun Club. My aim is still dead-on, even after all these years. Yeah, I’d take a bullet for him. What of it?

The boss created, bought and sold newspapers, TV and radio stations, movie theaters, casinos, resorts, satellite and internet. His finger in every pie and made more dough out of it than any of his competitors. Men looked up to him, wanted to be him. Women were impressed by him, even the ones who eventually tried to suck him dry. He was feared and respected but rarely loved. Even by his own kids. Especially by his own kids. Five of them. By three different wives. They barely tolerated each other. Their only common goal was waiting for him to kick the bucket and destroying everything he built. Talk about a lack of respect.

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Eyes On Nero
Part Two

by Morgan Hobbs

A writer and a studio mogul continue their conversation – with unpredictable results. 2,136 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Of course, the exploding head hung over their meeting like a burning air ship, coating everything in sparks and glowing shrapnel and flames, impregnating every exchange between them. Nero knew that the writer Richard Blow knew that the matter simply would never come up for discussion.

Blow had been summoned, through his agent, to Nero’s secluded Bel Air lair the very next day. The enormous butler escorted the writer without ado down a winding hallway that led to a large high ceilinged chamber deep within the house. A smartly dressed young woman with red hair sat just outside operating a conference phone that was lit up like an alien spacecraft. She pressed the buttons with one hand, opening and closing and merging lines, transferring calls to distant area codes in outer space, controlling the console without looking at the keys.

With much aplomb, and perfect posture, her eyes never leaving the computer screen, Regina connected a man’s voice, a West Coast voice.

Man: “The California financing is pulling out. The Texas money is hung up in the Suez. The French fuckers are getting cold feet. The Asian thinks he’s gonna be left holding the bag. “

Nero: “I’m sending someone to Hong Kong to hold his hand.”

Man: “Gonna take more than hand holding at this point.”

Blow waited in the wings, playing the part of the fly on the wall as he indulged this rare opportunity to observe the maestro at work. To the untrained ear, the sounds would have been indistinguishable from the unholy din at any big production company or agency where an army of self-important hacks rolled call after call in a ham-fisted attempt to throw a million gallons of shit against the wall and see what stuck. But, in the span of a few minutes, Blow witnessed a dozen films born, the master tossing together the critical elements of directors, writers, actors, locations, producers, budgets, second act cliffhangers as quickly and deftly as Picasso applied his palimpsests of Cubist black magic onto virgin canvasses.

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Eyes On Nero
Part One

by Morgan Hobbs

Heads spin when a writer and studio mogul start conversing during a pitch meeting. 2,160 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

The writer stepped out of the glass elevator and approached the receptionist’s desk. “Richard Blow. I have an 11:30 with Heller and Nero.”

“Good morning, Mr. Blow. Please have a seat. I’ll let Mr. Heller know that you’ve arrived.”

Blow nodded and parked himself under the Rothko. He sat in the chair with a hint of a smile, looking focused but relaxed for what was sure to be yet another ordinary pitch meeting, filled with promise but ending in no result. The receptionist offered water. Blow politely declined. He picked up a magazine, the latest issue of Vanity Fair, and opened it to an interview with the actor du jour Tony Billings. At first glance, the article was the usual puff piece.

After a time, Heller appeared. Blow stood up, and the two shook hands. They’d met before, in previous meetings and on conference calls. They’d run into each other at parties. They had a mutual friend in a talent agent at International Artists. Heller mentioned over drinks at the Peninsula that they were looking for some fresh material. The agent passed along Blow’s name, calling him a super creative guy stuck churning out sitcoms but trying to break into features. He’d written three or four scripts that got some serious looks. He’s developing a story that sounds right up Heller’s alley. Sort of a romantic thriller. Give him a meeting.

Heller set it up through Blow’s manager after watching several episodes of the sitcom. The writing was pretty good — smart and funny. The story had a few surprises but nothing that suggested Blow could handle an original feature. Sitcom writing was formula writing. Features followed a formula, too, but the lack of strict conventions, established characters, running storyline, often presented a daunting task for writers accustomed to the series format. Still, Nero wanted fresh material and fresh faces.

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Silverberg’s Ghost

by Howard Jay Klein

Who will succeed this ailing Big Media chairman/CEO? Only the board knows. 3,042 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

Dennis Medwick was up at six, peering through the bedroom window of his Bel Air home, watching the gleaming black Tesla pull up the driveway and stop, idling to a barely audible purr. He heard stirring and saw his wife Sandra, habitually a late Saturday morning riser, already sitting up, propped on her elbows, sleep mask off.

"What’s with you?" he asked, glancing at his watch. "It’s midnight Sandra time."

