“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” (W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. ix final chapter

Delta Again
Stepping out of Louis Armstrong airport, Ryan takes a moment to acknowledge the irony as his younger, over-eager assistant is trying to rent a car for the long drive to Delta, Mississippi. Worried that he would attempt to talk to Sammy, Ryan’s crew insisted he take someone along on the trip. The two men were supposed to meet with some county officials about using the site near Delta that Jackie daydreamed about using for the last scene of “Banshees.” Miffed by their refusal to let him go it alone, Ryan chose the newest, youngest member of the production company to accompany him, knowing the kid would not stand in the way of his main objective, which was of course to go see Sammy. Ryan intends to bring Sammy back to LA with him. He cannot imagine anyone else but Sammy playing the third banshee, which he plans to use as the leader of the killer trio.
Not that he was expecting it, but he is scarcely surprised to see Bobby Ray, Buck the mechanic’s brother-in-law among the county’s delegation. Ryan himself was on good terms with Bobby Ray, but he was unsure if the very large and obviously very influential man was aware of his former associate’s transgressions with his wife. If he was, he didn’t let on. Wrapping Ryan’s hand inside of his baseball glove-sized mitt and shaking vigorously, he welcomed the two men to take a seat. The meeting goes well, the only sticking points being the preservation of the swamplands area and the portrayal of the people of the areas in and around Delta. Ryan assures the group that he will hire a local ecologist to keep the crew on their toes as far as setting up equipment and such. Satisfied with this solution, they moved on to the other point. Bobby Ray especially is concerned about this. He starts by saying, look, we’re Southerners, we understand what our role was in this little skirmish. We just want to make sure that you all don’t make us out to be stupid hillbilly hicks or some such nonsense. Ryan responds by saying, what if we do a screening here in Delta, say a couple of months before the movie opens, giving me time to make any necessary changes to the script. We could do it at the Delta Motel and Hawley’s could cater the event, all paid for by our company, of course. We could even fly in some of the actors for a meet and greet. Would you be amenable to that? The men waste little time in discussion before agreeing, knowing this would bring a much needed infusion of cash to the still struggling community.
Leaving the county courthouse building where the meeting took place, the young assistant starts to turn the car back towards the airport. Ryan stops him and says, let’s swing by the site, take a look. Encouraged by the thought of being let in to the process a little bit, the assistant relents (knowing his main objective here is to keep Ryan away from Sammy) and turns the opposite way, heading towards the town of Delta. Ryan instructs him to stop about halfway between the county seat and Delta. As they pull over, he says, yep this is it. The director and his ward get out of the car and stare out across the lush, green swampland. Ryan, like Jackie before him can envision the ending scene of the movie where the banshees will be executed. Realizing the younger man is unable to grasp the scene, Ryan says, you have to see it at dusk…I guess. Getting back in the car, Ryan says, I’m hungry, you? I could eat, the kid says. Great, I know a place.

Ryan points him towards the town and too tired or hungry, now that he thought about it, the kid obliges silently forgetting his objective. They pass the sign with the 3D catfish welcoming them to Delta and Ryan, wanting to walk, has him pull the car over. They begin to walk towards Hawley’s (the kid unaware that this is where Ryan first met Sammy.) Passing Buck’s, Ryan is stopped by the call of, Hollywood? That you? Well, I’ll be…Buck says.
Wiping his oily hands on the towel strung through a loop of his overalls he reaches out his hand to Ryan. Whatchoo doin’ back here? He asks. I was in the neighborhood, Ryan says. Buck laughs and says, good to see you anyways, you going to Hawley’s? Yeah, we’re looking for some good grub, he says. Nodding towards his assistant, he says this is Jimmy, Jimmy, Buck. Buck shakes Jimmy’s hand and says, gotta get back to work. Ryan looks in the garage to see the same pickup truck sitting inside the shop the last time he was here. See ya ‘round Hollywood, Jimmy, Buck says. Bye Buck, Ryan says. The men enter the diner and Ryan shouts. Afternoon everyone,  much to Jimmy’s surprise. Everyone shouts back, afternoon Hollywood.
