Your First Day on Set

In case you missed it over the weekend, I wrote a guest post for the Work in Entertainment blog. If you’ve never worked on set, you should give it a read. It covers everything: where to go, who to talk to, what you’re going to eat.1

And if you haven’t heard of Work in Entertainment, you should definitely check them out. They list all kinds of jobs, not just in production, but for studios and production companies. All over the country, too! They’re quite a resource, if your show just finished its season.

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While you’re clicking links, you should check out Crew Call: The Below-the-Line Podcast. It’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever heard! Actually, it’s going to be exactly like podcasts you’ve heard, only with different interview subjects.

Rather than talk to writers, directors, and actors, I’m going to have conversations with the real filmmakers: DPs, editors, production designers, ADs. You’ll get a whole new perspective on filmmaking.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Basecamp; the 2nd AD; lots.

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog

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A High Class Problem: How to Choose Between Two Offers

Nick writes in:

I recently was called by a Production Coordinator I’ve worked with previously for an Office PA position on a TV show.  He mentioned the show’s producer/writer was also in need of an assistant, and if I preferred I could take that position.

Which position make the most sense to take from a career advancing standpoint?  As far as I know, the pay is the same.  In the office I get to work with a solid production office team I know and like.  I’ve never met the writer/producer, but it sounds like it would be interesting to try out a new role.

My long-term goal is to be a film producer, so I’m excited about the prospect of working with a producer and seeing first hand what their day-to-day is like (although I know TV and film producers have very different jobs).

Writer-producers aren’t real producers, not in the sense that you want to be. They’re writers with nice titles (and paychecks).

I’m not saying writing is an easy job. It’s very difficult, and few people can do it. But they’re not the ones making the budget, setting the schedule, organizing every department, and ensuring the film actually gets made.

Writer-producers get involved in the creative aspects of the show; they spend a lot of time in concept meetings, on set, and in editorial. They get to offer their artistic opinions on the aesthetic nature of the show. But they’re not getting into the nitty-gritty of making sure the crane shows up on set at the right time.

That being said, writer-producers have connections to the people you want to get to know, whether you want to be a writer or producer.

While it’s great working with the people in the office you like, they’ll be the only people you’re going to work with. As a producer’s assistant, you’ll be dealing with the studio, network, agents, other producers. More importantly, you’ll be dealing with those people’s assistants, who will eventually grow into those jobs, just like you will. Ten years from now, you’ll have the network you need to make a great producer.

If you want to be a producer, take the producer’s assistant job.

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Speaking of networking, check out the latest assistant get-together, happening April 29.

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog

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What So Good About Friday? Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Union Holidays

Today is Good Friday, the day Catholics and Mainline Protestants commemorate the death of Jesus.

Shockingly, if you pay close attention, Life of Brian does not contradict the Bible at all.

You’re whistling right now, aren’t you?

Good Friday is always the Friday before Easter, which is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

You knew that.


Why does this matter to you? Because Good Friday is a union holiday. So is Easter, but seriously, who shoots on a Sunday?1

Why is an explicitly Christian holiday a day off in a business that’s famously run by Jews? I have no idea. I guess the Elders of Zion decided to cut us shiksas and shegetzes a break for once.2 A break they didn’t give themselves, by the way. None of the Jewish holidays are union holidays (although I have noticed many people aren’t in the office on those days).

I’m honestly not sure when or how the union holidays were established; most people I know in the business today have no idea what Good Friday is supposed to mean.

She might have skipped a few steps, but basically, yeah.

Theology 101.

But Good Friday it is, and a day off you have. You could spend it with a movie marathon:The Passion of the Christ, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Veggies Tales.3

Speaking of Jews and Hollywood, you should read An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. It’s pretty much exactly what the title says: the story of how a bunch of immigrants traveled out west, and created not just an industry, but a new art form, more or less from scratch.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. I do. Ugh.
  2. For those of you who don’t understand humor (ironically, probably not Jews): that was a joke.
  3. And if you don’t get that that’s a joke, I just feel bad for you.

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog

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You Need To Learn How To Write

I don’t mean you need to learn how to create believable characters and craft interesting stories.

I mean, you need to learn how to write legibly.

Even this late in the season (three days to go!), we get new crew members almost every day. Usually they’re day players, but it doesn’t matter if you’re here for a day or for the entire season– you still need to fill out your start work.

And you need to fill it out neatly. All that time in grammar school you spent practicing writing your name? Here’s where it counts. Sloppy handwriting on your start work is why your name is spelled wrong on the crew list; more importantly, it’s why your check gets sent to the wrong address.

Payroll gets probably close to a thousand start packets over the course of a season. Add to that the constant flow of daily time sheets and time cards, and you’ll realize why they’re not going to chase down every single person who writes like a first grader.

And not to be xenophobic, but if you’ve got a unusual, non-Western name, this applies double to you. I can probably suss out “Adam,” but if you run the letters together on “Vaishnavi,” I’m never going to get that right.

