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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How to Tell If You're Getting Fired: 5.38

I gotta keep this short, since I'm not at my usual Assistant/Atlas Global HQ.

Or, "my apartment", as some insist on calling it. Thanks again, Time Warner Cable.

Anyway, I've been around long enough to recognize the basic firing signs...

-Have any of your co-workers been pulled aside by the boss--and afterwards started to tiptoe around you like you have suddenly been diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer? Downsizing-ahoy!

-Notice people saying, "Oh, that's okay, don't worry about it, I'll take care of it" and getting left with nothing to do following meetings? Or, just don't get invited at all? You're about to be auf'd.

-Does training new people suddenly seems to take on newfound, and profound, importance? Someone's going, that's for sure.

-Are people offering to help you with nearly everything you're working on? You're being fired very soon.

Now, usually by the time you've recognized a lot of warning signs, it's probably too late to do anything about your impending firing. So, it's time to immediately look for a new job. I've discovered that

Oh- and I will say this: in my experience, many more people quit jobs than get fired from them in Hollywood. The two exceptions: upper-level execs and mass downsizees at the studios.

Feel free to add your own warning signs for all the naive readers out there.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Foiled by Time Warner: 5.37

Apparently, my attacks have been hitting a bit too close to The Man, because He's turned off my Internet service. I type this, in fact, from the home of this really quite cool girl. That though, friends, is a story for another day. Because today, it's all about the now-defunct WB's corporate parent paying me back karmically for goading them so.

Today, it's all about The Man keeping me down.

Because do you know what happens when you call Time Warner's ISP support from my home phone line (not coincidentally provided by Time Warner Corporate Phoning Co.)? Well, do you?

It's basically a message saying that they're too busy to take my call right now and I should call again later. This has happened twice and frankly, Roomie and I are tired of it. It has been two days without internet access and we are thisclose to cannibalism.

Unfortunately, neither of us is home enough to bureaucratically outfox The Man. By the time either of us reaches the apartment, it's at least 8 already, if not later. Especially lately.

And yes, I haven't been home enough, roomie. I know. Sorry. Whatever. He totally doesn't even read this stupid blog anymore. Only hundreds of strangers do. Sigh.

But maybe you hundreds are enough.


Monday, September 25, 2006

The Ethics of Getting Someone Fired: 5.36

Welcome to a very special theme week of Assistant/Atlas posts. This week, we'll examine the ins and outs of employee battles here in Hollywood, specifically: the concept of getting fired.

It's a subject with which I have some experience.

For now, we'll leave aside all questions as to how to go about getting someone fired, and just try to concentrate on the ethical dilemma at hand. And I'm gonna make it as gray-area as possible, just for fun. But please, find your own ethical compass on this one.

Nancy is the "someone" of the "getting someone fired". Keeping in mind my need for anonymity, I will simply state that Nancy is my immediate superior. She's been there a few months now, less than half as long as I have. Now, this is a slightly wonky situation because (that again, I can't really get into) that means she works part-time. Mostly because our company is "realigning" and the cheapskate bosses are trying to save money, and because they could outsource her job to a part-time position, they did.

But basically, since I'm now alone in the office thanks to a good co-worker's departure (which, for the record, was completely unrelated to my slow-motion promotion.) I have to deal with Nancy a lot. Like, more than anyone else.

So I suffer the most from her incompetence. But other people have noticed that she gets headaches a lot near the end of the day. That she panics easily and often. That she claims to be overworked even when we (myself and at least two others) wonder what work she could possibly have to do. After all, she rarely does any of the heavy lifting. She 'organizes' and 'manages' and 'edits' and such.

Leaving aside the fact that you have no reason to believe me, continue on this journey of supposition....

Suppose that she is pretty awful. Mostly lazy and therefore incompetent...but we all have our problems, right? I'm selfish, overly ambitious, and often tactless. And I don't even have a kid as an excuse. But she's not a single Mom-- her husband has a good job. And they travel all the time to exotic destinations-- more than even newfound jetsetter me.

