Being an assistant can be stressful. Even if you’ve settled in a comfortable routine, you have to deal with difficult, volatile personalities, and you often face new problems you have no idea how to solve. It also doesn’t help that your boss will get annoyed if you bother him/her too much with questions. You’re going to make mistakes — but that’s okay. I always remind people that your boss has a lot other things to worry about, and s/he will probably have forgotten about your mistake within a day. It also may help to know that we’ve all been there. To prove it, I asked nine Hollywood assistants about a time they messed up, and what they learned:From a writers PA:
I was working on my first show, where the writers drank a lot of coffee. I did my best to make sure there was always coffee on the burner, but occasionally one of the writers would go to get some coffee and discover that we were out. I’d apologize profusely, but still get chewed out, and I spent much of my time on that show in constant fear of an empty coffee pot. When I worked on my next show, I was more confident and set expectations differently. If we ran out of coffee after the morning rush, I’d wait to brew more until someone asked for coffee (usually in the afternoon). Rather than apologizing, I’d say, “Sure, I’ll have a freshly-brewed cup for you in a few minutes.” Because I was positive rather than apologizing, people were happy rather than mad. After all, isn’t a fresh cup of coffee is way better than one that’s been sitting on the burner all day?
From a producer assistant:
Once I sent the DVD of a movie in post by Fedex with only $500 insurance. Thankfully, it didn’t get lost, but my boss said, “You sent a $15m movie with $500 insurance??” I guess I should have used our overnight courier? What my boss should have done is flown one of us with it, since it was going overseas.
Assistants often lie about their fuckups. I’m really effing good at it. Some things you have to own up to, but some things you should just lie about – like if you don’t get your boss when it’s an important call, you just have to lie and say the person called when he was on the phone with someone else really important
Also, I once ordered Sprinkles cupcakes for an office birthday and the boss’ wife got really mad that I didn’t think to call her and ask if I should also order some for her — at her home.
From a showrunner assistant:
I’ve done so many things wrong. I’ve forgotten to book flights, set meetings, lock pages in a script, send emails… I even called a very powerful writer a midget. He, thankfully, had an excellent sense of humor. My list of blips is endless. I have one piece of advice for those who find themselves in my same position.
Lie like your livelihood depends on it. Because it does. Often the flubs are small. Like that drafted email of directions that you didn’t send that was really important because Mr.X and Mrs.Y are incredibly smart, but don’t know how to Google map an address. Of course they know how. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be pissed. So, lie. Blame the internet, or say the electricity went out for like a second and somehow the lines of power got crossed and the little dude that lives inside the internet got all confused and couldn’t deliver your email. Gah! If all else fails, use big, made up words. Example: “Oh it’s the flibergantor that’s connected to the interfication was broken. How prostibilous!” No one will question you for the fear of looking dumb. Especially in this town where people are so concerned with image.
And if you’re a terrible liar, or get caught, remember, we aren’t saving lives here. It’s just TV. It’s just a movie. We’re here for entertainment. Use the f-up as part of your next pilot, movie or spec. That’s what it’s there for in the first place.