This also holds true for you if you have a non-standard spelling for a normal name. I’m looking at you, SanDeE*.

But forget those special cases. Really, everyone should be careful about filling out their paperwork. It’s not for us in the office; it’s for you. You want to get paid on time, don’t you?

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog

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Coming to America

Jess writes in:

I’m an experienced production set, location and office runner in Britain (basically our equivalent of a PA, sure you know that…) with loads of credits in prime-time UK TV programmes.

I’ve wanted to work in the US since ‘always’ but can’t for the life of me work out how to get my first job / rung over in the US.

So this is my question to you APA, how does a non-US citizen get work with LA/NY based production companies? I have friends in both states so moving wouldn’t necessarily be difficult.

Any tips or am I asking the impossible here?

I like how she (mis)spells “programs.” She probably calls seasons “series,” too. Funny colloquialisms aside, the immigration question is tough.

I’ve touched on the subject before, but it’s worth bringing up again.

I’m no immigration lawyer, but my understanding is, the US limits work visas to people who bring skills that can’t otherwise be found in America. (There might be other ways to get a visa, but again, I’m not an expert.)

Unfortunately, for you (and me, honestly), finding PAs in America isn’t hard. Hell, a lot of shows won’t hire PAs from out of state, much less outside the country.

If you can somehow find another legal way into the country, your experiences are definitely worth while. I would recommend using the title known to Americans, “production assistant,” rather than “office runner,” just so everyone’s on the same page.

Another option is to exercise patience. While PAing isn’t a unique skill, directing, writing, even editing, production designing, and cinematography…ing(?) definitely are. Work your way up in the English television industry, then move over here later on.

America is a great country, and we’ll be happy to have you. As long as you prove yourself useful to our economy.

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog

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How to Work for A Difficult Boss

Today’s question comes from a new reader!


Came across your blog while doing some research for a position I’m interviewing with on Monday.  I’ve been an EA on and off for years to pay the bills between various contracts.  My background is in management, but a girl has to pay the bills…

As I mentioned, I’m interviewing for a very high profile position next week for a Chairman of a major international company.  I seriously want this job.  I have a strong personality and don’t like to take crap, but I’ve been warned that this guy is a serious hot head.  Just wondering if you have any advice on how to cope with a boss who is basically a rude ass, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  I’ve experienced this before… these guys who probably have personality disorders or some undiagnosed mental condition (OCD, bi-polar, etc…) and no matter what you do, they seem to get pleasure blaming you/me… any female in the room.  I’ve also noted it’s never a man… Whatever…  I’m certainly not a sucker for punishment, but if I could land this job and make it work without feeling like I’ve completely lost all self-respect, it could be my ticket.

Sort of a personal question to ask a complete stranger I suppose, but I’m sure it’s more common than not.  I’m not looking for a glossy, Christian magazine answer.  I need to know how to deal with a psycho Chairman and make it work for me without it affecting me.  How does one not get unnerved when some seriously high profile jerk boss calls you an idiot for no reason.  Again, I want to learn how to cope with it for my career (this is a major position for a resume) because I know it’s him and not me.


Dear M,

Glad you found my blog and thank you so much for the great question; it’s actually one I had myself many years ago!  And congrats on landing the interview!  For all my new readers, I’ll answer your question by going through your entire email.  You may already know a lot of what I am about to say so not everything I say will apply to you directly.  I just want to cover everything you wrote for any new EAs or those unfamiliar with working in corporate or the business world.

I think it’s great that you seriously want this job.  That will work only to your advantage.  If you can land this job and make it work, it will be your ticket to an amazing career for LIFE!  The most amazing assistants are the ones who can and want to work for the Harvey Weinsteins, Steve Jobs, and the executives in Devil Wears Prada, Entourage, and Swimming with Sharks.  Whether you want to call them difficult or just plain relentlessly one-of-a-kind talents, the most brilliant of leaders can be finicky at times.  Yet the fact that they can deliver at that level means they are uber successful.  If you can learn to work with them, you have skills that 99.9% of the EAs don’t have.  You will be a sought-after EA.

This question excites me because no one has ever asked this question and I’m happy for you that you are gung ho to land this job.  I am eager to answer your questions.  So I will answer, then give my personal experience.

You mention you have a strong personality and you don’t take crap.  I applaud you for those traits, as they are needed in certain situations, the difficulty is we will never know how your boss will respond.  This is depending on his “issues”  (OCD, biploar, ADHD, etc).  In general, being able to communicate well and develop a rapport with people – nice or finicky – is being able to give them what they want.  Whether they know what they want or not is a completely different story.  Working with extremely difficult people is akin to working with babies or kids.  They have no/poor communication skills, they lack intra and interpersonal awareness.  They lack compassion, empathy and sympathy, and they don’t know what they are feeling or need – much less how to express it.  This makes them unstable, unpredictable, hard to manage, and hard to understand, especially because there is not a reliable, consistent way to have them help you help them.  I’m not sure if you’ll ever fully know how to best handle his personality, but if you can manage it well ENOUGH then that’s all that matters.  If you are good at reading body language, emotional cues, have a very good grasp of psychology, mental warfare, and are charming, you do have an even stronger chance of coming out unscathed.  You may also have to come to the realization that your “main” role aside from being an EA is to be his scapegoat, punching bag, and source for blame when everything under the sun bothers him or goes wrong; that you are a mere object in his life, not a person.

