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Bang (part 6)

mic

Penelope tried to ignore the thoughts that kept running through her head. She worked on her resume for a while and then watched the news. Everyone was talking about the Hollywood Liberation Front, including the ladies on The View. Whoopi said that she could understand the frustration the young actors were experiencing.  Nicole said she thought the whole thing was just a publicity stunt and Miss Piggy, who was guest hosting said that she thought it was very sad that aspiring actors now-a-days wanted instant stardom rather than working their way up the way she had.

Penelope put on her sweat pants and jogged around the block ten times. She took a shower and got dressed. When she came out into the living room she could hear Tabitha and Billy who were sitting in the kitchen.

I wanted to do one of the shows focusing on how astromometry can help people, you know to raise awareness for people in like, Oklahoma who may not have access to some of the centers, but the producers wouldn’t let me. They said people wanted to escape from their problems when they watched television. Plus, the network has all these product placement deals that they do with companies and their just wasn’t time to talk about Astromometry. So I was struck down on two counts,” Tabitha said.

“That sucks, “Billy said. “But, you should be proud of yourself for caring in the first place. “

Penelope rolled her eyes, sat down on the couch trying not to make any sound.  Tabitha cared? Tabitha didn’t even realize she had been kidnaped she was an airhead, Penelope though.  The only thing impressive was that she even knew Oklahoma was a state. She felt like rushing into the kitchen and grilling Tabitha on current events. She couldn’t help but notice that in the entire time they had been together Billy had never once told her that she should be proud of herself for anything.

“This is really good soup, by the way,” Billy said.

“Thanks, my mom taught me the recipe. “

“Are you guys really close?”

“Yeah she’s like my best friend.”

Penelope wished Karen from here old job were there with them. She would have a field day making fun of Tabitha. They could spend an hour making fun of the way the starlet walked like she was on a runway all the time.

“That’s really cool. Penelope hardly even talks to her mother,” Billy said.

“Oh no, that’s sad.”

“Yeah, I think every woman needs to have a good relationship with her mother in order to be really well adjusted.”

Penelope felt her blood pressure rising. She calmed herself down by telling herself that Tabitha could do A LOT better than Billy and three weeks wasn’t really that long. Her thoughts were interrupted by Tabitha laughter which sounded like she was taking large gulps of air.

Josh and came back and said he had successfully hacked into Reality Now’s computers with a few tips from Mike. He had the e mail addresses and social security numbers of every producer on their staff. That evening Mike came over and Tabitha sat in Front of the computer again.

“Hello, America. Today, The Hollywood Liberation Front hacked into Reality Now’s computer system and found a great deal of personal information. There are several E mails that we are certain the producers and officers at the company would not want the public to see. We demand one week of age equality for background extras. That means that backgrounds on TV shows must  be comprised of fifty percent persons over forty on all productions for one week.”

After they were done filming the group retired to the kitchen for ice cream sundaes.

“In addition to all of their personal information we have a whole munch of e mails about not letting the show Constant Camera get “too dark,” Josh told them.

“The script was really funny tonight guys,” Tabitha said. I love the Idea of having these really goofy demands.

Time (part 12)

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Other me got up and began walking beside me.

“What where you going to do if I hadn’t shown up,” I asked her.

“I was just going to stay at the theater all day and night and then go have a meal at Denny’s at around 3:00 a.m. Then I was going to head back around sunrise,” she said.

“Well, for some reason doing that doesn’t end well,” I said.

“Right,” she said.

“We could just go back.”

“Together,” she asked.

“No, then there would be two of us. I mean you go back to 2013 and I’ll go back to 2014.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said.

“I mean, I think it’s probably the best idea don’t you? God only knows what happens to you.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Is there something wrong,” I asked.

“Look, let me ask you this she said, what do you think of Tom?”

“I think…I mean he seems nice.”

“Really?”

“Well, he seemed a little standoffish…,” I began carefully. “But that’s probably because he didn’t get to know me …”

“I’m afraid you …I mean we just traded one abusive relationship for another.”

“Yeah, well he didn’t seem so thrilled when he found out we were together,” I admitted.

