Dearest friends, I fear I have done something my father always warned me not to do while gathering grapes on our vineyard: I put the cart before the horse. For the last several weeks, I have dispersed advice to help you all excel as agents, but I left out the most important part: How to become an agent in the first place!
If you want to be a lawyer, you go to college, then law school. Then, you pass the bar, get hired by a firm and -- voila! You're a lawyer!
If you want to be an architect, you go to design school, get your degree in architecture, wear form-fitting clothes, have great hair and strong hands and -- poof! You're an architect!
But being an agent is not so cut and dry. There is no time-worn path for weary travelers to follow. Every path is different and every path is treacherous. But there are a few points on your journey you're going to want to hit, if only to know that you're making progress… which most of you won't be.
1. Go to college.
Nearly every agency requires a college degree. But college is the easy part, filled with binge-drinking and secretive nighttime experiments.
2. Get a job in the mailroom of an agency.
I assume many of you have heard that agents start in the mailroom. Well, this is true. Such suit-wearing Hollywood luminaries as David Geffen, Barry Diller, Michael Ovitz, Ari Emanuel and Bernie Brillstein started in the mailroom, sorting letters and packages, pushing a cart and going on runs for the higher-ups. Another future luminary who started in the mailroom is yours truly, and let me tell you, it is the most degrading, and sometimes depraved, experience I have ever been through. That is until Step 3...
3. Work for an agent.
One of the hallmark ways the career ladder in Hollywood differs from Wall Street, or Main Street, is that everyone works as an assistant. That's right, as a secretary. For years. And for monsters. In this space, I have dedicated many hundreds of words to the monster for whom I once worked, and I would say my situation was decidedly middle of the road. You must work for a dragon, and you must slay that dragon with your work ethic, your kindness, your grace under fire, your bedside manner and your can-do attitude. Then, after three or four years, you may have a shot at being promoted...
Or, you may be squeezed out by a threatened/jealous partner who sees you as potential competition, someone who wouldn't give you credit for tying your own tie, who seizes upon any opportunity, real or imagined, to paint you in a negative light to your superiors in the company and in the industry at large only to protect his or her own tenuous place in the vicious food chain we call Hollywood. (Deep breath...)
Oh, how I can't wait to be just like that.
Until next time, so long!