Working on an agent’s desk is a special circle of assistant hell, but if you can survive, the payoffs can make it worthwhile. Picture poor Lloyd, toiling away under Ari Gold’s abuse in Entourage, and you are not far off from reality. If the word “abuse” has not already caused you to re-evaluate your career aspirations, then you may have the right attitude to survive the boot camp that is being an entertainment agent’s assistant.
On your first day of work the HR manager may hand you a job description, but it is more of a guideline than a rule. Assistants are catchall go-to people for any number of jobs. There will be typical office responsibilities like filing, scheduling appointments, and fetching coffee, but it doesn’t end there. Rolling calls is the majority of the gig; you’ll get really good at chatting up clients and stalling irate spouses (or any other callers who have to wait their turn), and coming up with believable excuses as to why your boss hasn’t returned a call. One day an agent’s assistant might be reading scripts or listening to demos; the next, picking up dry-cleaning or getting the agent’s car washed. The true job of an assistant is to support the agent: remember the details that he always forgets, prioritize her morning calls, and have a clean shirt ready when a soy latte gets spilled on the Armani.
There are also some very desirable duties that come with the territory; you may be asked to accompany an actress to a press junket, visit recording studios to prep for an artist’s session, or travel extensively. Agents, and therefore their assistants, bend over backwards to keep the client happy—that can have you performing all sorts of exciting or awkward tasks. The advantage is that you will get face time (or phone time) with influential industry professionals and have an insider’s access to celebrities, producers, directors, and studios.
Skills & Education
Agencies prefer a candidate with a college degree; entertainment business, production, public relations, and communications are applicable majors to this career field, but almost any degree will do if you’re a fit for the agency culture. You must be proficient in applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and email clients. Knowledge of data management systems is also helpful. This job demands someone who is well-spoken, detail-oriented, highly organized, and able to juggle several responsibilities simultaneously (sometimes literally: try rolling calls on a cell phone while fetching Pellegrinos for a client meeting). An agent’s assistant should manage time efficiently, work hard with little supervision, and have excellent communication skills; a thorough knowledge of the agency’s client base is imperative.
What to Expect
Days off and sleep are luxuries that should be relished when available; most weeks you are expected to be available around the clock and at a moment’s notice. Make this your mantra: “If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late; if you’re late, don’t bother showing up.” There is never an acceptable excuse for an agent’s assistant to miss an appointment and it will likely get you fired on the spot. You may be given a company-owned phone or PDA—keep it charged. Carry at least two chargers on you at all times; an extra battery is a great idea. It is important to have a thick skin and maintain your cool under pressure; you’ll be given every chance to succeed, but the stress to satisfy a demanding boss can break delicate people. You’re expected to take every order with a smile, be grateful for the privilege to do so, and complete the lengthy list of tasks in double-time. Agent’s assistants are often paid an absurdly low salary, but there are perks (free lunch, free tickets, pickings from a stream of gift baskets and swag sent to your boss). This is a gateway job to unlimited opportunities in the entertainment industry, so pay your dues and network hard. One very important thing to remember: Unless you are in the agent training program, opportunities to be promoted from within to agent are slim. But with all the contacts you’ll make, the sky’s the limit when it comes to jobs outside your agency.
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