Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lifers

Hollywood Assistants like lifers. Career assistants are a staple of any major entertainment powerhouse. Most major “name” execs have one and would be lost without them. Lifers are old school and usually make regular assistants look like lazy schlubs. They have excellent phone manners, can type a pristine letter (and on a typewriter, to boot), and know the correct way to set a meeting. (In case you’re wondering, that would be getting avails from the most powerful person first.)

Lifers can sometimes be a little… how should we put this… cantankerous? Their patience is worn thin due to many years of babysitting people who really should be able to do certain things for themselves. They aren’t ever going to agree to getting drinks with you, and even asking them is a rookie mistake and an automatic red flag that you are greener than the Jolly Green Giant. And they definitely aren’t going to make chit-chat with you. They might shoot the shit with your boss (after all, they’ve been dealing with each other for years) – but they for sure aren’t going to do the same with you. You are interchangeable as far as they’re concerned. They might not even expend the energy to learn your name because they know a new you will be coming along in 12 months.

But lifers are incredible resources and depthless fonts of knowledge. They are walking history books for a company. They can tell you all you need to know about past deals, projects, clients, materials, etc. They know all of the gossip on the execs, so if you ever get in good with one, you can get some really great dirt out of them. And they are well-connected. They’re buddy-buddy with the maitre-d at every major restaurant in town and can help you get a Friday 8:00 reservation for your junior agent boss who wants to impress his current ingénue girlfriend. In addition, the lifer network is expansive, so they’re often the first to hear when a really great desk opens up. If they really like you, they might even make a personal recommendation on your behalf (and trust us, their opinion means a lot.) And best of all, their cabinets are chock full of screeners, so they can be like your own personal Netflix (their boss is a member of the Academy, but is helpless when it comes to technology so he rarely takes the DVDs home).

Lifers can be tough nuts to crack, but getting on their good side can prove to be an invaluable experience for the average Hollywood assistant. They’re like a delicious crab leg dinner at Red Lobster. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to get through the tough shells and you might even hurt yourself in the process. But once you hit the meat, all your hard work pays off and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

WHERE: Outside the really big office… you know the one. It probably has its own bathroom.
COST: Patience and perseverance.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquakes

Hollywood Assistants like earthquakes. Well, maybe like is the wrong word. Fascinated is more accurate because anything that disrupts a Tuesday and puts the office in a tailspin is okay with us.

Being from the suburbs of New York we would be let out of school the minute there was any sign of snow. Now I live in LA and the earth just FUCKING MOVED and yet I have not been sent home. While our bosses panic about their kids, dogs, spouses and homes, I sit in my office worried that my Ikea furniture might not have survived the quake of '08 (I really should have followed those instructions better!).

Hollywood Assistants stay strong. We’re assuming everyone is safe because of the overwhelming Facebook and Gchat status messages. Told you they were good for something.

Be prepared: http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/eq_during.shtm

LOCATION: From Chino (Ryan is safe!) to Santa Monica, Santa Barbara (is the wine ok??) to San Diego
COST: What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger, right?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Facebook

Hollywood Assistants like Facebook. This one is an obvious one. And one we probably should have done a long time ago. But really, we Hollywood Assistants don't just like Facebook, we are addicted to it. The day is a waste if we don't acquire at least one new friend or get sent an application request. Helping your boss sell a script to Universal is horseplay compared to the extremely hard work that goes in to beating your college roommate at Scrabulous.

Facebook is awesome for us Hollywood Assistants for many reasons. One reason: stalking. Another reason: stalking. And finally: stalking. Fine, maybe it's not actually stalking per se, but what else do you call looking at your office crush's pictures from Cabo? Or constantly checking the relationship status of the guy you made out with at the JHRTS holiday party? One of my favorite activities is looking up people I talk to on a daily basis for work. It's always nice to put a face and favorite quote to a voice. Never would I have thought that the assistant I set up a notes call with at Dreamworks loved all things Harry Potter and was looking for Random Play!

Facebook is really changing the way we Hollywood Assistants are living our lives. We're constantly checking our profiles for new wall comments and making sure only flattering pictures get tagged. There's nothing wore than an ugly picture of you drunk on the floor of St. Nick's hitting the world wide web. That shit'll haunt you for life.

