random thoughts

5 Questions with a Feature Writer/Novelist Assistant

Last week I guest posted on Amanda Pendolino’s blog, The Aspiring TV Writer & Screenwriter Blog. You can read that post here: 5 Questions with an Assistant to a Feature Writer/Novelist.

More importantly, if you’re not already following Amanda’s blog… why not?

Her tagline sums it up:

Lots of great blogs talk about the craft of screenwriting – but how do you get an internship or assistant job? How do you make connections in Hollywood? What is a script reader? How do you get an agent or manager? Check out our tales from the trenches.

I started reading Amanda’s blog in 2010. Today there’s a banquet of blogs to read about getting your start in Hollywood and Los Angeles, but back then, you only chose from a handful, where the blogger genuinely and consistently wrote to help others…

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Random Thought Fridays – My First Finance Charge and Late Fee

As I mentioned in my Monthly Breakdown of January, I recently got hit with both a finance charge and a late fee.

This was the first time this happened to me.

Since all my cards are set to auto-pay, and I changed all my “bill due” dates to the same time of the month, I don’t even think about posting a payment. It just happens – every month for the last 5 or 6 years.

So getting these emails from Mint came as a bit of a shock.

finance charge


late fee

I called the credit card company and they told me I never enrolled in auto-pay. I looked through my records and realized they were right. Then I asked for three things:

  • Enroll me in the auto-pay program – (which turned out to be a bit of a hassle, but we got it done. Turns out it’s much easier to enroll in the “minimum balance payment plan,” which allows credit card companies to keep earning interest on the balance carried over month-to-month. Nefarious, I tell ‘ya!)
  • Pay off the balance in full, less the late fee – I’d eat the finance fee as a lesson to myself.
  • Waive the late fee.

Besides a little pushback on enrolling in the auto-pay program, everything else was handled. My customer service rep, Susie, didn’t bat an eye when I (nicely) asked her to waive the late fee. It was just done.

The idea that eating finance fees and late fees is standard operating procedure for many credit card holders, because they didn’t set-up auto-pay, or because they’re not organized, seems bizarro-world. It’s only happened to me once, and it made me feel like shit.

The bank essentially went in there and said, “Well, now we’re going to take more of your hard-earned money away, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

It pisses me off.

Yet intelligent, hard working people, they let the balance carry over instead of paying it off in full, and put up with finance charges every month.

If you’ve had more than one finance charge or late fee, I’d love to hear how it happened to you. Feel free to contact me in the contact form, or leave a comment below.

Random Thought Fridays: On Leaving Your Job

Today’s my last day in my current role at a literary management company, so I wanted to talk about leaving your job (for a more in-depth look at strategies on quitting your job, click here):

If the only reasons your employer offers you to not leave your current job is because of security, then you’re doing the right thing.

The reasons they may offer — I call them “security objections” — take many different forms:

  • “I hope you’ve got a lot of money saved up.”
  • “I’ve seen this happen. You work on a new show but then you’re out of a job after 12 weeks, then what do you do?”
  • “What happens if it doesn’t work out?”
  • “What happens if the show doesn’t get picked up?”
  • “You can make a lot more money by staying here.”
  • “You’re leaving to go work for who? But that’s only one person, not even a company, what happens if they have nothing going on?”

It’s a diverse vocabulary, but it all tastes the same…

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If David O. Russell Lives Paycheck to Paycheck, Then We’re All in Trouble

In the Movies.com interview with David O. Russell (dir. FIGHTER, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, AMERICAN HUSTLE), Russell mentions something very interesting at the end:

Russell: Oh, about that. So check this out. I do The Fighter, and after I doThe Fighter I’ve arrived again in Hollywood, you know. You’re only as good as your last film. So I’m alive again! I’m getting called in everywhere for meetings. I’ve been a working man, I work to make a living; I take writing assignments. So I take a writing assignment to write this Uncharted film, because I have to support my family. I live from picture to picture, regardless of what anyone’s fantasy of Hollywood is.

Movies.com: In Hollywood terms, that’s paycheck to paycheck… 

Russell: Yeah, I never found that pipeline, so I’m just picture to picture. So I take the Uncharted assignment, and suddenly I’m like, “Okay, I can do this, but I’d want to do it my way.” But then I’m out doing Q&As for The Fighter and people are coming up to me, shouting, “Nathan Fillion!” Is that the character or the actor? That’s the actor, right?


Paycheck to Paycheck?