My advice on how to cope is below.

1) Convince HR and the hiring managers you really want this job, won’t quit soon, and accept what you are getting into.

I can hear you really want this job, but I’m sure others want this job too.  It’s “your ticket” is something that needs to be explained to HR in a way they can understand and let them know why they should choose you.  Realistically, they’ve hired this position numerous times because the turnover rate is so high.  If you are lucky, maybe HR is exaggerating how bad he is.  At worse, it is worse than even you’ve dealt with or imagined.  If you want the job, you need to speak from your heart and soul why you’re the best candidate.  You need to sell yourself in an eyes wide open, I know what I’m getting into way without being desperate or needy.

2) Have in mind exactly what you want to get out of this role.  And how will you get it?

As you interview, listen carefully if this job is the right one for you.  On paper, jobs always sound great.  Think about the ins and out of the daily grind and the overall picture of what you will get out of the working there for a couple of years.  Compare it to your life goals and how this step will help you reach the next one.  It may very well be that to say you worked for this boss for 5 years is all the accolades you will need and the great paycheck.  I do worry if you will get constant raises, bonuses, or title changes to show you’ve progressed if your boss is so terrible he will badmouth your performance or not approve salary increases.  Perhaps you want to be transferred laterally or to get promoted within the dept to being management again.  The point is, no one will care more about your career than you. Maybe co-workers will ask you to join their dept or poach you if they go to a new company.  Have goals and some strategy, but be open on how you will achieve them.

3) Have stress reduction and coping mechanisms in place.

Before you even start your job, you will need to have tricks, things to say to yourself, or methods in place to help you survive the hour or each day.  To wait until you are in the moment when things heat up, blow up, or go south is too late because not only do you have a job to do that’s hard with a great boss, it will be 10x worse to have a boss that is probably waiting for you to mess up just so he has a “good reason” to yell at you.  These methods will have to be stuff that you can do in his presence as you can’t leave and spend half the day in the bathroom or sitting in your car.  Whenever he calls you names, you may have to mentally say to yourself, “He’s just mad, it’s not about me.” And you will have to do this over and over.  Whenever he yells, you’ll have to look him in the eye, but imagine him as a little kid who never got the love and attention he deserved.  You may have to use your anger and stress to fuel being productive.  It may mean you need to exercise extra hard after work or sleep an hour early.  Whatever you choose, have various methods to use, and pick HEALTHY habits like meditation, walking, or rising to the challenge of being a good EA.  Do not pick destructive outlets like alcohol, drugs, or unhealthy food.

4) You must NEVER cry at work or show that he is “getting to you.”

Since we don’t know why your boss acts the way he does, for all we know he may actually enjoy seeing you cry or to know he got under your skin.  I say the above because while it might make him happy to see you in such a bad state, I think it’s more important for you and your co-workers to see you are strong, can handle this, and not let your co-workers get caught in the middle.  You don’t want to make them more uncomfortable having to witness/know you got yelled at and then have to try to make you feel better.  That’s a big burden for them to constantly bear as well.  You also can’t badmouth him at work because he’s your boss and you may have to constantly apologize to others for the way he treats them too.  You will have to be the mediator when no one wants to work or deal with him.  If he does want you to cry or get under your skin and you don’t, know this mean he could very well hire you and fire you in the same day because you “don’t click” with his style and he isn’t getting what he wants out of you, whatever “it” is.  It could be anything from always being right, to being told he is the smartest, to undoing the past where his mother abandoned him or his high school sweetheart broke his heart.  Or it could be that he is just mentally ill, has some sort of addiction, or low self esteem.  That’s something you will have to navigate, but realize it’s not your problem to solve, it’s your problem to manage so he churns out results and you are in good standing with him even though he treats you like garbage.

5) You will really need to buckle down, do soul searching, and not let the repeated verbal and mental barrage seep into your subconcious.

Whatever you are exposed to long enough you will believe and it will become a part of you, whether or not it’s true.  That’s just how repetition and the way the human mind works.  Studies tell us that for every negative thing you hear, you need about 5 compliments to offset it.  So again, you will need to learn how to “tune him out” yet pay enough attention to details to do your job well.  You will need to ALWAYS be the bigger, forgiving person, the adult.  You will always have to take the high road.  And you will need a personal life, loved ones, hobbies, dreams, and a support system to help offset a terrible boss and the toxic work environment tenfold.  Figure out how to cultivate that.  Which leads me to my next point.

6) How will you defend your job to those who love you?