So let's suppose the case isn't as clear cut as we'd like it to be. She isn't a horrific racist or sexually harassing me or not doing the job at all. She's just not nearly good enough at it. And it's making me crazy enough that I want to get her fired.

Let's just say it's really because she's a Debby Downer in an industry where you're paid to be UP. ALL THE TIME.

So here are the questions I'm asking myself...and I ask you, faithful readers, to put in your two commenting cents if you desire....
This can't be ethical-- me wanting to get Nancy fired, can it?

What does it take to call for someone's head? There have to be situations where's it's okay, right?

Should an underling ever call for the firing of his or her superior?

Later this week, we'll have "How to Tell If You're Getting Fired" plus, don't miss: "How to Get a Superior Fired!"


Friday, September 22, 2006

TV Is the Thing This Year!: 5.35

If you wanna have fun, come on with me
You can stay all night and play with my TV...
TV is the thing this year!
Radio's great, but it's outta date.
TV is the thing this year!
-Ms. Dianne Reeves

Did ya hear? TV Is the Thing This Year!

Yeah, according to the latest ratings, despite the iPods, the blogs, the videogames, and this whole crazy series of tubes we call the Internets, the time young Americans spend watching TV is growing. By the way, the Internet is still in danger-- from the people who actually think it's a series of tubes. Please, talk up Net Neutrality with your friends. And if you want to know more, go here to Save the Internet dot com. Which is the real site that will save the Internet, not any of those other various and sundry corporate pretenders trying to confuse the masses. By the way, if you're from Kansas like me, then call Pat Roberts at 913-451-9343. He's still undecided on Net Neutrality. Tell him you're a Kansan whose potential business model will be destroyed if Net Neutrality isn't protected.

But getting back to my main point: it's totally awesome that TV is the thing this year, considering that it has become my favorite medium at the moment. It's so, like, authoritative. You know?

But TV's continued dominance is good for Hollywood. After all, any time Americans are glued to your product for hours on end, it's a good thing. Just ask the cigarette companies.

Seriously, the fact that Americans like looking at moving pictures and screens is the best Hollywood can hope for these days. So let's just celebrate the fact that TV is the thing this year.

And by the way, you're welcome, kids.
I stayed in to write on this Friday night, just for you.
I know, I know. I'll try to blog everyday. But it's hard, yo.
My brain hurts.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Borat's Kazakhstan Vs. The Real Kazakhstan

Perhaps you've heard about the problems that seem to be afflicting Sasha Baron Cohen's screenings of his new film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

"Yeah, so what about the projector problems?" you may say. Nay, I say. Look not at the projection systems: this is an obvious case of sabotage by the crack Kazakh secret security services, the National Security Committee. Of course, only an anonymous source like myself could report this, with a machinery as powerful as the government of Kazakhstan involved.

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is as sexy as he is smart, is the obvious mastermind behind this plot to stop (Jew-alert!) Cohen's film from getting a screening. I mean, he's been on record actively opposing the film for awhile now, due to its completely inaccurate satire of Kazakhstan. Instead, President Nazarbayev wants us to take a look at the real Kazakhstan...which we'll do together!

Now, for the record, Nazarbayev's more media-savvy and reportedly more democratically-inclined politician daughter, Dariga, got the joke.

While I think this bolsters my case that authoritarian governments really suck at PR, let's take this opportunity to explore the differences between Borat's wacky not-real Kazakhstan with the...

Assistant/Atlas Guide to Glorious Cultural Exchange With Kazakh People!

Borat's Kazakhstan: Women can now travel on the inside of the bus!
Real Kazakhstan: In comparison to a number of other predominantly Arabic-influenced cultures, women are somewhat more equal here (thanks, decades of Soviet propaganda!).

Borat's Kazakhstan: Some of the cleanest prostitutes in Central Asia!
Real Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan's Health Minister fired for infecting women and children with HIV.

