Moving from Utah to Los Angeles is strange. Moving to Hollywood, even weirder. It’s difficult to feel like one LIVES here and isn’t just visiting. Anyone who has been here a few months, or under a year is probably still trying to gain footing–while obsessing where to make a mark. If you’re working, it’s probably as an assistant to ____________, in the industry. Being an assistant is fun (even if you had your own assistants before moving here), and it’s a climb up. If you’re lucky, you get to learn the ins and outs of the particular portion of the industry you work in. If you’re lucky you get to sit in on meetings with execs–in between getting coffee, learn about pre-production, be on set, and do post-production work in various aspects, and learn about many other positions. BUT look out people, there are always others looking to take advantage of green, wide-eyed folks so read on.
A quote From Ryan Holiday, partner of one of my favorite authors/researchers Robert Greene on being an assistant in Hollywood:
Hollywood is the WORST. First off the entire system is predicated on the notion that since everyone “needs” an assistant, and as a result being an assistant is the first job that everyone gets in Hollywood and where they supposedly receive on the job training (first you start as an asst to someone unimportant, then you get promoted to someone more important again and again until you finally get to represent your own clients). Except that makes absolutely no sense. Very few people need a full time person to sit at a desk and answer their phone calls all day in 2012. Unless you’re Steven Spielberg you’re just not busy enough to justify it–but because it’s a status symbol everyone wants one. AND people who make good assistants and can stand sitting there being a robot all day are precisely the opposite type of person you’d ever want managing or advising the career of an artist. Basically the Hollywood agency model systematically selects administrative, risk-averse, bureaucrats with low self-esteem. If you ever wondered why the “suits” in Hollywood are so dumb, this process is pretty much why. Fortunately I got really lucky and had mentors who let me skip all that stuff. I probably would have killed myself or quit otherwise. As a former Hollywood assistant with friends who are still “paying their dues”, I can vouch that this is incredibly accurate. It has always bewildered me that the industry norm is to take ambitious, hard-working, and intelligent young graduates and stuff them behind a desk for 2+ years doing work a monkey could do (especially in light of the fact that most assistants have already spent untold time as unpaid interns). Youth is a commodity in Hollywood, and we waste half of it sitting on mute getting what is supposedly “invaluable” experience – when there are plenty of people (such as yourself) to prove that this is in no way a necessary step.
Young, ambitious, hard-working individuals should not be personal assistants. Los Angeles is the second largest city in America. There are a set number of jobs online and in the community and far MORE people applying for them than anywhere else. What I have learned? It’s not about applying for jobs, it’s about creating a career. It is a great land of opportunity–but the opportunity is not a concrete ladder one can climb with a set amount of steps (like a college degree–that will be the easiest thing you ever do, believe me), the right connections, or anything else. It’s a place that is just flexible enough, and filled with enough young and valuable people that IF you have an idea that works you may turn it into an opportunity for yourself.
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