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Fall Fashion: Murder in London

With their thesis collections at London's Central Saint Martins looming on the horizon, two graduate students make a pact. American Jo Miller,

short on talent but long on familial standing, will assume authorship of Hackney native Eleanor James’s masterful designs. After Eleanor’s work catapults Jo into the strata of Europe’s fashion elite, her addictions and jealousies threaten to derail their ambitions. When a cunning detective

from Scotland Yard begins asking questions about Jo’s past, his probing inquiries threaten to destroy their lives.

Strengths:

The forced alliance and then primal rivalry between Jo and Eleanor creates a diabolical clash that is wrought with tension. At stake are moral, philosophical and even cultural values as Jo buys her way to success in the fashion world while exploiting Eleanor's superior, yet volatile talent. The elegant and witty Alex provides not only the perfect object for a fatal love triangle, but also a foil from which an erotic and psychological thriller is artfully constructed. The narrative cleverly employs red herrings and minute details to toy with the audience, while building towards an explosive, Shakespearean conclusion where Jo and Eleanor's rivalry degenerates to its most primal level. The dialogue is the shining star of the story, exhibiting flair, economy and memorable wit in nearly every scene.

Prospects:

The script blends the more salacious and captivating elements of Black Swan and The Talented Mr. Ripley. As an erotic thriller and a Shakespearean drama the story is brilliantly rendered through arresting dialogue and complex, layered characters. Jo, Eleanor, and Alex offer attractive roles for even some of the top young actors in the industry today. Not only is this script indicative of a rare talent, it already holds commercial potential in its current form.

Strengths:

This screenplay is a sharp, modern day film noir deftly hidden behind the world of fashion. JO and ELEANOR are polar opposites, except in their desire to succeed in this high-stakes business; their passive/aggressive behavior a perfect plot device to fuel their hero/adversary flip-flop that reads as a cliff-hanger right up to the story's FADE OUT end. ALEX, the Scotland Yard rogue hot on the trail of deceased rising star, NATHAN SIMS, is an unexpected legacy roadblock that assists story advancement with a steamy love triangle reader/audience expects from this genre, the personal foibles/demons of Alex/Eleanor playing right into Jo's femme fatale plan. The dialogue is funny and biting at turns, the script developing into some Stephen King/PROJECT RUNWAY hybrid, it's progeny a poison concocting star. What starts off as some sweet, non-threatening "across the pond," handshake slowly simmers conflict and rising stakes to a boil two-thirds; Jo, Alex and Eleanor bringing out the perceived best and obvious worst in one another, pressure cooking this whodunit all the way up until the final scene/shot. This is a surprising read, its benign start gaining speed at just the right intervals, begging reader/audience forward.

Prospects:

This script has great potential, PROJECT RUNWAY and THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA having already shown that the high-stakes world of fashion can bring a lucrative return to screen scenarios - both small and large. This new take on an old idea (Vogue with a deadly twist) might have been penned at just the right time - and with some solid American/UK casting - this story could resonate with young and old on both sides of the "pond" - and beyond. A world of casting possibilities fill the eyes as the script reads/unfolds -- always a good sign that there is indeed film potential in the material. 

To be fair, readers had their first-draft criticisms, which we've addressed with significant input. Still, even a lukewarm review had this to say:

It's also refreshing to see female characters depicted in such a strong and multidimensional way that treats their romantic entanglements as secondary for most of the story. The setting is convincing through the writer's sophisticated sensibility and attention to specificity. While it could use some tuning, the dialogue is consistently witty with an elevated quality worthy of a movie that would be uniquely quotable.

Anyway. I submitted the script under a pseudonym, so as not to have readers influenced by my gender, ethnicity, or sold writer status.

Years later, I made friends with an editor at a publishing company here in New York. I didn't know he was an editor, and I certainly didn't know that he had written novels as well. He studied creative writing in Vermont, graduating from an M.F.A. program and the whole nine.

The editor has subsequently started a small press of his own, and has published two writers to date. He said he would publish me, and I hope to write this as a book one day. I parked the domain along with some fancy business cards, and have sold several screenplay copies.