Miss Betty looks up and smiles at him, tipping her head towards the back of the diner. There stood Sammy taking an order, pretending not to notice the two men sliding into an empty booth. She finishes the order and glances over to their booth, where Ryan sits smiling and Jimmy is pouring over the menu, wide-eyed. Sammy walks to the counter to put in her order then comes to their table offering her best service with a smile attitude. Hey there, stranger, she says to Ryan. Who’d ya bring with you this time? This is Jimmy, Ryan says, turning his coffee cup over. Hi Jimmy, she says pouring Ryan’s coffee. Coffee? She asks Jimmy. No ma’am, thank you. Oh, he’s cute, Hollywood. Where’d ya get him? Ignoring the question, Ryan asks, how are you doing? You alright? Sure, I’m fine, how’s Hollywood? Fine. Ryan says as Jimmy buries his head in the menu once again. Ya’ll gonna order? Sammy asks. Yeah, Ryan says, gimme the special. Unable to decide, Jimmy says, I’ll have the same. Be back in a jiff, she says, walking away.
Watching her flitting around the diner and joking and trash talking with the diners, Ryan comes to the realization that she really is okay. He knows that she will make sure she is happy and gets the most out of whatever life she chooses for herself. She returns a few minutes later with their food and refills Ryan’s coffee. He says things around here really don’t change much do they? Nope, she says. But I kinda like it that way. What about your story? He wants to know. I’m still working on it, she says, smiling.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. viii Starlet

Sammy returns to LA amid much fanfare, it seems that news has traveled fast from Montana. Her name is on everybody’s lips. Besides Dairy Queen Princess being touted as capturing contemporary, rural, southern, white America, Sammy is being praised for her work in the film. She implores her agent to find her some more roles, trying to ride this wave. Waiting for her next big role, she does a few more commercials but she is tiring of those. She feels like she is ready to be a movie star, her sole reason for coming out here. Her agent tries to get her some movie work, but the only roles being offered to Sammy are those that cast her as a displaced, southern, wanna-be valley girl. Desperate for a break, she relents and takes a couple of the parts, which only leads others in the business to believe this is the only role she can play. Frustrated, she tries to reach out to Ryan. He seems to be working all the time and she can not get him directly. She has to go through an assistant, who she thinks is keeping her from him.
Ryan, in comparison is doing extremely well. He has become Hollywood’s “it” director, the guy everyone wants to work with. Inspired by his success with Dairy Queen Princess, he quickly scratches out another screenplay, this one based on his short story collection about his experiences in New York. As promised, another low budget flick produced with Blue Rooster, which has grown in size since Montana. While the new film does not win any awards, it does very well on the indie circuit across the country.
Feeling confident, Ryan decides to go see Bobby De Cristo. He is determined to get Bobby to let him finish the Civil War movie he and JC worked on. He meets Bobby in his office at his father’s old house. Hey Cooper, Mr. Hollywood these days, how are you? Bobby asks when Ryan pulls up to the house. I’m good, he answers. That’s what I hear, says Bobby. Saw your films, great work man, I loved ‘em. Thanks Bobby, I’m glad to hear that. He places his arm around Ryan’s shoulder, leading him into the house. What can I do for you? Bobby wants to know. Well, I’m hoping you’ll give me a shot at directing the movie that JC started. You mean the Banshee movie? Hmmph, he says as he leans back on his sofa. After a moment of silence, he sits forward again and says, Why not? It’s yours, if you want it, but it seems to be a cursed thing to me, you sure about this? Yeah, I am, Ryan assures him. The men make an informal agreement to be finished up later, Ryan’s main stipulation being that he wants Blue Rooster to be involved in production.
Ryan can’t wait to get started on the project. He tells his assistant to try to get in touch with Sammy. He wants her to play one of the banshees. The others at Blue Rooster, his personal assistant included are not as confident in Sammy’s abilities as Ryan. They waste little effort in trying to reach Sammy, all the while suggesting many an up and coming actress to play the banshees. Many of the roles are being stocked by De Cristo’s studios casting agents, but Ryan digs his heels in when it comes to filling the last banshee spot, he wants Sammy.  Frustrated with the efforts of those around him, he decides to find Sammy himself.
He tries calling her several times before finally going to her apartment. He knocks on her door a few times to no avail. Just as he turns to leave someone emerges from the apartment across the hall. At first glance, Ryan thinks its Sammy, but realizes it’s just another struggling actress trying to make her way in Hollywood. Hey. You’re looking for Sammy? She asks Ryan. Yeah, do you know her? He asks the girl. Yeah, kind of, we’ve partied together, she answers. Have you seen her recently? He wants to know. No, not for a week or so, she told me she was heading home. Okay, thanks, he says, turning to go. Sure, she calls out to his back. You know I do a little acting, if you’re looking. I’ll keep it in mind uhhh…Stacey, she tells him. Stacey. Right, okay then, bye, Stacey. Bye she says, beaming.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. vii-Montana Moon

Montana Moon
While Ryan and Sammy are enjoying their time together in LA, Jackie begins to experience troubles with the movie. There are budget issues and deadlines missed and some historical inaccuracies that need to be worked out. Despite Ryan’s help, it all gets to be too much for Jackie. He can feel it all slipping away from him and he turns back to his old friend, booze. Ryan comes to the office one day to find Jackie passed out on his desk and an empty bottle on the floor. After some cajoling, Ryan gets JC to admit himself back into his old rehab facility. What about my movie? JC asks. Don’t worry about that, I talked to Bobby and he said it’s been on hold for twenty years, it’ll keep a little longer. Ryan drives Jackie to New Mexico and drops him off at the Desert Sky Resort. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, JC, he says. Yeah, okay kid, see ya. Jackie says.
