Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Agency Promotion Hazing represents everything wrong with this town

I saw an "EXCLUSIVE" on Deadline the other day that really turned my stomach. This is the story of how one agency told an assistant they were promoting him to full agent. They called him over to one of the partners homes on a Saturday to build a swing set. Then when he showed up, several of the partners performed a "career intervention," (where he was no doubt made to feel incompetent and unappreciated) before ushering him out into the backyard for a "surprise" celebration with his friends and family.

Bullshit like this is precisely what's wrong with this industry. I don't see what's funny about hazing a hard-working assistant like that. And I'm sure the douchebags who concocted this master scheme thought they were so clever that they'd push this guy to the limits of his temper before saying "Surprise! You're one of us now!" but honestly, it's still incredibly mean-spirited. The promoted assistant is still the butt of the joke.

But that's not what elevates the brilliant minds over at this company to the title of "Bitter Script Reader's Asshats of the Week." If you want to conduct promotion ceremonies with all the dignity of Rush Week at Beta House, be my guest. If you get your jollies by pushing someone around just to see if he'll snap, or cry, or whatever, fine... doesn't make you any different from half the assholes in this town. No, what elevates this agency to the most classless operation in town is that someone said, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if we called up Nikki Finke and gave her this story exclusively?"

The Greek system at my college was loaded with assholes - it's why I pledged GDI - but there was at least one element of honor to the hazing: What happened in the house, stayed in the house. I'm sure pledges were made to endure many humiliating things, but no one called up the school newspaper and plastered it on the front page. Sad that this agency lacks the professionalism and maturity that even a 19 year-old pledge armed with ruffies can grasp.

Going public like this pretty much ensures that this whole ritual had nothing to do with the assistant at all. It was ALL about the perpetrators of this "genius" prank. Unsatisfied with merely getting their target embarrassed in front of his friends and family, they had to crow about it to the entire town!

Even so, the prank itself is still pretty tasteless. It's never funny when a boss "jokes" that one of his employees is about to be fired, or deliberately makes him feel like his job is in jeopardy just for kicks. It wasn't funny when Michael Scott did it to Pam in the first episode of The Office and it's not funny in real life.

I almost guarantee that the people at the top in that company are among the discourteous who insist "Thick Skin Required" when putting out job postings for their company. This is a sort of fine print that many in the industry use to absolve themselves of treating those in their employ like human beings. I've known plenty of CEOs and Company Presidents who've been able to get the job done and motivate their employees without resorting to dehumanizing them. What makes some Ari Gold wannabe so special that he can ignore basic human courtesy?

The worst part is that this sort of assy behavior is self-replicating. The abused become the abusers. The victims of pranks like this will turn around and do it to the next guy in five years, reasoning that it's okay because it was done to them. It's the same with salaries. "You're going to work 15 hours a day and take work home every night for the wage of a mere $9/hr. Why? 'Cause 'Fuck you,' that's why! I had to endure this years ago - what makes you so special that you're too good for this?"

Hey guys, how about you quit playing the part of "Poor Man's Ari Gold" in "The Me Story starring Me" and just focus on doing your jobs and appreciating your employees without publicly humiliating them? Maybe you're not all assholes over there, but everything in that article (including the fact it was made public) is exactly what an asshole would do.

I tell you this, though. I'm not going to be querying any of these agents. And I certainly wouldn't waste my time filling their inboxes with increasing worse pitches and made-up queries certain to annoy even the most hardened agent. Not even taking into account I know their email structure is readily available through IMDBPro.


  1. Hate to say it, but this kind of thing, and all the other abuses you think are specific to Hollywood, happen all over the place, especially here in Silicon Valley.

  2. Phiny,good point. I know lots of people are weak and try to protect their feelings and are very sensitive. It's the people in Hollywoood who got money and know how socialize and party - they control the show. We can't hide behind blogs and expect the world to change to the wims of nerd writing world. Lots of bloggers are not living in the real world. Trying to push their views which has nothing to do with filmmaking.

  3. You pledged the Global Defense Initiative? Did you see any of the mammoth tanks up close?

  4. I'd tell but then i'd have to make you sign a release form promising you wouldn't tell anyone else.

  5. Hey Benjamin, speaking out against cruelty and abuse does not mean the person is weak. Quite the opposite. The weak-minded and weak-spined hide behind nonsense like "we can't change the world." The world is what brave people make of it.

  6. I have friends who have worked in high-end restaurants and they tell me a lot of hazing goes on if you're a newbie - but there's a method to the madness, they're trying to see if you can cut the mustard under pressure. But it ends after you've proved yourself.

    Benjamin, stay gold.

  7. DeafEars- and presumably, said hazing isn't then covered in a restaurant trade paper.

  8. Yeah, forgot about that!

  9. Nothing so prosaic as coverage in a trade rag, when they can make reality shows about the shit that goes on in a restaurant. 3 words: Marco Pierre White.

  10. I haven't seen a lot of the kitchen reality shows, but my impression is that they mostly show the chefs abusing their underlings - the hazing I heard about was done by co-workers.

  11. I worked in a restaurant once, and was hazed at the beginning. It did not make me a better employee. It made me secretly pissed off and less loyal to the management.

    The only "method" to the madness of human cruelty is the impulse that makes little boys torture small animals. I wish that boys would eventually outgrow this childish impulse, but apparently many don't.

  12. I've worked in several very top restaurants in Australia and now work in finance - never been hazed, ever. We go out and get pissed. Handle that and you're in.
    But hey, to each their own America.