Chapter 03

Conference call

“Not overestimating ourselves are we?” Peta Pinter, all in black with severely cut dyed black hair and kohl eyeliner.
“Plus in less than one hundred days, America gets to choose anyway. The voters will throw Trump out.” Jewel McClintock, looking like punk never went away, except she just got older. Her hair is purple and pink.
While Sundeep Ghatak has almost no hair these days, “For this you would have had us all travel to Los Angeles my friend?”

Kent Warfield held up his hands, perhaps to silence everyone, perhaps to acknowledge his guilt, “Yeh, you’re right Sunny. I’m sorry for demanding you all come over, but damn it, it’s good to see you, even like this! And we can at least start this thing rolling from here, for now. And Jewel, yes I know exactly when the election is due, but Trump lost by three million votes last time, so what’s to stop him this time? If he doesn’t win he’ll demand recounts until hell freezes, and he’s already making all the noises about voter fraud, just to get it on the table. He’ll declare martial law or whatever. There is nothing this guy and his backers will stop at.”
“Including his puppetmaster Putin,” said Matt Chovanec, also looking challenged in the hair department, but clearly putting in lockdown time keeping buff.


Woah, time out, time out! I’m like giddy with all these people. Who are they, what are they?

                Kent Warfield’s closest colleagues, his old gang.

Yeh, I get that, but names, bald, hair, whatever. Can we maybe caption them?

                You mean as they speak, a caption comes up? Yeh, I guess. But we have to know more than just their name. Like Peta ‘Pete’ Pinter frinstance.

                The first person that spoke?

Exactly. She’s a Casting Agent, right. British, lives in Berlin. Somewhere well along the militant butch lesbian continuum.

                Good, now I know who she is. And she’s called Peta, or Pete. Cool, got it.

But we can’t keep doing that every time someone new wants to speak. It’ll get tedious.

                Hence the captions idea. Or we could have everybody sort of introduce themselves.

Uhuh. Like Lyle O’Nolan starts by saying, ‘As a gay First Assistant Director living in Dublin, I think…’ then Gabriel Delors says, ‘Well as a black French cinematographer recovering from recent prostate cancer I’d like to say…’ then Debs Maugham chips in with, ‘Well I too am black, living in London, where I work as a Production Designer, and my point is that…’ Nope, that would be way too clunky.

                Who’s the pale guy in the red-framed eyeglasses by the way? Very seventies.

Noah Goossens, Camera Operator, Belgian, lives in Lausanne. Comes as a matched pair with Gabriel Delors. Gabriel does the lighting, Noah does the operating.

                And the woman with the black ponytail? Wow, I think her hair colour may even be natural!

It is. Arabella Fearnley, Costume Designer and Wardrobe. Lives in a restored windmill in Norfolk.


Nope, it’s a town in Wales. Or maybe England or whatever.

                OK. Madeline we know already of course, so that’s all good.

Which actually only leaves Zsuzsa Dobos. Hungarian, blonde, academic, clever, etcetera etcetera, and her old husband Kent Warfield. Who we also know.

                Alright, so that’s like the rollcall, and the gang’s all here. We gonna caption them anyway?

Just the name and their job title, and nationality. I don’t think we need to get into sexual orientation, or skin colour, or prostate operations or whatever.

                Fair enough. So what’s Kent saying now?


“Why do I see Trump as such a threat Matt? Because he is. He’s unhinged, completely. We all know that. And you’re right, there are plenty of others who are also threats. Putin of course, Bolsonaro for sure, Xi Jinping… plus Zsuzsa has a little dictator in her home country, and you have a mini-Trump in yours too Mads, true?”
Madeline P. Moore nodded in agreement.
“We can’t reach Putin or Bolsonaro, or Kim Jong-un. But we can get Trump. We can take him down. He’s the reality TV President, and we can own him.”
“But how?” [Caption: Gabriel Delors, Cinematographer, French].
“Jaysuz, you’re never talking about a reality format are you? Please say you’re not.” [Caption: Lyle O’Nolan, First Assistant Director, Irish].
“That’s our entry point, yes.” [Caption: Zsuzsa Dobos, Academic, Executive Producer, Hungrian].
“To Trump everything is about ratings. He’s obsessed with ratings.” [Caption: Kent Warfield, Director, British]. “That’s his weakness. That’s our way in.”
“Have you costed this?” [Caption: Sundeep Ghatak, Line Producer, British].