Two weeks later Ryan shows up at the resort with Sammy but is turned away when one of the counselors tells them that Jackie is in no shape for visitors, suggesting he needs a couple more weeks. They make the long drive back to LA with a side trip to the Grand Canyon, which neither had seen, despite Ryan’s proximity to the landmark. After a night in a cheap motel, spent making love, they hit the road again. He drops Sammy off at her new apartment and she invites him up. Some other time, he says. I should try to get some work done so we can jump right back in to it when JC gets back. Okay, talk to ya soon, she says, leaning in to kiss his cheek. Bye Sammy.
Two more weeks go by and Ryan heads back to New Mexico, this time alone. He is allowed to visit, but JC still seems despondent. Ryan tells him that he is here to take him back. They have a movie to work on. JC states that he doesn’t care about the movie or anything else anymore. He tells Ryan to go away and leave him alone. He goes on to say that he needs to be away from the madness of the outside world. Exasperated, Ryan leaves without Jackie.
With the extra time on his hands, Ryan finishes the script he started in Mississippi, which he is calling Dairy Queen Princess. The movie is based on a small town southern girl going to Chicago on a whim, and trying to make her way. He shops it around and is turned down by every studio in town. Usually because they see it as a low-budget, indie-type film and don’t want to stick money into something that won’t earn profits, not because of the quality of the work, he is assured. After some time has passed, a man comes to see Ryan, introducing himself as Monty Milsap. It seems he was contacted by someone at another studio who thought that Ryan’s script would be a good fit for his production company. He hands Ryan a business card with a blue chicken on it and the words Blue Rooster Film Co. scratched across the bottom, supposedly by this shabbily drawn fowl. He goes on to tell Ryan that his small company was struggling but had just gained entry to a new small film festival to be held in Montana this fall. Milsap assures the young filmmaker that he can keep all creative control in exchange for the right to produce and market the film under his company’s label. Ryan quickly agrees to this arrangement, mainly because he knows this is probably the only chance he has to cast Sammy in the lead role, which is how he always imagined it when he was writing the script. Ryan is excited to be working on something of his own and Sammy is excited to finally get a real role in a real movie and the lead, no less. Through a flurry of favors promised and cashed in with his many contacts in the biz, filming is completed with little trouble.
Monty, feeling very good about the film, charters a plane to fly him and Ryan and Sammy to Montana for the festival. Having never heard of Monty before meeting him at his apartment, Ryan is impressed by some of the people that Monty introduces them to, on the streets of the skiing town they walked. Actors, directors and writers of varying status were swarming the town, nearly doubling its population for the week they are there. The first two days are filled with workshops and meet and greet type of events. Monty tells everyone they see to keep an eye out for their film and to remember Ryan’s name because he was going to be a big star someday. The films are to be shown over the next three days. Dairy Queen Princess is being shown on the third day. Monty is excited about their film being shown on the last day, hoping that it would stick in the judge’s minds. Ryan became more and more nervous as they watched all the great films being displayed. He honestly could not say that he disliked any of them. Monty’s way of assuring him was to point out all the mistakes that the other filmmakers made. Sammy says, don’t worry babe, none of them got me in ’em.
The day after all the films are shown, there is a dinner and reception for all the guests of the festival. The next day is another dinner where the awards would be presented, three in total, the grand prize dubbed the Crescent is a silver crescent moon shaped trophy. At the first dinner, Ryan receives many congratulations and well wishes from the other guests for his film. One in particular that he relishes is from one of his favorite directors, who assures Ryan that he thinks his film will win. Ryan, gushing, can only say, thank you, shaking the director’s hand profusely. Buoyed by all the good cheer generated that night, Monty, Ryan and Sammy consume a lot of alcohol. Stumbling back to their rooms, Monty asks Ryan what his plans are moving forward. Ryan had to admit that the only plans he had at the moment were for sleep. Sammy interjects, saying, well, once I’m done with him. Laughing, Monty tells Ryan that he would like to work with him again. Not being in the mood to say no, to either of his cohorts, Ryan  says that sounds good to me. Alright, get some rest you two, big day tomorrow. Goodnight Monty, they sing in unison.
