“Mother FUCK!” yelled Jenn, slamming her palms down on her desk, sloshing remnants her half-full nonfat dirty chai latte onto the edges of the script she had been thumbing through. She had not expected her morning to start out like this. She had been feeling energized following her Pilates class that morning – even for a Monday – and this call was quickly souring her mood. She could see her assistant Alicia hovering by the entrance to her office at the noise, and she waved her off with a flick of her wrist, quickly turning her attention back to the man on the phone.
“That is NOT what we agreed to, Charles! I am so sick of you saying you’ll deliver one thing and then delivering another. Get me an updated budget by the end of the day – within the $20 million we agreed upon – or consider this relationship terminated and your work on the film finished due to breach of contract.”
Jenn angrily clicked off her headset and let out a growl of frustration. Of course, Charles thought he could do this to her again. Of all the producers Jenn had worked with over the years, Charles was always the one to try and screw her over on budget right at the last minute. The last time he’d done this was on a movie on which they worked together 2 years ago, and she was not going to stand for it a third time.
Jenn had opened her own independent movie studio – Cooper Pictures – three years before, and the 12 titles they had produced had brought in more than $8.7 billion for the company. Jenn had made a fortune with her back-end Executive Producer deals, and the residuals provided more than enough cash flow on which the company could operate. Her father Derrick Cooper, a well-known director in the industry, had encouraged Jenn to take an interest in film from a young age and she credited him with opening her mind to the career possibilities that the film industry offered. She had studied at NYU’s film program and received her MBA at Harvard thereafter, and her mission following grad school had been to open her own production studio. Even though she was living her dream come true, she still had to deal with a lot of bullshit. Especially from egocentric male producers who thought they could get away with anything.
At the sounds of a soft clearing of the throat, Jenn looked up to see Alicia patiently standing at her office door. She hadn’t seen her approach, even through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that she’d had custom-installed when she had renovated their Beverly Hills offices. The glass walls provided extra light and really opened up the office space, and all of the executive offices were built with privacy glass that could be switched on and off as needed. The space sat on the corner of Wilshire and McCarty and was walking distance to the luxuries of Rodeo Drive – a perk of which her clients were very appreciative. Cooper Pictures controlled the 14th and 15th floors of the building, which meant they had sweeping views of Century City, Beverly Hills and when the fog and smog were clear, gorgeous views of downtown LA. They had paid a pretty penny for the offices, but Jenn reasoned that that was what it would take to woo prospective clients.
Alicia had been with Jenn since the beginning, and behind her easily excitable persona, she was an excellent assistant – and friend – with a depth of maturity and reasonability. She knew how to deal with their most tantrum-inclined clients and was always willing to put in extra hours. Jenn would never admit it to Alicia, but she probably would not be able to function without her; she was like an extra limb. It didn’t hurt that the two had developed a sister-like friendship over the years.
“Your 11 o’clock is here. Ryan Price.”
Ryan Price was the manager of up-and-coming actress Julia Belle. Belle had been virtually unknown until Price had somehow managed a chance meeting with Jenn’s father at a random Hollywood party and convinced him to work with Julia. Derrick’s latest film, Rock Haven, had won the Academy Award for best picture and Belle had taken home a Golden Globe for her supporting role in the film. She was a fresh face and everyone in town was wanting to work with her, and lucky for Jenn, her father’s influence had brought her to Cooper Pictures.
With a quick perusal of the state of her lipstick in her compact mirror, Jenn snapped the compact shut and looked up to Alicia.
“Send him in.”
Ryan Price was a man who had come from fairly humble beginnings. The son of an insurance salesman and a nurse, Ryan grew up in Eastern Washington in a small out-of-the-way town. His aspirations to work in film and television had led him to study at UCLA and he had not left Southern California ever since. His 12 years in Los Angeles had been exciting, if not demanding.
