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by Vault Careers | March 31, 2009


Creative assistant

While widely regarded as the bottom, the legendary dregs of the pool, this is the starting point for any career launch into the creative side of the industry. Cynics say assistants are there to feed the egos of self-important creative executives, but others assert that it is a rite of passage to the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of entertainment, not to mention a good training ground for the next generation of creative executives.

The typical job of a creative assistant is to do everything from fetching coffee to kids from one's boss' day care, answering hundreds of calls on a daily basis, making dinner reservations for one's manager, and occasionally, if there is time, reading scripts and writing coverage.

Being an assistant is the first rung up the entertainment ladder. Here are some tips for getting these jobs.

Getting in

While assistants are the proverbial low men on the creative totem pole, they are nonetheless difficult positions to land because there are a fixed number of spots and openings are rare. A position becomes available only when people are promoted, fired or quit. Furthermore, it is the starting place for everyone, so the competition is quite touch. Even experienced business executives with MBAs who want to transition to the creative side are unable to avoid becoming a CA. Throughout the media and entertainment world are countless former attorneys, accountants and other aspiring professionals. The most popular way of breaking into an assistant position is through referrals. Others break in through cold calls. Still others penetrate the ranks by making friends with other assistants and then patiently trolling for the next job opening. Some CAs migrate from a low-status boss to a higher-status boss, remaining in the assistant ranks for many years.

The interview

The interview for an assistant position is usually intended to assess one's humility, modesty and overall industriousness. There will be the inevitable questions that inquire into one's general tolerance in gruntwork. Often, it takes the form of the following question: "But you're overqualified for this job -- won't you get bored?" Beware. The point of the question is to question your dedication to tiring, detailed work. A good answer will showcase your intelligence while pointing out that you are not only capable, but eager, willing and very able to execute even the most menial of tasks with alacrity and aplomb. Typical tasks that are the domain of assistants are answering phones, running errands, and accepting a less-than-ideal lifestyle. You need to persuade your interviewer, who is unlikely to be the person you're working for (Hollywood types often prefer to forego meeting with the 'little people'), that you will do anything and everything that's asked and required of you, and then some. You will be told about your benefits (little to none) and your pay. Do not flinch or waver in any way. It will be construed as a sign of weakness!

Occasionally, an interviewer will ask you for your 'coverage,' which is essentially a synopsis and analysis of a script. Assistants are sometimes entrusted with the responsibility of writing coverage on scripts, and any previous experience writing such coverage can prove to one's advantage. If you don't have any coverage experience, an interviewer will sometimes give you a script and ask that you provide your written comments on it.


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