“Yeah, well I think that he was only ever with me in the first place because he was so grateful for my saving his job. He rewarded me with his willingness to be my boyfriend,” she said making air quotes.

“He’s never hit you has he?”

“No, he’s just really cold. I always feel like I’m in trouble. “

“Well, if we I mean one of us could break up with him.”

“Yeah, then no more time machine.”

“Right,” I said.

“Look, I think we could both stand to meditate a little bit and since the theater is out I wanna show you a places that’s really pretty cash as the kids say now-a-days,” she said.

We got on the bus and headed to the heart of Beverly Hills. We headed down Bedford Dr. to the basement of a small office building. “Sensory Anticipation Center.” the sign on the door said. We entered the office and other me asked for two tanks. The beautiful blond receptionist told us she had one appointment at 2:00 and another at 2:30 p.m. We reserved them and then we sat down in a dark waiting room that was surrounded by glow in the dark fish tanks.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Remember when we were twenty five and we floated in that sensory deprivation tank?”

“Yeah, that was frustrating, I mean we couldn’t really relax enough to enjoy it.”

“Yeah, well the idea there was to put you in a place where you are unaware of your physical body and can get in touch with your inner thoughts,” she said.

“I remember. If you remember I remember, remember?”

She laughed and went on.

“Well about ten years ago they perfected the tanks and more people started using them. Well, pot use and floating go hand in hand and at first the pot growers association was thrilled at all the business they were getting. Float tank places sold brownies, even. After a while though, people began having epiphanies, they started becoming less materialistic. This scared advertisers and so they came up with these new tanks, you’ll love it trust me.

“Shelly,” the receptionist called.

She jumped up and told me she’d see me in two hours in the decompression room. I sat gazing at the fish, they were quit hypnotic and colorful, and they were also robotic.

The receptionist called my name and led me down a hall to a small room with what looked like a standard issue sensory deprivation tank. I showered and got in. for a moment everything was silent and dark.

Suddenly, there were stars everywhere and I began to have the sensation of floating forward though space. A tall handsome man was hovering over me. I felt myself being pulled upwards towards him and following him at an astounding rate of speed as the stars spun around us.

Waltz music began to play and we were dancing together in an opulent ballroom surrounded by beautiful revelers. I was no longer naked, but wearing a ball gown. He took me by the hand and pulled me out of the room and we ran down the street to a parked sports car. We got into the car and drove fast as beautiful scenery dashed passed us. The car stopped and he started floating through the stars again.

Suddenly, the sky turned pink and colorful cakes and candies began to float by. They looked close enough to eat and I tried, but they pulled away. The images turned to 3-D images of bottles of high end alcohol. The bottles spun very slowly. The stars returned and spun at an astounding rate until I felt dizzy. The darkness returned and again I floated there for a moment. I felt anxious I wanted the images back. Soft music played and the lights came up.

I climbed out of the tank, showered and headed towards the decompression room. Several people sat drinking tea and thumbing through magazines, but other me wasn’t one of them. I noticed a small local paper on the coffee table. I sat down and looked at the story.

Three Buildings in North Hollywood to be demolished today, the headline read. “122, 126 and 128 Van Nuys Blvd will be demolished with dynamite at 6:00 p.m. today. The city of north Hollywood elected to demolish the eyesores which have been abandon and uninhabitable for the last five years,” the article read.

I bolted up. My building was going to be demolished in two hour and so was the time machine. Other me must have seen it and run.

I went outside and looked for a taxi, but I didn’t see one. I jumped on the bus and headed back to NOHO. I wondered how I was ever going to make it up the stairs past a demolition crew; either one of me.

When I got there, there were cops and people everywhere. There were a couple of street vendors selling hot dogs and popcorn and souvenir construction hats. Two cops stood talking to a construction worker who appeared to be giving a statement. He looked up at me and pointed. They all walked over to me.

“That’s definitely her.” I heard one of them say. I turned to run, but they grabbed me. They took me to their car.

“What were you trying to do in there, ma’am?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

“Ma’am two people saw you run into the building and up the stairs.”

“When?”

“An hour ago,” the cop said.

“I was on the bus an hour ago and I can prove it,” I said. I showed him my bus transfer. He wrote out a report and let me go.