Borat's Kazakhstan: A Jew who makes a defamatory movie about Kazakhstan deserves to be thrown down a well.
Real Kazakhstan: A Jew who makes a defamatory movie about Kazakhstan deserves have his film burned (assuming he can't be immediately jailed).

Borat's Kazakhstan: Recreational rape is a favorite Kazakh pastime!
Real Kazakhstan: Raping the electorate is much more commonplace.

In conclusion, President Nazarbayev, be careful what you wish for.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Slow Motion Promotion: 5.34

In my continuing, dogged attempt to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of my career, I have encountered a new type of promotion that seems to be increasingly commonplace around the entertainment industry. It's the slow motion promotion.

And, like many things in this godforsaken industry, it has its positives and its negatives. A positive is that you have a nice, long transition period to bring up any skill levels that might be lacking, and to prepare for the inevitable craptastic parts of the job.

The downside is that your length of servitude to the suits is drawn out yet longer. Of course, even promoted, I will still be a relative serf to my corporate overlords. The upside is that I'll be more like a serf with a baron's portfolio.

And then, at least, I'll be able to do a baron's job and maybe one day, find me a barony.

Of course, there are other, more nefarious aspects of this type of promotion. The office feels lonely. Everyone does. Morale is way down and it feels like my little office has a missing person. And then there's the sometimes-frictiony division of labor that must inevitably follow from this transition.

Part this.
And often, in the transition period, some workers (like your faithful Atlas) will be forced to effectively do two jobs. And can anyone guess if I'll be getting extra financial compensation while working these jobs?

The correct answer is NO. But I'm pretty sure you already knew that.

Part that.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Cutting Edge: 5.33

I'm delighted to report that the meeting went quite well, thank you very much. I still have at least one more meeting to pass-- and it's tomorrow for sure-- before I get a definitive step closer to what I want.

So after that, there may be a major shift in duties for your faithful Assistant/Atlas. Don't worry though. I won't let it get to my head. I still know where I stand on the Hollywood food chain. And it still ain't nowhere near the top.

As assistant types, we strive to be cutting-edge, do we not? Not the "Cutting Edge" I'm referencing there on the left, but cutting-edge in the sense of knowing what's going on, what's next, what's new, and (we'd never say this, but we know it's true) what's just plain cool. Also because we're young and we're black and have our hats pulled low.

So we gotta be in the know, ya know?
Pic from:
You see, what I'm saying is: keep on top of them newfangled internets if you want to get ahead.

And doing that is also a handy excuse for overzealous bosses who closely monitor Internet usage. "It was part of my research, boss," you can say when questioned about why you're reading all manner of things online, from MySpace (gotta background check the interns somehow) to Defamer (industry info, of course).

Really...pimpslapping the Man is just that simple as long as you're prepared for all contingencies. But if you're an assistant, that's already part of your job. Please note these excuses work especially if you have any sort of research or analysis or creating-type position. But really, part of entertainment is doing something new and fresh, and you need to be all modern-y for that.

Being young is nice, but it's not enough. And so I ask you, my dear readers, for open source enlightenment. Help me help recommend advice to the huddled masses.

But really also, in the interests of keeping you (and me) on top of the game, let's all share where we're finding our hot new projects. I just feel like there's all these websites out there I don't know about. . .

And we are all still using Studio System to track projects (with an IMDB supplement, of course)? Or am I missing some site?

Also, which video-sharing sites are well-put-together? Yes, YouTube is fun. Which means it won't last forever. It's totally video's Napster. It is the canary in the hole that will emerge, like a hamster from a fetishy dude's nether-regions, as a corporatized monkey ready to be exploited for whatever 'brand loyalty' still remains in its ever-more-cybersquattish existence.

Or maybe that's just me. Maybe it will free us all.

So, please, use the comments to share your thoughts on places on the ole net you find useful as an industry insider. Because, really, if you're reading this blog, you probably are.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Girl, Put Your Records On: 5.32

So the meeting was largely a success. Actually, it was pretty much totally and completely a success.

And now I lay my weary head down to rest.

After listening to some Corrine Bailey Rae, of course.