It's fair to say all our lives were shook upside down when our bosses signed up for Facebook. How did the playground for Hollywood Assistants suddenly turn into supervised recess? Soon we were forced to remove "slave" from our work info and put the show we work on as our favorite television program. Or worse, we went unsearchable. To me going unsearchable is a cop out. You're not elusive or cool. You're literally just an unclickable question mark. If you really want certain people not to see your profile go private or my favorite: limit profile! You can block certain people from seeing your inappropriate “about me” section or the super embarrassing groups you belong to (an entire group dedicated to people who share your first name, way cool). It's fool proof. Also, Facebook really is the only respectable networking site online. Friendster? So 2003. MySpace? OMG. I went on MySpace the other day and it was like going to the old mall after the new mall opened up in town. It was still breathing but just barely.

There's never a reason to be bored with Facebook. It allows for hours and hours of stalking fun. From stalking old high school friends you lost touch with or messaging with your college BFFs to plan a reunion or browsing your newest crush’s photos trying to decipher if the girl in all his pictures is a friend or lover, Facebook knows no limits. But just be careful though because while Facebook provides endless amounts of fun you’re only just a click away. And really, we're judging your activities and favorite music.


WHERE: http://www.facebook.com - don't lie it's your homepage
COST: Free or years of therapy when you learn the love of your life went from "single" to "in a relationship"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Emmy Nominations

Hollywood Assistants love Emmy nominations. You’re nothing in Hollywood if you aren’t winning awards. Well, unless your ratings are inexplicably high or your movie is raking in the dough despite being critically maligned. But awards are still important, and Hollywood loves to have a reason to pat itself on the back.

And so, hooray! The Emmy nominations were announced this morning. We are beyond PSYCHED for the love shown to some of our favorite shows. Mad Men garnered 16 nominations – that is insane! (See, we would never steer you wrong.) 30 Rock got lots of love, too. And we always jump up and down with glee whenever The Office gets kudos. We thought Damages was a fresh take on the legal thriller show, so it’s fantastic that it’s getting recognized and Glenn Close is extremely deserving of the Best Actress nom. And Neil Patrick Harris and Amy Poehler getting Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy nods? Color us ecstatic.

And we’re pleased that Emmy voters are finally over the constant Grey’s Anatomy/Desperate Housewives ass-kissing fest. Those shows are totally still watchable, but they had their moment and it’s time to highlight some other outstanding and talented people.

Of course, we are right there with those of you bemoaning the lack of nominations for Friday Night Lights. For some reason Emmy voters aren’t making the journey to Dillon and that really makes us sad. It’s one of the best shows on TV – network OR cable – and deserves to get some props. So keep fighting the good fight, Panthers fans. Hopefully one day it will get the acclaim (and ratings) it deserves. And we’re just as pissed about The Wire diss as you guys. Michael K. Williams deserved a nod for his portrayal of Omar. We are happy the show got recognized in the writing category, but are saddened that it got zilch for it’s actors.

But overall, we were pleasantly surprised and pleased with today’s announcements. There was a good mix of the old with the new and some truly praiseworthy shows got the recognition they deserve. We can't wait for September 21st to see who wins and to check out what everyone is wearing. Let's get serious. We love the awards, but we gotta give it up for the red carpet fashion, too.

WHERE: ABC, Sunday September 21st
COST: Whatever one of those gold statues sets you back.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Side Projects

Hollywood Assistants like side projects. Ambition is something you must possess in great quantities in order to survive in this town. Otherwise what’s the point of putting up with the long hours, low pay, and mundane tasks you must do everyday? Let’s face it: for most of us, our jobs are incredibly uncreative. 3-hole-punch. Staple. Update phone sheet. Shred. Repeat. So in hopes of reigniting that artistic spark that Los Angeles so desperately tries to extinguish within them, many Assistants take on a side project to help satisfy their creative yearnings.

