Clawing to escape the belly of the beast here in Hollywood. To commiserate, email my name assistantatlas at yahoo.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How I Do: 5.08

I don't like to think of this post's title as ripping off Res, so much as paying tribute to her.

Sorry for not posting lately. Thing is, I kind of now have so much work that there's never NOT work and I can't possibly be expected to do it all.

And yet, because I'm from the Midwest, I kind of have this work ethic where I feel bad about not being able to do it all, even though even my work ethic heartily agrees that I'm probably overburdened. Still, a work ethic isn't a work ethic if it doesn't tell you to just keeping on going and walk it off (in the tone of your high school football coach/driver's Ed teacher).

So I do.

But I've stopped working as hard. My work ethic knows it. I know it. I don't care. My work ethic does. Well, whatcha gonna do? You're gonna do what you do, and that's what you do.

So just do it.

The hair cut is working well. When I went out to breakfast (technically probably 'brunch') this morning, I discovered that D-Listers are now checking to see if I'm famous. No, Amanda Seyfried's little brother on Big Love, I'm not famous.

Even though I was totally wearing my old-school Aquaman t-shirt Off Vine. I can see how you'd make that mistake.

But that's how I do.

Besides Ben Henrickson (real name, apparently: Douglas Smith), I discovered at Off Vine that Eric Stoltz is still quite recognizeable and has joined the celebrity baby boom, doting on a little spitter. Also, none of the people I was at brunch with (about half of whom could be considered 'industry') could remember a goddang thing Eric Stoltz had been in. And yet we were all like, "Oh yeah, that is Eric Stoltz". . . well, once someone remembered his name.

So obviously, I've looked him up on IMDB by now. And I realize that he's had small parts in some good movies (Pulp Fiction, Jerry Maguire) and larger parts in just some colossally bad things(too many to name, in fact). I don't know where I'm going with this. It's just weird.

I mean, I never go out to brunch. The seeing celebrities part is totally normal. LA, baby.
Mmm, brunch.
It makes the morning after a lot more pleasant. . . even if your new f**ktoy's friends are annoying as hell. You can just have a Bloody Mary. Or four.

That's how I do.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Managing Your Manager: 5.07

You know what class they should teach in business school but don't? Employment 101: Managing Your Manager.

So, racing into the gap is your faithful Assistant/Atlas with the basic lessons that will help keep your boss happy and you from going insane.

And all of us college grads know that most classes spend weeks driving home info that might best presented in quick bullet points. Or in this case, a simple, though by no means complete, list.

1) Your boss is always right. It's your job to quietly insert reality into their "rightness" until they are, in fact, right. Make sure to slowly dribble in the reality with hints, otherwise it could seem like your boss was actually wrong.

2) Always overload your boss with information. That way, it's less likely that they'll have time to get through it all and demand additional info. They probably will anyway, but that brings us to...

3) Never show all your cards. Your boss will always ask for more on whatever initial proposal/info/calls you make, so if you can already have the potential follow-up done when he asks, then you've got an hour or two to look at Defamer or something while you pretend to work.

4) Anticipate your boss' need to micromanage. Most Big Bosses feel the need to run everything. Your job is ask small questions (that are ultimately unimportant but don't necessarily appear that way) to make your manager feel like you need him/her. Even though your job would probably be infinitely easier if you just did everything yourself.

5) If you feel a tirade from your boss coming on, the pre-emptive sincere apology followed with an "I'm-young-and-learning" defense will usually deflate the sails of even the most fearsome executives*.

6) Keep your boss busy. When a boss gets bored, they often decide that the reason for their boredom is that their employees aren't working hard enough. Nevermind that the actual reason they're bored is that they don't have real work and their employees are doing all of it for them. Just overschedule and you'll be fine.

7) Prepare for things to go wrong. Because they will. Usually in unexpected ways that you couldn't possibly have foreseen. So screw it. Just learn to fly by the seat of your pants. Whee!!

*Weinsteins not included.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fighting The Man With a New Haircut: 5.06

Deciding that I needed more ammo in my fight against the Kens of the world, I decided to pay a visit to the most hardcore haircuttery in my 'hood.

"So man, what can I do for you today?" asks the vaguely skateboard/stonerish/surfer guy.

"Well, um, see I have this job and..." I trail off, thinking about what I want. I decide: "I need a haircut that makes me look like I eat babies in the boardroom."

Vaguely Stonerish Barber seems surprised: "Like you eat babies in the boardroom?"

"Um, yeah," I say, "I need you to make me look like a corporate drone."

"Okay," he laughs, "any particular reason for the change?"

"I guess I think people will take me more seriously." Being a barber, he doesn't challenge my assertion. Being a Ho'wooder, I know that this, sadly, is ridiculously true. We didn't hire someone once because one of my bosses felt this guy didn't have enough separation between his eyebrows. As if people can tell over the phone if an assistant has a monobrow.

