Before Lewis could speak, the executive lifted a finger and made that ‘shush’ gesture. “Audiences love the edgy stuff,” the executive yelled into his Bluetooth headset. “Taste has nothing to do with it. His last two films killed.”
Lewis looked around the office, decked with stark white and grey furnishings, except for some colorful posters of recent, top-grossing films. The one sheets might have been from a parallel universe, Lewis thought. A world he didn’t know, and certainly didn’t care for.
“Alright, we’ll do the bestiality bit off screen and push for a hard PG-13,” the executive shouted. “Then release the unrated version in Blu-Ray.”
“See? That’s why you come to me.”
Exasperation spread over the executive’s face like a toddler lacing shoes for the first time. “Why don’t they ever listen to me?” he asked to no one in particular. He turned to Lewis with a forced smile. “Sorry, pal, remind me why you’re here.”
Lewis shifted uneasily in his chair. “Preston Lewis.” That should be enough, Lewis thought, holding his briefcase on his lap, waiting for name recognition. At 45—ancient by Hollywood standards—Lewis didn’t care to hide his graying, fading hair, and wouldn’t succumb to the latest chic attire, preferring drab Dockers and a wrinkled J.C.Penney yellow shirt. A vanilla ice cream cone personified.
“And?” the executive said impatiently. Thirty at most, bald by choice, manicured, jet-black goatee, and donning a shiny designer metallic shirt, the executive’s demeanor could scare a pit bull.
“And Joyce from the Hersh Agency arranged this,” said Lewis. “I’m here to pitch?”
All traces of pleasantries evaporated from the executive’s face. “Right, you’re the old school guy.”
Lewis tensed. “My last comedy made a decent profit. You may have heard of it. ‘Shenanigans’?”
The executive soured. “That was more than five years ago, might as well be 50 in my book,” he said, and snorted like an ox. “Alright, whatcha got? Make it quick.”
Breathe, Lewis thought, knowing this might be his only shot. Maybe his last. He’d bared his soul before so many clueless suits in his career that the required nerve-fraying auditioning process had taken its toll. This time would be different, Lewis thought. This time he figured out a way to win.
“Before I begin, I feel it necessary to remind you that my last successful film, and some of cinema’s classic comedies don’t involve gross bodily functions, f-bombs, and kicks in the groin,” Lewis said.Across the table, eyes rolled upward in disgust. “A lot can be learned from Sturges, Capra, Keaton, and Chaplin. A lot that’s missing from today’s raunchy movies.”
An impatient hand trolled through a bowl of Smarties. “Dude, you’re losing me,” the executive said, rapidly popping the candy into mouth.
“I realize that,” Lewis said. “That’s my point. We’ve lost our sense of funny. A monkey could write the crap that’s out there. The movie I propose goes back to those classic stories that audiences couldn’t get enough of. Verbal dexterity. Motivated physical shtick. Nothing offensive or painful. Just the perfectly timed spit take. The carefully crafted zingers. As my story opens we pay homage to—”
The executive abruptly cut him off. “Sorry, pal, you wasted your time on that lame speech. I got a 2:00 o’clock with Apatow’s nephew. They say he’s the next big thing. You got a leave behind?”
Lewis smiled, anticipating the question. More than one jerk like this asked for a brief synopsis, a page of words that would find its way into oblivion. “I just want you to remember the roots of what makes comedy successful. Leaving behind an abbreviated version of what I’m emphasizing here will only–.”
The executive snapped his fingers. “Yeah, yeah, just give it to me!”
Slowly, methodically, Lewis opened his briefcase, and stared at its contents for a moment. In one fluid motion, he produced the custard pie, allowing the target to understand its trajectory for a brief moment. Then Lewis left behind the requested item.
© Copyright 2013 Stephen R. Wolcott. All rights reserved.
Stephen R. Wolcott is an award-winning writer/producer with over 100 television, behind-the-scenes “making of’ and documentary projects to his credit. In addition, he’s interviewed a wide range of celebrities and notable figures, including William Shatner, Richard Gere, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Gary Sinise, Robert Wagner, JPL/NASA scientists, Whoopi Goldberg, and almost every cast member from the Star Trek films and television series. In print, his work as appeared in Emmy Magazine, Now Playing and The Pasadena Weekly. He also enjoys traveling cerebrally to his former Craftsman home in Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven.
2 thoughts on “The Leave Behind by Stephen R. Wolcott”
Oh, ow, Stephen. This is why I was more than happy to leave Hollywood. Your story is too true, too well-written.
Let me just say, “Diana Nyad.”
I was not a “pie person” until I read this story!