It’s no secret that nearly everyone in town is plotting their next move. The cliché is that every waiter who is serving you an amuse bouché down on Third Street is, in actuality, an “actor” by trade and merely waiting tables until their big break hits. A lesser known, but equally prevalent, cliché is the assistant who actually wants to write, direct, produce, or do all three. Whereas the wannabe agents schmooze at drinks, collect business cards, and perfect the greasy Ari Gold vernacular (“I love YOU! You are THE BEST. I wanna be in the business of you.”), the wannabe creative types spend their precious free time amassing material that they are ready to show to anyone… should anyone ever ask. The most common incarnations of assistant side projects include:

1) Screenplays. The classic Chanel suit of something you do on the side. Assistants have been writing screenplays at their desks since the dawn of movie time. Did you know that The Wizard of Oz began as a spec adaptation that Louis B. Mayer found in the back of a filing cabinet? It wasn’t until halfway through production that he discovered that his secretary was the true screenwriter. And out of gratitude he gave her a promotion and a raise. (Ok, so I am totally making this up). In modern times, hundreds of assistants spend their days surreptitiously minimizing their call sheets and maximizing Final Draft while rolling with their bosses. Most of these scripts end up as coasters on the coffee tables of the kinder CE’s in town, but hey, at least they’re out there. Even if no one’s reading them.

2) Comedy Web Sites. The new age key to scoring a development deal. Nowadays it seems that every person has a “comedy” website – I put the term “comedy” in quotes because, let’s face it, 95% of these sites aren’t funny to anyone but their creator. Thanks to Youtube, PC & Mac-based editing suites, and relatively inexpensive digital videocams, any asshole can film his buddies doing a parody of Indiana Jones in their backyard and call himself a production company. After the shorts are uploaded, many anxious days are spent with fingers crossed that Judd Apatow will just happen to stumble across the site and make the creator a part of his gang. It should go without saying, but I will say it nonetheless to crush your burgeoning Hollywood dreams: Chances of this happening are pretty slim – although there are definite hilarious exceptions.

3) Trailers. For the producers and directors among us who lack the cash to make their indie masterpiece. If you can’t get your script past the studio gates and the $600 your parents promised to loan you won’t quite be enough to finance your budget, then why make a whole movie? You can instead make a trailer for a movie and use that as a selling tool. Those studio bigwigs will certainly drool over the special effects rigged by your stoner buddy with the unhealthy affection for all things George Lucas. If only you could get them to watch it…

4) Blogs. “Hello, Pot? Yes, this is Kettle. You’re black.” Not to point any fingers, but the need to find a creative outlet is a familiar feeling around the SHAL headquarters. Some of the great tv writers of our generation blog, including our personal favorite Mindy Kaling of The Office. What’s not to love about having a blog? Blogging is free, relatively easy, and you can find a built-in readership by pimping your blog on your Gchat status. And you get to spend countless hours finding fun pictures of LOLCats and presidential interns on Google Image. Do you see a downside?

When workplace monotony is getting you down, consider turning to your side project for a creativity wheatgrass shot. It will leave you reinvigorated and ready to tackle the Hollywood system. Well, for the next five minutes at least. Because every smart future Academy Award winner/television giant/indie mogul knows that exercising your creative juices now will only help you in the long run.

WHERE: Macbooks open to Final Draft in coffee shops all over LA, friend’s backyards, Blogger
COST: Consider the investment in your future. You’ll make this money back some day.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Interns

Hollywood Assistants like Interns. We Hollywood Assistants are pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the hierarchy of the Hollywood system. We’re at the beck and call of our bosses, waiting to do anything and everything when they ask. No matter what. When you think about our rank it’s pretty damn depressing. But in order to make ourselves feel better, we just need to remember there’s always going to be someone below us. Hello, lowly intern.

We’ve all been interns. Therefore we all know how much it sucks. Doing a ton of crappy work and not getting paid for it is basically slave labor. Actually, it is slave labor. Organizing a supply closet just for the sake of having something to do is not my idea of learning about how the entertainment industry works. Neither is photocopying a paperback copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. By page 520 you pretty much want to quit the internship and go back home to Connecticut to tell all your friends and family about just how awful Hollywood really is. Though you don’t, or rather you didn’t, because you know everyone needs to start somewhere. And if you really do want to make it in this business this is the first step. Even if said step is not that far from the ground. It’s still something. Right?