Still, if I'm going to impersonate a corporate drone, I've got to look the part, right? Anyway, during the cut, I gave Stonerish Barber some insight into my job.

But the best part was when I left. I stopped in the entryway to put on my sunglasses and iPod and overheard the conversation between my barber for the day and the Punk Counter Girl. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but hey, when someone's talking about you, you tend to listen.

Stonerish Barber: "That guy was pretty cool."
Punk Counter Girl: "Oh yeah?"
Stonerish Barber: "Yeah, it's like his job to tell corporate people what to do."
Punk Counter Girl: "What do you mean?"
Stonerish Barber: "Well, like, he basically has to tell the like idiot corporate people how to do their job."
Punk Counter Girl: "Seriously? He looks like he's like 19. I almost asked for his ID.** And he's telling corporations what to do?"
Stonerish Barber: "I know, right? Hollywood's fuggin' crazy."

Yes, my friends, Hollywood is crazy. But I'm riding this Crazy Train until it pulls into Fat Cash Station...or you know, until it gets derailed and we all die.

**If you have to wait at Old Glory Barbershop, Punk Counter Girl will offer you a Red Stripe beer. How sweet is that?

You'd entrust a media strategy to this hair, right?


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Downsizing Dance of Death and Rebirth: 5.05

Someone in my office got downsized today. For all of us except (I'm guessing) the Big Bosses, it was a shock. Our lil outfit seems to be getting busier by the day, and it seemed we'd been expanding. But lo and behold, they let "Gloria" go. Gloria is in her early 40s, a failed actress, and apparently not productive enough to be a production assistant slash archivist/tape librarian.

And suddenly, my little conflict with Ken takes on a whole new importance. Because now I'm thinking that if the idiots keep running things like they are, I may be out of a job.

And all because giant corporations couldn't figure out what their customers wanted if had a billion focus groups shoved up their a$$.

You see, the entire concept of downsizing (thanks, globalization!) enables the typical giant corporation to frighten the bejesus out of employees, forcing them to rethink any demands for increased wages.

That includes me.

Because now I'm worried that my little part of the Hollywood universe may experience further cutbacks. Which may mean me.

And yet....

I almost welcome them, these cutbacks. Why? Because they trim the fat. Which is not to say that Gloria is fat, because she's friggin' skinny. It's just that someone half her age could do her job better and be content with the crappy salary they're paying.

Which is problematic for Gloria. But it may not be problematic for me.

You see, since I do the work of perhaps five lesser (paid) men, I'm in a good position to not be laid off. After all, if I'm gone, then who would actually do the work? Because someone has to.

But I talked to Gloria today. The printer broke down, and I leaned up near her desk: "So that's probably karma knocking out the printer," I said.

Gloria smiled. She appreciated the effort. Gloria: "Yeah, I know, right?" She's blushing. I smile at her.

Gloria: "It's just like, I had no idea with everything I was doing. I didn't think they could afford to get rid of me. But I guess they had to. I mean, they really did make it feel like it wasn't my fault."

Atlas: "It wasn't!"

Gloria: "I know. I was good to hear that."

Atlas: "Yeah."

Gloria: "You know what, though? It's like, it's the kick in the pants I need to get out of here, you know? Because I can get a better job-- at least one that pays more."

I can't help but grin.

Atlas: "I'm glad you think of it that way."

Gloria: "Well, you know...what am I gonna do?"


The conclusion: I'm not afraid of competition. Are you?


Monday, June 12, 2006

Nobody Knows What They're Talking About: 5.04

As I move higher in the corporate game of chutes and ladders, I've begun to have meetings with execs who have increasing amounts of power. Being the requisite young thing at most of the meetings, it falls to me to provide the viewpoint of the 'younger demographic' which remains incredibly elusive for my corporate masters.

Increasingly, this viewpoint has increasingly become me figuring out tactful ways to tell various VPs that they're wrong and/or misinformed. And I've figured out how to do it. Read on.

By the way, I wish I could tell you that, of course, this doesn't apply to all big corporate VPs, but frankly, I'm not so sure anymore.

Here's a sample question to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with. I'll set it up.
This is Ken.
He's a Marketing VP. He makes love to his wife once a month, four times a month to his hooker, and once a day to himself. We're having a meeting about revamping a website to simply allow the users to 'personalize' their user experience with something as simple as allowing them to choose their user name and password instead of having them randomly generated. Apparently, this will cost a lot of money to do.

Ken says: "Well, I'm just not sure how this enhances the user experience."

Atlas says: "Ken, I'm pretty sure that any opportunities we can give the user to engage with the site and customize their experience will help improve our revenue streams."

Ken: "I'm not sure the numbers support that, Atlas."

