The Nathan Way

Today a guest writer gives us an insight into the way Hollywood movies are given the green light.

Dear Movie Fans,

I don’t know how you dudes found me, but yeah, you’re right. When it comes to Hollywood test-screenings, I’m the go-to guy. You think they put together a sample audience for every new movie, but no, it’s just me.

My name is Nathan. I can’t really tell you much more than that. OK, you forced me. I’m fourteen. I own every tech-toy that matters. An X-box and a Playstation, a sixty-inch flat screen TV, an iPhone, an iPad. I will buy—or my folks will buy for me—any i-thing I want. And all this doesn’t count the big computer, the one the suits installed to watch me.

I like girls but haven’t, you know, “gone all the way.” But heck, I haven’t gone all the way to Dubuque, either. Could happen. I think about it. A lot. Going all the way. And not to Dubuque. It’s pretty much all I ever think about. Girls are geography.

No, I don’t eat vegetables. Or fruit. Never touch that poison. I’m a meat and bread man. I drink [INSERT NAME OF SOFT DRINK HERE]. I just love the stuff. I drink it night and day. [PLEASE CALL TO DISCUSS PRODUCT ENDORSEMENT DETAILS. PRINCIPALS ONLY.]

They all come to me. Not girls. I wish! Twentieth Century Fox, Dreamworks, Lionsgate, you name it. They try out their movies on me. I am the ideal audience for the movies that matter—movies that gross more than one hundred million. Usually it happens the same way. Two guys in dark suits pull me out of class, giving the teacher some line about national security, and hustle me into a big black limousine. There’s always a frosty can of [INSERT NAME OF ENERGY DRINK HERE, PENDING ENDORSEMENT DEAL] waiting in the car.

And when I get home, one guy walks me to my room and the other one sets up the snack stand: popcorn (duh!), energy drinks (especially for the marathon screenings), candy, anything you can get at a concession stand. All I have to do is point and the guy brings it to me. He doesn’t like to wear the little paper hat, but I like him to. The other suit loads the screener into my Blu-ray player and then stands in the corner ready to take notes. The screener plays. Mostly the movies are about guys in tights with super powers. And guys who say the f-word a lot. And girls who take their tops off.

I almost never have to say anything. The guy in the corner writes down whenever I smile or yawn or scratch myself or do anything at all. If I take more than one pee-break, he yanks the DVD, thanks me for my time, and they’re gone in like thirty seconds. Once I gagged on a popcorn hull and the guy snapped the DVD in half, thinking I was reacting to the movie. And once, when I had shingles, my scratching wiped out a whole studio. But mostly, they just show and go. Like they were never there.

Sometimes they show up without a movie, just to ask for advice. The first time was the best. “What does a guy like you want to see?” they asked.

I told them every movie had to be about a guy everybody else (except his girlfriend, Megan Fox) thinks is a stupid idiot except he’s not, because of chemicals or a magic spell or aliens or luck and such. And then he like whips everybody’s ass. Awesome, right? They’ve been making and remaking that movie ever since I told them about it. In fact—let’s face it—it’s the only movie they ever make.

No more chick flicks, I tell them, unless the chick is really, really hot and has girlfriends who like to take their tops off. Only not the main chick. Because she’s like too pure to be a porn star, but she totally could if she wanted to. And no old guy actors because what if like they dropped dead or something while you were watching the movie? Not cool. I’m really doing them a favor. Let guys like Shia LaBoeuf go to the retirement home, where he can listen to Lawrence Welch and play pinochle with the other oldsters.

One time they were walking me along the river, one of them asking me questions, the other one following slowly in the limo. They wanted to do a remake of something called Husbands by a dude name Cassa-something-or-other. It was made about a million years ago, BN, Before Nathan. It’s about three guys who share a few secrets and laughs. In other words, boring. When I looked him in the eye, he began to cry a little. “It needs something,” I said. And then it came to me: “Dick jokes.” Boom! That’s right. The Hangover was my idea. Three dudes, I said, who get drunk and break stuff. And then I told them it would be good to make a sequel but to set it in Tie Land, this men’s store at the mall where my big brother works? Like what if the Wolf Pack were all tie salesmen and then, you know, they get drunk and break stuff? But I guess maybe I didn’t explain it right because the movie didn’t come out like that. Well, you can’t win them all. But you can win most of them. The Nathan Way. You’re welcome, Hollywood moguls!

Got to jet. Going to see the results of my latest suggestion to the Hollywood suits—War Whores. It’s about . . . but I don’t want to ruin it for you.

Rock on, Hollywood!


Author: Brent Spencer

I'm a writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, and screenplays. My most recent book, a memoir, is Rattlesnake Daddy: A Son's Search for His Father. I live on an acreage in eastern Nebraska and teach creative writing at Creighton University. You can find out more about me and at (Photo credit: Miriam Berkley)

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