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Write On

Hollywood-on-the-Hudson by David Black

The idea was to integrate my Big Media work life—executive producing television series—with my Hudson Valley domestic life. I’d base my next show here, run it from home in Ghent, making use of all the local places and people I’d come to know over two decades as a weekender.  I’d score financing in Hollywood, and bring the money and the production back home. CSI:Hudson.

“Hudson?” the studio exec said. “Where in New York is that?”
“Upstate,” I told him.
“Like Buffalo?” He knew Buffalo, because a bunch of writer-producers, like David Milch, come from Buffalo.
“South of Albany,” I said.
“Lots of snow,” he said.
“In the winter.”
“My son goes to boarding school up there somewhere.”
“Which school?” I asked.
He hit the intercom. “Call my wife. Find out where Buffalo goes to school.”
“Your son’s name is Buffalo?”
“Like Mailer’s kid,” he said. “Norman Mailer. The writer.”
“I know his work.”
“Hell of a writer.” He hit the intercom again.
“Put a call through to Norman Mailer, will you, Hon?”
“He’s dead,” I explained. He blinked. “I’m pretty sure.”
“That fucks that idea,” he said.
“NAKED AND THE DEAD, right. War series. Perfect if we go into Libya in a big way. Three theaters. They call wars theaters, you know that? Cool, huh? Everything’s show business. And just the title. You got naked. You got dead. Sex and violence. Who can go wrong with that? You sure he’s dead?”
He hit the intercom again. “NAKED AND THE DEAD,” he told his assistant. “See if the rights are available. Shoot L.A. for… Second World War, right? We build bars, whorehouses, backstreets, Paris, London, whole nine in a pocket, dark interiors.”
“THE PACIFIC,” I said.
“Shit. That’s easy. We’re on the Pacific.”
“My series,” I said.
“I love it. Small town. Big city cop retires, goes back home, small town upstate, runs their diddly-squat police force… We’re talking like a real close gene pool. Incest. Go to the county fair, everyone looks like they’re wearing the same mask. Lots of drugs behind the abandoned WalMart. High School date rape. Underage hookers. Meth labs in the woods. Everybody’s got at least three guns. Pit bulls. Dog Fights. Everyone hates the rich New Yorkers with their second fuckin’ homes. We get in bias crime. Muslim family runs the local 7-11. Son in rebellion, daughter, no way she’s getting the clitorectomy. Family strife, old fashioned kitchen sink drama. We go for Emmys. New York actors, trained actors. No pretty boys. Sexy yes, but soot-smudged faces, authenticity. No bullshit. I love it.”
“I can have a draft of the pilot in six weeks,” I said.
“You’re the man.”
“I’ll let my agent know.”
“Tell him not to rape me. I love this project too much.”
I stood up. “There’s an old factory in town,” I said. “Perfect soundstage. On 100 Centre Street, we built a production facility in a month for a million. Hudson’s cheaper than Queens. Most of the New York City crew comes out of Nyack. They just drive an hour north, instead of an hour south. Easier commute. So many actors in Columbia County, and south, Bedford, Katonah. We could probably use locals for half the cast. The rest of the cast—who wouldn’t want to spend a season in the area?”
“Love it!”
I put out my hand, which the exec grabbed and squeezed. “I wish every deal was this easy, “
“Me too,” I said.
I was at the door when he said, “You know…” I turned around.
“I got to level with you. You know me. No bullshit, right?”
“Right.”
“You got your New York City cop, right?”
“Right.”
“Retired, right?”
“Right.”
“Get some hard-body-going-nowhere in features, thirty-something, right?”
“He’s retired.”
“Got shot on the job. Disability. Retired early, good pension.”
“Okay…”
“But instead of upstate New York, he retires to Venice.” I looked at him.
“Venice Beach,” the exec said.
“Venice Beach?”
“Come on, guy, you film in upstate New York, all that cold, half the year the gals are bundled up in cable knits, parkas, you don’t see their titties…”

I wrote a novel instead.

DAVID BLACK is a novelist, journalist and screenwriter. For television, he has written episodes of HILL STREET BLUES, MIAMI VICE, LAW & ORDER and CSI: MIAMI, among others. His most recent book, THE EXTINCTION EVENT, was just published in paperback.

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