The Hunt (#139)

Look! It's a sign! A rainbow on the studio backlot...oh, wait, more Hollywood fakery.
Look! It’s a sign! A rainbow on the studio backlot…oh, wait, more Hollywood fakery.

When my production company laid me off, I sued them for unpaid wages. That’s risky. Hollywood is all about relationships. Relationships are all about getting along – even when you’re getting screwed. Make waves, and you may never be hired again. Unless, of course, you are An Established White Male Director or Actor, in which case everything from rape (statutory or aided by rufies) to drugs to assault to crazy-assed religious requirements are forgiven. You might not even have to do a highly publicized stint in rehab!

As soon as the company gave me notice, I updated the old resume, began an online job hunt, and put the word out. While applicants might land lots of looks and some interviews from the internet angle, networking is how most jobs are landed, at least in Hollywood. You can have a misspelled CV, but if a friend of a friend vouches for you, that will carry the day. Most jobs have a preferred candidate before the main pool of applicants even find out about them.

Old Boss B and The Empress of International Sales gave me glowing recommendations. I got a decent number of interviews. I thought most of the interviews went well. I got called back for more interviews. I got told I was one of the top three candidates – three times.

I didn’t get hired.

Even more depressing was sitting in the waiting room of one Massive Production Company, watching producers and screenwriters hype each other up for their creative meetings with development. I could tell they were above-the-line folk by their multi-colored hair, retro-Bohemian garb, piercings, and tattoos. Artistic, you know. Very hip. Meanwhile, receptionists regularly mistook my suit-clad form for a lawyer and an accountant.

I looked at Ms. Tri-colored Coiffure and thought, “That should be me. Not the hair, that’s definitely not conservative me, but I should be pitching scripts. That’s why I have the damned MFA, right?” Then I remembered that I needed to eat, and that it wasn’t fair for Andy to carry the financial burden alone. There was a mortgage. Cat food. Health insurance. Car insurance. I needed a job, even if the hours and the commute meant there wasn’t much time left for creative endeavors.

I also needed to figure out why no one was hiring me. I suspected that the head of my former company had put out the word that I was a “difficult employee” after I’d sued them. What else could it be? I knew no one else had the academic background I did (cuz, ha, all my collegiate peers were all off at NBC or rewriting scripts and shit), and I had excellent experience. If anything, I was overqualified.

I was eventually ushered into the office for the head of the Massive Production Company. He happened to be European, which made the job even more attractive. No, no, get your filthy minds out of the gutter. He had teen children, for chrissakes. What’s attractive about a European boss is the hours, especially if they are Austrian, Danish, or German. In my previous jobs, I was never off-duty. I had conference calls with Australia at midnight, and my bosses called me on the weekends all the time. (Boss B interrupted my Valentine’s Day evening, in fact. AFTER he was no longer my boss.) But European Bosses of the Germanic variety never bothered their assistants after 5 PM or on weekends. (This was easier for them than Old Hollywood Dinosaurs like Boss B, as they could manage their own smart phones and knew how to turn on a computer.)

Mr. European Executive was the Holy Grail of Hollywood Bosses. His assistants worked their eight hours and went home. They could sleep in on Saturdays unmolested, even when a film tanked in Turkey.

Our first interview went well. So well that Mr. European Executive invited me back, had his assistant take me through her daily tasks, and talked salary and perks. I was sure I had the job.

And then he nodded at the big, sparkly ring on the third finger of my left hand. “Boss B says you are recently married?”

“Yep! So no need to worry about a crazy, partying lifestyle.”

“And children?”

I looked at him in horror. “Oh, God, no. No plans for kids. Definitely not anytime soon.”

Mr. Europe waved a dismissive hand. “Women always say that.”

I shuddered. “Look, I have four much younger siblings that I babysat until college, and that’s pretty much put me off children forever.”

Mr. Europe snorted. “You will change your mind.”

“If I haven’t changed it to please my Chinese in-laws, it’s not changing. No babies. Not for years. If ever.”

Mr. Europe didn’t look convinced.

Turns out, he wasn’t convinced.