Atlas thinks: "You've got to be friggin' kidding me-- this is not rocket science, you idiot."

Atlas says: "Well, Ken, I think you're absolutely right that your numbers don't necessarily seem to support that. But if we don't spend much to try anything new, we'll lose by default. And if we hit the viral marketing jackpot-- we win. Am I right, or am I right?"

Atlas thinks: "I hate myself for saying that. But, Ken did deserve it."

Ken says: "Well you're absolutely right, Atlas, but I'm just not sure how this squares with our overall business plan, considering your plan to, as you put in your brief 'Opening up the whole shebang.' Considering the variable involved in our revenue streams, I'm just not sure there's the financial support for expensive initiatives like this."

Atlas thinks: "Dude, that was a rough draft! No fair!"

Atlas says: "Well, you may be right, Ken. But if you read the final draft of my proposal, you'll see that if there's a strong chance we're losing people to our competitors over something as simple as this, then that puts at a huge competitive disadvantage."

Atlas thinks: "Snap, B**ch!"

Boss Lady ends the dick-measuring contest, saying: "Look, we've all agreed the website needs changes. These should be one of them."

Do we all see the corporate boardroom lesson contained herein, or shall I spell it out? I'll spell it out for you. Otherwise, I'll get stupid emails. Not that I don't like stupid emails. But I do prefer the awesome ones, so keep those coming. And comments. I like comments. What was I talking about? Oh yeah...

Handy Rules For the Boardroom

1. Never Disagree. That said, you can disagree with anything that's said if you preface it with "You're absolutely right." It Works Every. Single. Time*

2. Practice Tact. Yeah, I'm not always good at it either, but it helps.

3. Speak Truth to Power. It's the only way you've got a shot at redeeming yourself, you dirty, filthy whore.

4. Don't Get Annoyed. If you let it(Ken) get under your skin, you will never survive in the Ho'wood. I can guarantee you will be annoyed in pretty much every single meeting you ever have. I guarantee.

*That I've used it in boardroom-y meetings

All for now. I'm off to watch a Tivo'd Entourage. And drink. Heavily.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ultimate Lessons of the UTA List: 5.03

Since I wrote a little post about the infamous UTA joblist, I've gotten some interesting critiques of the industry's most exclusive compilation of employment.

Seriously. A lot of them.

Generally, they fall into two camps: one believes the list sucks and isn't worth the effort to obtain it, while the other swears by its mystical powers.

Ultimately, here's the lesson I've derived from this debate: work every angle.

Whether it's a relative, an internship, or a near-mythic list, try it.

The stars just might align for you. Or your talent and hard work can see you through. Just kidding. It's luck, nepotism or a lot of bjs.

Fortunately, once you're in, you can just do what I did and hang around in one place long enough until you everyone else leaves and you get promoted.

Speaking of, I think I may get promoted again. And seriously, if I get one more promotion, I may be headed definitively out of assistant land. Wait, is that a light at the end of the tunnel. . . Wait, nope.

It's an oncoming train of endless corporate meetings.

Boss Material?


Celebrities Who Should Run For Office: 5.02

In honor of California's primary today/yesterday, I'd like to present a list. A list of Hollywood's finest folks who I think might make great political leaders someday. Look, if the Terminator can be Guvernator, then I don't see why some of these fine folks shouldn't take a shot at it.

Dennis Haysbert- We know the man can at least act presidential. Which is more than I can say for some Presidents.

George Clooney- Okay, he wouldn't make a good President. But why not a Senator or something? Surely, he's suave enough to represent Cauli-for-ni-ah in the Senate? Plus, he just seems to be getting more attractive to the womenfolk as he ages-- which bodes well for his getting elected. Doubleplus, his dad is a political figure in like, Kentucky or somewhere.

Al Franken- Supposedly, he moved to Minnesota to further his political career, in fact. But frankly, he's been serious enough about politics for long enough that I'm inclined to think he would do a pretty good job.

Sarah Michelle Gellar- If the Terminator can get elected, I don't see why an obviously superior character like Buffy Summers can't be. Plus, she'd be like Hillary, without the baggage and with just as fervent a fan base.

Jon Stewart- The Daily Show's host isn't going anywhere before 2008, but after that, who knows? He's managed to keep The Daily Show from skewing too far to the left, by skewering anyone and everyone who should be skewered. And he seems by all accounts to be a sensible, conscientious gentleman. On second thought, maybe he's not cut out for politics.

Angelina Jolie- When Jolie has finished securing humanity's genetic future, and starts to get fewer/crappier movie offers, her stint as UN ambassador should be a good launching point for a political career. Just imagine the international hotness goodwill that Secretary of State Angelina Jolie could bring. I guarantee America's public image will improve if she's the symbol of our foreign policy. Seriously, how could it not?
Spreading goodwill and happy feelings throughout the world.