The next day they all meet up for lunch, having missed breakfast. After their meal, Sammy wants to do some shopping and drags Ryan along with her. Monty is meeting with some investors, so they make plans to meet up later for the awards dinner. Walking arm in arm down the streets gives Ryan a warm feeling. He starts to think that maybe he and Sammy can make something out of this “relationship.” The couple hit about twenty little boutiques in the quaint downtown before heading back to the hotel. Sensing Ryan’s nervousness over the upcoming awards ceremony, she decides to relieve his tension the best way she knows how. They fall asleep in each other’s arms after sex, waking only when hearing Monty knock on their door. You guys ready? He asks. Shit, Ryan says, scrambling out of bed. Just a minute. He opens the door, looking back to make sure Sammy is covered. How much time do we have, he asks. Not much.  Monty tells him. ’Bout half an hour. Okay, we’ll be right out, he says as he closes the door. They shower together to save some time. Sammy playfully keeps trying to reengage Ryan. We gotta go, he tells her. Okay, okay but later we’re doing this again, she makes him promise before she lets him go.
That night, Ryan barely eats anything due to his nerves. An hour after dinner is served the emcee takes the stage to get the ceremony started. They listen to the awards for shorts, documentaries and foreign films before finally getting to the main category. The tension has built up in Ryan’s stomach during all of this so that he feels like he has to throw up, luckily he hadn’t eaten much that day. The third and second place awards are handed out and Ryan figures that’s it, saying, oh well, we gave it a shot. Sammy punches his arm, saying, It ain’t over yet. Ryan, no longer paying attention to the stage, looks around the room, trying to figure who would win the Crescent when he hears, “Dairy Queen Princess” being shouted from the podium.  Shocked, he sits there dumbfounded as Sammy and Monty jump out of their seats, screaming. They each grab an arm, pulling Ryan up and the three of them walk onto the stage arm in arm in arm to accept the award. Monty gives a short speech, mostly lauding praises on Ryan and Sammy. Ryan only manages a thank you. As they start to walk off, Sammy leans into the mic and lets out a whoooohoooo!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. vi

Ryan and Lucy
Ryan was the only child born to a simple Midwestern couple who married and had a child late in life. His mother, Lucy was thirty- six and his father, Arthur was forty- two. When Ryan was nine his father died, after suffering a heart attack and stroke, leaving Lucy to raise their son alone. Unprepared for her husband’s death, she had to take on a second job, cleaning offices. Lucy would arrive home late in the evenings to fix a quick dinner and sit with her son to discuss their days. Ryan would read his stories to her as he rubbed her tired feet and she would tell him how proud she was. Often, they would sit and talk until they both fell asleep on the couch.
After high school graduation, Ryan attended the local university so he could stay close to his mother. Lucy used the money from her cleaning job to help him pay for college but the bills kept piling up on her. Ryan, not wanting to be a burden to her any longer told her he was taking a break from college. His plan was to work for a while and save up some of his own money to pay for school, if and when he decided to go back. Leaving school, Ryan took on an assortment of odd jobs… landscaping, bartending at a night club, golf caddy, often working two or three at a time. All the while he kept writing, mostly short stories. One day Lucy found one of his pieces and after reading it, truly realized her son’s talent. She always enjoyed his stories but she thought maybe it was just a mother’s love. She used to be in a book club with a few of the ladies from her church and got the idea of taking it to them. She asked them to read it without telling them it was written by her son, who they all knew. She wanted their unbiased opinions about it and knew they would all say they loved it if they knew it was Ryan’s. When she got back nothing but glowing reviews from the old book clubbers, she made up her mind to help him, though she didn’t know how just yet.
One day she was in her favorite bookstore and saw a poster advertising a short story contest for local writers. She was so excited, she nearly ran out of the store still carrying some books she forgot to pay for, after grabbing one of the flyers for the contest. Remembering at the final second, she placed the books she had in her hands on a table by the door, before hurrying home. She had already made a copy of the story just in case something like this came up. On the way home she read the flyer to see what she had to do. When she arrived home she took out the copy of his story and read it again, just to be sure. She then walked to the convenience store down the street to get a manuscript envelope and went back to the bookstore to drop off her entry with the ten dollar fee. The winner would earn $10,000 and get their story published in the city’s namesake magazine.
