Secret Assistant Past: Hollywood Players Who Used to Fetch Coffee and Dry Cleaning
Power begets power, right? There’s no clearer demonstration of that than the desks of these nine industry executives, who themselves spawned the execs listed beneath their names.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
In the 2003 book The Mailroom: Hollywood History From the Bottom Up, author David Rensin recounts an old William Morris Agency advertisement that promised would-be players, "The little mailroom employees of today are the big power brokers of tomorrow." That was true in the industry's early days and, in many ways, it's still true today.
Entertainment remains one of the few businesses where pure apprenticeship is the norm and a certain degree of dues-paying is expected of its young entrants (yes, even the entitled millennials). Those who want to run the town often start by schlepping coffee and dry cleaning, managing a calendar, and "rolling" calls for those who currently do. It's both a tutorial on the nuances of an idiosyncratic, relationship-driven business and a de facto endurance test to weed out those whose passions might reside elsewhere.
But as many current and former assistants can attest, not all desks are created equal. Some executives, agents and creatives see their assistants as the hired help. Other bosses instead see themselves as mentors and boast a long line of successful erstwhile underlings they have shepherded. "I've proudly spent my career cultivating some of the best executives and leaders of our industry," says Electus founder and chairman Ben Silverman, who, as one of the early agents and then executives specializing in unscripted television, mentored some of today's top players in this field. In conjunction with the Next Gen issue, THR decided to shake Hollywood's family tree to figure out who got their start on whose desk. Not surprisingly, editors began hearing the same names over and over, which led to this graphic. Call them the Power Desks.