Publish Novellas 18 December 2022
EPISODE 5 – TRUST
With a pen hovering over the contract line, Luna must determine her level of trust in the movie agent sitting across the table.
Restaurant servers keep bringing food to the table during the brunch hour.
Rex tells Luna, “I know you like healthy options. Accept anything you desire to eat."
“Do you feel that agreeing to everything you ask will increase the possibility of me landing this role?” Luna asks.
“Most definitely! That’s my entire purpose for any suggestion. Within a multi-million dollar negotiation, if I keep responding, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Let me get back to you,’ I look weak.
“A hundred other candidates can pitch themselves before I return. So yes, I’m going to push you to your limit so I have the best chance of leaving that room with a signature.”
Luna concedes, “All right. I don’t want to be the girl fired her first day on the job. We can agree on discretionary photography of my posterior and anything from the waist up in order to get this role. But you know…, I should really read the script! It might be a sleazy picture.”
“You can take a couple of days to go over the script. I’ll give you a copy before leaving the hotel. But stopping to read it now will interfere with the photography schedule.”
“Again, I must trust you?” Luna replies with visible disappointment. “Let’s go over the contracts.”
The first thing Rex has Luna sign is the model release for promotional photos and video. Then he has her sign a non-disclosure agreement. Next, he explains that the names of stars must be trademarked as a brand. It’s why birth names often differ.
The new brand Rex pitches for Luna is Luma Nery Star. She immediately sees the correlation with stardom and agrees.
“I will own the trademark until you earn enough to purchase it back.” Rex explains what Luna is hiring him to do. “Now, this is perhaps the most important document. As your agent, I have the right to make decisions in your behalf. These can be financial ones amounting to millions of dollars.
“A deal may hinge upon whether you’ll briefly flash a nipple versus your anticipation to show modest cleavage. I’ll have the right to make that call.
“Honestly, I rather walk out with my million dollar commission. But if you want to limit my negotiation ability in advance, don’t sign. Now, please let me have at least a bite of my lobster.”
“I see how this industry sucks out a person’s morals just like you do with the flesh within your lobster claws. Yesterday, I was running to save my soul. Today, I’m selling it for millions of people to lust after.”
“To stay alive during negotiation, you’ll agree to some things you don’t like. It’s called compromise. This is a crash course in how the industry operates. Some powerful person in nearly every big deal will ask whether I can send you to his—or her—hotel room. Tell me how you wish for me to respond.”
“You are wearing me down with your persistent inquiries—peeling away more and more! I’m giving you discretion to photograph all but a literal sliver of my body and you want that too!” Luna is visibly shaken and feels used. “I was beginning to like you. But your obsession with my total nudity for commission concerns me. Are you trying to turn me into a hooker?”
“Calm down. There’s no one making that request of you now. As your representative, I need to fully understand your mind and how badly you want work. Some actresses have no limits in order to land a role. If that’s where your mind is, without judging you, I should make the deal if someone says it hinges on such favors. But I’m not setting limits. That’s what you must communicate to me.”
“Well, it’s better that you ask rather than bury consent in the fine print of the contract. I prefer not to delegate that decision! Among all your photos, show me the maximum limit you expect.”
“I don’t need to show you a photo. You see maximum exposure every time you step into a shower. But here is a picture of what we have agreed to so far. Sip some water and shake it off. These details can be taxing. Do you appreciate me being up front with you about everything?”
“Yes, in graphic detail, you have been very honest. But I’m still cautious of your intentions.”
“Then decide if you trust me. There’s an art to negotiation. I’m not going to start off exchanging the minimum amount of money for the maximum amount of exposure. Armed with your website and photos that exclude total frontal nudity, I’ll demonstrate your comfort level. I’m hoping something we get on film will go viral.
“After you have a few profitable movies in your rearview mirror, we can call the shots. But, starting out, I may need to sweeten the deal and sell your bare buttocks to get ink on the contract.”
“Am I going to be embarrassed by anything you photograph?”
“I can’t control your emotions, but suggest you begin feeling even more proud of your body.”
“Tell me truthfully, are you planning to use my answers for your personal benefit? I mean, you could be the one who wants special favors in exchange for a role.”