Ryan’s classic good looks had taken him far and had landed him in many different bedrooms across the city. It was true what they said about LA; everyone was “screwing up” in order to catch a break, and at first glance Ryan looked like the kind of guy who could help move along your career. Especially considering he hung around a number of other agents and managers at high level firms.
His career had been steady, but his big break had come when he had been introduced to Julia Belle. The young actress from Iowa was 21-years-old and a bit naïve to the ways of the world – particularly the world of Hollywood types in LA. Ryan had won her over with his country-boy charm and had signed on as her manager within a week of meeting her. Despite her beauty, natural talent and charm, Julia and Ryan had more of a brother/sister camaraderie and that had bode well for their working relationship. Ryan had been able to help Julia navigate the Hollywood scene with the grace many lacked, and his coaching had helped prevent her from being labeled another party girl not to be taken seriously.
Through their relationship, Ryan had learned that Julia was also a talented writer, and she had put together a script that was actually quite compelling, especially for someone her age. With the help of notable director or studio, he really believed it could put her on the map as another hyphenate – actor/writer/producer – and he’d be happy to go along for the ride as her manager. He wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t advocating for her.
The script told the story of a girl in Iowa – April – who had been adopted from an Asian orphanage as a child. Through a series of events in her early 20s, April met with some fellow travelers in Asia, one of whom whose mother used to volunteer at orphanages throughout the countryside. The traveler is able to connect April with her mother, and the two piece together a bit of April’s history and eventually locate her brother, whom April has not seen since she was 2 years old.
It was this script – Untrodden Road – that Ryan wanted to sell to Cooper Pictures. After working alongside Derrick Cooper on Rock Haven and hearing more about his daughter Jenn, the genius behind Cooper Pictures, Ryan knew there was no one else he wanted to pitch this script to. Jenn, though a billionaire magnate with support from her father, had started her own shop and turned it successful within the first 2 years of operation. The repertoire of films that Cooper Pictures produced spoke to the voices of women and feminism, all while capturing the dramatic reality in which real people lived. The Hollywood Hills had labelled Cooper Pictures the next Annapurna Pictures – the company run by Megan Ellison – but noted that Jenn’s business acumen was a bit more ruthless than Megan’s and posited that her success would only continue. Ryan had nothing but admiration for Jenn’s drive.
The Cooper Pictures offices were “bougie”, to say the least. No expense had been spared in the design and re-model of the building off Wilshire, and Ryan imagined clients were beyond impressed upon entering the Cooper Pictures. The mid-century modern furniture that adorned the reception area was complimented by an abundance of natural light, which only added to the “California-esque” feel of the place. In addition, the white walls housed a couple of notable art pieces to add some color to the clean palette of the room. It was tasteful, but expensive and highly designed.
The receptionist who greeted Ryan was dressed impeccably, and his suit had clearly been tailored to an exact fit. His coiffed pompadour cut was exactly what one would expect to find in Beverly Hills; perfectly groomed sides with the longer hair on top stylishly slicked back. He definitely fit the look of the high-end production firm.
“Ryan Price,” he directed at the receptionist. “I’m here to see Jenn Cooper.”
“Hi Ryan. I’m Paul. Let me call back to Jenn’s office and let her know you’ve arrived. Can I get you anything while you wait?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“Alright, please have a seat.”
Paul waved Ryan toward the cluster of chairs in reception and Ryan settled himself into one. He sent Julia a quick text to let her know he had made it to Cooper Pictures and would update her following his meeting. Getting comfortable, he looked back into the Cooper Pictures offices to watch the bustle of the employees. The office was set up in the open style that many tech startups employed, with glass-enclosed offices along the exterior walls of the buildings and low cubicles throughout the middle. All the cubicles were topped with glass walls in order to allow extra light to flow through, and the effect was energizing.
A beautiful dark-haired girl dressed in a pencil skirt and accent top with heels that elongated her toned legs approached Ryan from the office doors.
