Hey there readers, it’s Amy. Before you read this post, I just want to let you know that my outlook on the current state of the industry has changed, and I can’t in good conscience continue to advocate for the assistant path for writers. It’s part COVID, part an inherent sense of classism in the industry. For more, read my new blog post here about my advice for new grads and why I think writers shouldn’t go the assistant path anymore. I’m keeping these posts up just in case you disagree with me and still want to go this path, but I just wanted to be fully transparent and give you the best advice I know how.
This is part two in my series about how to survive that #assistantlife. Read part one here.
As an assistant at an agency, you’re fighting two battles: not only are you constantly putting out fires and helping clients and managing their schedules and your bosses’ schedule and working 11+ hour days to solve problems for writers and directors, but then you have to some how find a way to carve out time to do the job you WANT.
For me, and a lot of us, that job is writing. Yes, it’s an art form, but you have to treat it like a job before it can become your art. Step number one for assistants trying to be writers is to show up and actually write.
And then you have to network, balance the job, and be a real human and do laundry and run errands and also have fun and hang out with people and live life.
Oh hi real life, I didn’t see you there behind the MOUNTAINS OF WORK I HAVE TO DO.
Anyways, I’ve spent the better part of the past five months trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing and I think I came up with some semblance of a routine that makes this job a little less of a constant roller coaster and singular high-pitched scream, and more of a slow-motion car-chase (cool and only a disaster sometimes.)
Here’s what my typical day looks like:
Day in the Life of A Hollywood Agency Assistant
5:00am: Three alarms and I’m out of bed, throwing on clothes I’ve laid out the night before (a sensible dress and cozy sweater), grabbing my keys and getting out the door. I don’t give a damn about makeup, it’s too early for that nonsense. Right now, it’s a “listen to Bon Iver in the car and drive through the eternal darkness” kinda morning.
5:30am: Arrive at my writing office, aka the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf down the street from my work. It’s dark, I’m drinking an overpriced chai latte of the dirtiest variety, and it’s time to hash out some words. I start with some morning pages which usually consist of nonsensical haikus about going back to bed (the sheets, they beckon // a warm blanket burrito // my snooze Chipotle) and garbled thoughts about that weird dream I had last night. Then, I set my writing goal for the morning, and get to it. Today, I wrote a few pages of character bios and a partial outline for this new pilot I’ve been working on. I need to finish the conceptual pitch before the day’s writer’s group, which I started with assistants and interns at my agency.
Not only is it critical to carve out time to write — even if it’s just for an hour or two a day — but you also need to find a community to help you and hold you accountable for deadlines.
a picture of me working on my outline before deciding to instead write this blog post
8:15am: Once I’ve gotten my writing done, I walk back to my office, put on some goddamn makeup, put my hair up and get to work.
9:00am: I’ve been at work for an hour, made breakfast in the kitchen right behind my desk, listened to more Bon Iver (esp the track that sounds like a washing machine falling down a set of stairs on repeat), and have begun to make a dent in the hundreds of emails that flood my inbox a day, and do the dull data-entry updating I have to do for logging submissions and such. It’s tedious but important work.
1:00pm: After spending the morning putting out fires, tracking down client money, making calls, and texting clients I know on a more personal basis about questions they have, it’s lunch. It’s Wednesday, so our Verve Intern & Assistant Writer’s Group I started meets today. We pitch ideas, share pages, and hang out in a conference room and eat pizza. It’s nice to have some creativity to break up the monotony of scheduling (and re-scheduling) meetings and sending submissions.
is it a writer’s group if you’re not meeting around a table at a coffeeshop made of reclaimed wood?
2:00pm: Back to work. As an FYI, if you’re going to email your agent’s assistant, don’t do it after lunch if you can help it. My priorities after lunch are: confirming next day meetings, confirming my boss’ drinks, finishing those submissions I’ve been procrastinating on, and doing the things that absolutely have to be done so I can get home on time. Most low-priority emails I file away to be dealt with the next morning.
6:00pm: The Presidential Debate is happening, so the assistants on my row all pull it up on streaming websites to watch as we roll calls and our bosses leave for the day.
7:00pm: Most days, nothing productive happens after 7pm, which is why the long hours we work are inefficient — there’s no sustainable way to fire on all cylinders and get things done during the eleventh hour of a work day. All of our bosses have been gone by now, so us assistants chat about life, politics, dating, and work.
7:40pm: Out the door for the day. I’ve been taking it easy on the drinks and only been doing them two times a week, although I know other assistants who double-book drinks four times per week (which sounds AWFUL). Networking is important — after all, today’s assistants are tomorrow’s executives, producers, and showrunners — but so is not overloading yourself, especially if you’re an introvert like I am. Last night I got ramen with the guy I’m seeing, but tonight I’ll just head home.
cue moody indie soundtrack
8:00pm: I get home at 8 because my commute is only 15 minutes, which is incredibly short. I’m lucky, some assistants have an hour commute both ways. Called my parents, laid out clothes and prepared for the next day.
9:00pm: At nine I do yoga — I do yoga every day, and when I don’t have drinks, I try and go running or lift weights. Keeping a workout schedule is important, but a challenge I’m still trying to figure out as I hate working out at night but need to keep my mornings free for writing. I go hiking and running on weekends so if I only do yoga during the week I don’t fall too far behind on my fitness goals.
10:00pm: Read more of a book my boss gave me that one of our clients wrote. She actually bought the book back when she was an executive, so it’s cool to read it with the lens of someone behind the scenes. One of my favorite parts of my job is seeing how women in Hollywood persevere despite glass ceilings and obstacles that are ever-present in our industry. I manage to fall asleep at 10:30pm, so I can start the whole routine over again the next day.
Working at an agency has been the hardest challenge I’ve ever taken on, a grad school-like boot camp on the industry. It’s high pressure and high stress at times, but I love my agency, my boss, and the people I work with, and every lesson I learn is worth it. I’m lucky to have been here for the past year, and excited for what’s to come.
Here’s to another day living in working in Hollywood.