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Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Assistant Files

Do you guys read the trades? Do you even know what I'm talking about? You know, the showbiz trade publications, mostly The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. They come out every day, and are pored over and debated in every office, phone call, and lunch meeting all over town. I've worked with people for whom the Reading of the Trades was a ritual that Could. Not. Be. Interrupted. Serious business, I tell you.

(There was also the story of that intern who forgot to place the trades on the exec's desk one morning and was never heard from again, but I'm sure the rumors of his disappearance have been greatly exaggerated.)

For execs and agents – and assistants, too – keeping up on industry news is vital. But I was pondering today whether or not it's a good idea for writers to read the trades. How much information about the industry do you need? How much is too much?

* Collecting conversational tidbits about your chosen field. You can throw them around and sound like an insider at your local coffee shop or cocktail party. If you happen to talk to someone you've recently read about, you'll be primed to compliment them on their latest project.

* Keeping up with industry news is basically a full-time job (they're called execs, agents, and assistants), and you could easily procrastinate your writing time away.

* Getting an idea of who's doing the kinds of projects you want to be doing. You can then seek them out, attend their speaking engagements, read the books and scripts they've written, maybe even make a friend or mentor of them.
* Getting arrested for stalking;

* Keeping up on script sales and project announcements could keep you from wasting untold amounts of time working on a script that's too similar to one already in the pipeline.

* Finding out Big Famous Movie Star just got a greenlight on a project that's identical to that spec you finally finished last night, after months of blood, sweat, and tears.

* Reading industry news excites and inspires you to keep working and striving toward your goal. You know you love it, this crazy industry of ours, otherwise you'd be endeavoring toward something more attainable. Like, say, curing cancer, or mediating a resolution to that pesky East Coast – West Coast issue.

* Hearing about other people's success can be surprisingly discouraging. You'll wonder if it will happen for you, why you didn't think of that brilliant-but-obvious idea, when will your big paycheck arrive.

Ultimately it's your call, but I think the Pros outweigh the Cons. It's important to be informed. And so long as you take everything with a grain of salt, keep your positive attitude, and stay focused on your own personal goals, having a working knowledge of who's who and what's what might give you an edge over writers who don't, and help you get to that point in your career when we're all reading your name in the trades.

Andy Sachs

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Margaux Outhred said...

Thanks, "Andy".
Btw, we should have drinks sometime....sounds like you know how this town works!

I appreciate this a lot. It seems that reading about other people's success can either drive someone deep into the pit of jealousy, or it's a needed kick in the butt to stay on your chosen path and keep working towards success.
I read The Black List every year, and every year I am plummeted into a pit of jealousy and dispair that I'm not on it. BUT, I can safely say that now it's become my annual yule log of fuel to keep the creative fires burning.

Bottom informed. The players in town all know each does nothing but make a writer look more like a pro.

Anonymous said...

Margaux-- Heck yes, we're having drinks sometime! Looking forward to it.

E.C. Henry said...

Living in Washington I USED to get the Hollywood Reporter, but it was VERY EXPENSIVE. Loved reading/skimming it, but in the end the cost doomed that.

Still, great post, Andy. You rock!

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA