Mark Barkawitz


Full Moon Saturday Night“My life had turned into a Raymond Chandler detective story and there seemed to be nothing I could do to stop its precipitous slide.”

Mike Hepp is an L.A. millennial post-grad, who dreams of making it big in the TV & film industry. He auditions by day and tends bar at night to satiate his massive student debt, credit card payments, and rent. Until one knuckle-busting, full moon Saturday night launches his life into complete upheaval, suddenly placing him in the middle of an international drug smuggling operation and undercover police sting, consequently ruining his reputation in Hollywood.

Can Mike survive his unsolicited undercover work and cleanse his sullied reputation? Or will he end up as shark bait for double-crossing the wrong people?

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My iPhone rang as I was getting ready; it was Sarah, my agent.

“Hi, Sarah.”

“Just wanted to remind you about your call-back today, Michael.”

“I’m on it.”

“Just be yourself.  They like you.  And you do look enough like President Reifer to play the part.”

This was my second call-back.  I’d read lines with a production assistant previously, which they’d videotaped.  It was a good role—the President’s Suicidal Son—on a network show.  Three scenes.  Union scale.  And it would qualify me to join the Screen Actors’ Guild.  Sarah told me that it was down to three of us.

I needed this one.


The three of us sat in the reception room, eyeing each other, without appearing to do so.  But it was hard not to glance a peek.  We all looked somewhat alike (I guess?), somewhat like Reifer. (Again, I guess?)  They were both early-twenties, dressed smart-casually—stressing casually, as younger men tended—both keeping busy on their iPhones—again, as younger men tended.

I wore my new, Hugo Boss suit, white Joseph Abboud dress shirt with power tie, and Bruno Magli kicks.  After all, the role was that of the President’s son—Washington, D.C., not La-La Land.

I’d switched my cellphone to silent before entering the room.  I came armed with my new, Visa-approved, leather briefcase, containing head shots, scripts, and a few USB drives uploaded with our pilot skit-com, “The World of Alfred Crash,” that I’d written, produced, directed, acted in, designed and built sets for on a shoe-string budget (Visa strikes again!) with some actor friends and crew over the summer.

An attractive receptionist with a behind-the-neck ear jack sat behind the desk, working on her tablet.  She stopped, listened, and answered into her headset.  The other two actors were called in first and second.  I figured they were saving the best—yours truly—for last. (Only way to think if I wanted to win the role!)


Inside the office, a woman and two men sat behind and alongside a large, hardwood desk.  I’d met the show’s producer—Sandy-Sue Applegate—and the director—Brian Michael Benchley—previously on my earlier auditions.  I shook hands with each.

“Nice to see you again, Mike,” Sandy-Sue started.  “This is one of our executive producers, Walter Westwood.”

His A-list name was familiar.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Westwood.”

I reached to shake his hand, then sat in the empty chair, facing the desk.

“You, too, Mike.”

He picked up my headshot with stapled bio from the desk.

“I’ve heard good things about you.  I see here you’ve previously done a little stunt work,” he read from my bio.

I pretty much did anything—everything—on a set.

“And I saw the video,” he continued.  “I liked the way you read our lines.”

“Good to hear, sir.”

I kept it formal at first.  Presidential, if you will.

“Call me ‘Walter’.”

“Walter,” I repeated.

Now, it was my turn to compliment.

“I love your show.  I’ve been watching from season one,” I lied.

With Marie gone, I’d done my homework the last two days and binge-watched both previous seasons’ episodes.  I knew the show’s characters and storylines by heart.

“Thank you, Mike.  We’re very proud of our work.  And hold to a very high standard.”

He stared straight at me now.

“I assume that’s why I’m still here, sir.”  I corrected myself, “Walter,” and stared back at him.


He glanced down at my feet.  The new shoes?

“Anything good in the briefcase?” he asked.

I smiled back at him.

“Everything’s good in the briefcase, Walter.”


I called Marie that evening.  She didn’t answer; it went to her voicemail.

“Call me.”

About an hour later she did.  She seemed distracted at first.  Probably concerned about her brother.  It was a stressful situation.  Being identical twins probably made it even more so.

“Yes, the audition went well.  Really well, I hope.  How’s your brother?”

She gave me an update on Philip’s on-again-off-again struggle.  With the help of a local therapist, she’d gotten him back into a Victorville clinic for rehab.  She was driving back down on Friday.

I, of course, had to work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights but we wanted to see each other, so she agreed to stay at my place for the weekend so we could spend the days together.  I loved it when she stayed over, waking up with her next to me.  It was almost as if we were living together—for the weekend anyway.  But I was getting ahead of myself—ourselves.

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