Changing schools midsemester is always difficult but never more so than when that school is Los Angeles’ Cecil B. DeMille Elementary. Suddenly 12-year-old midwesterner Mitchell finds himself surrounded by the offspring of movie stars, producers, and makeup artists who spend lunchtime discussing production values and shares. When it comes out that Mitchell doesn’t watch TV, he is in danger of becoming an outcast—and then an impulsive audition lands him a commercial for a sugary soda pop called Fizzy Whiz. Just like that, Mitchell’s the next big thing, signing autographs, attending the coolest parties, and learning to work the room with schmooze-savvy classmates. Williams’ breezy tale is as addictive and bubbly as a Fizzy Whiz itself, and her experience in the entertainment industry packs real value into her descriptions of auditions, movie sets, and agent negotiations. Of course, the double-edged reality of kid stardom is well known, and Mitchell’s realization that he is a product being assembled is both goofy and poignant. Grades 5-8.
–Daniel Kraus, Booklist
Mitch Mathis doesn’t own a TV. He has never seen STAR WARS. In the world of Hollywood and Cecil B. DeMille Elementary School, Mitch is a freak – a pop culture deprived kid in a school full of children of the powerful and famous.
There’s Skywalker Ortega, whose parents are special effects gurus. And Julia Jodie Schwartz, named after her agent father’s two highest earning clients. And what does Mitch’s dad do? He studies bugs. Who cares if you follow all the new-kid rules when your dad ruins your social life when he shows up to career day in a giant, hideous roach costume?
Desperate to fit in and lose the nickname “Roach Boy,” Mitch goes to an open casting call, where he ends up being cast in a soda commercial that launches a popular catch-phrase. Suddenly he becomes famous; kids are stopping him for his autograph! He’s recognized wherever he goes! Life couldn’t be better. That is, until the fame takes on a life of its own.
In the end Mitch must rely on his gut – and his Hollywood savvy classmates – to help him figure out who he wants to be: a bona fide star or a (somewhat) regular kid.
WHY WRITE A BOOK ABOUT HOLLYWOOD?
The entertainment industry is like no other. It is art and commerce put together in an uncomfortable fit. It’s a difficult business but an extraordinary one: exciting, aggravating, fun, vicious, glamorous, frustrating, gratifying and heartbreaking. Believe it or not, I love it all. This book is a love story.
I remember what it was like when I first arrived in Hollywood, fresh out of college, looking for work as a writer. I felt like Alice in Wonderland; everything seemed so bizarre. The people, the parties, and the work – it was funny and wonderful and weird and grotesque all at the same time. I always knew that one day I would write a book about it, even though I wasn’t even close to becoming an author yet!
My research for this book was done over the twenty-five years that I’ve been working in the entertainment industry. Twenty-five years is a long time, and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to talk to the people who work in this industry about their jobs. Admittedly, over those years the way Hollywood does business has changed. And it’s still changing as new technology provides greater creative opportunities for artistic expression. So when you read this book, the way entertainment is made and distributed may be quite different from my descriptions. Just know that at one time this was a fairly accurate portrayal. Almost everything that’s in this book has a connection to something I experienced in real life. The birthday party is not an exaggeration; I’ve been to parties with all sorts of wild animals, even an elephant! The super-sized house is certainly real and exists in every wealthy enclave of Southern California. The entertainment savvy kids certainly exist; I see them every day at my children’s’ schools. Jeremy Schwartz the agent is an amalgam of various agents I’ve met over the years. Mitch’s discovery of the soundstage with the pirate cave also really happened to me. I was working as an assistant to a television executive on the Warner Brothers lot, and discovered a soundstage with the door partially open. I peeked inside and the interior of the stage looked just as I described, with a lagoon, pirate ship and waterfall. It turns out it was the set for a movie directed by Steven Spielberg called “THE GOONIES.” As you can probably tell I had a lot of fun writing this book!