What It’s REALLY Like to be a Hollywood Assistant
by Erin La Rosa
I asked assistants currently working in the entertainment industry to share their stories. Here’s what they had to say about working in the Hollywood trenches.
1. The agency assistant who’s been working through seven years of “pain and suffering”:
The weirdest request her boss ever made:
“I need you to buy my birthday cake and find the best one, but it can’t be expensive, but I want it to be expensive. Also, please follow me around for my birthday party the whole time and collect all of the gifts and do not leave my side.”
The dumbest thing she had to do on the job:
Watch my boss’s child. On repeat. For weeks on end. Without being asked.
Advice to aspiring assistants:
Don’t be a fucking dick. Cause that shit gets around and you will burn your bridges faster than you think.
Screaming obscenities at your boss will not cost you your job. In fact, it makes them like you more and then when you want to get fired…they won’t do it.
2. The TV assistant who’s been working for five years:
Questions he answered in the interview process:
What is your “guilty pleasure”? Are there more gays in San Francisco than there are here? Do you have any party planning experience? Do you think it’s beneath you to change lightbulbs or clean carpets?
The most bizarre request his boss ever made:
Find out what the best ice cream cake is in San Diego, order it to be made fresh, and hand-delivered (requiring an ice box situation) to my boss’s ailing grandmother in the hospital during visiting hours.
His least favorite work task:
Cancelling important meetings so my boss can fit in a facial.
An assistant secret:
We keep a list of “bad assistants” at our office: people who have bad attitudes, are disorganized, too slow, rude, etc. Everyone knows who they are, and these lists are everywhere. DON’T GET ON THE LIST!!!!
3. The TV production assistant who’s been at it for three years:
The weirdest request her boss ever made:
One of my old bosses had me make all the arrangements for her daughter to go to summer camp. I knew nothing about her daughter, so every five seconds I’d be asking, “What size does your daughter wear?” “Would she prefer to participate in an afternoon class on poetry or female authors of the 1900s?” “Does she want to do any sports?” All the while thinking, IT’S YOUR CHILD, YOU DO IT. People in this industry should not be parents.
The worst part of the job:
ALL of my bosses have asked me technology-related questions. They’ve wanted me to set up in-office networks, fix their broken laptops, sync all their Mac accounts, etc. I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT TECHNOLOGY. If the network is down, it’s down. Why on earth would I know how to get it back up and running when I barely know how to turn on my OWN laptop? I’m an aspiring writer, not a former computer engineering major.
What’s crucial to being an assistant:
A great industry assistant is someone who has a positive attitude and plenty of energy. The people you’re working for are usually exhausted and more stressed than you can comprehend, and all they need is for someone to make their lives a little easier and their days a little brighter. Even if it just means that you’re handing them a warm cup of coffee when they step in the door. It’s all about personality and attitude.
4. The film production assistant who’s been doing this for six years:
The grossest thing she’s ever done:
One boss, several years ago, had me schedule his vasectomy, which is actually three meetings: a consultation, the procedure, and a follow-up. When I called to confirm meeting #2, the procedure, the nurse told me to tell my boss to, “Remember to trim the hair around his scrotum, but don’t shave it!, they will shave his scrotum when he gets there.” I was choking so hard from laughter, it took about 5 minutes to make coherent-enough sentences to relay the message.
Advice for up-and-comers:
Don’t be afraid of being blamed for things. Half your job is to provide deniability to your boss…So, even if it’s not your fault, you’ll probably have to jump on a grenade or two.
Qualities an assistant should have:
Someone who’s nice, personable, funny, takes their job seriously, and isn’t a dickbag. I really can’t stress enough how important it is to not be a dickbag.
Unique perks of the job:
Sitting on a boat, drinking a beer, watching the sunset with several of People magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive. For work. For serious.