Its All Your Fault: How To Make It As A Hollywood Assistant

Overview

An Essential Guide to Landing — and Keeping — Your first Hollywood Job
A position as an assistant to a producer, agent, director, studio executive, or star can be the path to a fabulous career — or a one-way ticket to hell. How can the aspiring Hollywood assistant quickly learn the inside track to success while avoiding the land mines? It's All Your Fault is the answer. Written by two former Hollywood assistants who've been there and done that, It's All Your Fault is bursting ...

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Overview

An Essential Guide to Landing — and Keeping — Your first Hollywood Job
A position as an assistant to a producer, agent, director, studio executive, or star can be the path to a fabulous career — or a one-way ticket to hell. How can the aspiring Hollywood assistant quickly learn the inside track to success while avoiding the land mines? It's All Your Fault is the answer. Written by two former Hollywood assistants who've been there and done that, It's All Your Fault is bursting with hard-earned advice, from figuring out who's who and who isn't to sex, drugs, and other work-related issues. Filled with outrageous anecdotes and countless celebrity stories, It's All Your Fault proves an indispensable addition to the nightstand of every wannabe Hollywood mover and shaker.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Ever wonder who has the juiciest gossip on Tinseltown's notoriously hard-to-handle honchos? In It's All Your Fault, Hollywood insiders Bill Robinson and Ceridwen Morris reveal that it's the assistants of Hollywood, the underlings running errands and taking notes, who are privy to the most outrageous behavior of studio heads, stars, and directors. But along with the headaches of coddling the rich and famous, the book explains, putting in time as an assistant is the best way to work toward future success in the movie industry. This witty and engaging read is perfect for anyone looking to get ahead in showbiz or just enjoy some humorous tales from the trenches.
From the Publisher
Kevin Williamson Scream; Dawson's Creek Hysterical and frighteningly true. Not just for the aspiring Hollywood player, but for anyone who's ever confused Sweet 'N Low with Equal. And gotten fired for it.

Darren Star Executive producer of Sex and the City This is the book I wish I had read before coming to Hollywood. A terrifying piece of nonfiction.

Jack Valenti President of the Motion Picture Association of America This is what it's like swimming in the piranha-infested waters of Hollywood and surviving. What a joy to read a book crackling with wit and effortless humor, which is in short supply even in the dazzling movie world.

Diane Keaton Because Bill Robinson was my assistant for two miserable years, you might think I would be enraged to find myself obliquely referred to all over this amazing book. Quite the contrary, I was literally bowled over by the amount of inside knowledge, detailed research, and hilarious anecdotes Ceridwen and Bill offer anyone even remotely interested in a show business career. I laughed, I cried, but mainly I found It's All Your Fault a globally terrifying look into the psychology of moviemaking.

Kristen Johnson 3rd Rock from the Sun This is the definitive book on the madness of Hollywood. Chock full of brilliant writing, hilarious anecdotes, and above all, juicy gossip. You will laugh so hard you'll embarrass yourself.

Courtenay Valenti Senior VP, Theatrical Productions, Warner Bros. A truly funny, insightful guide about how to succeed in Hollywood. This book is vital for anyone who wants to glean never-before-told insider tips. I only wish I had read this entertaining, smart book when I was starting out — it would have made my early career years so much easier.

John Burnham Executive Vice President and Cohead of Worldwide Motion Pictures, William Morris Agency From a man who's seen it all, from top to bottom: no better advice can be given by greater experts.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Readers looking for down-and-dirty Hollywood dish or those with dreams of becoming a filmmaker will find everything they need to know--and laugh hard at all the tantalizing gossip--in It's All Your Fault: How to Make It as a Hollywood Assistant by successful Hollywood producer Bill Robinson and his former assistant, screenwriter Ceridwen Morris. The authors claim that there is no better vantage point on a successful Hollywood career than the view from below--but don't mess up, or it's all over! From how to master the art of "rolling calls" to blowing your boss's (or some other bigwig's) nose, Robinson and Morris deliver the real deal. Agent, Neeti Madan. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684869582
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 1/1/1901
  • Edition description: 2001 Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Robinson is a writer/producer who founded the production company Blue Relief with Diane Keaton. He has been involved with such successful productions as Unstrung Heroes, Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight, and Hanging Up. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Preview

