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Friday, September 5, 2008

The Assistant Files

Every year the passing of Labor Day is like a starter pistol for the race to the end of the year. September flies by with the activity of spec season. Then come the High Holy Days and Thanksgiving, and all of a sudden you're into hardcore holiday season with Hanukkah, Christmas, Golden Globe nominations, New Year's Eve, and then where are you? Oh yeah, NEXT YEAR.

But let's back up. That hardcore holiday season that I mentioned brings with it something that assistants all over town cherish. A little period of time I like to call THE REAPING OF THE WANTON HOLLYWOOD GIFTING EXCESSES.

That's right. People in Hollywood loooooooove a reason to give gifts. It's the perfect opportunity to redeem oneself for past offenses or sneak in a little buttering-up, without seeming too weak or desperate. When a gift-giving opportunity arises, the giver gets to come off as benevolent, and the givee gets free stuff. Everybody wins.

Everybody, including assistants. Oh, yes. It sends a tingle up my spine just thinking about it. The most common sources of our loot:

1) From the agencies: Because the big agencies inundate the assistant community with gifts. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not so much. CAA in particular has had a good reputation for gift-giving, which I've heard credited back to Mike Ovitz. Apparently he understands the power of free stuff. It makes people like you (or your company). And everybody knows how fast information spreads through the Assistant Underground, both good and bad. Now I'm not one to gossip, but Defamer is fond of reviewing the worst agency gifts. I'm just happy to be remembered. And, hey-- I can always re-gift it to my little brother. It's the thought that counts, right?

2) Cast-offs from our bosses: Because we work for people who have little need for yet another rabbit wine bottle opener or zip-up fleece travel blanket. But assistants? We'll take what we can get. Who cares if it bears a corporate logo; my whole apartment and half my luggage is branded.

3) From clients, if you work for a manager or agent: Because some clients like to recognize the person putting their calls through and scheduling their lunches. Smart people, those. Whether it's conscious or not, when an assistant likes you, you do get a little better treatment.

Do we have time for a little reminiscing? In the past I've received things like: a trendy designer sweatsuit, bottles of wine, an iPod mini, a spa gift certificate, money, and – always appreciated – food. Maybe it's just me, but I ALWAYS get excited about food-related gifts. It doesn't have to be expensive, as long as it's delicious.

Even if there aren't currently any assistants in your life, I think this is a lesson you can take with you into the future, when you are a player in the Hollywood game. Just putting it out there: assistants like gifts.

Andy Sachs

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E.C. Henry said...

Andy what kind of food gifts do you like to get? Sometimes with script submissions I give Andie's mints. Is that a good-with-script gift to give?

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Anonymous said...

Oh-- maybe there's a caveat to the whole 'assistants like gifts' thing. I wouldn't recommend sending gifts with script submissions, especially to a studio. Maybe if you know the person you're sending it to pretty well, but even then I'd say hold off. Not only is it not common professional practice, but with all the heightened security in the past few years, it's possible that any accompanying package would delay the delivery of your script and/or cause a fuss that would annoy someone. Gone are the days of Helgeland's TICKING MAN submission! (Which is too bad, now that I think about it, because assistants probably caught even more good loot back then.)

xxoo, Andy