Ignoring her faux pas, Rex offers commendation. “Good girl! That’s the type of questions you should be asking.”
“You answer questions like a mystery novel. There are plenty of juicy details with plot twists and cliffhangers. Are you confirming that you have no interest in sleeping with me?” Luna reacts.
“That’s a topic apart from our business relationship. It’s foolish to drift into such a conversation prior to having your signature on the most important document.
“Get it in your head that to promote your brand, I must convince people that you are one of the sexiest women in Hollywood. Go online to view your competition.
“This persona is not just for today or during filming. The brand we create must maintain cohesiveness whenever you are in public. If you can take a critique—I observe that you come across apprehensive. That’s not sexy.”
“You’re saying I need to start being more sexy, even in this public hotel today?”
“A sexy woman intentionally dresses in that manner for attention. Stop thinking like Luna Parker and begin acting like Luma Nery Star. Reporters will comment about your sexiness. They will ask uncomfortable questions to get a reaction for a soundbite.
“Writers will describe your body in full detail. Your reaction should not come across as though you are defensive or feel violated. Roll with the questions in a way that makes more fans lust after you. Marilyn was an expert at it.”
“So if a reporter asks if fans will see more flesh in upcoming work, I should respond something like, ‘If you don’t pay close enough attention, you may miss what you want to see in my current film. My next role will be even juicier.’”
“Exactly. My questions have multiple purposes. I need to see how you respond to provocative suggestions. I want to know how confident you are in front of a camera.
“And I should know your limits when negotiating contracts. You think that I’m wearing you down, but I’m building up my confidence and yours!”
“I agree that my confidence is growing,” Luna admits.
Rex puts a fire under Luna by suggesting that she may not be ready for stardom.
“Maybe over the course of the day you’ll improve. But my critique based on reactions thus far is that you are too apprehensive. Perhaps Sarah would have been the best choice for this film. Right now, I’m wondering if I can get better shots by photographing hotel guests poolside.”
“You and I both know that Sarah is no match against me! She willingly showed more at the dojo than me—because she lost. But I can follow your reasoning, she didn’t seem to care what was exposed. Get her out of your mind. We are about to close this deal.
“My comfort and willingness to accept direction boils down to whether, I trust you…. If not…, you shouldn’t be my agent. The main thing I would expect from an agent is excellent negotiation skills. During one breakfast, you are negotiating my pants off—convincing me to be photographed wearing next to nothing. That’s actually a compliment for a negotiator.
“What if there really is no role and you drive away with hundreds of those pictures? Don’t get angry. Say something that makes me trust you with my entire body, reputation, and fortune,” Luna begs.
Seeing her vulnerability and mistrust, Rex offers assurances. “You should be cautious. I’m a man you just met who will drive away with an unknown amount of sexy pictures. This is accompanied by your signature that authorizes me to publish them.
“Since I’m not the film producer, I cannot guarantee a role as a leading actress, costar, or even an extra. But I’m assuming the financial risks to tip the scales in your favor. The Luma Nery Star brand may fit another movie.”
“Do you think Luma Nery Star could grow into something like the Mission Impossible franchise?”
“Bigger! From your perspective, there’s no tangible evidence of compensation. Before taking any more photos, I’m willing to transfer 5 thousand dollars to a cash app on your phone. It should cover the car rental and hotel expenses you incurred to evade our actors during your audition.
“When arriving home, all new furniture, including a comfortable master bed awaits you—with a better security system. I’ll also provide you with a wardrobe assistant and a 10 thousand dollar budget for new clothes. You’ll receive a more sizable signing bonus if you land the role. Does that alleviate your distrust?”
Trying to shield her joy from receiving some compensation, Luna replies, “Thank you! That more than covers my expenses. You know this industry better than I do. Soon, you’ll see that I have no reservations about promoting sexiness. Ask what my limits are but tell me when I should exceed them.
“Without tying your hands, allow me to keep as much of my clothes on as possible to retain some self-respect. But I don’t want to be the one that spoils the contract. Here goes…. Until I get my first role…, I will let professional photographers photograph whatever you feel is necessary.”
“That’s the ideal amount of latitude I need to come back with a lucrative deal when I head into an office to negotiate,” Rex replies.