Don't worry, kids, this season's just getting started.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ask Atlas: How To Intern: 5.31

For those of you waiting to exhale about the results of my big meeting, it got pushed to keep holding your breath. But until then, enjoy this little email conversation

Every once in awhile, I get asked questions as an 'authority' on Hollywood. I appreciate these questions, since they bolster a comforting (if false) idea that I do indeed have some sort of authority. And compared to interns, I almost do.

Perhaps surprisingly, my advice often seems to work. Take the case of a lil wunderkind that I'm dubbing "Chuckie". I have no idea why I've just settled on that name, but anyway, here was Chuckie's original message:

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: "Chuckie"

great blog, this whole industry is a brand new for me. I'm starting an internship at ICM within a week. Could you offer any advice for someone in my position? Besides of course don't come anywhere near the industy...

Since it was a good question and posed in a reasonably coherent manner, I answered:

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Assistant/Atlas

The most important thing we look for in our interns is how eager they are. Interns, by definition, aren't supposed to be knowledgeable, (or, really, all that useful) but what separates the interns we never see again from the ones who get calls when there's a job opening is how much they want it. So make sure everyone knows you want to learn as much as possible...and you're willing to work as hard as it takes to do so.

And if you're gonna be at ICM, you've got to want it bad. Although, frankly, ICM lately has the reputation of being the least-sharky, most-friendly of the big agencies.

Also: don't come anywhere near the industry-- unless you really, really want it and are willing to suffer through several years of hell to get a decent job.
Regards and good luck,

And wouldn't you know it--Chuckie wrote back.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: "chuckie"

Thank you for the response, very helpful advice. I have one more quick question. What are your thoughts on Untitled Management? Just recently, I was at a William Morris pool party and met a girl who is an assistant/quasi manager there. she offered me a internship during the days i'm not working at ICM. I assume it would be good to get exposure to the management side of the business as well. Let me know what you think, thanks again.

And of course I had to respond to that one.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Assistant/Atlas

Well, aren't we a little Ari-in-training....a WMA pool party, eh?

I'd say go for it. Untitled is one of the stronger management companies out there-- having them and ICM on your resume from a single, workaholic summer would be an excellent start. What is it you want to do, exactly? If you don't know, definitely get all sorts of basic experience so you can move up quickly whenever you decide on a path.

Good luck, kid. Looks like I may be seeing you around.

And then some time passed and summer came and went. Then, lo and behold, a new email showed up in my inbox.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: "chuckie"

So I just finished both my internships. I took your advice and apparently it was good advice b/c ICM told me they wanted me for their agent training program which is very exciting. I have to finish one more year of school then I'm back out to start a training porgram at one of the top 3. My question is whether or not I should even bother applying to the other agencies. My situation is unique in that the agent I worked for became my mentor. He's an executive there so he has pull. His assistant who I became good friends with even said my agent would be offended if he knew I applied for caa and wma so I'm wondering your opinion on the situation. I do have to look out for my own and so I'm thinking why not go for the top agency caa. At the same time this agent has been such an amazing person to me, took me out to lunch twice, let me pretty much be is second assistant, and said he would get me into the training program. So I wanted to know your take on all of this. Sorry for the length. Any advice would be helpful.
Hope all is well at your new job. [ED. NOTE: Chuckie was off by a few months, as Hollywood jobs should measured in dog years.]

My advice was pretty simple:
If you've got a powerful mentor in the industry who wants to help you, I say let them. Use your connections- that's why you intern in the first place. CAA may be all about 100% market share, but it's unlikely they'll be on top forever. If ICM is treating you well, and you like your mentor figure, I'd say it'd be silly to throw that away. And also, you must have done something right-- might as well get credit for, and take advantage of, the groundwork you've laid. Plus, once you're an agent, you're expected to jump ship anyway. If you wait, CAA could eventually shower you with cash for bringing over/stealing your clients from ICM.