Kent Warfield was watching all the little boxes on the screen, seeing who might be with him, who was looking sceptical. “Costed? Sunny, this will make more money than you ever dreamed of. Even you. The realtime fall of a mad tyrant, brought to the cinema, streaming services and TV screens of the world, near-live. You think we’ll have difficulty selling that? You won’t be able to count the incoming fast enough.” Sundeep nodded at the attractiveness of that. He’d shaken the money tree for every one of Kent Warfield’s movies, starting with Knives In Deep. Sometimes the pitch had been easy, when there were a few superstars already attached, but the veteran Producer was unconvinced this time round. Kent was fading from Hollywood’s fickle memory, and the prospect of making a movie specifically to overthrow a President could attract serious trouble.

As if reading his thoughts, Kent tossed in his secret weapon: Indeed there was an already attached superstar, Antony Tone Fentick, who was willing, able, and keen. Cher, Marv Winterson, Streisand, Pika, Springsteen, The Chicks, De Niro, Bradley Cooper, and so on – the list was long of people who’d made clear their negative feelings for Trump. These wouldn’t be the people to cosy up to him, even in the name of great art. But Tone Fentick! Now there was a guy who hated the 45th President, but had never spoken publicly about his feelings. Listening, Madeline recalled all the rewrites needed to appropriately mirror the Fentick brand. No, of course he wouldn’t have expressed his true opinion of Trump, just in case it rebounded at the box office. Now there was no box office, so perhaps the prospect of making a move on history might bring its own rewards. ‘Kent Bloody Warfield,’ Madeline said to herself. ‘You’ve got more horseshit in you than my three boys put together. It’s mad, pointless, hopeless, and everything else which is futile. Oh, and it won’t happen, not in a million years.’ And then she thought: But I would watch that movie.

Pete Pinter was making some ritualised objection to having Tone Fentick attached without Casting having had a brief. Emollient, Kent explained it was more like a gentlemen’s agreement really. Tone was up for some political agitprop, and that’s as far as it had gone. No contract as yet.
“And who would Mr Musclehead play anyway?” Pete wanted to know.
Kent was on steadier ground now, “I’m pretty sure he would play the part of a Hollywood star called Antony ‘Tone’ Fentick, who is intent on stopping Trump by any means, even if that requires acting nice to him.”

“So this really is a feckin reality show – Big Brother, Honeysweet, Survivor, Duck Dynasty? Jeez.” Lyle O’Nolan shook his head in exasperation. “How can you even think of pitching that to us Boss?” He adopted an unconvincing  American movie trailer voice, ‘The Director of Academy Award-winning best picture The Decider Machine brings you another edge of seat drama featuring an orange compulsive liar, plus hitherto closet democrat, Antony ‘Tone’ Fentick.’ Sorry Kent, but it doesn’t sound that huge to me.”
“Fentone will put in the development money,” Kent Warfield added casually. Fentone being the production company owned by Tone Fentick, natch. This news clearly captured Sundeep’s attention.
“There’s nothing to stop us getting into Pre-prod,” the Director continued. “We’re already at fewer than one hundred days before the US election.”
“If it happens.”
“Correct Arabella. If it happens. If it doesn’t, it means Trump has got his way and delayed it. It means no-one has been able to stop him. He and the Russians and Facebook and all his billionaire buddies will have once again stolen democracy from under the noses of the people of America. No, make that the world.”
“And we can stop it happening?”
“Yes Noah, we can. And it will be the movie you’ll tell your grandchildren that you worked on. Yes it’s a reality show Lyle, and it’s also cutting-edge politics. We, my friends, can seize back history.”
“That’s a good line,” said Zsuzsa, tapping it into her tablet. “Seize back history. We can. We will.”



There was a typo on Zsuzsa’s caption a little while back by the way. It said ‘Hungrian’.

                That’s wrong? I’ll fix it.

Exactly. Hung, then an a, then rian.

                OK. Soz. How do you think it’s going?

I think it’s going hard. They’re not convinced.

                But they’re loyal. To Warfield I mean.

Yep. It’s a sort of eve of battle feeling. Everyone spooked. Everyone fearful about what they’re getting themselves into.

                Like the Game of Thrones scene the night before the final battle when they get drunk and tell stories?

I’ve never seen Game of Thrones. I know what it is. Never seen it.

                That is literally quite in-cred-ible. Literally everyone in the entire world has literally seen it.

Well, not me. So, like I said: Eve of battle feeling.

                Got it. Will they all buy in?

Would you?

                No. Yes. Um, I like the idea of making history. I don’t like the idea of being in jail for the rest of my life. So I don’t know.

