Steve Schiff 70530,3063 IMP work in progress. THE ONLY GOOD ACTOR IS A DEAD ACTOR by Steve

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Steve Schiff 70530,3063 IMP work in progress. THE ONLY GOOD ACTOR IS A DEAD ACTOR by Steven L. Schiff Bradley Marks, the 48 year old president and CEO of Marks Media-Vision, snapped off his wall monitor in disgust. "Well, I've got to hand it to you, Pete." he said, turning to Peter Cromwell, one of his production company's most respected young executives. "You have succeeded in developing the worst movie I've seen in a month of Sundays." Bradley paused for effect, then looked his young protege straight in the eye. "We expected more from you. Nine months in production with a thirty one million dollar budget and this is what we get? This is the best you can do?" "C'mon Brad," whined the exec. "It isn't that bad." "Then I'd hate to see what you'd call bad." "Brad, the original version of 'Night Action' grossed over $235 million back in the 90s." "The original version was a damn good film." "Well, this version has all the same elements. The script is virtually identical; we just updated it a bit for the modern audience. And this one's directed by Henry Chase; he's only the hottest director around right now." "Chase is overrated." "Brad, believe me, this film has box office appeal. Just look at the star power we've got. Susan Windemere in the lead role..." "Susan Windemere is a no-talent airhead who just happens to look great in a string bikini." "What about John Hawkins as the love interest?" "He's a wooden piece of beef-cake." Cromwell continued on, hoping to lose his boss' anger in a string of big names. "How 'bout the great supported actors we hired? Jim Jenkins, Sally Flamba, Steve Hankey, Larry Flynn and Charlie O'Leary as the old man?" "Sally Flamba's a pretty good actress; that I'll grant you. But I wouldn't give you two cents for any of the others. You see, that's the root of the problem, Pete. None of the actors available today can act their way out of a paper bag." Brad lit a cigarette, his first in weeks, and inhaled a relaxing puff of thick, carcinogenic smoke. "Look what you've got me doing! I promised my doctor I'd quit." "Brad, what am I supposed to do? The movie's in the can. You want me to trash it?" "No, release it. We've got little choice in the matter. But the next time you show me a film this bad, you'll be looking for a new job. Find me some actors with charisma, like they had in the old days. Find me the next John Stanford; the next Judy Boyle. Now they had talent. When I was a kid, I was crazy about Judy Boyle. Her love scenes with Stanford were incredible. You want to talk hot? Look at their early films." Bradley's eyes took on a far away look. "Compared to Judy Boyle, Susan Windemere has as much sex appeal as a sack of potatoes." "Great." thought Peter Cromwell. "He wants Judy Boyle. It's a shame the woman's 98 years old. What am I supposed to do? Take a film crew to the nursing home?" But Peter knew he had to do something. He knew Bradley was right. Today's actor's couldn't act. In fact, good acting was pretty much a lost art, except for the oldsters who did voice-overs for their cartoon features. And not a one of them was under 65 years of age. "I'll make you happy, boss. The next film you see from me will be a knock-out. A TKO!" "It had better be." Brad said simply. "For your sake." ### Peter didn't know what to do. He had script approval and a respected director for the company's next film, but he had no idea who to cast. He'd reviewed all the available names. None had the range for the part of Madeline, an 1940s heroine who'd lost her husband in the Second World War. And the prospects for finding the right 'General Jeremy Weathers' seemed slim at best. "Get me new talent." he yelled. "Unknowns." "You want to cast unknown actors in the lead roles?" asked Bill Newman, his chief casting director. "That's a recipe for disaster." "And I suppose you have a better idea?" Peter asked. "Maybe I do." "Well, tell me." Peter demanded. "Tell me something I want to hear." "Give me a week, Pete. Let me talk to a few people." "Take a week. Take two weeks if you have to. Just find me some decent actors. Please." Three days later, Bill Newman was back in Peter's office with Laura Steward, senior animator at Media-Toons, one of their subsidiary companies. "What's she doing here, Bill?" Peter asked. "Don't tell me you want to do the movie as a cartoon." "Mr. Cromwell, take a look at this VHS." said the outspoken animator, waving a tape in Peter's face. "I think you'll be favorably impressed." "It'd better not be Benny Bunny as Rhett Butler." "Just watch the tape, Mr. Cromwell." Laura said as she turned on Peter's VCR. So, hoping for a miracle, Peter watched the tape. ### "What do I think? I think you've lost your mind, Peter." said Bradley. "You've been working too hard." "You told me that the actors around today couldn't compare to Judy Boyle and John Stanford. Right?" "Yes, Peter. Unfortunately Stanford's dead. And Boyle is an old woman, not far behind him." Rather than answering his boss, Peter turned on the tape machine and watched Brad's eyes light up as Judy Boyle and John Stanford acted out a passionate love scene from the prospective new film. "Where'd you get this? 