On The Lot
Episode 1

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Episode 1

The tour guide tries to drum up excitement over taking the semifinalists to a part of the studio where he's never taken any other tour, and they dutifully cheer. Recent Grad plays along that the fakey bustle (seriously, there are extras in Victorian garb next to Roman columns -- fake!) is in the service of some real film project. The contestants get out of the trams as Recent Grad fulminates on about how exciting it was.

The semifinalists assemble; Chelsea welcomes them with a typical intro. Gr'up has confidence, focus, and drive, by his own assessment. A dude who looks like Spike Lee gave up Wall Street because he feels like he has something to say. Dude, it's way easier just to start a blog. Also, cheaper. Spike II just wants a shot. The contestants are going to be making "Hollywood movies" (eh?) every week, and showing them to the public. The crowd will be thinned, and one person will win a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks. So, uncredited script doctoring on Shrek Sallies Fourth may be in some chump's future, then? String Bean is impressed some more. Chelsea will see them next at the Biltmore Hotel, "birthplace of the Academy Awards." A strawberry blond in a cheese-coloured suit wants to win.

Bus! The contestants mingle. We get an interview with Jason Epperson, of Winchester, KY, in which he says that all the hicksy coal-mining friends and family at home (I'm paraphrasing) are counting on him.

The bus stops at the Biltmore. The contestants pile out. The hotel is nice. Mateen Kemet (formerly Spike II) of Oakland felt like he had "arrived" when he got there. The screening room's all fancy, with three leather armchairs in the center for the judges, but no matter how much they try to make me think this is actually in the Biltmore Hotel, it's so over-designed that I'm immediately suspicious that it's as real as Trump's (former) boardroom. Will Bigham (formerly Balding Dorkus) of Canyon, TX felt like he and all his fellows had made it.

Chelsea shows up again, for no good reason, and reminds us again about the stakes. But the competition starts "right here, right now." They're going to be judged on their submission films, and on three assignments that will supposedly reveal which of them has what it takes to make it.

Time to meet the judges: Carrie Fisher, Garry Marshall, and Brett Ratner. Read: three people who decided to work an hour a week this summer for beer money. Let me help you to dismiss Jeff Seibenick (formerly Recent Grad) of Perrysburg, OH out of hand: Brett Ratner makes the kinds of films Jeff wants to make. That's his epitaph in a nutshell, for me. The judges enter (Ratner kisses Chelsea, and maybe I'm reading into her expression but it looks like she might want to go take a Silkwood shower with extra Purell) and take their seats, smiling self-importantly. Marshall, for his part, is responsible for everything Will watched throughout his (sad, sad) childhood. Mark McLain (formerly Cheese Suit) of Dyer, IN popped a boner when he saw that Princess Leia was ten feet away. Actually, Fisher looks better here than she has in years; I love her bob. She gets up to kiss the contestants' asses about having gotten into the semifinals. Ratner does not get up to say that he's excited for them because he's seen all their submissions. At this, we get an interview with Phil Hawkins of Manchester, UK (so far the only non-American we've seen make it here despite submissions from an alleged thirty-three countries), in which he pees his pants that Ratner watched his film. Fisher says the first step to becoming a director is the pitch -- selling the story of the movie, and selling oneself. Marshall speaks for the first time to say that directors have to be actors, so that studio executives (or whoever) can tell from their eyes if they're telling a story they believe. He namedrops Steven Spielberg (anecdote not worth repeating). The contestants will each be randomly given a logline (a story idea: "Cop Gives Waitress $1 Million Tip"), interpret the story idea, and show up the next morning to pitch the judges their film. Jason was hoping they wouldn't have to do this; he's never done it before.

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On The Lot

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