Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Radio Silence

What DID Happen to the Anonymous Production Assistant?


(Photo courtesy of this generous person.)

Like many of you, I’ve been reading “The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog” ever since his first post (Why Would Anyone Want to be a PA?) began with these words:

"The hours are lousy, the pay is worse. No one respects you. If anything goes wrong, it’s always your fault. And everyone tells you you’re lucky just to be here."

I liked his caustic, pithy writing style right off the bat, along with the no-bullshit manner in which he described the view from the very bottom rung of the show biz ladder. Having been a PA myself way back when, I learned the hard way what all PA's know -- that in such a lowly position, you find yourself looking up at a lot of assholes. But this post of November 13, 2009, was the last we’ve heard of him. For a blogger who occasionally posted several times a week, two and a half months of silence is an eternity.

So where did he go?*

Good question. The first thing that leaps to mind is his cover at work was blown -- and being revealed as the infamously snarky APA could certainly have cost him his job. Non-disclosure agreements are part of the start-up paperwork we're all required to sign when taking a job nowadays, and even though the APA's posts are careful to avoid naming names in relation to embarrassing incidents, no production wants to see unauthorized tidbits about their show leak onto the internet. Relatively minor breaches of this written (and unwritten) code of silence wouldn't necessarily damage one's career prospects in the long run -- unless you really screw the pooch in telling tales out of school, of course -- but for those who lack a bank account full of money (which includes everyone I know), the short run is all that really matters in Hollywood. This is a town where today, tomorrow and next week light up the radar screens like a Christmas tree, but anything beyond remains a silvery illusion dancing in the heat waves on the far horizon. In an Industry where nearly all employment is temporary by definition -– once a given project is completed, your job vanishes into the ether -- the important thing is to handle your day-to-day business in a thoroughly professional manner. If you take care of the short run, the long run will take care of itself. In the event the APA was outed to (or by) his employer, and that boss has a sense of humor (not always a given in the self-important world of Television), he may have had to ceased posting as the price of hanging on to the job – a job which would then be dangling by the thinnest of threads.

But if he did get outed and fired, wouldn't that make a great blog post? Sure, but word gets around Hollywood pretty fast, and being known as the Anonymous Production Assistant would make landing the next job much harder. In that case, his PA career could be on hiatus for a long while. The silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud? Being a PA is in no way a “career” -- it’s a temp-job purgatory where dues are to be paid (and paid, and paid, and paid...) until you finally generate enough momentum to get over the wall and start a real Industry career. In that case, being booted off a show for blogging could provide the motivation crucial to getting his writing career in gear – and it’ll make a great story to tell when he’s being interviewed in the future by Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, or Terry Gross.

It's also possible the APA simply got tired of doing the blog. Being the Answer Man for film school wannabes from all over the world yearning to lead a life of glamorous poverty as a Production Assistant in Big Bad Hollywood could easily morph into a full-time (and highly-unpaid) job. Then again, a recent stab at snarky humor seemed to backfire when at least one reader took umbrage and accused the APA of being an “elitist prick,” among other things. Personally, I find it hard to believe such minor sticks-and-stones hounding would be enough to convince the APA that his blog was no longer worth the aggro -- unless, of course, he'd already had enough and was looking for an excuse to quit. All of us who blog about the Industry do so for our own reasons, and I don't know that anybody plans to continue posting indefinitely. Everything comes to an end (logical or otherwise), especially here in LA, where anything fresh and different and good seems to fade back into the smog after a year or two. Life changes, priorities shift, people move on. Quitting the blog cold-turkey, with no explanation or goodbyes, could be the APA's way of leaving nothing but ripples on the water -- an enigma to be puzzled over by the rest of us.

A glass-half-full explanation for the APA’s disappearance would have some sharp-eyed producer spotting his talent and offering him a writing job, thus liberating him from the purgatory of PA-dom and eliminating the raison d’etra for the blog. That’s the one I’m hoping for. The glass-half-empty version ranges from cloudy-bright to very dark indeed. The nature of the blog-o-net imposes a certain distance between all of us – those who write and those who read the blogs. There’s a freedom in all that empty space, but it’s also something of a vacuum -- and as we all learned from the movie ”Alien”, in space, no one can hear you scream.