But see kids? Dreams really can come true-- even in Hollywood.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How I Really Pimpslap: 5.30 cont'd

Look, I've got to work hard to maintain anonymity. But I have a divergent need to share every detail of my work life. After all, that's sorta why I started this blogging adventure.

But I have a HUGE meeting coming up Thursday. One that might put me on track to be a more wonderful wunderkind than Jeff Zucker, minus the balding, the megalomania, and the Napoleon complex. Well, at least the balding and Napoleonic parts.

So I'm a bit apprehensive about the meeting. Fortunately, I know the rules of the boardroom and am ready to implement them to full effect, if necessary. But since it's mostly a meeting with the Big Boss and his Lady Big Biz, I think I'll have to be a bit more personal. Which means that I'll be busting out my interpersonal skills to charm my way to more responsibility.

Ironic, isn't it, that a young person, who should by all accounts be listless and lazy, would use his youthful charms to gain responsibility?

But that's what I want: responsibility. Which I define as getting credit/blame for what I do. Because I know that in Hollywood, you're ultimately judged (especially as an up-and-comer who has no developed reputation) by the work you do. Well, unless you're related to someone famous, of course.

But what I really want is to be heard. That's one reason I keep up this whole blog novel...just to get my voice out there.

In cyberspace, apparently, this resonates. Maybe the world is shifting towards a have-and-have-not perspective, since pretty much everyone is rapidly becoming one or the other....which would give rise to an 'assistant culture' embodied by this and a number of other blogs. Or maybe everyone is just becoming a starf*****r. Either way, these missives seem to be reaching across the series of tubes that comprise a new medium in our modern world.
Relax. It's New Media.
Accept it. Blogs are the new novels. YouTube is the new Betamax. Revver is the new VHS. And Google is your new deity.

Still...I think they're about as good of a corporate deity as we 21st century humans can reasonably expect. "Do No Evil" and "Organize the World's Information" are pretty good mission statements, even if they are, well, corporate mission statements.

And finally, back to the pimpslappin' that's the subject of the post. After months and months of steady subversiveness, my once-corporatized bosses have rediscovered the (financial) joys of independence. At least, that's what I'm hoping. Big business does have that unique way of messing everything you never know.

This time next week, I could be a quasi-bigshot. Or I could still be a lowly assistant. I guess it's in the hands of the Hollywood gods now.

Oh...and mine.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Pimpslappin' The Man: 5.30

I know you all like periodic updates from my 'real life' and 'real career'*. So I thought I'd offer one, as close to reality as I can hew, what with my continuing anonymity and all.
That's right...
I'm becoming a new media baron.
Granted, I'm a new media baron whose baronies are overwhelmed by debt and mostly just crappy marshlands....well, at work at least. There's this little popular blog here, of course. You readers just keep givin' me the love-- and don't think I don't appreciate it.

What I've done is help to give my bosses the chutzpah to become more independent of the major studios in their New Media ventures. I can't really go into the particulars, of course.*

But I will say this: standing up for who I am was crucial in this victory against the forces of corporate stupidity. Ultimately, I feel like I pimpslapped The Man and scored a small, but important, victory for the forces of good. In the arena of New Media at least, I feel I've pushed the light of the English language a bit further against the darkness.

My company is now significantly more independent of The Man than we I began my whole endeavor. And that, my friends, is my victory. Sure, it was not mine alone. All of you readers helped in your own way-- giving me the quiet confidence I needed to challenge The Man in his most pernicious form.

So to you, assistants, I say this: Don't be afraid. You have more power than you think. And you've gotta use it if you ever want things to get any better.

And speaking of assistant togetherness, would someone send me the most recent UTA job list, please? I think that as one of Hollywood's hottest assistants and the patron blogging saint of Hollywood assistants I should have it thrown at me. Nope. Like most non-UTA assistants, I have to beg my friends. Which is you, friend, if you're reading this. Please send it'd make some deserving kids happy.

*New readers should know I cover my tracks with a near-paranoic anonymity. Which is why I end up telling parables. Maybe that crazy Jesus was onto something.