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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What We Can Learn From Cranky Assistants

So you read the latest Assistant Files. First of all, everyone at the Rouge Wave including me is so grateful to Andy for sharing her trials and travails because trust me, she has a stressful job and taking any extra time to share her thoughts with us is nothing short of a heroic act at the end of a long, cranky day.

So what's the, as they say in magazine writing, "take-out" value on her latest installment? Be nice to assistants. This is who you're up against when you call. Now, Andy is a studio assistant for a big deal, muckety-muck executive, but her experience is quite like that of an assistant for an agent or manager.

The writer who is aware of the circumstances going on on the other end of the phone is a writer with an advantage. Don't call 8,000 times, don't overstay your welcome on the phone. Be respectful; get in and get out and definitely, definitely make nice.

In general, do your research when you interact with others in the entertainment business. Don't query a horror producer with your romcom, don't assume a manager is a "has been" because you haven't seen him in the trades recently (true story and the writer could not have been more wrong about this particular manager), don't be curt with assistants and don't take things personally.

As a writer, it is incumbent upon YOU to do your homework, understand the milieu you're dealing with and market yourself in a way that makes you a writer people want to do business with. If you could hear what I hear from managers about needy, whiny, stalky writers, you'd be appalled. There is actually an unofficial "do not call" list for stalky writers that circulates at production companies and studios. You do not want to be on that list.

So more than the entertainment value Andy offers, she is also sending a message directly to you - this is her life, and you might be that 20th caller of the day. Find out the asssistant's name, treat them politely and pleasantly and you will be surprised at the difference in how your call is received and your message passed on. Versus the eye-roll and do-not-call list status that many writers unwittingly wind up on.

Do not name drop unless you have explicit permission to do so.

I very recently heard tell of a writer who had a passing acquaintance with a friend of mine who is in a position to make things happen. She got on the phone all over town and began using my friend's name. An executive called my friend and said please tell your friend to leave me alone. My friend was mortified and pissed off. She had to call the writer to say please, cease and desist - do not use my name. Ouch and double ouch.

So a big Rouge Wave thank you to Andy for sharing what her day-to-day is like and I hope that Wavers find her posts more than amusing but educational as well.

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samuel.x.killer said...

it's important to remember that assistants know a lot about the business. if they're not listening to a phone call, they're reading the trades or online. i'm a development assistant and a writer called yesterday. when my boss wasn't available, we started chatting. he had some questions about the state of the industry, and i was able to give him my perspective. the conversation was mutually beneficial and helped us both. remember, assistants want to talk with the people their bosses talk with, so if you can't get their boss and they have the time, feel free to talk with them. you never know what you may learn that you wouldn't want to ask their boss or their boss wouldn't tell you

meg said...

I once had a job answering the customer service phone at the largest utility in the state while I was also a student. Classmates of mine would call and often would be very rude not realizing it was me they were talking to. I never let on but it told me a lot about them and guess who I was less likely to help out?

Anonymous said...

I think part of what we learn from cranky assistants is that they have an overblown sense of their own worth, like somehow they're the gatekeepers of Hollywood, of who should and should not deal with their boss.

Julie Gray said...

@anonymous - ahh, you got it all wrong my friend. Welcome to Hollywood. Assistants are indispensable gatekeepers.

Belzecue said...

I'm catching up on the past four series of Entourage (almost ready for S5), so I really enjoyed this 'assistants files' series ("Lloyd! Llooooooyd!!)-- thank you Julie and Andy. Hope to see more 'XXXXXX files' for industry jobs.