Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Series Of False Endings - Friday Flash




The emergency sirens were getting closer. The mob with their torches were raising their flambeaus in exultation, but saw them extinguished by the hovering helicopter looking for a place to land. Soldiers in fatigues were deploying and handing out blankets. The ticker tape parade was in full swing, though once the confetti landed on the concrete sidewalk, they were limply drenched by the hoses putting out the ground fires. The tribal warrior was taking the plaudits from his people as he rode by them in his chariot. The girl kissed the man who had rescued her death-defyingly, though he flinched as her lips irritated the cut on his lip. Meanwhile overhead pyrotechnics lit up the sky with celebratory swashes of colour. Their detonations blotted out the sound of horns from the flotilla of ships returning triumphantly to harbour. The graduates threw their mortar boards into the air, while on the parade ground the police received their medals with due pomp.

He shouldn't have been quite so churlish. Disowning his own film because the Studio rejected his dark ending. Their test screenings, focus groups and guinea pigs, people who had never made a film in their life, YouTube not withstanding, had plumped for something more upbeat. And so he had ceded his opus to Alan Smithee, the hardest working director in Hollywood back in the day.

Out of pique he had spliced together a reel of all the hackneyed endings to films he could find and now sat watching it on an endless loop. His own original celluloid having long since shrivelled into dust. He who had been charged with chronicling the world through his imagination, now left without a camera to record anything. Just a projector to relay this degraded version of it instead. Here in his self-enforced seclusion, now the last witness to the fate of mankind. Following the ravages of wars and genocides. The inundations of toxic waste, biological mutation and terrorist inspired nuclear contamination. Rising tidal waters and tsunamis. The assault of solar radiation through the Earth's denuded Maginot Line of ozone and magnetic fields.

The last man on earth, one of its most eloquent examiners, stripped of any means of self-expression. Of any audience remaining to report to. There were no focus groups now. He wound the spool of film around his neck and looped it over the curtain rail. Alan Smithee's final stand as he kicked the best supporting chair away from under him. The definitive ending that his magnum opus had demanded all those years ago, but which had been prettified by the Studio. If anything, he hadn't been dark enough in the original.


Note: Alan Smithee is the name given to the director of any film disowned by its actual director. This has now been replaced by the name Thomas Lee.

I'll be reading this story and two others at The Stoke Newington Literary festival this Sunday from 3pm. Venue The Baby Bathhouse, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16 

13 comments:

Virginia Moffatt said...

Oh this is brilliantly clever. Love how the first and last paragraphs complement each other and the way you play with endings...Hope it goes down well in Stokey

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks Virginia! I really need to knuckle down & rehearse all 3 pieces. Luckily I'm on holiday now.

pegjet said...

Congratulations on your readings. You'll do great.

Fascinating concept, left alone with what you disowned.

A.B. Wells said...

Really like this, you at your sparkling finest. Excellently phrased as ever and most interesting.

Li said...

I didn't know about the Smithee/Lee name thing. I wish you all the best with your reading - I think this piece will really make an impression on your audience.

John Wiswell said...

I thought the swing against Youtube filmmakers was cute, if additionally churlish. He may wind up there.

And I keep forgetting about the Smithee name!

Helen said...

I never knew that about the name thing - how interesting.

Best wishes for the reading I know you'll be a success especially with this piece!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Wonderful testament to the power of the consumer over the power of film (can't believe they made James Whale change the ending of Bride of Frankenstein)

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

I didn't know about Smithee, thanks for the "fact I have learned today"! I think your chap might have preferred my apocalypse to what he had to put up with.

Best of luck with the readings, are they going to be video-ed at all?

Tim VanSant Writes said...

It seems his greatest mistake was thinking that people want films that are true and accurate. Clearly, we do not.

Good luck at the reading!

flyingscribbler said...

This is a really well written piece of flash fiction. Quite literary and intelligent: should go down well in N5.
I like the way you have your film maker hanging himself with the reel of studio-friendly endings; they did for him in more ways than one.
Inspired.

xantojones said...

Alan Smithee for the win! This is a man who lives and dies for his art! Great story!

Steve Green said...

Quite an awesome piece Marc, the poor guy ending his life by using a loop of endings is deep, and saddening.

And as he said, "If anything, he hadn't been dark enough in the original."