Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Hollywood’s most powerful producer tries to rectify his secret personal past while simultaneously shepherding a young director through a film shoot run amok and over budget, a situation that threatens to financially hemorrhage his studio.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is an epic drama/thriller in the vein of “The Godfather” if set in Tinseltown meets a modern-day “Sunset Boulevard.” On one level, it showcases the mythological glamour the public sees and the behind-the-scenes drama of the day-to-day industry. On another, it is a Shakespearean character study about a flawed, complicated man trying desperately to balance his professional and personal obligations. It is the story of the sometimes-complicated relationships between fathers and sons, between surrogate Hollywood mentors and upstart apprentices. It is about the magic and transformative powers of movies themselves.

Peter Steenburgen seemingly has everything — money, power, fame and even two women. But his real motivation is to rediscover his “over the rainbow.” He is a man haunted by the loss of his director father in childhood, which was the happiest time in his life. He struggles with creating movies that are art and commerce. After Peter wins Oscar as producer of the film “Indecision”, young director Billy Rafko approaches him at the post-Oscar Spago bash. Peter sees something in himself in Billy when he was younger and invites him in for a pitch. He hires Billy on the spot, especially after the young director defends him in front of an overzealous writer.

Problems occur shortly after shooting starts in Africa. Peter works to make peace with Angela Van Hooring, a fading starlet living in the Hollywood hills, with their son, Bobby, who is mildly autistic. Peter’s contentious long-standing relationship with Dante Rizzo, a shady Hollywood detective, continues over money after one of Peter’s movies tanks. Billy’s mild obsessive-compulsiveness drags shooting behind schedule and over budget. On top of that, Billy starts a torrid affair with his leading lady, Desiree’ Broglio, who happens to be Peter’s girlfriend.

With media scrutiny of Billy’s movie going over budget, Peter has no choice but to send in Dante and the completion bond company to shut down production.

Now, Peter must decide whether to pony up additional funding or pull the plug, which means the potential end of his studio. After a hunting trip bonding with his son in Canada, Peter finds his humanity and social courage to move forward with the picture.

However, disaster strikes on the last day of shooting when a helicopter crash kills a stunt pilot due to Billy’s recklessness. Stateside, there is whirling media speculation despite final reports declaring it an accident. Billy is haunted, but Peter wills him to work with him to edit the film for their release date. With his focus back on his studio’s survival, Peter ignores Angela and Bobby, which causes even more problems.

”Planet of the Nomad” is a hit commercially and with the critics, and goes on to win the Golden Globe. Success is snatched from certain doom. Just when it appears Steenburgen is back on top and rediscovers his zest for creating artistic greatness, Oscar night unravels the web of deception his life has been built upon, including a surprise twist that culminates in opera-like fashion involving all of the major players. And the winner is...?

Nevada Film FestivalCinema City Film Festival

Awards & Recognition

  • Winner – Nevada Film Festival 2009
  • Winner – Illinois International Film Festival 2009
  • Winner – Cinema City International Film Festival September 2009
  • Merit Award – Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood 2010
  • Honorable Mention - Los Angeles Film Reel Awards 2009
  • Slate Award Nominee - California Independent Film Festival 2010
  • Finalist – Burbank International Film Festival 2010
  • Finalist - Screenplay Festival 2009
  • Finalist – Naperville Film Festival 2009
  • Finalist – Queens International Film Festival 2009
  • Finalist - Canada International Film Festival 2010
  • Quarterfinalist - Acclaim Film 2009
  • Official Selection - Northern Virginia International Film Festival 2015
  • Official Selection - Ventura Film Festival 2011
  • Official Selection – Action on Film Festival 2009
  • Screenplay Scene – Action on Film Festival 2009