'The War Widow' is a brand new script. Are these people look-alikes? If so, it's a mighty good impersonation." "You're looking at animation, Brad. Brand new, state-of-the- art, computer generated photo-animation." Peter announced. "The process was developed by Laura Steward over at Media-Toons. Photos and recordings of Boyle and Stanford were imputed into the computer. Then, we had some of our better voice-over actors film the scene. The computer substituted the image and voices of Boyle and Stanford for the voice-over people to create this final product." "Incredible. Absolutely incredible!" "The whole film can be done this way." said Peter. "All for a lot less money then it would cost to hire and film big-name actors like Susan Windemere." Peter could almost see the cogs working in Bradley's mind. "Peter, I'm really impressed. This could be a real gold mine; we'll make a fortune! We'll keep the whole thing under wraps until the premier and then--Whammo." Bradley smacked his fist into his hand so hard, it made Peter wince. "We'll set the industry on its ear!" "That's what I thought." said Peter as Bradley began to pace back and forth in his huge office. "Of course, you'll need to discuss this with our legal department. We need to have an agreements in place with Boyle and the estate of John Stanford." "I'm already having contracts drawn up." said Peter. "For the use of the images and voices. Steve Ithor over at legal says the rights should be available for about $150 thousand a piece. I told him to draw up contracts paying $300 thousand a piece. I figured that ought to prevent Boyle and Stanford's people from poking their noses too closely into our business." "Great. Let them think we're using old movie clips or something." said Bradley. "And don't you dare let anyone breathe a word of the truth. I mean it, Peter!" "Even Ithor doesn't know what we're doing, Brad. He thinks I'm crazy for offering the $300 thou." "Good. Let's keep it that way." ### 'The War Widow' was a smash hit. Lines at the premier stretched for two city blocks. Newsweek called it 'revolutionary.' Time magazine said it was a 'technological breakthrough, as impressive as the advent of sound in motion pictures.' And even after the initial fervor died away, the movie continued to draw in the crowds, as much for the inherent quality of the film as for the technical gimmickry. "Boyle hasn't lost it." said Bradley. "She's still making men shiver!" "I guess you could say 'the only good actor is a dead actor.' Right Brad?" asked Peter. "Pete, I've been saying that for years. It's about time someone listened to me. Still, it's a shame poor Judy Boyle had to die before the premier. The old woman would have enjoyed this new-found fame." Bradley wiped away a tear as he thought of his film heroine...his first real love. Then he pulled out the corporate books and looked at his most recent profit and loss statement. A smile replaced his tears with alacrity. ### Some months later, Peter Cromwell found himself face to face with a nasty looking lawyer in a nicely tailored suit. "Mr. Cromwell, my name is John Stevenson." said the lawyer. "I represent David Boyle, the grandson and sole heir of Judy Boyle." "What can I do for you?" "Frankly, Mr. Cromwell, my client believes your company cheated his grandmother. The fee you paid her for 'The War Widow' is well below the industry standard for actors of her caliber." "Mr. Stevenson, you and I both know that Judy Boyle did not actually act in 'The War Widow.' And we have a signed contract from Ms. Boyle for the use of her voice and image in the picture." "That contract was fraudulently obtained, Mr. Cromwell. You didn't inform Miss Boyle of your full intentions." "We told Ms. Boyle everything we legally had to tell her." "That may be true, Mr. Cromwell. But if you don't offer substantial restitution to my client, we're going to have to let a judge decide on the legitimacy of his claims." "Is that a threat, Mr. Stevenson?" Peter asked. "Yes sir." "We don't take kindly to threats. So maybe we will be seeing you in court." "Mr. Boyle will be speaking to the media about this matter, later in the week, Mr. Cromwell." "He can do whatever he likes." said Peter. "It won't affect our position." "Are you sure you can afford the bad publicity, Mr. Cromwell?" Peter thought about it for a moment. "Let me discuss the matter with Bradley Marks." "I think that would be advisable, sir." the lawyer responded. ### "Offer them an additional half a million." Bradley suggested. But Stevenson was looking for more like $15 million. "That's out of the question." said Bradley. "Absolutely out of the question." ### David Boyle pleaded his case on national television the following Thursday. "Mr. Boyle. What is the basis for your claims against Marks Media-Vision?" asked the pert young newswoman. "They robbed my grandma. It's that simple." said Boyle. "Wouldn't you be mad if somebody robbed your grandma?" "You are referring, of course, to the use of your grandmother's image..." She turned from her interviewee to deliver the next few words directly into the camera. "the likeness and voice of the famous Judy Boyle in the blockbuster hit, 'The War Widow.'" "That's right!" said Boyle, emphatically. "We were robbed