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Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Assistant Files

Industry assistants expect other industry assistants to Get It: speak the lingo; use the shorthand; know the players, the protocol, how to treat each other, and the secret handshake.

It's mostly stuff you pick up in your first two weeks on the job. But every once in a while you run into someone who's either completely oblivious, or who's just a jerk and doesn't believe in the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" method that most of us live by.

WARNING: ANDY-RANT AHEAD. When you're an assistant to a talent agent, one of the things you do is set up BAZILLIONS of appointments for your clients to be seen by casting directors. You deal with the casting assistant, who may or may not actually be an unpaid intern, depending on how big the production and/or casting person is. Fifteen of our clients had appointments to see one casting director yesterday afternoon. Several different roles on one project and a few clients up for each role, you see. That's a lot of appointments to keep straight. And someone just got fired off another desk for screwing up one client's appointment, so I was taking no chances -- I confirmed the appointments a day early AND the morning of. Not uncommon practice for a good assistant.

And yet yesterday I came back from lunch to hear voice messages from clients saying things like, "Hey Andy-- I'm standing outside the room and there's no one here. Am I in the right place?" You get one message like that, you think, "Okay, smartypants. Did you print out the email I sent you with exact turn-by-turn instructions on where to go, or are you going off 'vibes' again?" You get two messages like that, you think, "Ugh, ACTORS. Do I have to come pick you up and deliver you to the audition myself? Do I look like Elisabeth Shue? Don't f*** with the babysitter!" However, when you get SEVERAL messages like that, you immediately think, "I AM SO FIRED."

But this is all in a day's work for Andy Sachs, Super Assistant, so I spring into action. Call the casting assistant at the number I'd reached him earlier. No answer. Why isn't anyone answering?! I have lines blinking, people. Pick up your phone! Again and again, still no answer. All the while, I'm emailing him, hoping he's in front of his computer and not running around, assisting with the casting session.

Finally I get a ping back. "Oh, sorry! We changed the location." WTF? "We decided we were too diva for that room. Ha ha." HA HA?! This is funny to you? I now look like a jerk in front of no less than FIFTEEN of our clients, their respective managers, my boss, and anyone else who doesn't hear the end of the story where it turns out it's not my mistake and you're just a jerk. THANKS, dude.

Anyway, my point here is that it's never all about you. (Unless you're A-list, then the rules are different. But I don't think there's ever been a casting assistant on the A-list. I could be wrong.) The industry is a collaborative effort. Not just during the development process or once you get into production, but in the course of everyday business. There are a lot of moving parts that keep this town running. We all rely on each other. So don't be a jerk.

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