After another hour the cops determined the building was secured. I watched helplessly as the buildings crumbled to the ground and everyone cheered.

I realized I was stuck in the future.

Sidney Poitier, Masturbation and Make Believe!

I came across the ad in the Westword (Denver sister of the LA Weekly). “Actors wanted for short film set in call center. Call for details”. With as close as I’d come to Hollywood success, I’d never even been on a movie set before. I decided that if I wanted to pursue film, I should at least get my feet wet by getting some sort of practical experience. I realized that I was probably going to get rejected because of the way that I looked, but I figured I would try. Maybe they had a crowd scene or maybe they needed behind the scenes help.

I called the number and a man with a slight accent answered the phone. He told me that the film was being made as a pitch of a full length movie. He warned me that some people had been offended by it as there was a lot of sexuality in it. He said it was basically a mockumentary and I would be playing a call center employee. I asked if there was an audition he said no, I could just come over to his house on Tuesday and he would have a part for me. H’mm, was I going to be abducted: it seemed unlikely. To be on the safe side, I had a friend drive me to his house and make sure everything was ok. We arrived to find the door wide open and a whole bunch of people gathered in the living room.

I was greeted by Calvin, the filmmaker, a heavy-set Bahamian man of about thirty-five. He handed me a script and told me that I would be playing Michelle, a new call center employee. I was introduced to Will, a strikingly handsome , 21-year-old who was to be my scene partner. The scene entailed Will’s character training me. In the midst of my training he gets a dirty phone call and asks me to assist him in preparing to masturbate. Not only was the scene ridiculously over the top, but we were both very miscast. He was far to young for the role of the supervisor and, as I look like Tom Petty and he looks like a model, it was hard to believe that anyone would think he would harass me. I thought the dialog was awful, but I held my tongue. I reminded myself that I was there to learn; nothing more.

Will and I rehearsed for about two hours. He had to take his pants off one point and he was very uncomfortable doing this. As the other actors rehearsed their scenes around us I noticed that most of the scenes had to do with sex and almost none of them had anything to do with call center work. None of the dialog was funny at all. I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. We were told to go over our lines and be there the following Saturday for the filming of the movie. I was shocked that I had been given such a big part.

Calvin drove me home. He told me that he had worked in a cable call center for a year and a half and that’s what inspired the film. He said he knew a production company in California that might be interested in producing the film. I mentioned that I had written a screenplay and he asked me if I would be interested in rewriting the screenplay for his film. I told him I would think about it and that I would bring a copy of my screenplay to the filming. He was very flirtatious on the way home. I strongly implied that I was not interested. He did not seem to pick up on it.

I arrived at Calvin’s house the following Saturday. I was to play two different characters. The trainee and an old lady complaining about her cable bill. We spent 24 hours filming it. I got the giggles when we shot our scenes. Will stumbled over his lines.

Calvin seemed very disorganized. He didn’t really give us any direction. The camera man seemed to know what he was doing. He told me that he had worked on several sports news shows.

On the day of the filming several of the actors read my screenplay and said they loved it. Calvin also said he liked it and asked if he could send it to that production company in LA. He said he would be interested in having me rewrite the original screenplay to” Cable Call Center”. A couple of the actors on the film were actually pretty good. One woman named Stephanie stood out as having especially good timing. Will told me that she was the estranged sister of some guy who produced, “Party of Five”.

I read the whole screenplay and found it to be riddled with fart jokes and sex gags. There was absolutely no plot at all it was all just scenes of agents taking various calls. I actually liked the idea of just doing skits of phone calls I also liked the idea of a mockumentary. I Told Calvin that my sense of humor was very different than his and that if I were to do the rewrite it would be almost completely different. I rewrote the first scene to the best of my ability and he told me to go ahead and rewrite the whole thing and we would submit it around as co writers.

It occurred to me that I could just write my own screenplay about call centers. I had entertained the idea before, but I couldn’t think of a plot.  I didn’t think of going from call to call the way Calvin did I decided it wouldn’t be ethical to take his general idea so I agreed to do it. There was some self-interest involved in this, Calvin had started his own production company (it was a legitimate LLC and everything) and I could use his recommendation.

