RealJobs: Will Watkins

“It’s not a job—it’s a lifestyle.”

A Hollywood executive once told me that about what working in entertainment is like, and days like today demonstrate how true it is. There is no such thing as a 9-5 in Hollywood, and even when you’ve left the office the work never stops.

Today at lunch we had our Motion Picture Lit department meeting, so all the managers and assistants who work in lit (meaning writers and directors) gathered in the conference room to discuss what they read over the weekend. Everybody in Hollywood spends their weekends reading scripts, and a normal weekend can include anywhere from four to ten screenplays. In an industry where information is power, reading screenplays is a necessary way of gathering information. Given how busy the week is, the weekend is everyone’s main time to read, and so I usually spend my Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons reading for a several hours.

In our meeting, everyone goes around and says what they read this weekend, why they read it, and what they thought. People read different pieces of material for a myriad of reasons, sometimes a script is an open directing assignment at studio, sometimes it’s original client material that we are giving feedback on, sometimes it’s a potential client script, or other times it’s a piece of material that sold and reading it is a way of getting a sense for the marketplace. Having a meeting where everyone discusses their weekend read is great, because even though I only read five screenplays this weekend, I now have information on upwards of thirty.

As I mentioned in my opening post, networking is essential to have any kind of success in Hollywood, and it really only begins once you have a job. The industry standard for networking is grabbing after-work drinks, and it’s standard procedure to ask another assistant to get drinks over e-mail, even if you have only ever interacted electronically. I was supposed to have drinks tonight, but I had to reschedule due to reading that came up at the last minute.

After I got back from the office, I read and did notes on a pilot that an actor client of my company wrote. “Doing notes” is Hollywood parlance for giving constructive feedback, the goal is to help the writer improve the material and make it into something we can sell. When I do notes I usually read the material 2-3 times, building up my suggestions with each pass. After reading this pilot twice I had a good amount of feedback, ranging from broad, conceptual issues to very specific line edits. I finally finished up by 11 PM, and when I checked my phone I had several work e-mails to get back to.  Yes, I worked an extremely long day, but at the end of the day there are worse things I could be doing than reading a pilot and giving my thoughts on how to improve it.
Will Watkins headshot

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