If I managed to do something irredeemably stupid on a job – say, taking a fatal fall from a high ladder, or getting myself electrocuted – very few of you would ever hear the news. In time, Peggy Archer over at Totally Unauthorized might hear the news through the grapevine, or maybe “D” from Dollygrippery -- although the three of us don't know each other personally, we swim in the same Hollywood waters -- but that’s about it. Unless one of them chose to pass on the rumors/news of my untimely demise in their own blogs, nobody beyond my immediate family and co-workers would know what happened. Readers of this blog might wonder where the hell I went, and why I wasn’t posting anymore, but eventually they'd get tired of finding the same old stale crap under these worn-out gloves, and stop coming by.

“Blood, Sweat, and Tedium” would fade to black, and me along with it.

The dark possibility that Something Bad might have happened to the APA can’t be ignored. Shit does indeed happen in life – more than four hundred thousand Americans have died in automobile accidents alone in the time since George W. Bush first sat down in the Oval Office – and sometimes it happens to people we know. Or sort of know, like a blogger. I really hope something like this is not the case. The APA is smart and funny, with real writing talent -- and a family, too. His professional and human potential is enormous. I’d hate to see all that wasted in the twisted metal, deflated air bags, and shattered glass of a car wreck. There are countless ridiculous ways to die in this world, but getting killed in traffic because some idiot couldn't resist yakking on a cell phone or texting behind the wheel is one of the most meaningless ways imaginable to exit stage left.

Given the APA’s air-tight seal of anonymity, there’s not much chance any of us will know what happened unless he chooses to break radio silence. Until then, the possibilities – good or bad – are endless, and speculation futile. All we really know is that for the time being, the APA either won't or can't post on his blog.

And I hope that changes soon.

* for the purposes of this post, I’m assuming APA is male, although “his” occasional references to having a wife could certainly be the handiwork of a female PA shape-shifting to cover her tracks in an effort to remain truly anonymous.


Joanna said...

It's also entirely possible he could just be busy and doesn't have time to blog.

Michael Taylor said...

Indeed, and if so, he's one lucky guy. Most of us have entirely too much time to blog these days...

D said...

I have also missed APA and wondered at his long silence. Although I have had a few silent spells on "Dollygrippery," I always try to pop up a short "still here" post during those dead periods just to ensure my readers that I will be back when time/life permits. I hope he's allright.

Nathan said...

I've noticed the absence as well, but I choose to believe that any day now, we'll be reading "The Anonymous ShowRunner's Blog".

(I remember when I first moved to NY, if you called Troma Films on a Monday, "Cindy" might be the receptionist. When you called again on Thursday, "Cindy" was the UPM for their current production.)

Michael Taylor said...


I hear you, and share your thoughts. Glad that episodic hasn't killed you yet.

Nathan --

That's what I'm thinking -- that one of these days on set, some young writer/producer will come over and say "Are you the Hollywood Juicer? I used to be the Anonymous Production Assistant." We'll shake hands and share a good laugh, then later on he'll call the UPM and have me fired.

The outhouse to the penthouse -- and vice-versa -- that's the magic of show-biz...

Sis Cesspool said...

A 1st editor threw his breakfast at me because it wasn't cooked enough. I should have had him arrested for assault.

He just finished up on the Mel Gibson movie.

Needless to say, I'm out of the business. I can't take the abuse anymore.

However, I love, love, love to read your posts MT.

Michael Taylor said...

Sis Cesspool --

Glad you like the blog -- thanks for taking the time to let me know. Sounds like you've got a lawsuit, there, all right -- I once worked for a highly excitable film editor, but even he didn't stoop so low as to throw food in anybody's face.

If you've left the biz behind, why not start your own blog: "Sis Cesspool's Dirty Hollywood Tales" -- or whatever. Consider it self-therapy -- making those bastards who pissed you off sweat a little might do you good...

The Grip Works said...

Hi Anonymous !!
While it may seem that us film folk are hard up , we aren't that hard up. Besides, what would I do for food if I gave you the money I set aside to feed myself ? Will you mail me a burger ?

Scripty said...

Nice post Michael, I can tell that you care about your fellow bloggers! I was curious too, but checked this morning and he/she has a new post up on APA!

JD said...

Craft Diservice no longer posts as well.

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