So go the twisted lives of Hollywood's personal assistants, Sherpas to the climbers of the entertainment peaks, handmaidens to the movie star gods, granters of wishes to the too-rich and too-famous. It might be sushi at 4 a.m. It might be a private plane to Tibet, by tomorrow. It might be exotic animals for a party, or prostitutes for an afternoon. It might just be laundry. But it's always something.

— Washington Post 8/20/98

Whether you're trying to get a foot in the door of the entertainment industry or just love all things Hollywood, this book is for you. The eager neophytes who once flocked to Wall Street are now looking over their shoulders at the life of their friends at agencies, production companies, and studios. Let's face it, it's always been considered hip to be in showbiz and at the turn of the millennium, complete with a robust economy and Internet studio mergers, the biz is booming. Is it any wonder more and more of Generation Y2K wants in on the party?

Starting as an assistant, or in the mail room, is the single proven way to advance quickly in show business. And, for the hordes seduced by the fantasy of Hollywood, it is also the best way to get the closest look at the stars and industry machinations. While it's true many begin life in Hollywood working tech jobs in film or TV (sound, electric, camera, etc.) these tend to limit you to contacts and promotions among technical workers. So if you're searching for broad exposure to the people who call the shots, you're going to want access and proximity to those people...access only an assistant job can provide.

Being an assistant to a director, executive, star, producer, agent, or manager can be a great, intense education in how "the business" works. It's like making it through boot camp, and it's hard to predict who will survive. All types live through it and all types leave, including lawyers, film school graduates, and MBAs. This book endeavors to give you the view from under the red carpet. And if you have the sickness required to actually seek gainful employment in the industry, then we hope you will glean the basics in what each job involves and tips on how to succeed, learn as much as possible, and trade up in the food chain of Hollywood. And by "Hollywood" we mean the many cities where the entertainment industry is flourishing, providing the U.S.'s largest exportable product.

Sure, you've seen the images of the peons running across the floor of the stock exchange at dawn. You've seen the footage of sleepless campaign workers giving their all for a candidate. But imagine a similar kind of sacrifice and hard work for the sake of a producer who demands the City of Los Angeles change the timing of traffic signals so that he can have a more "streamlined" drive to work each day. This is a true story, but by no means exceptional in the land that breeds bosses who make assistants blow their noses for them.

The job of the Hollywood assistant is not just about getting coffee at 9 a.m., it's also about getting Forest Whitaker a Quarter Pounder at 3 a.m. There are serious hazards in the workplace as well. Just ask Naomi Campbell's assistant, who got smashed in the head with a cell phone hurled by the leggy beauty during a temper tantrum. One producer cut his assistant's tie off with a pair of scissors because he didn't like it. There's much more to being a Hollywood assistant than just retrieving messages and scheduling meetings, although, as you'll see, the complexity of those tasks alone have led many back to Kansas.

One may assume that the term "assistant" indicates merely a glorified secretary who must perform the usual office duties. However, there is an entire set of rules and special knowledge required to succeed in the highly idiosyncratic entertainment biz. Terminology, geography, and pecking order are just a few of the things they don't teach in film classes.

For example, putting Harvey Weinstein on hold, or xeroxing Steve Zaillian's latest screenplay incorrectly, can cost you your career. Try assuming your boss doesn't mind you giving out his home number. Or perhaps you didn't know that Sharon Stone will never sit sideways to the door of a restaurant. Make just one of these mistakes and you may find out how quickly you can be replaced by one of the thousands of eager young assistant wannabes who are all too happy to work for as little as six bucks an hour.