Let’s take it as read that they all sit around yapping at their Zoom screens for another hour. Gradually the conversation gets a little bit more solid and they get into some detail. Gabriel starts talking about mini cameras rigged everywhere, and how he and Noah can run them remotely. Matt says he can do the sound that way too. Three different countries collecting zigabytes of data every day. Going where? Kent tells them he’ll edit in LA, almost certainly with his old amigo Ángel Castro. Yep, yet another Academy Award winner. This ain’t no B-Team. Fraction by fraction he’s winning them over.
Oh look, here’s where the title comes in…


“So it’s all realtime, right?” Lyle was still struggling with such a plebeian concept.
“Yep,” replied Kent.
“So we are the reel time gang, am I right?” Gabriel smiling at his own joke.
“Yep,” Kent confirmed again. “Realtime.”
“But I think you and I are spelling it different,” said Gabriel. “I mean…” He checked with Noah Goossens, “Une bobine n’est-ce pas?”
“Ah oui! It is good. Gabriel says we are R-e-e-l time gang, because we are movie makers, old school! When the films was on the reels. And I think ‘reel’ mean other things too yes? When a fishing man brings his fish to land, he reels it yes?”
“A reel is a dance where I come from,” added Lyle, sounding a pinch more enthusiastic. “Making a movie to catch a fish by leading him a merry dance. That sounds right enough Gabriel.”
“So not r-e-a-l time,” Kent Warfield was struggling to re-frame his concept, even a little bit. He saw heads being shaken. They liked the idea of being a gang. They liked ‘a merry dance’ a whole lot more than a phrase he’d used earlier for the worst-case fallout: Seditious Conspiracy. Seditious Conspiracy sounded likely to get people renditioned.

“OK,” Kent Warfield laughed. He knew when to give in on the little things. Lose a skirmish, win the war. “Then we are from this moment on, the R-e-e-l-time Gang. God bless us and all who sail with us!”

“Just one question,” Matt Chovanec. “I make it twelve of us on this call.”
“The Dirty Dozen,” Kent tried levity.
“More like the Doddery Dozen,” Pete always managed an aggressive edge to everything she said. People laughed anyway.
“You Kent, and Zsuzsa, equal one Zoom box.” Matt counted off. “So who is number twelve – the blank screen with ‘SEC’ written on it?”
“Ah,” said Kent Warfield.

They were startled by an electronically-cloaked voice which sprang from their speakers. Could be a man, or a woman, could be a robot. “Hi everyone. I was wondering when someone would ask. I am Security. Just listening in, watching out.”
“For what?” Matt Chovanec, often the Casandra of the group, now aka the Reeltime Gang.
“For… mistakes,” Security replied. “For anything that could compromise the mission.”
“Or anyone?” Matt pressed.
“Or anyone,” the robot voice agreed.
There were several beats of silence. Then several more.
“So,” said Zsuzsa, attempting to restore the positive mood. “I have taken much notes. I’ll forward them to all gang members.” She managed to make being in a gang sound like a fun activity.
“We’ll use a password-protected Google-drive,” offered Security.
“Which will be as watertight as a colander,” said Matt.
“But nevertheless, that is how we will operate,” Security said firmly. If robot voices could be firm, rather than simply metallic and ring-modulated.



Zsuzsa said afterwards that things had gone well enough and thought she’d walk down the hill to get Jamar. She still didn’t appreciate that no-one walked anywhere in LA, and why not phone? Because it was called exercise, said Zsuzsa. But Kent was happy for her to go so that he could speak more openly to the one still-live Zoom rectangle. “Hiya Pronto. You can come out of hiding now.”
Jet appeared, live from her Washington hotel room. “Hi Pops,” she said brightly. No more robot voice. “Well that was somewhat interesting.”
“It’s good to see you sweetie. And thanks for dropping everything and getting on the case like this. Hope you weren’t too far away.”
“One of the Stans. I needed a change, so happy to roll back to the motherland.”
“Speaking of which…”
“No, I ain’t seen Mommadear yet. Will do, but not yet.”
“And have you killed anyone interesting recently?”
Jet made an elaborate play of counting off on her fingers, then shaking her head, “Nah, just the usual small fry bad guys, nothing political. Not like my dear Poppa, who is planning to change the way the world is run.”
“Don’t you care Pronto?”
“I care, but I don’t believe you can change the world with a movie. But hey, prove me wrong.”
“Quentin killed off Hitler through the power of the movies.”
“Pops, that was fiction.”
“Oh, yeh.” He gazed lovingly at her. His favourite. Always would be. Those coupla golden years of almost-domesticity on the ranch he’d bought in Arizona. Playing at cowboys with eight year old Jet. They’d watch ancient Lone Ranger episodes then go ride their real live ponies across the range. Jet was always the masked hero, he the sidekick, Tonto. Somehow their private language developed into Tonto and Pronto, and stayed that way.
Then Jeannie set the attack lawyers on him, just because of a minor dalliance with his leading lady of the time. Jeannie got to keep the ranch, and Pronto, and most of the royalties from the trilogy of Decider movies.
Out of his eight children (was it eight?) Jet was the one chip off the Warfield block, the apple which had not fallen far from the tree. Some of the others… well Julian was a Corporate Accountant for crying out loud, and wasssername, Sarah, had a healing crystals shop in Sonoma. They were all fine as people, kind of, but only Jet had absorbed his wildness of spirit.

