Ellis Abbot had few indulgences, since he could not really afford them. Not with his two daughters college funds and weddings for which to save. His father’s convertible, which legend had it belonged to Clark Gable, and was left to him in the will, was one of those indulgences. It was however the classic ’57 Chevy Bel Air, and it was still in operable condition.

Jane Austen and Ghosts-A Sample

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Nothing was better than when he had weekends or summer vacation with his daughters and they all went cruising in the California sunshine, with the top down.

The days he drove to the studio lot of historic Demille Brothers located three blocks below Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, he made sure that he drove with the top down and the car gleaming with a new coat of wax. He wasn’t trying to keep up appearances with the studio executives in their Mercedes, Bentleys and Lexus’. It was more his desire to look and feel good.

Ellis also knew that when in the Chevy, he stood out in the mind of Jake, the guard at the security booth who checked all those with drive-ons at the entry gate. A drive-on was someone who the security guards had been told was coming to the studio that day. Ellis only came to the studio lot and his production company meetings every other week normally. Jake, Ellis was sure, remembered the car more than he remembered Ellis. Jake had once told Ellis that he loved to stop the drive-ons so they could have that iconic moment before the gate with the scrolled metal lettering of Demille Brothers above their head. The Main Gate entrance of Demille Brothers that had been pictured in Hollywood history and lore for almost a century. Any virgin arrivals to the studio were now also becoming part of that mystique when they rolled onto the lot.

Jake had a phone bud in his ear, and used an iPad to check to see if someone was okayed to be on the lot. Ellis mused that the man probably missed the days when the phone and it’s cord gave him a reason to duck back into the booth, stalling newbies under the sign. Jake quickly looked down at his iPad and scrolled, then said, “What? Here all week? That’s a change.”

Ellis replied, “Working on a story conference. One of my ideas is going to go into production.”

Jake seemed to love the film industry. His smile looked genuine, “Well good for you. We want to see your Chevy more often on the lot. It brings back fond memories.”

“Thank’s Jake, but I’ve said before, it is only a legend about Clark Gable,” Ellis said.

“You keep saying that Mr. Abbot, but I’ve seen a picture with Mr. Gable driving that very car.” Jake waved and smiled. Ellis’ father had said he had bought the car at an auction shortly after Gable had died and there was a provenance for it. However, when Ellis’ father had passed away, Ellis could not find the paperwork.

Ellis went on through to the Benton Productions office building. Patrick Benton had been producing films for Demille Brothers for nearly forty years. Patrick often said to Ellis when they took long lunches that he would leave the whole company to Ellis one day. There were, however, still a few levels of producers between the two of them in the movie company. It did help, that of the blockbusters since Ellis had started at the company, he had more than any of the other story finders.

That was his job, technically. Find material that Benton Productions could turn into films. Jay, who had been with the team a year longer than he, had found two hits, and a lot of good films. Then there was Larry. Larry had one hit, but it was one of those high school hi-jinks flicks. The right cast, the right time, and the right obnoxious jokes and you were bound to make money. Money that Pat Benton, the head of their company, needed just at that moment. Unfortunately there had been a few productions in the last couple years that were artistic achievements but cost more than they brought in.

A few years back Ellis had walked into the Costa Mesa Borders bookstore in the mall, which was now closed and gone, and saw the most ridiculous cover on a book. Pride and Prejudice and some sort of monster. Lizzie Bennet all dressed up but with her flesh rotting away.

Usually the New York agents and publishing assistants would send out books that were on the production schedule up to a year ahead of their release. The manuscripts would be leaked in the hopes of securing a movie deal. This one he had not seen, but then the world of publishing was changing faster than anyone could follow. There were a host of small presses also trying to make a name for themselves and this book did not seem to fit the normal niche.

He picked the book up and walked to the coffee bar to get a latte. Sipping slowly, he eventually realized he was on his third cup, and more than halfway through the book. It had just been released that Tuesday, and a few phone calls was all it took to find the agent of the writer. The agent was very happy to talk about optioning. Though that was usually a job done at the production company that was two rungs up the ladder closer to Patrick Benton. Patrick had told him often that sometimes one had to use one’s initiative and trust one’s judgement.

Ellis had been around a long time and many of the works he had pushed had banked. It didn’t take long for Ellis to negotiate an option quickly on that first book he had found. Then over the next few years Ellis had picked up every Jane Austen twist that was published. And even a few still waiting their turn to get on the bookstore shelves. Though some he had bought options on, he was not sure would ever make it.

Knowing that the company could use some money making hits to add to the string of artistic successes that did not often provide a profit was one reason Ellis and Benton Productions had optioned the work of these authors. Not to garner another nomination from the Academy, but to earn money and pay for keeping the lights on. Demille Brothers wasn’t going to kick Benton Productions out of their offices, but Patrick Benton needed a money maker to pay all the salaries and other expenses.

Benton Productions was one of the few companies that Demille Brothers Studios gave office space to on their lot. Pulling up in front of the office building, a large two story affair designed to look like a bungalow one might find along the Pacific Coast highway, Ellis noticed that Larry had a space with his name on it. The space was five down from where Patrick’s Rolls Royce Phantom was always parked. This week was Ellis’ project and Larry was low man on the story finder ladder. Ellis parked the Chevy there in the spot with Larry’s name. Larry could lump it.

Ellis walked into the offices and found the reception area empty of anyone. It was a large room, carrying the bungalow theme out with wooden planked walls. Unlike other production offices, there were no posters of movies on the walls. They were instead covered with actual paintings. They were Modern art. Artists that had caught the fancy of Patrick Benton or his wife, Jean.

The receptionist had not arrived yet, but then it was early for a Monday morning. Ellis could hear some sounds from elsewhere in the office. He was to spend the week in the conference room and headed that way.

Seeing a bald head with a fringe of white hair like an ancient roman senator, Ellis recognized Patrick from behind. The boss was talking to one of the few secretaries that was already working that morning.

“Ellis, do you have all you need?” Patrick said when he turned and saw Ellis.

“Yes, I do,” Ellis replied.

Saying anything less would have Patrick worrying. Patrick was the Producer and had four Oscars in his office to show that he was good at what he did. Now, the way the production company had evolved, it was more shepherding what remained of the business for the next generation. Patrick was now intent on finding people to carry on when he was gone. He had told Ellis that repeatedly over the last year.

Hollywood though did not work that way. Benton Productions should go the way of the Dodo once Patrick retired. Another star producer would emerge and put a team together. Demille Brothers would give their office space to someone they hoped could hit home runs.

Patrick said, “Good, good. There is a new Exec Producer starting, well my sister’s son actually, coming by to help us with the Reality Project film for Adam Standler later. Jamin Collins, my nephew. It was Benjamin but he went off to college and changed his name…” Patrick was wool gathering. It happened of late.

The Reality Project film was something Ellis’ own cousin had given him the idea for, and it seemed quite poignant since the little screen was now almost all reality shows. The Reality Project film and the Austen Monster movie were the two films that Benton Productions were actively working on.

Patrick said, “Not that I like the premise of the Reality Project movie any more than I like what you are up to this week, but the Reality Project is going to be touching. Which of course Standler seems to like more and more these days. As long as we still leave room for several of his trademark comic sketches.”

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