The head of HR from Massive Production Company called me a few days later. “Hi, Autumn. We all thought you were awesome, but in the end, Mr. Europe opted to go with a different candidate. But you made the top three, and we’ll keep you in mind for any future positions.”

“Oh. Okay. Of course I am disappointed, because I thought we hit it off well. Do you think it’s because I just got married and he didn’t believe me when I told him I didn’t plan on having kids soon?”

I heard a thump. I’m pretty sure it was HR’s head hitting her desk, because the next thing I heard was her agonized moan: “Oh, my God, did he ask if you were planning on getting pregnant?”

“Pretty much.”

“Ugh, I’ve told him and told him that he can’t ask that! I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay. You might want to tell him again, though.”

********

So I didn’t get that job. Nor the one after that, nor the one after that, nor the one after that, and onto twenty, or infinity. Apparently a newly married woman is a hot-potato that no one wants to touch in the Hollywood (and probably plenty of other industries). Even a European Boss can’t stomach the idea of his executive assistant taking maternity leave.

Andy got used to having someone at home, handling everything from washing machine repairs to vet visits. When the Empress of International Sales resurfaced with a new company, way, way up near Malibu, she offered me a spot as her assistant once more.

“You’d be spending hours in the car again,” Andy objected.

“But I’d have a paycheck. And she needs someone who knows what they’re doing for this new company.”

“We don’t need the money, though. Not since I got that promotion,” Andy argued. “So you’d REALLY only be doing it as a favor to your old boss.”

“I guess. Aren’t you tired of me being a kept woman?”

“Not if it means you start coming home after 9 PM again every night, exhausted, bitching about crappy drivers, and pounding on the table with your knife while screaming, ‘Where’s my dinner!?’

“I only did that ONCE!”

“Uh-huh.”

“Point taken.”

So I didn’t take the job. Instead, I did some contract work covering scripts. I networked with old friends and worked on my own scripts. I found a manager, and within a year, I was again in the office of a production company.

The receptionist smiled at me and asked, “Can I help you?”

“I’m Autumn Ashbough. And I’m here to meet with John.

“He’s in development.”

 

 

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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

30 thoughts on “The Hunt (#139)”

  1. I was really hoping this post was going to end with you suing Mr. Europe for gender discrimination. Please tell me you decided to do that later?

    1. LOL, yeah, I totally would have had a case and then I would NEVER have gotten a job again. Two threats to sue?

      But if it makes you feel any better, he made some bad decisions and got fired. 🙂

    1. There’s a part 2, a part 3, etc. But there’s an in-law visit and house repairs that don’t make sense unless you figure out that I’m mostly at home. In fact, we didn’t get the dog until after I wasn’t working full-time.

  2. Damn. I can’t believe that it was so blatant! I’m glad that everything turned out well and that, despite being a hot potato, you trusted yourself to eventually land something better!

    1. Oh, yes, it’s definitely blatant and common. Racism, sexism, discrimination, etc. When various directors or actors wind up in criminal court on multiple counts, everyone’s like, “It’s not possible! Someone would have said something!”

      No. No one says anything. Not if they want work.

  3. If Hollywood is “all about getting along – even when you’re getting screwed,” I guess that explains why Gretchen Carlson didn’t sue FOX News until after she got fired. Even though she waited, it took courage, because, as you said, “Make waves, and you may never be hired again.” She has a high enough profile that she probably will. Plus, like you, she knows how to write. (She published an autobiography last year.)

    And by the way, could you imagine being propositioned by Roger Ailes? Yuck!

    I hate those questions about getting pregnant. OMG! Maybe the only way women will get a fair shake in the United States is by placing more women in powerful positions–not only president (but yes president).

    1. You are undoubtedly right about Gretchen Carlson. She had to decide if the AIles aggravation was worth having a job. And she’s so closely associated with Fox that I don’t know if another network will hire her…wait. CNN keeps hiring Trump’s people, so yeah, she can probably go there, but she won’t make close to her Fox salary.

      I think the more women there are, and the more vocal they are, and the more fathers realize that their daughters will be in the workplace, the better it is for all women.

  4. I don’t know how long ago this happened but I hope you landed on your feet eventually. Good thing Andy has a stable job.

    But it shows that all the -isms–racism, sexism, ageism and so onare endemic in society, in spite of what some social commentators say publically.