Three months later she received notice that Ryan’s story won the grand prize. Lucy could barely contain her excitement while standing in line at the bank, she was there to withdraw the money from an emergency fund she had. Her nerves were so bad that the guard asked her if she needed to sit down and offered her some water. She told him why she was there and about Ryan’s story. He stood with her as she moved through the line exchanging small talk about their kids and in his case, grandkids.
When Ryan got home that night, she had supper waiting for him. He asked why she wasn’t at work, if there was something wrong. No, she said, I just took the night off. I have something to tell you. OK, he said. Not now, she told him. Go wash up and come sit, we’ll talk over dinner. She told him about finding his story and showing it to some people and finally, the contest. He was a little upset at first, explaining that he didn’t think he was done with that piece, he thought he had some more tweaking to do. That’s when she started crying. He apologized and told her that he was not mad at her for doing what she did. I wouldn’t care she said, because you won. He sat staring at her in disbelief. Lucy got up and gave her son a hug and went to the bureau. She pulled out some papers and turned back to him still crying. In her hands she held a train ticket to New York and a bank envelope with some money inside. You’re going to New York? He asked her. No, you are, I figure that’s where good young writers go to hone their craft. Initially he refused his mother’s gift, but realizing it would break her heart if he did not pursue his own dreams, he gave in. When do I leave? He asked. He was off to live the writer’s life in New York.
He got a small apartment and a job as a mailroom clerk for a major insurance company, knowing that $10,000 wouldn’t go very far. Ryan loved New York. It was the perfect place for a fiction writer. Happiness and heartbreak in heavy doses lay around every corner. He loved being an anonymous cog in the inner workings of the city and immediately delved into his real work. He didn’t have many friends in the city, not in the normal sense anyway. There was Stan the newspaper guy, who always made sure to get his hometown paper as well as saving a Times for him. There was Sally, the girl who lived in the apartment below him and oddly enough, always seemed to be getting her mail at the same time as Ryan. There was Stavo, from his favorite diner who always had a smile and a coffee waiting for him and sometimes a daughter he was trying to marry off to any decent suitor, in hopes of discouraging her no good bum of a boyfriend from coming around. At work, his only friend was a kid named Billy from some small town in Indiana. Finding some common ground, being Midwest kids in the big city, they often took their lunch together and once in a while went out for drinks after work. These were just a few of the characters that colored his time in New York.
After a three year love affair with the city he was published and received a decent amount of money for his effort. It was a collection of short stories and essays about being a newcomer to New York. Many of his cohorts from the city found their way into his work. To celebrate, he took Billy out for a grand dinner. When he got back to his apartment that night, Sally was there, climbing out of a cab. Noticing Ryan she started to blush. He held the door open for her and she said thank you, meekly. Not wanting the night to end just yet, he asked her to his place for a nightcap. Surprisingly, she said yes. Neither said much in the elevator besides normal small talk of the weather and how their nights went, both of them coming from dinner.
Once inside, Ryan opened a bottle of wine and as it was consumed, they started talking more. He found out that she was a graduate film student at NYU and worked at the school in its archives department. She told him that she always imagined he was a writer, her only clue that he looked the part. Unsure of what that meant exactly, or how to respond, he leaned in for a kiss and she obliged. For two creative souls alone in the big city, one thing had to lead to another. The next morning after Sally returned to her apartment, Ryan called Lucy and they talked on the phone for a while before she asked, what’s next for you? I don’t know, maybe I’ll try to conquer Hollywood, he said. Go for it, she told him. Your father would be as proud of you as I am. She ended by telling him to keep chasing his dreams.
Two months later he was saying goodbye to Sally and Billy and regretfully telling Stavo that he was not taking his daughter (beautiful as she was) to LA with him. He also informed Stan that he was not going to need to get his hometown paper any longer. Everyone wished him well, even Sally who seemed most upset to see him go, even though nothing else happened after the one night they shared. So he packed up and moved to LA.  Another small apartment in a big city, but LA was different. Everything seemed plasticized including the people, almost like they were laminated to preserve a state of perfection as perceived in some 1950’s lifestyle magazine. He attempted to write a story about the gradual lamination of the world but had a hard time with the characters. How do you recreate a fake of a fake, he asked himself. Frustrated at being unable to write, he went in search of a job, thinking that might help to get him unstuck.
He wanted to work at a studio in some capacity but no one seemed to be hiring. One guy, feeling sorry for him gave him Jackie’s number. The guy told Ryan that he may be looking for some help so he gave him a call. They met for coffee two days later and Ryan had a job after half an hour. Jackie was just beginning the process of shooting a movie and needed an assistant. He liked Ryan right away, mostly because he was new to LA and untarnished by its crudity yet. So began his Hollywood career.