She ignored his gibe. "Bert here yet?"

"Outside. I’d better get moving. You know, it’s gang warfare day."

"I’m still baffled by all this," she said, swinging her legs off the bed. "You’re the studio head. You made more money than any of the ten morons who came before you. You’re going to be CEO, chairman, macher-in- chief, Dennis. Period," she said, lacing her arms across her chest. "I’m confident that sanity will ultimately prevail — even in this looney town." After a reflective pause, she added, "Doesn’t it?"

"We’ll see," he laughed, padding across to the bathroom.

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The Big Picasso

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

A scandal-plagued Big Media mogul has a painting problem. Guess who investigates? 2,772 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

Allegra Chandler sashayed through the Polo Lounge like she owned the place. And, judging by the number of swiveling heads, she certainly owned the room. Why the hell not? She was movie star gorgeous, with an aura of insouciant sexiness and steely self-confidence that let the world know she was a woman who wasn’t afraid to spit in its eye.

As she zig-zagged across the outdoor patio, Allegra flashed a warm smile at the man who occupied a table in the far corner. He could see she was an absolute knockout. But he also knew she was more than that: whip smart, elegantly graceful, and as mysterious and complex as a movie studio’s profit and loss statement.

“Hello, McNulty,” Allegra said, brushing her lips against his.

“Still turning heads, I see,” the Hollywood private eye responded as Allegra sat down. “Martini?”

“Are they good?”

“Must be,” McNulty replied, beckoning a waiter with a wave of his hand. “The urinals are filled with olive pits.”

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Programming Futility

by Mark Fearing

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A reality executive gives the presentation of his career. 2,201 words. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.

Marty Nordin was sweating at his desk. He had a presentation due in 10 minutes and it wasn’t just unfinished but he hadn’t even begun to write it. It would be his last opportunity to keep his job. Because he couldn’t count on the shows he had developed to save him.

Some 13-year-old boy in Norway was getting 19 million views per week on a YouTube video while Marty’s series on the Watch-it! Network were lucky to attract 35,000. Fuck. And what was the kid doing that was so goddamned compelling? Playing a kazoo and simultaneously playing a video game. Crap.

Marty was 48 years old and had spent his entire adult life trying to create a hit TV series. To be honest, he’d really spent most of that time just trying to stay employed. But making a hit was the goal. He had tried at one point to develop quality dramas, but he had ended up in reality shows just like everybody else with half a brain. Scripted TV was deemed too formal. Viewers no longer wanted beginnings, middles and ends. They wanted chaotic stuff stitched together.

He could thank the cable industry’s package pricing for the proliferation of channels like the Watch-it! Network that get less than 50,000 viewers. Marty was responsible for developing Eat-it! where several people ate gross stuff and made each other eat gross stuff and then talked about eating gross stuff. And he launched Play-it!, a show with a room of “famous” people with very different POVs on life playing board games until it disintegrated into name calling and brawling. Shove-it! didn’t even make it past pilot but Marty felt it had more dramatic arc than anything on YouTube, dammit.

Now the pressure was on. New bosses. Ratings that sucked. A media landscape that just didn’t make sense anymore. The channel was being shopped to whichever buyer took control of a chunk of Congruent which was the giant corporation that owned the corporation that owned the Watch-it! Network. Between the corporate bullshit and the kids on YouTube, Marty was starting to think it time to get a real estate license. How long did that take?

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Abraham’s Gun

by Rich Johnston

What happens at the nexus of comic books and films when fan boys and moguls meet? 3,086 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.

Abraham Zimmer, the reclusive Israeli owner of Myriad Comics, felt the weight against his chest as he leaned back hard in his chair. It was a very useful weight, reminding him of the here and now, the knowledge that at any time he could just pull the pistol from his holster, pull back the safety and shoot a hole right through the forehead of this Californian prick asking for more money.

But it also took him back 50 years, to a time of blacker/whiter morality. It was him against the world, armies on all sides, and there were only six days needed to push back all-comers and change the world forever.

He wasn’t going to shoot anyone. Not today. Anyway, strangulation was always so much better in these circumstances. Bullets cost money.

Abe had a reputation for being a penny-pinching boss, though some called him pathologically greedy along with volatile. But it was a cred he had purposefully created, because he was always teaching lessons. Like the time he had waited until everybody was in the Myriad Comics office before he started screaming about the use of too many Post-It notes. The same when he roasted the editor-in-chief over booking a car service just because he left the office for home at two in the morning. Abe didn’t give a shit about those individual examples. What, was he a psychopath or something? But over the next quarter, office costs came down by half a million. The quarter after that, by a whole million. He never had to make those cuts himself; everybody did it for him.

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