The first steps you take in this business can be crucial. Reputations are established and contacts made very quickly. If you're the kid who saves the day, instead of the kid who spills the coffee, you may be looking at a bright future. If not...you may be used as a target for bottle-throwing practice like one Oscar-winning actress's former assistant.

A word of warning: While you are reading this book you might think, Why would anyone take a job like this? An assistant job is not hell, it's purgatory. It's the rite of passage which, if suffered and surmounted, can land you in those heavenly regions beyond the pearly gates of the Brentwood or Los Feliz estates.

Kathleen Kennedy started out as Steven Spielberg's assistant and moved on to produce hit films, including Back to the Future, Poltergeist, The Color Purple, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Gremlins. Her advice to newcomers is:

I think a secretarial or assistant position is one of the most valuable positions to be in. In fact, it's unfortunate that most guys probably feel uncomfortable going in and taking a secretarial job because it's one of the best places to start. If you get in as a secretary or as an assistant to a producer or a director, you're the only person who has access to the entire filmmaking process.

An assistant can be more important and more trusted than a business partner or even a spouse. It's a very intense relationship. It's like a love affair, but a very lopsided one. They love you for taking care of them and you love them because, in a twisted sense, you become them. You must anticipate their every need. You feel happy only when they are happy. You take care of every annoying aspect of your boss's life and enable him or her to do the fun stuff, worry-free. If your boss could have you suffer his indigestion, he would.

There are no secrets between a boss and his assistant. It is a sacred bond, the strength of which we tested when researching this book. Not surprisingly, most of the assistants whom we approached (or who approached us) wished to remain anonymous. What they say often shocks and appalls those unaware of what a sick and crazy world Hollywood is.

The key is to become a jaded industry pro as quickly as possible by benefiting from the hundreds of hours we spent hanging out with Hollywood assistants at L.A. venues such as Capo, Katsu, Ago, Spago, the Ivy, the Whiskey, the Sky Bar, the Dresden, Le Colonial, Cafe Les Deux, Little Door, L'Hermitage, the Chateau Marmont, Bar Marmont, a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont, poolside at the Chateau Marmont, and the parking garage at the Chateau Marmont. And NYC's venerable equivalents: Bubby's, Moomba, Nobu, Match, the Mercer, Ohm, Spy, and Veruka.

The typical evening spent in one of these trendy establishments consists of many overqualified and underpaid entertainment assistants drinking cosmopolitans and martinis next to junior execs who bemoan their heavy workload as they shamelessly schmooze those higher up the food chain in order to gain a job with an even heavier workload. The assistants, meanwhile, can be found discussing the deals "they" are a part of...though this often means they merely placed the call on which their boss convinced Glenn Close to do South Pacific for television. They tend to share the dubious attribute of talking only about "the biz" at full volume. Name-dropping is also common among this junior delta force, although the same can be said of many of their employers.

But perhaps the most defining characteristic of an assistant cluster-schmooze is the penchant for trashing one's boss and complaining about one's quality of life, while simultaneously one-upping peers with heroic tales of Hollywood insiderness. For example, one manager's assistant was overheard at an L.A. club bragging about how he got Willem Dafoe the lead opposite Madonna in a sexy thriller. When a male star had fallen out of the project, the assistant took it upon himself to race the script to the airport and had it flown to Utah, then hand delivered to the Sundance workshop, where Dafoe was staying. The actor read the script, agreed to play the part, and the deal was done before the assistant's boss was back from lunch. Sounds impressive? Not so fast. The film turned out to be the dreadful bomb Body of Evidence, and, as it turns out, Dafoe's agent had already been positioning the deal for months.

But the assistant managed to convince himself he now had a purpose in the cutthroat world of show business and Dafoe invited him to the set of the film, where he had the pleasure of meeting Madonna during one of her endless courtroom scenes. Their meeting was cut short, however, when Sean Penn arrived and pulled his ex-wife into a trailer for a tête-à-tête. The assistant, left standing in the emptying courtroom, was mistaken for one of the jurors in the scene and was asked by stage personnel to return his suit to wardrobe.

