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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assistant Files

There seem to be a few different schools of thought about Hollywood Assistants:

1) We're glorified secretaries who don't actually know anything (if
you're in this camp, you're an idiot and YOU don't know anything. I'm just saying.)

2) We're eager go-getters just looking for the chance to move up to the grown-up table (this is basically true), and

3) We're evil gatekeepers who will do anything in our power to keep you off the hallowed turf of the studio (this is basically untrue).

Allow me to put this debate to rest.

My job is to make my boss's life easier. That's it. Hopefully I learn a lot in the process, enough to move on to what I really want to do and maybe – someday – have my very own assistant. But in the meantime, I know that I was hired for that one purpose, however it may manifest. (In the Hollywood Venn Diagram, there's an enormous intersection of the Business and Personal sets.) In general this consists of keeping him on time, in the good graces of people he needs to be in the good graces of, and, on occasion, out of jail. Just kidding. Ahem.

The primary way my boss does his job is via telephone, which means I take and make a huge number of calls every day. What does this mean to you? It means when you call, because I won't know you from Adam, I may be short with you. Please don't be offended. And please don't see me as the enemy and try to fool me into letting you talk to him. Because I'm not TRYING to keep you from your imminent screenwriterly success, really I'm not. I'm just trying to do my thankless, underpaid job. Which I love, don't get me wrong. But still. So as long as you don't make my job MORE difficult, I will do what I can, within the normal purview of my job, to help you. If you catch me on a good day, I may listen to your pitch. I may even offer to read your script. We may develop a relationship. Because it's true that it may help me, too. You see?

But before we get to that point, if my boss doesn't call you back, just know that it's not because I didn't pass on the message. You don't need to call every day until he talks to you. In fact, that
makes it even less likely that he'll call you. And if you wear out your welcome, eventually I will stop passing on your messages. Sorry. It's not you, it's me. I simply don't want to hear my boss say, "Who is that? Again? I thought I told you to take him off my call sheet!"

If you've called a bunch of times and you're starting to get annoyed with me, I can tell. And if I tell you, yet again, "He's on the set with his phone off," or, "He's been stuck in a production meeting all morning and hasn't been returning my emails," well, he either is or he isn't. Either way, you're don't get to talk to him right now. If it's the latter, I'm not lying to you because it's fun for me. I'm only doing it because my boss specifically asked me to, or because I know if I put you through to him without vetting you, he will a) yell at me, b) fire me, or c) all of the above.

The best thing you can do is to treat this like dating: you call once, twice, maybe three times, and if you don't get a response, move on. When you make it big, we'll totally be sorry.

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Anonymous said...

It's like dating you say.

So true.

Most screenwriters won't have the guts to treat it like dating.

Dating can be very painful and full of heartaches.

How many ladies out there want to have a boyfriend like Brad Pitt. Tons, but they won't be able to that. The heartaches and stress will turn them into a negative "monster".

This also applies to guys. Rejections turns them into negative "monsters", but at a slower pace.

Dating is indeed like screenwriting.

You are so right on this one Julie.

But there is hope. If you can handle heartaches, pain, suffering, tears and rejections - then you are no just a screenwriter, you are successful "businessman/businesswomen/politician/lawyer" type of a person.

I met some of them. They have million dollar homes and their resume is as long as their driveway.

Don't give up folks!

Julie Gray said...

Just to clarify - I don't write the Assistant Files. A couple of anonymous studio assistants do :)

E.C. Henry said...

Thanks for the info. But you're spending too much time worrying about the phone when all I really wanna know is how may assistants out there are hot? And if their are some, how many of 'em have softs spot in their heart for Sweedish guys?

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA