Chugging Dom with Nick Nolte
by Gary Glushon
I’ve read every book about making it in Hollywood. There was The Mailroom: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up by David Rensin, Where Did I Go Right? You’re No One in Hollywood Until Someone Wants You Dead by Bernie Brillstein and countless others that allegedly teach you how to be successful in the entertainment industry.
The problem with these books is that they are really just horror stories to entertain and frighten you about how terrible everyone is in Hollywood. They are definitely entertaining and worth reading, but what I really wish I had when I started in the mailroom at ICM was genuine, honest and actually helpful advice. If I ever had a boss who asked me to deliver their stool sample to the doctor then the book The Mailroom would have come in handy, but thankfully that has not happened yet. Maybe I’ll test my assistant.
Instead, if I was sitting down with my 21-year-old self right now, I’d give him the following advice, some of which I have followed better than others.
Be a good assistant, not a great assistant.
You need to be prepared to work hard and long hours doing menial work with little thanks. Be a good assistant to keep your job but do not under any circumstance be a great assistant or you will never get promoted or be allowed off the desk. Mess up every once in a while, unless you want to be a lifer.
You don’t have to be a prick to be successful.
While Hollywood has perpetuated this myth through many of the books I mentioned above, as well as movies like Swimming with Sharks, the truth is I have met some of the most interesting, passionate, and ambitious people in my life through work. Don’t get me wrong, there are some horrendous people in this business and we all know who they are. But I’ve seen plenty of great people achieve success over the years doing it the right away.
Go to the movies!
It still amazes me on a daily basis how many people who work in the movie business do not actually watch movies.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
Don’t expect that hard work is just going to be recognized or rewarded. Unfortunately more often than not it won’t. You can’t be nervous to ask for what you want or think you deserve. Worst thing that happens is your boss says no and you’re back where you started. But you need to ask.
Know when to be patient and when to run. This is hard. You don’t want to end up being the assistant who is on a desk for five years or the executive who becomes the company man. But you don’t want to be the person who switches jobs every year and mistakes ambition for foolishness. Pay your dues and put in your time, but don’t be afraid to cut the cord and move on when you know in your gut it’s time.
Knowledge is good.
Somewhat cliché advice (and a great movie line), but aside from obviously having strong relationships, information is the single most important way to make yourself valuable. Know what projects are selling around town, what writers are delivering, what writers are not delivering, who is difficult to work with, whose sleeping with whose assistant, whose producer deals are being cut – Be in the Know. This is what will get you invited to the big meetings, and keep you there.
Take in the good moments.
Everyone inside the business knows it’s not as glamorous as Entourage, but for all the grueling hours and anguish, you will have great stories and you need to enjoy them when they happen. When I was an assistant at ICM I personally threw an unauthorized after-party for the premiere of Hotel Rwanda. I had Angelina Jolie asking if she could sit at my table and I drank an entire bottle of Dom Perignon in five minutes with Nick Nolte. On the Men in Black 3 movie set, I lifted weights with Will Smith in his private gym-trailer in the middle of a crowded street in New York. And then there was the time that I hung up on Michael Jackson, not once, but twice, thinking it was a crank call.
Have a life outside the industry.
People that don’t ever leave the bubble of the entertainment business always baffle me. I don’t buy it. I’m not impressed. Take a night off from reading scripts. Make other friends. Get a hobby. You’re not cool because you haven’t taken a vacation day in three years and all your groomsmen are screenwriters. Get out of the bubble or I promise, you will burn out.
Keep your sense of humor.
You will probably not listen to any of my advice. Go get me a latte you little prick!Tags: Be in the Know, Breaking into Hollywood, Entertainment industry, Film and TV executive, Gary Glushon, Hollywood, Hollywood assistant, Hollywood insider, Life lessons