Frustrated assistants in Hollywood have aired the industry’s dirty laundry in a social media campaign that has exposed their underpaid and often demeaning work conditions.
While the liberals in Tinsel Town dismiss traditional American values as they embrace progressive ideals, it seems the entertainment industry has been way off the mark in treating their own entry-level employees who have now come together under the banner of a new hashtag, #PayUpHollywood.
The hashtag, launched by TV writer and Writers Guild of America West board member, Liz Alper, began trending last month as current and former assistants to producers, writers, agencies and more vocalized their frustrations with pay inequalities and heavy workloads in the industry, according to Variety.
“I thought someone needs to stir sh** up first and I decided well, I might as well do it,” Alper said.
“I’ve received so many stories and they were all just going to be sheets in the wind, but now you can see the magnitude of what the assistant community and what the support staff community in Hollywood are going through,” she told Variety. “It’s not just limited to those who work at an agency or work a desk, it’s also our set PA’s, our wardrobe PA’s, anyone who is trying to make it in the business. It’s a class privilege to be able to work in this industry nowadays.”
According to the Los Angeles Times:
The Hollywood assistant pool has long been considered the proving ground for would-be agents, writers, producers and directors. In something of a Faustian bargain, assistants pay their dues, fetching coffee, answering phones, handling mail, maintaining schedules and dealing with mercurial bosses. In exchange, they get to learn the business and make valuable connections up close in real time with the promise of getting their foot in the door.
But assistants’ wages have generally not increased in the face of financial insecurity in the industry and many of the thousands who are in Hollywood are not unionized, thus giving the perfect conditions for the social media revolt that erupted in the wake of Alper’s initiative.
And while top executives in the liberal industry like to tout the diversity at the visible and prominent levels of the business, jobs that “aren’t as sexy or don’t get the air time” are the ones in need of change, according to Alper.
Many took to Twitter to share horror stories.
As an intern at a Big 4 agency I personally witnessed:
– Scripts flying 10+ feet to hit assistants
– A flying stapler.
– Agent walked over and cut assistant’s tie off because he didn’t like it.
Don’t get me started on the verbal abuse. https://t.co/Y00fOzM6wm
— Alexandra Tran (@LexWojTran) November 25, 2019
A producer once threw a script AT me cause he wasn’t happy with edits from the writer.
Later he said I need to learn to duck if I don’t want to get papercuts on my face and hit with a stack of papers. https://t.co/pBg0bHhUo9
— allie yi (@allieyi) November 25, 2019
I had a chair thrown at me. But it was later explained to me that she wasn’t throwing it AT me. She was just throwing the chair in my general direction and I just happened to be there. 🙄 https://t.co/8HuYfL6H9g
— Meredith Kecskemety (@MeredithStories) November 25, 2019
Assistants anonymously shared their horror stories at the cathartic town hall. “The Hollywood chain is broken,” said one.#PayUpHollywood shared with @Variety that 72 assistants surveyed said that they’ve had *an object THROWN at them in the workplace*.https://t.co/KLlUdJZZzx
— Elaine Low (@elainelow) November 25, 2019
The Times reported that former and current assistants they spoke with had portrayed “a world where they are made to feel at once disposable and grateful, where the expense of living in Los Angeles eclipses their wages, where they have few benefits, little actual mentorship and face the specter of retaliation if they complain.”
The launch of the hashtag brought much-needed attention to the plight of the employees and has prompted many plans and even events such as the movement’s first town hall, for which tickets sold out in less than 45 minutes after going on sale.
Organizers of #PayUpHollywood spoke with over 100 lower-level industry employees and others in the Los Angeles townhall this month about the plans for upcoming months and the results of a survey which showed, according to Alper, that 88 percent of those surveyed were considered “rent-burdened” in Los Angeles, earning less than $50,000 a year before taxes – a figure below the threshold of $53,600 annually after taxes, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Organizers said that they hoped to determine a “livable wage” in Los Angeles for entertainment assistants from survey results that would take into consideration expenses that come with the job. (Alper mentioned that she herself had gone into $20,000 of credit card debt after one assistant job.) At the end of the town hall, they gave attendees and viewers “homework” so they could help determine that figure: to log all of their living expenses and their take-home pay for a month or two and send the end results to #PayUpHollywood at their email address.
The rise of complaints about conditions faced by the “unseen” assistants in Hollywood launched a flood of responses on Twitter where many condemned the double standards of liberals in the industry.
At a town hall, #PayUpHollywood leaders shared that of 1,100 assistants surveyed:
*62.8% earn less than $50,000 pre-tax
*47% have been assistants for 3+ years, 21% for 5+ years
*67.2% have to work an extra job to survive
The latest via @WillHMThorne https://t.co/KLlUdJZZzx
— Elaine Low (@elainelow) November 25, 2019
“Man, you have the worst job.”
“I would never be able to do your job.”
I was consistently told this during my time as a script/clearance coordinator. By my fellow crew members. It’s telling if the other members of the crew feel you have the worst job of the show. #payuphollywood
— Karla Nappi (@musingsbycrazed) November 25, 2019
FYI @MellindaK and I are hosting Thanksgiving for Hollywood assistants who can’t afford to go home this Thursday, turkey courtesy of @moshekasher – DM either of us for details if you’d like to come! #PayUpHollywood
— Sophie Balaban (@sophie_balaban) November 26, 2019
Will say this now and until I’m purple in the face:
— Kiran S. (@subrawoman) November 25, 2019
I was gonna make a political joke but you know what? This isn’t funny. This is not ok. When I was an assistant I got upset when producers yelled at me, I can’t imagine going through my day fearful my boss would try to assault me. I’m so sorry for every assistant this happened to https://t.co/EzZxTil28L
— Akela “THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST” Cooper 😈 (@AkelaCooper) November 25, 2019
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