So...yeah. (Sometimes I go with the whole Murder in London conceit/alternate title, as readers can't always handle Fall Fashion.) 

I have a Tax ID number and wholesale account with a high-end toy company in Miami. They make animal figurines in conjunction with biologists at The San Diego Zoo, so they're not just guessing over there. I've exchanged correspondence with the CEO over the years, but I certainly don't know him or anything.

However, I definitely know the writer/editor/publisher, and I admire him greatly. He's seen me sell high-end toys to discerning baddies, and we're confident I could sell a novella on a grassroots level. (Especially one published by a legitimate third party.) If I get the Uppercut manuscript off the mat via a literary agent I similarly admire? An Indian family story could travel well, domestically and internationally. 

Either way, Fall Fashion will be next.

We'll cross that London bridge when we come to it, but it's always nice to set lofty, tangible goals. Here are the first four paragraphs set against a New York backdrop, as capturing the essence of America in a book is easier than capturing the spirit of England in a screenplay. 

* * *

Nathan staggered forward, more concerned by the faint possibility of posthumous embarrassment than the stark reality of imminent death. Dark blood, hot and thick, surged from his throat. The cut from the knife was clean. Nathan was aware of a body acting on instinct – lurching for the door and gurgling for help – while his mind remained still. As time slowed, it wasn’t life that flashed before him, but all of the loose, frayed ends, he had yet to tie up. When people die unexpectedly, he thought, their affairs aren’t in order. Literally, in some cases, their affairs are not in order: A man dies, and his wife hears rumors about a sordid extramarital. A woman dies, and her husband learns the truth about the son that was never his. For Nathan Sims, the untied ends came in the form of three vices his mother might soon stumble upon. Not if she kept his room a shrine of sorts, but Nathan knew she was hardly the type. They had even discussed it once, those torn mothers soaking in the marinade of their grief, turning their children’s bedrooms into some awful amalgam of diorama and dollhouse.

     No, Mrs. Sims would sweep and mop through the pain. The heart doesn’t move on, but the house does. Dissenting opinion and yellow cleaning gloves in hand, she would find the missing bottle of Madeira, a reunion with which her husband had long given up on. She would willfully ignore – then begrudgingly acknowledge – the chalky bags of heroin, carelessly hidden between the tight stacks of vinyl. It was a third evil, however, a specific genre of Internet pornography, that would come to diminish her memories. It wasn’t that Nathan’s base appetites were misogynistic, masochistic, or otherwise grotesque. Strident as his mother was, she would have preferred all of that to any of this. Because in two weeks’ time, Mrs. Sims would see that her son’s digital stash was marked and distinguished, not by the presence of naked women, but by the absence of naked women.

     Nathan was a design student; Mrs. Sims should have known. Given her illusions about the sex, drugs, and now attendant violence, Nathan considered the dawn of her understanding. He felt a shiver in his bones while bleeding out from his nose, before collapsing to his knees and dying alone on the floor.

Chapter One

Jo Miller was only twenty-eight years old, but didn't look a day under forty. Though preternaturally beautiful with a timeless countenance, childhood had been cruel to her while adolescence stood in line. Her mother, Victoria Miller, was over involved yet unpleasant; her father, Charles B. Miller III, was collegial in passing, but disinterested in kind. Since every inaction demanded an equal and opposite reaction, Jo led a self-described “Boxer Rebellion” while matriculating at Nightingale-Bamford. Joined by the rising sixth-graders, she displayed a show-and-tell preference for boys’ briefs in lieu of training bras from La Perla. In high school,  Jo inspired the girls to thrift clothes from Goodwill before it was en vogue. Each development mortified their mothers. These women, domesticated attorneys and standard-issue wives of the Seven Sisters among them, followed their Percocet-sponsored naps with late lunches at Daniel. To have either disrupted – and for years on end – found Mrs. Miller ostracized from society, polite or otherwise. Just as Jo’s interest in fabric and fashion was emerging with flair, her mother’s downfall marked her first, creative design. It was a plan she calculated and executed with cold-blooded precision.   

  

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