The Film Business

Political Hires

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Every show has its share of political hires – individuals who are there solely because of their connection to someone who had the authority to hire them.

I’ve worked with political hires who have been total dead weight and no help whatsoever to the production and others who have turned out to be fabulous surprises (people I’d work with again any time, anywhere).  Throughout my career, those who have been been assigned to my department have included various sons and daughters of producers, directors, DPs, studio execs and investors; the producer’s best friend’s wife; the producer’s ex-lover’s son; the producer’s kids’ babysitter and (my favorite) – the producer’s wife’s manicurist’s son.  I once worked for a company owned by Italians, and half of my staff was comprised of Italians who barely spoke English (nice people, but when they answered the phone, no one could understand what they were saying).

It’s frustrating when you can’t hire your own staff, especially when you end up with someone who has absolutely no experience.  Looking at it from their perspective, though, who wouldn’t use a connection to get a job?  This business is hard enough as it is, and having to sell and prove ourselves over and over again with each new production is not the most fun thing we have to do.  So why not take advantage of any in we can get?  We’d all like to think that we’re hired because we’re good at what we do, smart, pleasant to have around, deserving — but if you could get a great job because your Uncle Bernie is one of the producers, why not?

If you should be so lucky as to become a political hire, be aware that we all understand how and why you got the job.  But it’s your responsibility to show us that you deserve it.  You need to be a team player, have a great attitude and learn as much and as fast as you can.  Check your ego in at the door and work your tush off, so that everyone forgets you’re related to Bernie and just thinks about how much they’d like to have you on their next show.  You may have had help getting your foot in the door, but unless you shine, you’re not going to get very far from there.

My friend Julia was the producer’s kids’ babysitter who was assigned to my staff on a show in Hawaii.  Instead of being able to hire a local PA, I was stuck with a young woman from New Jersey who didn’t know her way around Kauai, had little or no experience and no car.  But her first day on the job she jumped in with both feet and continued to prove herself indispensable throughout the shoot.  So impressed, when the show was over and I was offered a job DreamWorks, I took her with me.  I admire and respect her, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Excerpt from Hollywood Drive: What It Takes to Break In, Hang In & Make It in the Entertainment Industry by Eve Light Honthaner. Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

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