The truth is that the above scenario is no less absurd than what happens to Hollywood assistants every day. Some reassurance: Many of today's industry success stories, from Mike Ovitz on down, were kicking copiers and making lunch reservations just yesterday, so read on. After all, if David Geffen can go from his job as CBS usher to zillionaire and cofounder of DreamWorks, miracles can happen.

The aim of this book is also to show potential assistants:

  • how to decide which industry job is right for you
  • how to secure that job
  • how to do that job well
  • how to parlay the job into career advancement

Along the way, we hope you are entertained by the all-too-true adventures of the Hollywood assistant.

Copyright © 2001 by Bill Robinson and Ceridwen Morris

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Contents

I. Coming Attractions

1. The Preview

2. Why Should You Listen to Us?

II. Picking Your Poison

3. Assisting a Star: Feeling Julia Roberts's Pain

4. Assisting a Director: Lights! Camera! Protein Shake!

5. Assisting an Agent or Manager: How to be Satan's Handmaiden

6. Assisting a Producer: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

7. Assisting a Studio Executive: An Ideal Job for Someone in the Witness Protection Program

III. Finding Your Place Among the Stars

8. What to Do If Your Last Name Isn't Spielberg

9. Padding Your Résumé: It's No Less Ethical Than the Wonderbra

10. Internships: How to Gain Valuable Experience While Xeroxing

11. Congratulations on Your New Job

12. Moving In: Life at the Bottom of the Hollywood Hills

IV. It's All Your Fault!

What Your Job Really Entails

13. Meet the Telephone, Your New Best Friend

14. Don't Look a Gift Basket in the Mouth

15. The Art of the Meeting

16. How to (Not) Read a Script

17. When Pigs Fly: The Art of Hollywood Travel

18. You'll Never Reschedule Lunch in This Town Again

19. The Domestic Drama: Even Michelle Pfeiffer's Toilet Floods

V. The Wrap Party

20. Sex, Drugs, and Other Work-Related Issues

21. From Under the Red Carpet: Assistant Life at a Hollywood Premiere

22. NYC vs. L.A.: Central Park vs. Valet Park

23. www.assistant.calm: The Hollywood Wide Web

24. It's Not Just a Job...It's an Adventure in Codependency

25. Frequently Annoying Questions

26. Roll End Credits: The Recap

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter One: The Preview

So go the twisted lives of Hollywood's personal assistants, Sherpas to the climbers of the entertainment peaks, handmaidens to the movie star gods, granters of wishes to the too-rich and too-famous. It might be sushi at 4 a.m. It might be a private plane to Tibet, by tomorrow. It might be exotic animals for a party, or prostitutes for an afternoon. It might just be laundry. But it's always something.
%151; Washington Post
8/20/98

Whether you're trying to get a foot in the door of the entertainment industry or just love all things Hollywood, this book is for you. The eager neophytes who once flocked to Wall Street are now looking over their shoulders at the life of their friends at agencies, production companies, and studios. Let's face it, it's always been considered hip to be in showbiz and at the turn of the millennium, complete with a robust economy and Internet studio mergers, the biz is booming. Is it any wonder more and more of Generation Y2K wants in on the party?

Starting as an assistant, or in the mail room, is the single proven way to advance quickly in show business. And, for the hordes seduced by the fantasy of Hollywood, it is also the best way to get the closest look at the stars and industry machinations. While it's true many begin life in Hollywood working tech jobs in film or TV (sound, electric, camera, etc.) these tend to limit you to contacts and promotions among technical workers. So if you're searching for broad exposure to the people who call the shots, you're going to want access and proximity to those people...access only an assistant job can provide.

