I’ve been working at my current internship for three weeks, and it really has been a baptism by fire. I started working right in the thick of staffing season. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, let me try to elaborate (I’ll probably explain this all wrong). My boss manages several screenwriters and works tirelessly to get her clients staffed on current and new television series. All of the new television programs vying for a spot in the 2014/2015 TV lineup had their pilots made a few months ago. Since then, the studios, producers and showrunners connected with those shows have been waiting to hear from the networks as to whether or not their shows will get a Series Pick Up. For our part, we’ve spent the last few months trying to get our clients meetings with these individuals, in an effort to get them jobs in the writers’ rooms. This is why it’s called “staffing season.”
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was under the impression that as an intern, I’d be supporting the assistants with miscellaneous tasks throughout the day. I quickly discovered that my assumption was incorrect, as I am the assistant. In fact, the entire company consists of me, the morning assistant, and the owner, which means that I have a 50% chance of becoming Employee of the Month (though the odds don’t seem to be in my favor). The morning assistant works from 9:30 to 2:30, and I’m supposed to work from 2:30 until 8:00 every night. I say “supposed to work” because my shift typically doesn’t end before 8:30 or 9:00. Most nights, there’s so much going on at the office that I can’t even find the time to break for a quick dinner at my desk. This can have severe consequences, as I tend to get very irritable when I don’t eat every few hours. If there’s one piece of advice that my parents would probably offer to my employers, it is to keep me well-fed. Otherwise, there’s no telling what I’ll do or say.
My first day on the job, my boss explained how detrimental even the smallest mistake can be to her business. As a result, I’m constantly paranoid that I’m going to make an error resulting in having her clients blacklisted from every show on television. This overly cautious behavior clashes with the fast-paced, quick-talking environment, common in this industry. For example, in an effort to speed things along, my boss tends to only use first names when asking me to place a call or send an email. This would be fine if she were asking me to call “Madonna” or “Oprah,” but my second day on the job, she said, “Get me Jessica.” My initial thought was, “My sister?” Not knowing what else to do, I typed “Jessica” into the Outlook contacts and prayed that there would only be one Jessica. Of course my query produced thirty names. I glanced back at my boss who asked, “Do you have her yet?” With my tail between my legs, I responded, “Does Jessica have a last name?” She sighed and then said, “Sanchez…our client.” After three weeks of this, I’m finally starting to get a better sense of who she wants to call when she only offers the first name. Nonetheless, I still occasionally manage to stumble. The other day, she said “Call Susan.” Well, we had been talking about a television show at FOX a few minutes earlier, so I started dialing one of the executives at FOX. While the phone was ringing, she asked me, “Who did Susan submit Angie’s scripts to?” At that point, I realized that she wanted to speak to a talent agent who represents one of our clients. I discreetly hung up the phone before she noticed that I was calling the head of drama development at FOX. Close call. Pun intended.
Sometimes I simply don’t understand the name my boss is saying, but I get too nervous to ask her to repeat it. I know this seems spineless, but I’ve had to ask her to repeat so many names that she probably thinks I’m hearing impaired. So instead of always asking her to repeat herself, I have tried different tactics to get her to say the name again. The other day, she said “Call Danielle Halpe.” I tried a few variations in Outlook Contacts, but I couldn’t find anything close to that. I finally said, “Could you please spell that? I think I’m spelling it incorrectly.” She responded, “D-A-V-I-D.” Feeling like an idiot since I had been typing in Danielle, I lied and said, “No. I obviously know how to spell the first name…it’s the last name that I need help with.” She replied, “H-O-P-E.” At that point, I either had to allow her to think that I was illiterate or expose my strategy. I opted for the latter. I tried to make light of the situation by saying, “I’m sorry. I didn’t actually hear you and was trying a different approach. I swear that I can spell Hope.” Her response? “Do you have David yet?” It’s this kind of back-and-forth that makes me doubt my frontrunner status for Employee of the Month.
On the days when my boss works from the office, she sits right next to me, putting her in direct sight of every mouse click that I make and letter that I type. If she needs to make a phone call, I dial the number and then remain on the line. While they talk, I’m expected to take diligent notes while underscoring action items and simultaneously working on the three or four assignments given to me right before placing the call. I’m always nervous when I’m on the phone that my boss is going to forget that I’m on the line and start complaining about my incompetency to the other party. So far, my name has stayed out of the conversations, which feels like a small victory in itself. When we’re not on the phone, I’m either sending staffing emails to the above-mentioned parties or scanning industry websites to find contact information for individuals covering these shows in order to submit a client’s material for consideration. When my boss isn’t in the office, she calls about every five minutes. In other words, her presence is still very much felt even when she’s not physically there, so the pressure is always on.
Having a boss watch my every move has gotten me so rattled that I find myself making silly blunders, such as mangling basic words that I’ve used a million times before. The other day, she asked me to look up the title of the new musical on ABC. It took me much longer to locate the title than it probably should have, so once I finally found it, I blurted out, “Guh-lah-vant.” She shot me a strange look and then said “Galavant?” If that weren’t bad enough, about an hour later, while dictating an email to me, my boss stopped talking about the email and started on a different train of thought about a meeting that we were supposed to have set. I was so focused on playing stenographer and trying to keep up that I proceeded to type everything that she said into the email. Moments later, when she asked me to read back what we had transcribed so far, my error became apparent as it had absolutely nothing to do with the subject line of the email. I cringed and she just shot me a look that spoke volumes. I honestly don’t know what it is, but I seem to be letting my nerves get the best of me. At this rate, I predict that I will have developed a full on stutter by June.
Despite the fact that my brain seems to be malfunctioning, I’m honestly enjoying this experience more than this blog suggests. In the short time I have been working, I’ve learned a tremendous amount of information about the television industry, which is exactly what I had hoped to gain from this internship. I really do admire my boss, and I hope to one day find myself on her roster of clients. My stress really stems from my current work schedule more than it does from this internship. I currently work at the production company from 9:00 AM to 2:15 PM. I then walk over to my internship, which lasts until about 8:30 or 9:00 every night. After that, I usually walk back to my office at the production company and work for Notre Dame until my eyes get too tired to focus. I’m hoping to leave my accounting role at the production company by the end of this month, allowing me some time to work on my own writing samples. I’ll admit that It’s a bit frustrating that I’m working more than I ever have in my life, but I'm making much less money. But I guess that’s why they call it paying one’s dues! I just didn’t realize they’d be so expensive...