I wrote one page a night for three months. I gave it a plot in which an earnest young man who works at the call center is making a documentary about his coworkers. I tried to stick to Calvin’s request to make it very commercial and conventional. I gave it a romantic sub-plot and lots of simple-minded humor. I had an action subplot about a cable repair man who gets chased thought the city. I showed it to a few of my call center co workers and they liked it. We registered it under both our names with the WGA.

We began to make plans to attend another pitch fest. Calvin sent the screenplay to those producers he knew in California. I looked them up on IMDB and they had done one documentary about a wrestler. We entered it in a contest, I also sent it to a man named Dylan who was the friend of Stephanie’s the “Party of Five” guy’s sister. Dylan was a somewhat successful writer of movie trailer scripts and a fairly well-known comedian, he even wrote for the Huffington Post.

I was a bit leery to go to Pitchfest with Calvin. He continued to hit on me constantly. I made up a boyfriend; I even had a friend of mine poise as said boyfriend at the screening of Calvin’s film but, nothing would discourage him. If I said I was tired he would ask if it was because of sex. I told him I didn’t like The Wedding Crashers that much and he asked if I liked the scene where one of the principles gets a hand job. He was incorrigible.

After about six weeks I got a response from Stephanie’s friend Dylan; He loved my screenplay. He said he saw fully developed characters, where he hadn’t seen them before. He said he saw funny jokes where before he had seen none. I was thrilled. I wrote to Calvin and said “He loved it!” Unfortunately, I accidentally sent the e-mail to Dylan. I am a female Larry David.

The producer in California wrote back and said he loved  “Surface” and  “Cable Call Center”. Calvin called me and told me that they might be interested in producing it when they got their funding. He told me that they were trying to produce a film about the life of Lynden Pindling the former prime Minister of the Bahamas’. He showed me a prospectus for the film which was very detailed and over 300 pages long. He said that Pindling had been best friends with Sidney Poitier when they were kids and that Poitier was interested in producing the film.

“No way” I said thinking this sounded way, way to good to be true.

“Not only that, but I talked to Sidney on the phone”, Calvin told me.

“You talked to Sidney Poitier on the phone?”

“Yes”, he said without a moment’s hesitation.

“What did you call him?”

“I called him Sidney”

“But, isn’t he a Knight aren’t you supposed to call him sir?”

He just laughed.

The whole thing sounded pretty suspicious. Calvin was a former call center employee who was working in a jewelry store, what did a real production company in LA want with him? Calvin said that a local radio talk show host in Denver had introduced them. He said the host was interested in helping black artist to network. I talked to Tony on the phone. I didn’t know what to ask him I just wanted to make sure he was real. He told me that he was pretty sure they would be getting funding soon and that they might be interested in both screenplays when they did. I told him I’d keep my fingers crossed for him. I asked him how he knew Sidney Poitier and he said he had been interested in writing about Pindling and sent the prospectus to Sidney’s production company as Sidney and the Prime Minister had been classmates.

Calvin gave me Pindling biography. Pindling was the first black Prime Minister of the Bahamas whose career ended in scandal when NBC ran a story about him accepting bribes from Columbian drug dealers. The book Calvin gave me was extremely slanted in Pindling’s favor. He also gave me the government report which detailed shocking instances of blatant flagrant drug trafficking. Pindling was clearly guilty. I got the distinct impression that Calvin and Tony wanted me to write a script in which I made it look as though he had been framed. I told Calvin I was not comfortable with this. He told me the only reason Poitier wanted to do the film was to clear Pindling’s name.

I felt very frustrated. I wanted to write the screenplay; it was a great story that no one knew about. It was full of sex, drugs racial controversy and international politics! It almost wrote itself. But, I couldn’t write the real story if I ever hoped to see it on film. It occurred to me that I could just write my own screenplay about the real Pindling, but I felt guilty; I never would have known about any of this if it hadn’t been for Calvin.

I wrote the first couple of scenes. But, my efforts were cut short. As I worked on the Pindling screenplay Calvin was busy doing something unbelievable stupid.  I didn’t know it , but I was falling down a rabbit hole out of which I would never fully climb.

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