“Do you think we might have a problem with anyone?”
“In particular? Nope, absolutely everyone will leak and blab. And every one of you would snap in about one minute of interrogation. But I tell you this Pops, there will always be betrayal. Someone within a group – a gang – always betrays the others.”
“Why not come over West? We can hang together while we’re doing this. You can meet Zsuzsa, you’ll like her.”
“No, I’ll stay around DC for the while. It’s maybe good that we have a local presence.”
“Aren’t you bored?”
“Nope. I know how to lie low. I screw the room service guy who brings me my breakfast. I took my Glock to be serviced yesterday. Y’know, just regular girl stuff. And remember, if your movie doesn’t happen, there are other ways of dealing with our Commander in Chief.”
“That Tonto, is not the subject for a Zoom call.”
“Gotcha Kemosabe.”


Jamar wanted to impress Mrs Warfield. He was for once glad that his mother had insisted on a cleanup of his room just the night before. His used sock trove had been surgically removed, and there was some sort of order in the small space. So when the lady herself turned up unannounced at the stoop to ask if he’d head back up to the mansion, just to make sure her old man’s gear was restored to proper working order, Jamar figured he would dare to ask her opinion about some of his pieces, and invited her into his bedroom. Kid sister Jamelia of course pulled faces at the gloopiness of Jamar bringing a rich neighbour into their kinda humble place, but the lady who talked sorta funny was cool. For the next hour she pored over Jamar’s laptop with him, reading his would-be social media postings that were as yet unposted. Sometimes she nodded and said ‘good’, sometimes she questioned him about exactly what he meant here.  
It was possibly the most magnificent afternoon of Jamar’s entire life.


Madeline cranks the engine

The boys had to be cantered around the paddock on a strict and equally timed basis. That way none of them could look accusingly at Madeline with their big brown eyes, suggesting that she had favoured one over the others. Tyrone, Errol and Montgomery had duly received their exercise, and helpings of feed, and the weather was beautiful. HRH was in his study, on a skype call about peanut butter futures, or something. Things were obviously going well because her husband’s voice always rose in pitch as he neared the closing of a deal. Just one of the reasons he was a terrible poker player. HRH bought and sold things that essentially didn’t exist, and the money just piled up, doing not very much apart from turning into more money.

And her words piled up too. She was in her workroom haven, staring at the laptop screen and the jumble of prose there. Some days after being with the boys she felt energised, and bashed out three thousand words before breakfast, but today she was losing faith in her story. After Kent’s last movie, Madeline had told her agent to accept no more screenplay assignments. Undeterred, Jude came back with an offer on a first novel. They lunched, and against her better instincts Madeline commenced a coming-of-ager set in the world of show jumping. Well, you had to write what you knew about. Except now Kent Bloody Warfield’s half-baked idea had been boring holes in her brain for nearly a week.

She loved the puzzle of it. That’s what screenwriting always was of course – fitting impossible pieces together until the resulting story made sense, or at least enough sense to convince an audience. The Dump Trump project would be an exercise in high cunning, which now seemed more exciting than whether innocent Alice would come to her senses about dastardly Justin in time to compete for the Sandringham Jumps Trophy which she’d been aiming for since her teenage years. Alice’s stallion Marlborough was sick and the veterinarian suggested putting him down, but Alice still believed in their winning partnership, and anyway…
If Madeline P. Moore could have given herself a slap at that moment, she would have done. Alice and Marlborough’s fate seemed so much less urgent than helping to unseat Donald Trump.

‘Wow, looking great Mads!’ was the required response. The black silk trouser suit, that would work, and a dash of lippy. She laughed at herself: lippy. She’d gone native. It wasn’t that she wanted or needed to flirt with Peta, but how she looked might help get a result. Twenty-something years before the Casting Agent had come on strong to her on a shoot in Morocco. Madeline had politely wriggled free, but there’d always been an edge between them since, even though they rarely met at anything other than awards ceremonies.