Whenever I worked a job that wasn’t exactly the right one for me, it was hard for those who loved me to see me overly tired, too stressed out, or not amazingly happy.  Those who love you want the absolute best for you and anything a smidge shy of that is not good enough.  So as you take on this job and most likely need to vent, how will you assure them you are fine as the weeks go by?  Or perhaps you will be very emotionally sound that you won’t need to vent at all and can take it as a grain of salt.  You are so focused on the bigger picture, the payoff, that the stress of work is nothing compared to your resilient mind.

7)  How will you cope and lean on those who love you every time you need to talk it out and they can’t accept why you stay?

In direct connection to the above, as you take on this job you will most likely need to vent.  Know/understand for them to hear you aren’t amazingly happy, will be hard and tiresome for them.  Most often people can’t stand to hear someone fret about a broken heart after 3 months or about the same issue they’ve had with x, y, or z, for the past year or ten.  At some point, people wonder, if you know something is bad, why don’t you change it?  We know most people prefer the certainty of misery than the misery of uncertainty, but that’s easier said than done.  And studies show that other people listening to your problems experience it worse because they feel helpless, they can’t do anything, and can only watch you be miserable.  Whereas, you can actually go fix it, if you can muster up the courage and energy to change.

8) You need to figure out how to explain an exit if you get fired (not let go) to your next employer.

The best planners and most successful people figure out the end goal and work their way backwards to figure out milestones, deadlines, and the steps needed to get where they want to be.  They also do risk assessment, pros and cons, and figure out how to mitigate risk and increase success.  This is why I make the above point.  A difficult boss is very volatile.  The chances of getting fired are pretty high.  If you get let go, HR will give you a reason that you can just repeat (it wasn’t a good fit, a reduction, etc).  If you get fired for performance and that’s what HR says, you need to be able to bounce back and say what you learned, how  you fixed it, and how you will do better at the new company.  Your line of reasoning can not be he was difficult and what happened was unfair.  Blaming him, will only make you appear similar to him in anyone’s eyes.  He most likely views you as the problem so it only tells everyone that you believe blaming others is okay.

9) You probably want to have in mind how long you plan on staying with him.

From what I gather you seem to want to use this as a stepping stone in your career vs staying forever.  You need to figure out how long you need to stay for it to be beneficial to your resume and the story you tell about your career.  In some cases staying a year could be enough.  If his other assistant stayed for 5 years and you only stayed for 1 that doesn’t look as good in comparison to her, unless you got a job working for the President or something outrageous like the Queen of England that anyone would take in a heartbeat.  Because it’s assumed you love your job, it’s great, and you’d be sad to leave because it’s uncouth to admit you ONLY took a job for the paycheck.  So knowing how long you will stick it out has to be a part of your personal mantra and that you are focusing on the big picture anytime you get stressed.

 10) What is your exit strategy if you don’t plan on staying forever?

If you don’t plan on staying forever, know how you will manage your finances and your transition as you leave.  Also know your boss may be even meaner to you as he copes with losing you.  If you do need to quit and/or change your mind, have a professional way in mind that honors both of you on why you are leaving on your own accord.  This is also important if you have to train the new assistant.

11)  Have a hard line of what is or is not acceptable.

At some point, for all we know, the difficulty of your boss could escalate.  It’s generally known that humans get used to something and need more of it to get the same return.  You will need to figure out a hard line that you will not tolerate certain behavior.  As they say, if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.  What is that line for you?  And why that line vs one any average person would draw?

12)  Weigh is this worth x, y, z?

You mention this is your ticket. I don’t know if it’s the salary, benefits, career advancement, or to say you have a job.  Regardless, do some soul searching on if your self esteem, self worth, and self respect is worth whatever it is you want in exchange.  Only you will know.  What is worth suffering for?  For some it is love and enduring heartbreak or divorce, it could be exercise for a summer body, it could be giving up a dream car to put your kids through college.  What will you suffer for?

As you mull over what to do over the next couple of days, I want to share my own experiences with you.

However, I do want to state something up front.  You need to do what’s best for you.  If I knew you in real life, I would support you because I respect you as an individual.  Only you can live with the joys and consequences of your decisions because only you can live your life; no one else can do it for you.  I am here to accept you wherever you are on your life’s journey.  It’s not about whether I agree or disagree; it’s about you and helping you live your life in the moment you are in now.  I know nothing of your background, what you value, and makes you tick.  I can only tell someone, “Do you what you have to do.”

And to get into my personal experience and what works for me…  The below may not work for you at all and that’s fine.  I just want to give you a well-rounded perspective.

You mention, “I’m certainly not a sucker for punishment, but if I could land this job and make it work without feeling like I’ve completely lost all self-respect, it could be my ticket.”

I’ve worked for 2-3 people that were difficult.  They were very nice to me/my dept, but horrible to almost everyone else.  The worst that I witnessed was only a lot of yelling/raised voices and less on the demeaning/blame/name calling scale.  But for me to be able to hear my boss yelling from halfway across the building because their voice carries so much is rather unnerving. I’ve also heard the flip side, where the boss was a saint and super nice to everyone BUT the assistant.  So the assistant felt even worse because no one would or could believe the boss treated the assistant like crap.

I’ve also been called into a couple of job interviews with very difficult people.  The EA world can be very small.  I ended up hearing about the other girl who got the job because word travels.  She excitedly quit her job to work for a very powerful, but difficult boss and she was fired within two weeks.  I don’t know what happened after that.  I do know the girl who was fired found out BEFORE her company told her.  How?  My old co-worker (who was also friends with the girl) got a call to interview because they were waiting to hire a new person before firing her.

Another time, I was being interviewed by the current assistant who was leaving because she was pregnant and due in a month or two.  She was like you; she didn’t like her job, but she could do it and not let it affect her at all.  She had been there a couple of years and seemed totally blase about the horrible boss.  I don’t know what her secret was, but it seemed to work for her.

Even if she told me the secret, I wouldn’t actively use it in my life.  I wouldn’t use it to my advantage.  Why?  Because I’ve read enough books looking for the same answer and this is what I learned.  Do not work for difficult people.  Not only is it bad for you personally, but it also means you condone the idea that treating people badly is a good idea.  It really just boils down to an ethical issue; a human rights issue, and a philosophy of life.  I want to be a beacon of positivity, hope, and change.  It’s why I write this blog for free with no strings attached; it’s how I give back.

I also know myself well.  I am great at working under pressure, with deadlines, for DEMANDING, not difficult people.  I draw the line at yelling, name calling, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and any sort of “asshole” behavior.  I believe life is HARD.  Life is ALREADY difficult enough – people get sick, people/pets die, people get their hearts broken, and to weather those storms that you can’t control are hard enough while battling a bad boss, a shitty job, a stressful, high pressure role, and that much emotional/mental stress 40+ hours a week.  What works for me is to cultivate a life and environment with an abundance of peace, relaxation, joy, and fun.  I do invite learning, challenges, growing, and stress, but I can only function at my best in life, at home, and at work when I am surrounded by professional/supportive people who want the best for me too and will be positive mentors.  I work 40+ hours a week, some weeks that alone is tiring.  There are periods during the year where I pull 60+ hour weeks; those are grueling, but I do it HAPPILY because I love my job, my team, my boss.  I am EXTREMELY lucky.  I also know, in the end, people don’t die wishing they worked more.  Life is more important than that.  There is other work to be found.  There is another way to pay bills.  You only need so much money to be happy.  Know what you want out of your ENTIRE life and start there.

As you figure out how to make this role work for you, here are 3 things to think about.

1) Both of the jobs I was interviewing for, had they had told me over the phone up front how difficult the bosses were, I would have declined the interview right then and there on the spot.  What happened was as soon as I showed up on the interview, that was something they told me within 10 min or something I figured out half way through by all the clues they were dropping. And I had to say outright I was not interested in the role because it wasn’t the right role for me.  It was a little awkward as one interviewer still continued to interview me instead of cutting it short.  Not sure why.  The 2nd one, it took me a while to figure out how to bow out gracefully because I was so caught off guard on how I was fed bit and pieces of how horrible the boss was as if that’d lessen the blow.  Because as you say yes once, and the over the course of communicating, the more committed you become, the harder it is to say no all of a sudden.  And with anything worth doing, you have to make a commitment to the commitment.  (Believe it or not, this is a brainwashing tactic used against prisoners of war.  Make them admit/agree/and write one “harmless” statement because once they admit to that and agree, they lose face if they don’t agree to the next escalated statement.  Agreeing to one “harmless” statement makes everything else snowball because you gave in at the beginning because that seemed easier.)  I read a quote that said, “If you’re interested, you’ll do what’s convenient.  If you’re committed, you’ll do what it takes.”  So think about what you are committed to.

2) All the books I’ve read on how to work with difficult people only mention to leave.  The coping strategies aren’t for staying long term.  It’s for how to get out; much like how to plan an exit strategy if you are dating an abuser – whether verbal, mental, or physical.  Because working for a difficult boss is in essence the same type of relationship, it just so happens to be at work.  The bottom line is, if you are not thriving, you’re in a losing battle.  At the very bottom are the 3 books I read.  May they provide some further insight as well.

3) I know you’ll make the right choice that’s best for YOU.  I don’t know what that is, only you do.  Because it’s also true that horrible bosses still need assistants.  And that people do sometimes change.  Here’s another quote that can be just as relevant by Emm Cole, “When you do find your enemy, remember he will expect and welcome your hate.  So surprise him, and let him fear your love.”  It all comes down to where do you draw the line and what do you want for yourself.  Either way, I’m excited for your life journey.  I chose to answer your question because I want to help you be and do whatever it is your heart desires.  I wish you love, luck, and the best on all your endeavors. I would love to hear what happened.  I’m sure my readers would too and I’m sure you’d love to hear them weigh in with their personal experiences and suggestions.  Feel free to keep me/us posted and to ask more questions if I haven’t answered you completely.  I’ll end with this quote.  

