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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Q. I work for [famous writer] as a personal assistant. There's a job opening up as a writer's assistant on the show. As a super-busy showrunner, when and how would one be most receptive to having a conversation about all this? Should a job switch even be on my mind considering the people I am working for?
The question is: are you learning what you want to learn? And is there a job where you'd learn more? You now know [famous writer]. 6 months might be long enough to consider finding a way to move closer to writing.

The moment you are no longer learning what you want to learn is a good time to consider a new job.

Maybe the way to approach it is to find a time when [famous writer] is obviously procrastinating. Or at the end of the day when things are winding down. Ask for a bit of long term career advice. He shouldn't feel bad about that -- no one wants to be someone's assistant forever, and asking for advice puts him in your shoes. Ask him how he thinks you should handle your career.

Then if he says you should think about being a writer's assistant, there's your opening. If he says "I'd stick with the assistant gig for a while longer," then maybe don't bring it up again for another 3 months.

I'm not sure you ever want to be a personal assistant longer than a year. A writer's assistant, sure, because you're learning writing. An agent's assistant, sure, because you're learning agenting. But not a personal assistant, because you're only learning dry cleaning.

A friend of mine was another Famous Writer's research assistant for years, and she got to meet Dennis and Meg, but it did not advance her career. (He did throw her a script he didn't want to do, which was a backhanded way of giving her $50,000 of other people's money, but it did not advance her career, 'cause he didn't even read it.)
Q. Would you feel "insulted" or judgmental towards someone who wanted to move from being your assistant to the writer's assistant? Would you feel better about tackling this questions during the hiatus (now) or right after the show has been renewed (anytime from now till upfronts)
Hiatus is good 'cause it's theoretical; there's no pressure.

I wouldn't be insulted, no. I might be slightly irritated because I'd have to find a new assistant, but it would make me respect you more for considering your options. Anyway, if I hired someone who wanted to be a writer, how am I gonna be irritated at his wanting to get moving? After all, at some point almost everyone was an assistant. So we know what it's like.

I think after you've worked for someone over the course of a season, they owe you a listen.
Now...if there wasn't a spot on your show for your assistant to move to writer's assistant, would you feel weird about keeping him on as your assistant? In other words, assistant politely puts forwards his intention to work at a new desk, but would still like to stay on the show even if he can't.
Obviously you'd like to move up. Who wouldn't? Why should they feel awkward about that? Unless they're awkward about having people work for them. Equally obviously you're not going to jump out the window if you can't. I'd like one of my shows to go so I can be a showrunner. If someone else has a go show and wants to hire me as SP/ESE, I might do that. I wouldn't be awkward about it and I hope neither would they. Everyone's been up and down in this crazy biz. You take the best job you can get, and when you can get a better job, you take that. Just so long as you're doing your absolute best in the job you're in, no one will mind if you have aspirations. In fact it bugs me if someone in the office doesn't have aspirations. I'm like, why are you here if you don't want to move on up? You're taking the place of someone who does want to move on up, and needs the experience and the credit.


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