enter your email to receive
free news and updates

What I Learned About Negotiating From Working as an Assistant to a Big Hollywood Agent

img55Law school is certainly not for everyone. Not only do you have to forego any form of social life in order to prepare for the LSATs, but once you actually get into a law school, you can kiss your free time goodbye. So you would think after putting myself through all of this and graduating from a respectable law school that I would actually want to, you know, PRACTICE LAW. But I didn’t.

A-list negotiating

Instead, I wanted to learn more about the TV and movie business, which was becoming my true passion in life. Surely having a law degree couldn’t hurt matters in this regard, especially when one considers the importance of contracts in the entertainment business. I soon learned, however, that this industry was essentially like having to navigate through a field of landmines on a daily basis. You cannot imagine how important the art of negotiating is in order to achieve any level of measurable success in this profession.

Back to my new career path. After graduating, I became the outside assistant to a big Hollywood agent, who was absolutely HUGE at the time; complete with a rolodex of A-list clients. As with many things in life, luck played a role in my advancement. His “inside girl” ended up leaving shortly after I took the position, which meant that I was quickly promoted to the title of “Inside Assistant.” Remember, luck plays a role in many things, but you have to be savvy enough to take advantage of chance opportunities when they present themselves.

Despite what you may think, being the Inside Assistant to an A-list Hollywood agent wasn’t glamorous. Some of my daily duties included making phone calls, becoming an expert coffee maker, taking notes, providing schedule reminders, and coordinating breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (try telling an agent that the restaurant isn’t taking any additional reservations for the night).

At the time, one of my bosses’ main clients was a huge star at the prime of his career. Considering how powerful my boss was, in terms of whom he represented, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that whatever he wanted, he got. There was no debating, arguing, or offering any other suggestions. After all, who was I to tell him otherwise?

No is not an option: stories from the battlefield

There were countless amounts of people who would have killed for my position…and he knew it. Despite the eccentric requests, the job wasn’t as bad as it seemed. He taught me an important lesson, which was that there was no such thing as the word “No.” In fact, it simply wasn’t an answer that he would accept. This added a great deal of stress to my job, as I knew that no matter what the situation was, I would somehow have to find a way to make it work. (Read: 5 Strategies to Cope When Quitting Really Isn’t an Option – http://www.careerealism.com/5-strategies-cope-quitting-isnt-option/#!X9kS9)

When you know that failure isn’t an option, you’d be surprised at how creative you can be in order to figure out a solution. One time, when he needed to visit the set of a huge director’s film and didn’t feel like driving, I had to figure out how to have a helicopter pick him up from the area. Thankfully, after doing some investigating, I found out that the tall building next door happened to have a helipad. Knowing that no wasn’t an option, I talked the building owner into letting his helicopter land and takeoff from there.

And how about when an A-list star wanted to bring his two dogs with him in first class at the last minute? After some sweet talking with the airline, I managed to get it done. And what about when the brother of a major actor decided out of the blue that he wanted to be a director. Who got him his first job? Me!

Finding out what I’m made of

Even though I spent countless days scared, freaked out, and worried that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill one of his outlandish requests, I was able to learn about myself and find out what I was truly made of. But what really helped me is that I was able to significantly expand my skills as a negotiator in the fast-paced world of the film and television business. This leads me to one of the consistent themes I’ll surely reemphasize, which is that there’s no substitute for real world experience. (Don’t be scared to fail. Read: The 4 Keys to Learning From Failure – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/guy-winch-phd/learning-from-failure_b_4037147.html)

View every job, not matter how difficult and demanding it may seem, as a learning experience and grow from it, both professionally and personally.

Thanks for listening as always,

Toby

Comments are closed.


Back to top