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”   -Eleanor Roosevelt

Suggested readings:

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton

Working With You is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work by Katherine Crowley

You Want Me to Work with Who?: Eleven Keys to a Stress-Free, Satisfying, and Successful Work Life . . .  No Matter Who You Work With by Julie Jansen

***New “rule” – when you ask me a question for anonymous advice and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you read the post?  You can just write “Thx!” or something!  :)

As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address.

I also write over at under Hollywood Executive Assistant.
Musings of a High-Level Executive Assistant

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What to Claim on Your W-4

Christoph writes in:

Since last fall, my gigs have been getting more and more frequent, and I have even been lucky enough to land some longer jobs. However, I have been noticing that as a job gets longer, there seems to be a larger percentage of my paycheck being taken out by taxes.

I have done research and have been told that “1″ is the best number of claims to fill out on my W4 for my current situation. However, I was wondering if I were to put “2″ on my longer jobs, and keep “1″ on shorter/day jobs, if that would screw me up when tax season rolls around again. Do you have much experience in this end?

It’s great to hear that you’re working! I love to hear that from my readers.

First of all, here’s a trick for everyone, not just PAs: go to the IRS website and download the W-4 pdf there. You can fill it out once, and just print out copies every time you land a new show. Every show has slightly different start work, but for a given year, the W-4 is the same everywhere.

As to what you should claim, that’s a tricky question. It doesn’t have to be what you’re actually planning on claiming when you do your taxes next week.1

The more allowances you claim now, the less taxes they’ll take out of your paycheck, and the more you’ll owe on April 15.

Conversely, if you put a low number (say, 0), they’ll withhold2 more than you’ll eventually owe, and you’ll probably get a refund on April 15.3

A refund means you gave the government an interest-free loan for around 16 months. A refund is not “extra cash.” It’s “money you should’ve gotten in the first place.”

My advice is to put the actual number of dependents you have; if you’re single, and no one claims you as a dependent, that number is 1. (If your parents still claim you as a dependent, write 0; you could trigger an audit on them if both you and they claim you as dependent.)

If you don’t mind owing the government in April, put 10. Again, this isn’t an extra cost; this is paying back an interest-free loan. Just make sure you plan for that.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Actually, I hope you haven’t waited this long to do your taxes. Seriously, you should’ve done them months ago.
  2. Is that really how you spell “withhold”? Jeez, how many words have two H’s next to each other? That’s like finding a word that ends with “gry.”
  3. I am not a tax accountant. Like all advice from untrained people, you should probably take this with a grain of salt. Check with a tax advisor; or at least use Turbo Tax.

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog

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Improve Sleep with Tips from eni’s Wellness Experts

sleeping, rest resized 600

Good sleeping habits at times seem hard to come by.  There are ways to improve your sleep so you feel well rested and improve your overall health.

Getting the proper amount of sleep increases your energy and concentration levels.  Healthy sleeping habits also lessen your risk for certain diseases. To improve your resting habits, try to incorporate the below strategies into your routine:

  • Set a regular bedtime – be sure this a time when your body is truly tired.

  • Wake up daily at the same time – try to also maintain this on the weekends.

  • Establish a bedtime routine.

  • Exercise regularly

  • Be smart about napping. Napping can be a great way to recharge, but can also make restless sleep worse.  Napping in the early afternoon is your best option. 

  • Avoid caffeine four to six hours before bed.

  • Eat a balanced diet.

 Relaxing bedtime rituals to try:

  • Soak in a warm tub

  • Listen to soft music

  • Meditate

  • Listen to books on tape

  • Make small preparations for the next day

  • Try some simple yoga

  • Journal

  • Read a book or magazine by a soft light

eni’s BalanceHealth health and wellness program improves your bottom line by helping to identify and resolve health issues among your workforce before they escalate into costly health claims. Only by educating employees about their health risks and becoming proactive about healthcare can you limit escalating healthcare premiums and bring them back under control.

Contact eni today to learn more!


Dynamic Work/Life Solutions Blog

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Protect Your Employees & Your Bottom Line with a Tips Hotline

Corporate fraud is defined as using deception or dishonesty for personal gain which results in a loss for another. When people think of corporate fraud images of Ponzi schemes or secret transfers to Swedish bank accounts often come to mind. Many employers don’t give much thought to fraud, assuming that their business is not susceptible, that their employees are infallible, or that simply having a yearly audit will catch any suspicious behavior. Unfortunately, fraud is extremely widespread and comes in many shapes and sizes. Types of corporate fraud include:

  • Theft of money

  • Theft of merchandise/supplies

  • Embezzlement, which is taking money that has been placed in your trust but belongs to another person. Embezzlement can range from a few dollars to millions and can be a quite simple to a very complex scheme.

  • Money Laundering, which refers to the process of concealing the source of illegally obtained money.

