We've Got Hollywood Covered
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Vintage Ovitz

Turning intermittently from screenwriting, teaching screenwriting and photographing permutations of writing, its process, its physical and emotional results, I decided to start a side project — a series of photographs of the power centers of Hollywood, past, present, future as the digital age changes everything in greater and greater leaps.   For that purpose, I […]

Turning intermittently from screenwriting, teaching screenwriting and photographing permutations of writing, its process, its physical and emotional results, I decided to start a side project — a series of photographs of the power centers of Hollywood, past, present, future as the digital age changes everything in greater and greater leaps.  

For that purpose, I asked my agent to ask a former agent once removed, Michael Ovitz, if I could do a series of large format photographs of the interior of the old CAA building at Wilshire and little Santa Monica – Ovitz’s House of Pei.  The new breed CAA had vacated the dump for Century City and the building stood empty… for a long time.  My intention in photographing the building: I hoped to capture a few ghosts and auras of my own Hollywood past.  And those of everybody else who toiled to make movies and television shows in the town during the 80s and 90s.  

I hoped my lens might capture little dusty whirlwinds still emanating… of turnaround, rewrites, checks messengered, projects and talent scorned left and right….  for the greater good of CAA’s star-driven agendas.  Movies made, calls unreturned, power used, abused.  Just like in the Golden Age of Hollywood… just like always in Hollywood.  

But Mike turned me down.  It was kind of shocking for a fool like me. And, of course, immediately I recognized that old feeling. Oh, Hollywood. Oh, Mike – you passed on my project. OUCH. I kicked myself for subjugating my art concept to that system, to Mike Ovitz of all people.  

His representative: “Michael has a very special and very specific relationship to this building and sees it as a work of art in and of itself, so it's a bit difficult for him to get involved in another project that plays off the building and its relationship to the city in a different manner.”

Once the space was leased out, I slipped in and took some pictures. The ghosts and auras had been painted over. The emblematic giant, immoveable Roy Lichtenstein hung shrouded like a Christo in the atrium. And I settled for a set of digital images of the renovation in progress. They had removed the Creative Artists Agency logo from the marble on the front wall. But the outline and mounting holes remained – looking a bit like bullet holes. But they’re not.  

 Tom  Benedek wrote the screenplays for Cocoon and other films. His first novel, "Peloponnesia," has just been published. He has written and rewritten screenplays for Robert Zemeckis, Lawrence Kasdan, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollack, Harold Ramis and many others. Tom teaches screenwriting at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, UMass Amherst and Screenwritingmasterclass.com. His photography has been exhibited widely and can be viewed at tombenedek.com