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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Assistant Files

You've heard the horror stories, the things we assistants have to do for our bosses. Assistant abuse is so rampant in Hollywood, we should have our own colored-bracelet campaign.

There's the story of the assistant who had soup thrown at him by a big-time female producer (fortunately the soup wasn't hot, but I think that may actually have been the root of the problem). And the one about another producer's assistant who, in an attempt to ensure time off for Thanksgiving with his family, invited the producer to accompany him. Assuming, of course, the producer would feel so bad about declining that he would insist the assistant take the needed time off. No dice; the producer accepted, and our poor assistant friend had to spend his holiday catering to his boss in front of the entire family.

Have you ever thought about how far YOU would go, if you thought it was all leading up to the big payoff? Would you babysit your boss's kids in a pinch so he could go to a meeting? Spend your Sunday choosing, wrapping, and delivering his wife's birthday gift, because it had slipped his mind until that morning? Transport his fresh stool sample to the lab? All true stories from yours truly, my friends. Yes, assistants get asked to do lots of un-fun things. But we do it, because we're paying our dues.

Hey, I don't make the rules, I'm just playing the game. And unfortunately, there's a lot of unsportsmanlike behavior. There are schmucks who will take advantage of their assistants just because they can, and there are plenty of shmate salesmen who will take advantage of baby writers, just because they can.

You've seen the postings on Craigslist, right?

When you're trying to make it as a writer, it's very tempting to take any and every opportunity that comes your way. But are you weighing the benefit of the opportunity against its cost to you? How much of your time, sanity, and sunny disposition are you willing to give away?

Figure these things out now, before you lose all perspective when, from where you're standing, this opportunity is obviously your one and only Big Break. (That's not true, by the way, I'm just saying that's how it might feel at the time.) Write a memo to yourself if you have to. Remember to go back to it when some "producer" is asking you for a free two-year option on your material.

'But Andy,' you say. 'What if this guy is the key to my success and I walk away just because he's not offering any money up front? I don't want to be difficult!'

To that I say— I don't know. What, I don't have all the answers either! If you think that's the way to go, then by all means, best of luck to you. My advice is simply this: right now, decide your limits. This IS Hollywood after all, where limit-testing is our favorite sport.

xxoo, Andy Sachs

DISCLAIMER: The Wave-inatrix is not yet high enough on the food chain to throw cupcakes at Chaia so in lieu of that we have been practicing Cupcake Relay Racing and hope to make it to the World Championship '09, held annually at the Betty Crocker factory in Dubuque.

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E.C. Henry said...

I feel for you assistants. I'm so glad you do put up with what you do.

Andy, being treated poorly ISN'T EXCLUSIVE to your line of work. I work with electricans, and let me ya, 75% of 'em are ASSHOLES! They purposely make my life harder when they don't have to. It's a right of passage thing. YOU may one day bennefit from your unjust treatment. I bear my unjust treatment just to survive. But as soon as I find a different line of work, I'm outta there and I'm never looking back.

Not sure if I know what my limits are, Andy, but there are some people I would LOVE to work with, and would litteraly bend like a prenzel just to find out what they could do with my material. BUT I'm no fool. I would NEVER give anyone -- even Speilberg a free two year option. That's not legit. That's called taking advantage of someone. Speilberg, Obst, Apatow... ah, to dream again. Andy, why do you torment me so!?

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

chaia said...

Throw lemon or chocolate, or lemon with chocolate frosting plz!