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A Chapter on Patience

Take One! bookshop, which targets the film industry's up-and-comers, is packed with literature on film and theater, but not customers--yet.


Talk about the fear factor. Ingesting insects and swimming with sharks are nothing compared to what life must be like for Tim Morell, a real-life risk-taker with no lifeline to guarantee survival like they have on those hyped-up game shows.

It is 2 p.m. on a holiday weekend and Morell stands in his new, 2,000-square-foot independent bookstore, which is devoted solely to books on film and theater arts. He surveys the newly refurbished space, the untrammeled carpet, the shelves lined with actor's editions of the world's great plays, and the empty aisles where he'd hoped throngs of aspiring actors, writers and directors would be buying and browsing.

The second-floor bookshop has been open for two months. A sign--"Take One! Film & Theater Books"--proclaims its existence to everyone on this bustling strip of Santa Monica Boulevard across from the Royal Theater and a few blocks west of the 405. On this sultry day, a trendy restaurant below the shop is half full of lazily lunching patrons. But, aside from Morell and his one under-taxed employee, Take One! is utterly empty.

Its proprietor appears unfazed. If there is a knot in his stomach or a throb in his head as he scans the emptiness, he does not admit it. "It's early yet. Everybody's business is slow on a day like this," he says calmly, like an old warrior who has weathered such battles before. He has--except in those days, he was an employee who would collect a paycheck no matter what. Now, he owns the place. It is his savings, and those of friends who've become investors, that are at stake if the place doesn't thrive. Still, Morell admits few negative thoughts. "We are a destination bookshop. Once word gets out that we're here, we'll be in great shape. Of course, this is not for the faint of heart--there's quite an element of risk," he admits. But he can already tell, he says, from the customers he's had so far that he'll be a success. He may be right. There are few shops around that are truly competitive with his: Samuel French, the venerable store at Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue (with a branch in the Valley), and Larry Edmunds, in Hollywood, which focuses more on new and used film books and memorabilia.

Apparently, it's a high-stakes niche market fraught with secrecy. Or, at least, that's how bookstore employees make it seem when asked their names. An employee at one of those shops, who didn't want his name used, says Morell will "probably do great. For years, people have asked me to recommend a place on the Westside, but there was none. Now he's put one there." A worker at another competitor, who also requested anonymity, says, "I wish him luck. Business is so bad at our place that we're barely able to stay afloat."

Location was everything for Morell, who lives near Griffith Park. He says the Westside teems with young actors, directors and writers who aim to be boffo in show biz sometime soon. For them, the little $6 "actor's editions" of the world's great plays; the $14.95 tapes on how to achieve a Southern, Irish or Arabic accent, and the industry insiders' journals are all cause enough to make the trip. General-interest bookstores carry none of these things, Morell says. He envisions his shop as a kind of hangout where the industry's up-and-coming will congregate, where they will hear free lectures by authors and others in the industry at the rear of the store--a space he's dedicated as a small auditorium.

In June, Morell held events like "Creative Producing From A to Z: An Indie Producer's Handbook," "Secrets of Screenplay Structure and How Not to Write a Screenplay," and "Writing the Killer Treatment, Selling Your Story Without a Script."

Morell doesn't aim to reach those already at the top of the Hollywood ladder. "The people who shop from us are the people who want to be well known; they're the stars of the future. I don't expect to see a lot of big-name stars in here--those guys go to places like Book Soup."

What's interesting about Morell is not only that he went into such a highly specialized field at such an unpredictable economic time, but that he specifically targets those whose passion for his wares exceeds their ability to spend much money on them--beginning writers, actors, film editors, etc. You might wonder whether Morell, 47, cares about earning money.

Of course he does. "Los Angeles is the largest book-buying market in the nation. The Westside had a need to be filled--and I had the expertise to fill it. The two things I know most about are books and film."

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