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Watch for Twitches if You Meet the Old Girl Friday

July 16, 2006|Anna T. Hirsh | Anna T. Hirsh has worked in post-production and set design, and as an intern for director Sofia Coppola.

After I moved to Los Angeles in 2000 at the age of 23, a former teacher of mine, a famous screenwriter, let me know that, if I slept with him, he'd get me a literary agent. I found myself wondering if it would be OK if the guy was good-looking (he wasn't). Instead, I used a temp agency to get myself a job interview with one of the top agents at CAA.

I was so excited! I could feel myself on the precipice of fame and fortune. Dressed in a shiny new suit from J.C. Penney, I floated through the mere-mortal-portal of CAA's offices in Beverly Hills and into the land of the gods.

After a smug receptionist confirmed my appointment, H.R. explained that, were I to get the job, my hours would be 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and salaried (I would make $5 an hour, no overtime). The next step, interviewing with the agent--I'll call him Droste--went well. He was clearly plagued by a nasty short-guy complex, but he informed me that if I gave him a year of my life, he would place me in a great job with one of his directors. He also told me that he would sometimes yell at me, and that I was not allowed to talk back. I smiled and nodded. I was in!

I was "welcomed" by the girl I was replacing. She was severely underweight, had a nervous twitch and popped painkillers with her Diet Coke. She had been with Droste for two years and openly loathed him. When I asked her if she ran errands during lunch, she snickered. We volunteer to work through lunch, she said, because "we love our job so much." During our tour of the building, she would announce that I was her replacement and people would quietly shake their heads. I felt as if I had volunteered to try out the electric chair.

I quickly learned that my reason for living was to keep Droste on the phone with clients from the moment he dropped off his daughter at school until he hung up on me late at night. I would roll him calls until he pulled into the agency garage and lost cell service. If I had a moment to spare, I threw away unsolicited scripts, thereby dashing the dreams of people just like me.

I had 20 alarms on my computer to remind me of things I had to do. For example, Droste liked to play squash in one particular court at 8 a.m. on Thursdays. The problem was that an agent from ICM liked the same court, same time, same day. You could only reserve the court one week prior, to the minute, so I was in a race against time with the ICM assistant. On Thursday I had three warning alarms, followed by a final one that went off 27 seconds before 8 a.m. If I started dialing at that moment, I would get through exactly as the hour changed and win.

Four days in, I discovered that the old assistant had messed up something. Droste screamed at me for five minutes even though he knew it wasn't my fault. When he was done, I had a sudden craving for diet cola and Vicodin. Half a second later I heard myself telling Droste I was done. He freaked and told me I'd regret it. My last day, I left him a cheeky card saying perhaps we'd meet again someday. I have visions of him lighting it on fire.

I've spent the last five years working at freelance film and writing jobs and using my free time to write a novel, go to grad school, volunteer and run a marathon. I still don't have an agent, but at least I have my sanity and that slick J.C. Penney suit.

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