  • Bribery, which is the act of giving or receiving gifts or money with the intent to alter behavior. 

  • Extortion, which occurs when someone obtains money, property, or services through coercion.

As you can see there are a wide variety of circumstances that constitute corporate fraud.  With so many ways to commit fraud, employers must be mindful of this issue.

How Widespread is Fraud

Organizations in every industry and of every size are susceptible to fraud. According to the 2010 Global Fraud Study connected by the ACFE a typical organization loses 5% of its annual revenue to fraud! To put this into perspective, this translates into a potential fraud loss of more than 2.9 trillion dollars worldwide.

Since corporate fraud is based upon deception, it can be extremely difficult to detect. It is believed that the majority of fraud actually goes undetected, meaning that the amount of revenue lost to fraud is potentially even higher that 5%. Further complicating matters, it can be difficult to distinguish poor record keeping from actual instances of fraud.

Fraud Prevention and Detection

There are a few different fraud prevention and detection methods. A key to fraud prevention is having adequate fraud detection controls in place. This acts as a deterrent as employees know that if they do commit fraud there is a strong potential to be caught. Having fraud detection controls in place also conveys to the employees that the organization is committed to an ethical corporate culture.

For best results, organizations should engage in a holistic approach to fraud prevention including creating an ethical and honest corporate culture, conducting occasional audits, and providing employees with anti-fraud trainings. However, the single most effective tool to prevent and detect fraud is establishing a Tips or Whistleblower Hotline. Reporting mechanisms are critical to effective fraud prevention and detection. According to the 2010 Global Fraud Study connected by the ACFE:

  • Tips are the most common fraud detection method, catching nearly 3 times more fraud as any other means

  • 40.2% of occupational fraud is detected by a tip

  • In 67% of the cases where there was an anonymous tip it was reported through an organization’s hotline

  • Employees are the most common source of fraud tips

Anti-fraud training coupled with a Whistleblower Hotline is the cornerstone of an effective fraud prevention and detection strategy. This educates employees on fraud and gives them the means to report the witnessed activity. The key to establishing a successful hotline is to set up a confidential 3rd Party Whistleblower Hotline. Utilizing a 3rd Party to manage your Hotline ensures that your employees will indeed feel comfortable reporting fraudulent activity as they will not have to fear retribution or other employees discovering who reported the activity. Employees will trust that with a confidential 3rd Party Hotline, the company will never know who reported the fraudulent activity.

How it Works

To establish a Whistleblower Hotline, simply partner with a Provider who will set up a confidential toll free phone number, provide your employees with literature on accessing the hotline, transcribe all calls that are received and provide them back to your company in a timely fashion. It is a quick and easy process for both you and your employees and it provides unparalleled results.

To learn more more about corporate fraud and prevention, download eni’s complimentary whitepaper today!

Getting Started

DirectAccess is a confidential, third-party hotline that encourages your employees to report witnessed activity, including theft, fraud, harassment, discrimination, safety concerns, illegal activity and other issues or questions.

This simple, smart, safe, and unbiased outlet effectively protects your employees and your bottom line. This service will give you piece of mind, so you are free to focus on increasing profits instead of managing internal losses.


24/7 Toll-Free Access
Exclusive 24/7 access to our secure and confidential Contact Management Center ensures that all information is kept private and protected from improper access, loss, or misuse.

Rapid Response Reports
A complete and anonymous report of each call or concern is immediately transcribed and delivered in order for you to review and react accordingly.

Well defined security access protocols ensure that your employees can easily and anonymously report their concerns without the risk of recognition and/or retaliation.


Employee Advocacy
Position yourself as a zero-tolerance employer by utilizing your employees who will act as anonymous advocates, with the ability and encouragement to identify inappropriate activity.

DirectAccess is practical solution for the detection and deterrence of corrupt activity that causes avoidable expenses.

Unethical and illegal behavior improves once the potential of being caught is introduced.  Promote your company’s core values by empowering employees to take an active role in preventing fraud.

Sarbanes Oxley Compliance

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 states that in order for companies to continue being listed on the various exchanges (as per the SEC), they must establish a way for boards of directors to receive, retain and treat complaints regarding accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters. This process must be secure and allow for anonymity. DirectAccess ensure that your organization meets the standards set forth by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Contact eni to learn how you can protect your organization: 1.800.364.4748

Dynamic Work/Life Solutions Blog

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Some Writers Are Oblivious

If you’ve never been on a multicamera series, it’s a lot like being on a play that has a one-night engagement. There’s a lot of set up and rehearsal and honing everything down to the last detail, so you can perform it for a singular audience. You only get one shot at it,1 and thus show night is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Last night was our final show night of the season, which amped everything up to the nth degree. Everyone was simultaneously stressed (“I need it now, now, NOW!“) and elated (sooooo much booze).

The writers, whose work was largely done,2 fell mostly in the latter camp. Which is fine; by the nature of their job, most of their work is done in prep and post. If the writers are busy on show night, that means something has gone terribly wrong.