The best part about interns is their affection for us. When I was an intern all the assistants at the company seemed like the cool seniors. I was the young, naïve freshman. They could have told me there was a pool on the roof of Sony and I would have totally believed them. I yearned for their attention, their respect and most importantly their jobs. They had it all. And luckily (or unluckily) for me, my dreams came true and I became one of them. Boy, had I been disillusioned. This whole thing was not all it was cracked up to be. But hey, it was better than being an intern. At least this time all the crappy duties came with a paycheck, benefits, a 401K and maybe an intern or two to ease the workload.

Every semester new interns crowd our offices. Sure, they only work the 10-6 shift but for those 8 hours they’re at our disposal. Like marionette dolls, we’re pulling their strings and can make them do anything we want. Photocopying, check. Coffee runs, check. Boring research projects, check. And the whole time they’ll do it with a smile. Well, the ones that are really cut out for Hollywood will. They’re the ones who really work hard and are there to serve you and look up to you and bask you in compliments. But just watch out. We know how determined and crafty these kids are. One day they’re just an intern and the next they’re the Eve Harrington to our Margo Channing. Fasten your seatbelts, interns. You’re in for a bumpy ride.

WHERE: Any production company, studio, TV show, agency, management company, etc.
COST: Free labor (and maybe $10 for lunch but that's on the company's dime)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Road Trips

Gas prices be damned: Hollywood assistants like road trips. Whether reliving our college road trip glory days of not too many years ago, or taking that first adult road trip (since many assistants in this town went to school in large and important cities where cars were not the necessity they are in this suburban sprawl) - it’s never a bad time for a road trip. Even the most paid vacation deprived PA can take a weekend on the road, so break out your designer shades and charge your blu-tooth: it’s time to review the key elements needed for any successful road trip:
  • iPod mixes: XM radio is for suckers – everyone between the age of 18 and 34 can program the road trip mood with a carefully selected iPod mix. The mix should consist of the token generic road trip songs (Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway, Postal Service’s Such Great Heights, Phantom Planet’s California for the way back, anything by Counting Crows and, of course, Journey’s Don't Stop Believin') and then a great mix of cheesy tunes everyone will sing along to, like Uptown Girl, and unexpected jams from years back that will elicit the “OMG I really miss Dave Matthews Band too!” response. The importance of a strong (and long) iPod mix will be felt roughly around hour 2 of traffic when you are still in Silver Lake.
  • Condoms: Do I need to elaborate on this? Hollywood Assistants like sex but do not like non-celebrity babies.
  • A healthy rivalry with technology: I: Robot might have sucked, but lesson learned: robots are taking over the world and we all have to do our part to combat this coup. On road trips, this means outsmarting the Navigation system. Oh really, Nav, you think it’s going to take 5 hours to get to Vegas? Well I’m man and I still dominate computer, and I say it’s going to take 4 hours. What do you have to say about that? Forget the fact that we’re in Friday rush hour traffic, sig alert indicates several multi-car pile ups and the 101 is pretty much a construction site, this drive is not going to take more than 4 hours or we might as well start calling our Macs “Master.”
  • Facebook statuses: Why even take a road trip unless it’s going to make at least 10 CAA assistants jealous? A simple “Vegas, baby!” can do wonders.
  • The historian: Everyone has that friend who celebrates the creation day of the digital camera annually. You know the one I’m talking about: she takes pictures of every road sign with someone’s name in it, she thinks brunch at The Griddle is more about getting a great picture of 5 people around one pancake than eating, and she has mastered the art of the arm length self-group shot (explaining the 4,527 photos of her posted on Facebook). No one can quite remember who brought the paparazzi into the group, and it’s impossible to tell whom she’s actually close with because for every person you know, there are at least 100 pictures of the historian hugging them. This person might cause temporary blindness from the endless camera flashes, but come Monday morning when you are in a depression spiral at your desk job over the end of the road trip, you really start to appreciate the historian. Sure, you have to scramble to de-tag the less than flattering shots of you making out with the local(s), but at least you can relive the joy of road trips past with the 1,000 photos deep albums of the best two days ever.

