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Get Hollywood Power in two easy steps

by Elizabeth Quinn

A few weeks into my first production job, while still starstruck by gleaming trailers and has-been guest stars, I got the benchmark of salient show biz advice. I was setting out bagels for a production meeting when my show’s line producer pulled me aside. He had started as a child actor on westerns in the 1950’s, and worked on every nighttime soap that defined the 70’s and 80’s. He had seen it all. And now, with a dedicated golf cart and a pack of Pall Malls a day, he broke show business down to its very core.

“Little Devil, this entire business comes down to two things: who’s got better parking, and who’s getting their lunch paid for.” And with a clap on the back, he sauntered away to his seat at the head of the conference table.

I was stunned. But what about the trailers? And the guest stars? What about the fancy lot we worked on with a water tower, and security guards looping around on beach cruisers? Surely they counted for something!

And they do. Of course they do. We play make-believe for the whole country and beam it into their homes and movie theaters every day. But the more hours I spend trapped in a writer’s room trying to break a tricky story, the more pre-dawn call times I meander through, the more moments of lightning in a bottle comedy I am fortunate to witness, the more I also realize that he was absolutely, completely and utterly right.

Power is fluid, and there are very few markers of who has how much at any given time. But lunch and parking are two of the most consistent yardsticks people in the business use to measure their standing.

“I get my Starbucks coffee paid for by the show and brought to me.”
vs.
“I get my own cold coffee from craft service.”

The almighty meal hierarchy doesn’t stop with ‘who is getting their coffee/lunch/dinner paid for.’ There is the extra level of ‘Who is getting their lunch brought to them in their office by a simpering assistant?’ And the ultimate ‘Whose free lunch is so important that someone will be sent back to the restaurant, no matter how far, to correct any mistake?’ We once lost an entire hour in the writers’ room discussing how another show on our lot got two free coffee runs a day and we “only” got one. Oh, the humanity!

“I park on the lot.”
vs.
“I park in the crowded structure across the street.”

Parking on the lot is the starting point of ‘being someone.’ But you know you’ve made it when you have a designated spot. I worked with an EP who was running 3 shows simultaneously. That was generally the second thing he told you. The first? That he had three assigned parking spaces on one teeny lot. His parking spots were “more impressive” than his shows. Why have 3 spots? Because he could. Hollywood math. Gotta love it.

The industry in Los Angeles is based on Power, capital P. Power is what gets some movies green-lit and others discarded. Power is what makes an unlikely pilot go to series, and other favored scripts left in development purgatory. And the perception of that power is key. Even if it is entirely based on a P.A. driving 80 mph back to Mozza for the Caramel Copetta with marshmallow sauce & Spanish peanuts they forgot to put in the bag.

As a writers’ assistant, I am in a weird ‘lunch-parking’ no man’s land. Since I work with the executive producers and show runners, I get some perks, but not all. I definitely park in the very crowded parking structure across the street, which is a complete pain… I would show you where it was, but I am waiting for a P.A. to bring me my lunch.

Elizabeth Quinn

About Elizabeth Quinn

Elizabeth Quinn is a writer and production peon living in Los Angeles. On the weekends, you can find her cooking, drinking, and avoiding laundry with her fiance, rescue dog, and toothless cat. Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter: @fernetontherock

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