Quickly changed out of her horse gear, Madeline dialled the Berlin number she found in her battered Filofax. It was probably still good for Peta. No “Wow, looking great Mads!” though, when skype presented them face to face, screen to screen. Peta looked grumpy and battered, like she’d been up all night drinking. This was because she’d been up all night drinking. There were friends who may have been atomised in the Beirut explosion, so she’d spent the night waiting for news. And drinking.
Madeline felt silly about having dressed up for a skype call, but what the hell. Call her Pete, not Peta, she reminded herself. “Hi Pete, hope I’m not disturbing you,” she said brightly.
“Huh. If it isn’t Prunella,” Pete grunted. Which was indeed Madeline’s middle name. Her father had wanted to add some ‘European class’ to ensure his daughter’s future. Her mother resisted his first choice of Hortense, but caved to Prunella. So she was Prune through school and then would have happily dropped the middle name altogether, but for another Madeline Moore in the movie industry, who she had to delineate herself from. If asked she usually said the P was for Pauline, but her true name had been revealed on that Morocco shoot, when their passports were examined at immigration. Pete wasn’t going to let anyone forget Prunella.

A younger woman appeared in the background, over there in Berlin. She placed a hand on Pete’s shoulder and peered at Madeline, then drifted off into the gloom. Madeline recognised her, then thought with a shock that no, she didn’t, but the woman looked just like her, twenty years before. Weird. She pulled herself together. No need for politeness or small talk with Pete. “I’ve been thinking about Kent’s project. A lot. Can you get us a Trump-alike?”
“You mean the kind of person who opens supermarkets? Sure. Challenge me why don’t you.”
“No, I mean a real actor.”
“I think Alec Baldwin’s cornered the market. I know his agent, I can get onto it.”
“I’m thinking more of an unknown, but with experience.”
“A seventy year old unknown is simply unknown. If they have experience, they’re known.”
“OK, so maybe he was seventh gangster from the left in GoodFellas, or he was a grunt in Apocalypse Now. That’s fine. But he has to be hungry for the biggest part of his life. He has to become Trump.”
“I mean totally. He has to be capable of becoming the President of the United States.”
Pete laughed at that, in the way she had of never sounding amused. Her companion appeared over her shoulder again and placed a miniature cup of something in front of her. “So you’re asking me to cast a replacement for Trump, an actual replacement, ahead of the November election?”
Pete lit a cheroot, lifted her cup and swigged the contents. She was mentally Rolodexing every actor of a certain age who had ever sent a showreel. Even applying the filters of ‘old’ and ‘fat’, that was still a lot of faces.

Madeline lit up a smoke of her own and stared across the space between a Tudor-style office in Egham, and some darkened loft in Berlin.
“Do you think Warfield is serious?” Pete said eventually.
“Yes, I do.”
“And do you believe he can succeed?”
“I… I don’t know. No, not really. But it will be an interesting ride.”
Pete pulled a wry face, of disbelief. “In Ordnung. OK, I’ll get you the forty fifth-and-a-half President of the USA. But you better have a great idea what to do with him.”
Yes, I better, thought Madeline P. Moore as she thanked Pete extravagantly, and ended the call. I really better have a great idea.


Chapter 04 will be published on Friday 21st August

You are welcome to comment on chapters at any time,
and contribute to Chapter 04 up to 19th August

  1. Cousin T.

    ‘Love the “Prunella” bit! That had me chuckling.

    Noticed the reference to the Beirut port explosion, which helps to add to the “real time” ambiance. Perhaps a few more current headlines to help anchor this story into the proper time period?

    Still hooked….can’t wait for the next chapter.

  2. Anonymous

    I hope we end up with a workable plan for Trump.
    Also, I always thought the P was for Pomegranite.
    Jolly good show, carry on old chap!

  3. Anonymous

    It took me three chapters to really get into the story but now I anticipate how it will develop. Honestly, I so dearly would like to see the back of Trump in November.

  4. CharlesTuh

    “I haven’t seen you in these parts,” the barkeep said, sidling during to where I sat. “Repute’s Bao.” He stated it exuberantly, as if word of his exploits were shared aside settlers about assorted a verve in Aeternum.

    He waved to a expressionless keg apart from us, and I returned his gesture with a nod. He filled a glass and slid it to me across the stained red wood of the bar first continuing.

    “As a betting fellow, I’d be assenting to wager a adequate bit of invent you’re in Ebonscale Reach for the purpose more than the swig and sights,” he said, eyes glancing from the sword sheathed on my in to the bow slung across my back.

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