Are you freaking kidding me?

Here’s the thing: Russell’s got a string of hits – we can argue that they’re more “critical darlings” than the kinda hits that smash box office records (in fact, the above article argues just that). He isn’t (and doesn’t want to be) a franchise director like Gore Verbinski or Justin Lin (though Lin made his bones as an indie director).

But let’s not kid ourselves. Russell did not make a mere pittance for directing these movies, regardless of how “critical” they were.

The director is repped by the top agents and lawyers in the industry (John Campisi at CAA and at Bruce Ramer at Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown, respectively.)

Let’s put that in perspective.

Ever hear of a couple guys like Terence Winter, Rob Reiner, Stephen Spielberg and Clint Eastwood?

Yup, they rep them too.

Agents and lawyers like Campisi and Ramer are top-performers in this business because they do two very specific things well: they connect the dots, and they make their clients money. The kind of money that requires big checks and lots of zeros.

That’s it. Full stop.


Where Is This Train Going?

There are times I think: “What’s the point in writing Fighting Broke? Hasn’t all this been said? Don’t people understand the importance of building credit, of saving money, and not being slaves to the paycheck?” Why do I bother?

Then I read these articles.

I see amazing talent like David O. Russell talk about how they “take on work to support their family,” because they’re essentially living paycheck to paycheck.

And I’m bricking it because we (me, my friends and peers and colleagues in Hollywood) are all on the same runaway train, hurling coals onto the fire, too afraid to pick our heads up and say, “where the hell is this train going?”

That’s the first question we must ask:

“Where is this train going?”

And the second:

“Do I want to be on it?”

If not, what are you doing about it?


Photo Credit: movies.com

Random Thoughts Fridays: Want A Job? Don’t Do This In Your Interview

Good morning! Random thoughts this Friday, as I’m leaving for a new position very soon (more about that later), about interviewing for a new job

I just spent a ton of time interviewing candidates for two open positions. From what I’ve seen in my sample pool of intelligent, college-educated young people, determined to make a career in Hollywood, very few have developed the skill of interviewing. Here are some of their mistakes, most made within the first 90 seconds:

They tell their whole life story.
I don’t need to hear about growing up in Detroit, or how your mother’s nightly ritual of reading GOODBYE MOON shaped your career trajectory.

Save that for your HuffPo blogger profile.

When I ask you to “tell me about yourself,” here’s what I’m really asking:

“Tell me about yourself and how your past can improve my or the company’s present.

This interview is not to hear your life goals. Go find your unemployed friends, or a life coach (not mutually exclusive) for that.

In the same vein:

Don’t treat the job like it’s a stepping stone.
No, there are no 40-year Ford employees anymore. I get it. Few people hang around for more than 2 years. Totally fine — but don’t put it on the table right away.

Play the game a little.

When you answer, “The reason I want to work in literary management is because I’m excited to continue my education and I think this is the next step,” what I’m hearing is:

You guys are a stepping stone to what I really want to do, so don’t count on me being here for too long.

Whatever job your new boss is doing, that’s where you want to be in 5 years.
Not that you have to lie.

Like I said above, I get it. That doesn’t mean you need to slap me in my face with your exit strategy.

Your answer can be, “You know, obviously I’m still learning but I definitely see myself in [whatever the boss does] for a long time, because…” Then give actual, specific reasons why you’re a good fit for the role and the company.

Do your research.
God, please, do your research.

Most people walked into interview this week without any idea what clients we represented. Hint: look around you when you’re in the waiting area. The big movie posters of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, LIFE OF PI, and THE BOOK THIEF? Yeah, those should tip you off.

Or if those didn’t work, how about the dozen books sitting on the table for display?

If you don’t know any of the clients, don’t think I won’t call you out on it. One candidate said, “Part of the reason I want to work at IPG is because of your great, prestigious list.”

Obviously, my follow-up question was: “Which of our clients or clients’ work do you most resonate with?”

She couldn’t come up with one name.

At that point, she knew the interview was over.

She was right.

Final Thoughts.
I am, by no means, a master interviewee. There’s plenty more I have to learn and practice when it comes to interviewing  and negotiating. My delivery could certainly use a polish. However, I have reached the level where I understand what questions are actually being asked in an interview, and this knowledge alone makes a critical difference.

I think covering the interview process would make a great addition to any internship development program, so interns have the skills to communicate their value and earn a job that pays.

Have a fabulous weekend!