Where: 500 mile radius from The Grove Epicenter
Cost: I mean, you drive a Prius, right?

Las Vegas

Hollywood assistants like Las Vegas. The driveable distance to Sin City makes it the Stripper’s Hamptons of the West, and on the short list of vacation destinations for underpaid assistants with 0 vacation time. Break out anything you own that is too glittery for even Boulevard 3 (who knew, right?) and review the rules of craps: it’s time to hit Vegas.


The trip to Vegas starts off with some semblance of a budget. Noticing the low balance in our checking accounts and the high balance on our credit cards, we take careful measures to justify the trip to the strip. Sure, Vegas can be expensive, but if we are careful enough, we can make this an economically friendly vacation. To start with, we’ll drive, hit up a liquor store when we get there at 9PM and have a few drinks in our room before going out. We won’t gamble too much, except maybe the cheap gambling at Gold Coast, and we’ll replace expensive meals at Cut with fast food or something. I mean, lying by the pool costs nothing, which is what we’re doing all day anyhow, so how expensive could Vegas really be?

Right. One miserable 7-hour drive in Friday rush hour and “Vegas on a budget” becomes “It’s midnight, I’m starving and whatever restaurant we go to better serve cocktails and steak. Whatever it costs I’m sure we’ll make it up on the no limit poker tables.”

Vegas isn’t about smart economic decisions, anyway. Vegas is about taking all things shiny, tacky and trashy, overcharging for them, and packaging it with the promise that anything you do wrong within the city limits doesn’t count in the real world, so you’re paying for socially acceptable Hedonism. Bring it.

Every Vegas group has one gambling quasi-expert, usually the one who organizes the trip, and generally somebody who should be armed with at least a GA hotline number for when they are considering ante-ing up the car on a game of Black Jack. This person usually wanders off shortly after checking into the hotel, and no one really sees them until all the money is gone. The rest of the group has no idea what they are doing, and therefore tends to irritate all others at the craps table, roulette wheel, and really anything other than the vacuum of the slot machines. Casinos are for our grandparents anyway.

The days in Vegas are all about poolside cocktails and playing my favorite Vegas drinking game, I spy a cliché. It’s fairly easy and extremely effective: every time someone sees, hears or smells a Vegas cliché (and yes, the smell of Axe body spray counts), everybody drinks. You’ll be tipped over on the passing “What happens in Vegas,” comments alone, and after a day of gold bikinis, cougars on the prowl, parades of bachelorette parties and, of course, weekend wedding band removal, it will be a miracle if you can recover in time to go out that night.

Las Vegas: home of miracles and inexplicable recoveries. After a short group nap in the standard hotel room shared between a couple friends and the inevitable random acquaintances (“I know we don’t know each other too well, but can you be big spoon?”), it’s time to hit the Vegas night life.

Scratch that: it’s time to wait in line where all the bridges and all the tunnels in the US converge: the wrong side of the Vegas velvet rope. Never fear, being the resourceful and deceptive assistants we are, we’ve used the skills carefully honed getting our bosses a night-of 8:00 pm reservation at Osteria Mozza in 2007 to get ourselves the VIP fast track at every club that has ever hosted a birthday party for Kristen Cavallari. Sure, no one knows who we are in Vegas, but they also don’t know who we’re not, specifically really important agents who’s celebrity clients might be interested in stopping by the club next week, but not until we check it out tonight first. Though it might result in months of annoying follow up phone calls from club promoters, dropping our title-less business cards is oddly more effective than slipping the bouncer a hundy.

Once in the club, it becomes apparent that strobe lights and stripper poles still are, and probably always will be, the only décor accepted in Vegas, minus the occasional silver confetti shower. It’s cheesy and pretty class-less all around, but so are we in Vegas, so let’s dance as our glittery numbers catch the strobe light at just the right moment to flash the bat signal to..well, whoever really, so we can make out until the sun rises over the strip. Well hello, stranger, that cologne smells like a Vegas cliché to me, so let me come up for air just long enough to finish my overpriced Kettle Red Bull and then I’m all yours until the breakfast buffet opens.

Where: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: How bad is your gambling/drinking problem?