Being an assistant to a director, executive, star, producer, agent, or manager can be a great, intense education in how "the business" works. It's like making it through boot camp, and it's hard to predict who will survive. All types live through it and all types leave, including lawyers, film school graduates, and MBAs. This book endeavors to give you the view from under the red carpet. And if you have the sickness required to actually seek gainful employment in the industry, then we hope you will glean the basics in what each job involves and tips on how to succeed, learn as much as possible, and trade up in the food chain of Hollywood. And by "Hollywood" we mean the many cities where the entertainment industry is flourishing, providing the U.S.'s largest exportable product.

Sure, you've seen the images of the peons running across the floor of the stock exchange at dawn. You've seen the footage of sleepless campaign workers giving their all for a candidate. But imagine a similar kind of sacrifice and hard work for the sake of a producer who demands the City of Los Angeles change the timing of traffic signals so that he can have a more "streamlined" drive to work each day. This is a true story, but by no means exceptional in the land that breeds bosses who make assistants blow their noses for them.

The job of the Hollywood assistant is not just about getting coffee at 9 a.m., it's also about getting Forest Whitaker a Quarter Pounder at 3 a.m. There are serious hazards in the workplace as well. Just ask Naomi Campbell's assistant, who got smashed in the head with a cell phone hurled by the leggy beauty during a temper tantrum. One producer cut his assistant's tie off with a pair of scissors because he didn't like it. There's much more to being a Hollywood assistant than just retrieving messages and scheduling meetings, although, as you'll see, the complexity of those tasks alone have led many back to Kansas.

One may assume that the term "assistant" indicates merely a glorified secretary who must perform the usual office duties. However, there is an entire set of rules and special knowledge required to succeed in the highly idiosyncratic entertainment biz. Terminology, geography, and pecking order are just a few of the things they don't teach in film classes.

For example, putting Harvey Weinstein on hold, or xeroxing Steve Zaillian's latest screenplay incorrectly, can cost you your career. Try assuming your boss doesn't mind you giving out his home number. Or perhaps you didn't know that Sharon Stone will never sit sideways to the door of a restaurant. Make just one of these mistakes and you may find out how quickly you can be replaced by one of the thousands of eager young assistant wannabes who are all too happy to work for as little as six bucks an hour.

The first steps you take in this business can be crucial. Reputations are established and contacts made very quickly. If you're the kid who saves the day, instead of the kid who spills the coffee, you may be looking at a bright future. If not...you may be used as a target for bottle-throwing practice like one Oscar-winning actress's former assistant.

A word of warning: While you are reading this book you might think, Why would anyone take a job like this? An assistant job is not hell, it's purgatory. It's the rite of passage which, if suffered and surmounted, can land you in those heavenly regions beyond the pearly gates of the Brentwood or Los Feliz estates.

Kathleen Kennedy started out as Steven Spielberg's assistant and moved on to produce hit films, including Back to the Future, Poltergeist, The Color Purple, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Gremlins. Her advice to newcomers is:

I think a secretarial or assistant position is one of the most valuable positions to be in. In fact, it's unfortunate that most guys probably feel uncomfortable going in and taking a secretarial job because it's one of the best places to start. If you get in as a secretary or as an assistant to a producer or a director, you're the only person who has access to the entire filmmaking process.

An assistant can be more important and more trusted than a business partner or even a spouse. It's a very intense relationship. It's like a love affair, but a very lopsided one. They love you for taking care of them and you love them because, in a twisted sense, you become them. You must anticipate their every need. You feel happy only when they are happy. You take care of every annoying aspect of your boss's life and enable him or her to do the fun stuff, worry-free. If your boss could have you suffer his indigestion, he would.

There are no secrets between a boss and his assistant. It is a sacred bond, the strength of which we tested when researching this book. Not surprisingly, most of the assistants whom we approached (or who approached us) wished to remain anonymous. What they say often shocks and appalls those unaware of what a sick and crazy world Hollywood is.