    I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this story!

    1. Thanks, 808! And yes, Andy has the job with the health insurance and paycheck. I chose wisely, although I dream of making enough money that he can retire. Someday.

      Well, the story is going to shift back to dogs, house, and the dreaded in-law visit. But I figured I’d better explain why I was home so much for the dog and the parents.

      There were times when I wished I was working until 8 again, though.

  5. Oooooh. At least the HR person was honest with you about what she thought of Mr European. It certainly is gender discrimination you faced there, and from the sounds of it it was a one on one interview? Usually jobs these days have a few people on the panel (at least two or three in Australia) and there has to be interviewees of both genders present.

    Having a job vs having no job. The latter is frustrating because job hunting is a full time job in itself. Resumes need to be worked on, then there’s finding your way to the interview, working out what the company really wants…all the while you pinch pennies. Glad it all turned out okay for you within a year. I’m really keen on reading the next part to this series. You left us hanging 😀

    1. I have a feeling HR sat in on all future interviews conducted by Mr. European. But, like I said, powerful people in Entertainment don’t necessarily care if they break the law, so long as they are not inconvenienced. They also get used to no one telling them no.

      Yeah, job hunting is painful. So much rejection. Yet it’s nothing compared to being a writer’s rejections!

  6. Ugh, that question… do those men not think about their wives? their daughters? their female friends? society, in general? WHO is going to pay their pensions if no one has babies because they are not allowed to be away from the office a few months? GRRRR! and WHY do they have to ask that question?

    (Wait, do you have pensions in the US?).

    1. Some jobs have pensions — usually those with unions, like teachers, police, or really, really big companies. Or the military. But they are uncommon.

      They don’t have to ask that question. They shouldn’t ask the question. And yet they do, because they would rather have a whole company sued than be inconvenienced. And they are rarely sued.

  7. I can’t believe that this crap is still happening in this day and age… seriously, not hiring you because he thought you were going to get pregnant? UGHHH!!! Recently my cousin was also “fired” because she wanted to work part time after her 3 week maternity leave, but they said you either work full time or you’re gone. When I look at statistics about other countries and maternity leave, I’m always shocked and amazed that America is so behind.

    I was surprised in China… despite it being such a corrupt country, maternity leave isn’t half bad. At my old company women could take up to 1 year of maternity leave with job security and half pay. I also heard in China it’s quite normal to at leave have one years absence with job security… and this is CHINA!

    Well if I get married soon I fear for my chance at a career now…ughh… please tell me not all companies are sexist jerks 🙁

    I’m glad Andy talked you out of taking that job. I think nothing is more miserable than a long commute on a daily basis (especially in L.A.). NOTHING! And with all that extra time you were able to pursue what you wanted! I’m inspired!

    I am excited to read part 3!

    1. I think the entertainment industry is worse than most industries because they can be. So don’t lose heart!

      Yes, the U.S. is beyond backwards when it comes to parental leave. China seems far more progressive. Unless only a woman can take parental leave?

      Get married. Just hide your ring.

  8. I thought I had the market on impossible bosses and 24/7 jobs cornered with my career managing corporate law firms. Apparently not! Glad it all worked out for you in the end. Somehow it always seems to fall into place.

  9. Wait. Who’s John? o-o

    And I’ve just learned the pain of job searching. T-T It really truly does suck. Just like you, I thought that my first job interview went well, only to get a similar message to yours. Another candidate was chosen. Though, if I am to think a bit more about it, it’s somewhat good that I didn’t get the job, considering the commute.

    At some point, when I was little I was also thinking of screen-writing. And book writing/publishing. xD Always wished my stories were turned into movies. And that among my friends were people such as JK Rowling and Johnny Depp. Ahahaha.

    So, what kind of job do you have now, if you don’t mind me asking? (I bet it’s something super cool!)

    1. Stories of my job right now will have to wait until I get to them in the timeline. 🙂 Next up, more dog stories, home improvement, and the return of the dreaded in-laws.

      John is a random name I picked for one of the producers I met with. Although I think more of them were women. Should’ve been Joan, probably.

      Commutes are awful. Avoid whenever possible!

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