As for the person who is my current front-runner for President 2008, here's Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

She Governs Like a Girl. And she can even make Republicans give up their evil ways.

On the other hand, a celebrity-led government isn't necessarily always better. Just imagine if we were dumb enough to elect some of the following people....

Celebrities Who Shouldn't Run For Office:
Warren Beatty- I'm so over Warren Beatty as a politician. And as an actor. And as a person.

Barbra Streisand- Babs, please, for the love of democracy, don't run for office. I'm afraid of what might happen- the legions of militant Jewish grandmothers you might mobilize.

Paris Hilton- [shudder]

Tim Robbins- Stick to acting. After all, you're good at it. Usually.


PS: If you're a political junkie, or want insight into the voting mind of a 20something Democrat, or just want to know who I voted for the major offices, here you go: Angelides, Speier, Bowen, Delgadillo, Bustamante, Marcy Winogard just to be a raging leftist, Jenny Oropeza, and finally, Yes and Yes on the propositions. Because rich people should pay for poor kids' preschool. They just should.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Season Opener: Why Business School Sucks: 5.01

Somewhat inexplicably, people turn to me for advice. So I thought I'd share of my thoughts and advice on business school. If you don't want to read the whole post, here's the point: it sucks and it's stupid.

Recently, I spoke with my little brother, who has recently finished his third year as a double-majoring business school student at a respected Midwestern university. I was wondering if maybe business school would've better prepared me for the world of work. I mean, after all, even Lloyd has an MBA from Stanford.

Relating my problems with my job (more on that in later posts) I asked my fledgling-CEO bro's advice on dealing with my issues in handling corporate structures.

As I told him, much of an assistant's job is deciding what exactly to tell one's boss-- and choosing what not to tell him/her. I asked if business school might've helped me in this regard. I asked if there was a 'Managing Your Manager' class taught at his prestigious business school.

"Not really," he said, "Business school's kinda focused on managing people. Like, below you. The point is that you train to be an executive, not a biyotch, I guess."

"Fair enough," I reply. After all, he's in one of the top business schools in the world. Surely, those business professors must know something, right? Doubtful. . . and stop calling me Shirley.

"Dude, seriously," I said to my brother, "that's what people really need-- a class that teaches you how to handle bosses and to both make them feel important and connected, without revealing enough that they want to micromanage anything."

Business stinks.
"No, they don't really have a class like that," he says. He adds: "It sounds helpful, though."

"They totally should," I say, "That's what you really need, you know? That and lessons on like, manipulating people into doing what you want them to do."

"Um, they don't really teach manipulation in business school," he says, but I can picture his smile.

"Because, Bro, that's what I need to know. I need to know how to get people like my boss to do what I think they should do. And they totally should because it would make them tons of money."

"That probably would be a useful skill," my little Bro admits.

"Maybe I should've majored in psychology or something," I wonder.

"So, um, seriously. What's going on with you?" my little brother asked, a note of concern creeping into his voice. This is unusual as my brother isn't a big concerned type of guy. I'm the sensitive brooder of the family, he's the big shy guy's guy.

"I'm just so fed up with this stuff, you know, all the corporate BS with my company and all that. I just want to say 'F**k it', you know? Start my own media empire."

"So, can I be CFO of your media empire?" he asks.

"Yes," I say, smiling. "You can totally be the CFO."

"Awesome," he says. "I'm in."

"Sweet. Now I just need like four million dollars in venture capital."

"I'll get right on that," he says.

And actually, he will be taking an upper-level business course in venture capitalism next year, per my advice. So I told him he'd need to learn how to manipulate the people on the other side of the table into giving me/us money. And that's why I should've majored in psychology.


Sunday, June 04, 2006


Now, I haven't really talked about it much, but, like much of my Hollywood brethren, I have succumbed to the ecstatic hype surrounding the as-yet-unreleased Snakes on a Plane. I like to call the phenomenon "Snakes on a Plania!"

I don't know if anyone else has seen this yet news story yet, but I could hardly believe my eyes.

Yes, this is an actual news story.

No, I don't know why the headline writers couldn't come up with something better than: "Pilot Grabs Snake, Lands Plane". Keep in mind that it is a TV station in Louisville, Kentucky.

Still, I imagine they went through several drafts. My imagined reasons for their rejection are in parenthesis.

Pilot Chokes Snake As Plane Goes Down!
(not family-oriented enough)

Snake on Plane, But No Samuel L. Jackson In Sight!
(too promotional. also, Kentucky)

Flying Snake Not Deadly
(slightly misleading...and not dangerous-sounding enough)


PS- Next season of Assistant/Atlas begins this week. . . hey, it ain't 24, but at least it'll be fresh and better than 98% of summer television.