The key is to become a jaded industry pro as quickly as possible by benefiting from the hundreds of hours we spent hanging out with Hollywood assistants at L.A. venues such as Capo, Katsu, Ago, Spago, the Ivy, the Whiskey, the Sky Bar, the Dresden, Le Colonial, Cafe Les Deux, Little Door, L'Hermitage, the Chateau Marmont, Bar Marmont, a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont, poolside at the Chateau Marmont, and the parking garage at the Chateau Marmont. And NYC's venerable equivalents: Bubby's, Moomba, Nobu, Match, the Mercer, Ohm, Spy, and Veruka.

The typical evening spent in one of these trendy establishments consists of many overqualified and underpaid entertainment assistants drinking cosmopolitans and martinis next to junior execs who bemoan their heavy workload as they shamelessly schmooze those higher up the food chain in order to gain a job with an even heavier workload. The assistants, meanwhile, can be found discussing the deals "they" are a part of...though this often means they merely placed the call on which their boss convinced Glenn Close to do South Pacific for television. They tend to share the dubious attribute of talking only about "the biz" at full volume. Name-dropping is also common among this junior delta force, although the same can be said of many of their employers.

But perhaps the most defining characteristic of an assistant cluster-schmooze is the penchant for trashing one's boss and complaining about one's quality of life, while simultaneously one-upping peers with heroic tales of Hollywood insiderness. For example, one manager's assistant was overheard at an L.A. club bragging about how he got Willem Dafoe the lead opposite Madonna in a sexy thriller. When a male star had fallen out of the project, the assistant took it upon himself to race the script to the airport and had it flown to Utah, then hand delivered to the Sundance workshop, where Dafoe was staying. The actor read the script, agreed to play the part, and the deal was done before the assistant's boss was back from lunch. Sounds impressive? Not so fast. The film turned out to be the dreadful bomb Body of Evidence, and, as it turns out, Dafoe's agent had already been positioning the deal for months.

But the assistant managed to convince himself he now had a purpose in the cutthroat world of show business and Dafoe invited him to the set of the film, where he had the pleasure of meeting Madonna during one of her endless courtroom scenes. Their meeting was cut short, however, when Sean Penn arrived and pulled his ex-wife into a trailer for a tête-à-tête. The assistant, left standing in the emptying courtroom, was mistaken for one of the jurors in the scene and was asked by stage personnel to return his suit to wardrobe.

The truth is that the above scenario is no less absurd than what happens to Hollywood assistants every day. Some reassurance: Many of today's industry success stories, from Mike Ovitz on down, were kicking copiers and making lunch reservations just yesterday, so read on. After all, if David Geffen can go from his job as CBS usher to zillionaire and cofounder of DreamWorks, miracles can happen.

The aim of this book is also to show potential assistants:

Along the way, we hope you are entertained by the all-too-true adventures of the Hollywood assistant.

Copyright © 2001 by Bill Robinson and Ceridwen Morris

Read More Show Less

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2001

    Sick But True

    This book should be required reading for any prospective college Media major BEFORE they definitely sign up as a Media-wannabe. If I had only had this book before I selected Media as my major I never, under any circumstances, would have wasted so many years of my life working at entertainment companies! The thing to remember about this book is that, although it's written in what might appear to the uninitiated to be a lighthearted and funny style, it's not written by comedians. The assistants who wrote this book are telling you the truth about a brutal and hideous business. My favorite chapter was on working for agents and managers. It was entitled 'Satan's Handmaidens' and describes agencies in Mafia terms. It is accurate. I am a former talent agent's assistant, talent agents leech off the actors they represent, and it was like working for a pimp from a crime syndicate! Additionally, the majority of people in the entertainment industry are either on drugs, alcoholics, or 'in recovery' from one, the other or both, and the book gets into details about just how wretched life can be if you are dealing with one of those losers as your boss, too. And trust me, they ARE losers! All that glitters isn't gold, folks - this book will tell you what goes on behind the wretched glitz. Fools may walk where angels fear to tread, but please, read this before you take one of these atrocious entertainment jobs!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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