Our show was, in fact, going so well that, while we still had a few scenes left, several of the writers retired to the writers’ room to start drinking in ernest, away from the audience.3 I’m not really gonna judge them on that. It was a long, hard season, they did a great job, and hell, they’re writers. What do you expect?

All work and no play make Homer something something...

From the Autobiography of Stephen King.

But the rest of us still had work to do. The actors were acting, the camera and boom operators were operating, and I was assisting the production. At a certain point, I had to run back to the office and make some more copies of the rundown for the ADs.

The way our office is laid out, the copy room is in the middle of the building, with doors on either side. One door opens out into the production office bullpen; the other opens on a hallway where all the writers’ offices are. The door to the writers’ room is directly across the hall.

So, when I got to the copy room, I could hear loud music,  laughing,  general drunken revelry. And even though I had to work, I didn’t want to ruin their fun with the constant WHRRR CHNK WHRRRRR CHNK of the copy machine.

...and it’s ending one minute at a time.

This is my life…

So naturally, I shut the door. It’s not exactly sound proof, but at least they’d still be able to hear their music. That’s the kind of a nice person I am, right?

But that’s not how the writers saw it…


TAPA stands at the copy machine, waiting patiently, while listening to the writers’ conversation through the door--


Well! I guess she didn’t like the music.


She’s always so serious.




Should we turn it down? I don’t want to bother her.


No! Why should she make us be quiet, just because she’s a killjoy?


What is the matter with you?! I was trying to be nice by shutting the door! For you!

No, I didn’t actually yell at them. But seriously, I’m not anti-social. I’m just pro-getting-work-done. On your goddamn show! I’ll get plastered, throw a lamp shade on my head and dance on the conference table after the shoot, but for now, there’s shit to do.

That’s what bugs me about so many writer/producers. It’s great that they’ve created these characters and this world, but we, the cast and crew, are bringing those thoughts into reality. It takes a lot of hard work, skill, and talent.

You probably don’t understand everything that’s involved in every job, nor do I expect you to. But I do expect you to show a little respect when even the lowliest of your minions (i.e. me) is working to bring your imagination to life.

* * *

Speaking of drinking, don’t forget about the TAPA mixer this Sunday! Also on Sunday, I’ll be launching the Kickstarter campaign for the podcast. Big day. Hope you can come!

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Usually.
  2. Because, to give the devils their due, they wrote a fantastic episode; I don’t think they had to punch up a single joke on show night.
  3. In fairness, they had the writers’ room TV tuned to the stage, so they could at least keep one eye on the goings-on.

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog

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Run Your Business Well

Every individual tries their best to achieve success. They adopt every profession with some passion and then they do their best to carve a niche in that. It is always difficult to run a particular business as competition is increasing day by day. It is generally seen that most of the business houses hire some professional people so that they can keep on getting regular professional help. A professional assistant has been a very sought after profile as business assistance is in a great demand. The readers who are also under the same category can ease their burden with professional help. Many online links can be clicked for this purpose. There are many professional identities that relay help in this aspect and then they have been registered as the most reliable resource.

Professional Assistant is that pillar that can be depended on during the time of crises. There are many situations that require instant decisions and then there is a need for those who are well versed in decision making tendency. The professionals can be the only option in that situation. The search for those assistants can be made from those job searching sites where the resumes are uploaded by the aspirants only. These sites can be subscribed at by paying a nominal amount and then regular alerts can be received in that aspect. The suitable one can be hired as per the requirements of an organization. They are made clear about the rules and regulations and the conditions are also put forth. It is the time when they are told about the future aims of an organization so that regular steps can be taken in that regard. The aspirants who are hired are considered highly important to achieve those goals. This is the reason that every decision taken by them is given prime consideration so that the business can run successfully. Facilities management companies such as Fidelis Contract Service at 197-201 Streetly Road, Birmingham, B23 7AJ (Phone: 0121 683 6933)

The professional assistance is also provided by private organizations that provide a facility to hire their candidates. They have an expertise in training their candidates so that quality stuff can be ensured and good decisions can be taken at the time of need. These candidates have a great experience in the same stream and their professional career is justified by their career profile only. The kind of assistance that they provide is relevant enough and their decision can be worth spending time upon.

The contact details of professional assistants can be grabbed from the respective sites so that an instant help can be assured. It's also worth mentioning that to assist a personal assistant's operations, some sort of unified communications service may be needed, similar services are offered by Aitch Telecom, found at; Regus Building, Central Boulevard, Blythe Valley Business Park, Solihull B90 8AG. Telephone: 01564 330 802. Thus, last but not the least, it can be stated that there are many avenues in a business that need urgent care and attention and that attention can only be assured by those who have a deep insight for the same. It’s not just about doing hard work but this modern era is more focused on smart work. The individuals that are hired should be competent enough to handle the pace of competition so that a constant rate of success can be made sure for a particular business entity.