Ryan flashed his trademark smile and dimples and stood to shake hands with her.
“Yes, that’s me. It’s nice to meet you,” he said, extending his hand, taking her manicured grip into his.
“I’m Alicia James, Jenn’s assistant. It’s very nice to meet you. Let me take you back to Jenn’s office,” she said, motioning him to join her.
“Thank you, that would be great.”
Ryan followed her through the busy office space to a large office in the northwest corner of the building. He recognized Jenn from her many magazine spreads. She was inside typing away at her laptop, and he was struck by the fact that she was noticeably more beautiful in person. He sucked in a breath. Her dark locks were curled to frame her face and her lipstick made her lips stand out in a way that had Ryan thinking about all of the things he wanted to do with those lips.
Alicia knocked on the door and announced Ryan’s presence to Jenn.
“Jenn, I have Ryan Price for you.”
Looking up, Jenn smiled and said, “Thank you, Alicia.”
Alicia stepped aside to let Ryan into the office and made her way to her desk positioned just outside of Jenn’s office.
Stepping inside, Ryan was immediately overwhelmed by a very feminine scent, one he realized was coming from Jenn herself. It was intoxicating.
Jenn rose from her chair and came around her desk to greet Ryan. She was smaller than he had expected her to be; from the photos he had seen and the articles he had read, Jenn came across as larger than life. No doubt, her presence and personality would ring true to that stature.
“Ryan, it is so nice to meet you. My father has said wonderful things about working with you, and he does not give out praise lightly.”
Ryan shook her hand, and a feeling of excitement ran through his body. This woman was gorgeous and perfectly put together; and his body was absolutely aware of it.
“Thank you,” he said, flashing his dimples, trying to gain back some control of his libido. “It’s nice to meet you as well, Jenn. Since meeting and working with your father, I’ve been looking forward to crossing paths with you.”
“Have a seat. Tell me what you’d like to discuss,” she said as she rounded her desk to take her seat, her professionalism never wavering. Ryan was not shy about taking the opportunity to watch her walk away as he sat down, and he was not disappointed.
“You know I represent Julia Belle,” he said confidently, settling into the chair across from Jenn’s desk.
“Yes, and I’ve heard good things about her from my father. It doesn’t hurt that the media is labeling her the next Jennifer Lawrence either. Lucky for you,” she said coyly, in a way that made Ryan she was teasing him a bit.
“Yes, that moniker has not passed me by,” he laughed. “But, the reason I wanted to meet with you is to discuss Julia’s career. I know you’ve seen her acting work, but what you haven’t seen is her writing. She shared a script with me that I think could be an excellent fit for Cooper Pictures. Female-driven, dramatic, heartfelt, and based on a true story.”
Jenn arched an eyebrow at him, deducing what he was saying.
“You want to make Julia the next female hyphenate success,” she said without a hint of question to the sentence.
Direct and to the point. I like that.
“Yes. And I want Cooper Pictures to be the studio behind that success.”
“I’m not in the habit of taking credit for the success of other strong women in this industry,” she countered.
“And I appreciate that fact. All I’m asking is that you take a look at the script. I have a copy for you here. Read it, and if you hate it, I’ll drop the subject. Although I’d still like to find some way to work with you,” he finished, somewhat flirtatiously.
Jenn studied him for a moment, and a look of amusement crossed her face.
“Alright. I’ll read it. But this is all on spec. I can’t make you any promises.”
“That’s all I’m asking,” he confirmed.
“I’ll get back to you in a few days. If I’m interested, I’ll have Alicia set up a dinner for us to discuss things.”
“Perfect. Thank you, Jenn. I look forward to hearing from you,” Ryan said as he stood to leave. Reaching across the desk to hand Jenn the script, his eyes couldn’t help glancing down to catch a glimpse of her cleavage, and he felt his blood rush south.
Jenn met his eyes across the desk with a smoldering smile.
“Oh, you’ll definitely be hearing from me.”