Friday, July 21, 2006

Lankford's "Lightning" Flashes Brightly

Nobody writes with more eerie precision about the lizard-infested undergrowth of the independent film business than Terrill Lee Lankford. In Dan Tana’s pleasantly non-trendy Hollywood steakhouse, a would-be film magnate offers money to writer/director Clyde McCoy for a piece of his upcoming cheapo thriller, Blonde Lightning – but there’s a catch about some foreign rights: “I need Benelux, Italy and Germany,” the investor insists.

“ ‘Germany?’ Clyde was horrified. ‘We can’t give you Germany. Germany is huge.’

“ ‘I need it. Or I can’t put up the money. Germany is the main reason I want to be involved with this film. I need to fulfill a contract there… I’m not as interested in the revenues as I am in being able to deliver Germany. It’s the key to completion funds on my two other films. They want three pictures or nothing.’”

Clyde saves the day, and the deal, by suggesting that the investor can have Germany – as long as McCoy and his producer/star, a once semi-famous film and TV actor, get a piece of the action. Mark Hayes, the ambitious but soft-headed hero of Lankford’s EARTHQUAKE WEATHER (where he and McCoy met after the 1994 Northridge quake cracked open their San Fernando Valley apartment building) watches the scene and takes notes. If all goes well, he’ll be hired as associate producer on Blonde Lightning, and maybe some day he’ll be talking about Germany himself.

Of course, all doesn’t go well. Clyde has (along with a serious drinking problem) a ladyfriend, Emily, a successful stunt woman and martial arts expert who has managed to earn the hatred of a very nasty piece of Hollywood flotsam. When a suspicious accident almost kills Emily, Clyde and Mark strike back in a violent gesture that threatens to send them both to jail or the graveyard. There’s not much glamour in Lankford’s version of the movie industry, but there is a truckload of suspense, anger, frustration and sadness – as well as enough eating and drinking to make you break any diet.