blind!" "But it has been reported that your grandmother signed a contract for the use of her image before she died. And she was paid on that contract." "The woman was close to 100 years old. She was going senile and didn't know what she was signing. We didn't get our fair share." Boyle batted large brown eyes at the camera. He gave one the impression of a basset hound that had been beaten by a cruel master. Peter Cromwell felt sick to his stomach as he watched the proceedings on his office monitor. Bradley was going to hit the ceiling. No, Bradley was going to go through the roof. Because Boyle appeared sympathetic and that meant Marks Media-Vision was going to have to pay, pay, pay. Peter's secretary buzzed on the office intercom at that moment. "Mr. Cromwell." she said. "Mr. Marks is on line two for you." ### Bradley Marks paced back and forth behind his solid mahogany desk as he spoke to John Stevenson. "You don't quite see the full picture, Mr. Stevenson." he claimed. "I'm just trying to ensure that my client gets what he deserves." "We are not going to pay David Boyle $15 million dollars, or anything remotely close to that figure." "Considering the profits you made on 'The War Widow,' I don't think we're being unreasonable." said Stevenson. "I'm sorry. We can't afford to set a bad precedent for future pictures. We have plans to do a sequel of 'The Wizard of Oz' with Judy Garland. We'd like to star Garbo in an updated version of 'Ninotcka' set in a Third World country. And, of course, we want to capitalize on Judy Boyle's new-found popularity. If we pay your client what he asks, we'd be escalating fees across the board, for all personalities featured in our photo-animation productions." "That's your problem, Mr. Marks. Not ours." "Mr. Stevenson, maybe we can come to some kind of arrangement, here. Something that would benefit both of us. You and me." "I'm listening." ### David Boyle appeared on national television for a second time, in an announcement broadcast from what appeared to be the headquarters of Marks Media-Vision. A smiling Bradley Marks stood next to him, hand around his shoulder. "I am officially dropping all claims against Mr. Marks and his company." said Boyle. "In return, Mr. Marks has named me as their spokesperson for all future photo-animation films." "Mr. Boyle will be appearing in short clips prior to each film. He'll highlight the careers of the featured actors, give viewers a backstage view of the photo-animation process and provide commentary for the films. As the grandson of Judy Boyle, we feel he is uniquely qualified to fill this role." The camera zoomed in for a closeup of Boyle as a smile appeared across the man's hound-like face. ### Peter Cromwell was out of the loop, and he wasn't happy about it. Sure, Bradley allowed him to oversee production of the new films, but he was denied involvement in the David Boyle commentaries. It seemed that only Bradley, Laura Steward, Stevenson and Boyle himself were involved in the production of those clips. "David Boyle is a difficult personality, Peter. I want to handle him myself. You have plenty of other things to do." "But he's commenting on my films, Bradley. And I should have a say in what goes in those commentaries." "First of all, they're not your films, Peter. They're Marks Media-Vision productions. And the commentaries are trivial. We just don't need your input." ### David Boyle performed rather well over the next several months. Bradley released two new films for public consumption, one staring Judy Boyle and one featuring Fred Astaire. Film critics praised Boyle's clips for the historical perspective they gave to the features. And everyone enjoyed Boyle's frame by frame dissection of the new technology. But Boyle himself had become a recluse. He seemed to spend all his time, locked behind the steel gates of Judy Boyle's 20th century mansion. "David Boyle, won't you come out to play?" chanted the national entertainment critic. "You're one of the country's most eligible bachelors. So come out of that mansion and greet your fans." ### The fire at the Boyle mansion started at approximately 3 am on a warm July evening. Hilda Sandusky, an elderly neighbor of Boyle, saw the flames almost immediately and called the local fire department. The firefighters had no trouble containing the blaze, which caused only minor damage to David Boyle's expensive home. "We're lucky you called us so quickly, Mrs. Sandusky." said the fireman. "I couldn't sleep, so I was sitting on my patio, looking at the stars. That's when I saw the flames." "If we'd gotten here a half hour later," said the fireman, "the whole place would probably have burnt to the ground." ### Firefighters found David Boyle's body while inspecting the interior of the mansion. A short time later, Detective Paul Bradford of the local police examined the badly decomposed corpse. "He looks like he's been dead for more than six months." said Bradford. "The coroner will tell us for sure." "But how is this possible?" asked his partner. "Boyle's been highly visible over the last few months. I saw one of his commentaries last night." "What you saw," said the detective, "was just another excellent example of photo-animation." end


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