"Everything Goes Through Me": Assistants Behind Oscar-Nominated Films Speak Out (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Young Entertainment Activists
Assistants Luke Pastor, Rachel Byrd and Maia Nelles-Sager, as photographed by Greg Gorman.

In the wake of #PayUpHollywood, the group Young Entertainment Activists has released a video highlighting support staff behind 'Joker,' 'Marriage Story,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Little Women' and more.

By this point in awards season, top-billed creators and performers behind Oscar-nominated films have received more than their share of press and advertising coverage. Others involved in the lauded films, particularly those on support staff, tend to go less celebrated.

"Assistants Behind the Oscars," a new featurette released by Young Entertainment Activists on Friday morning, spotlights one of these less-applauded groups. In the wake of #PayUpHollywood, a movement that began in October 2019 to improve pay and work conditions for Hollywood assistants, which YEA has supported, the video gathers assistants from Joker, Marriage Story, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman and Little Women to discuss their roles on the nominated films.

"I'm the liaison between my boss, between the studio, between the managers, between the agents, between the talent, between the crew," Rachel Byrd, a producer's assistant on Just Mercy, says in the video during a segment on assistants' responsibilities on nominated films. As for Steven Martinez, a marketing and distribution assistant on Joker, he was "coordinating all our schedules for all the high-level strategy meetings, all our planning meetings, media, you name it, all of it goes through me." 

Several of the assistants spoke to why their projects meant so much to them. "It was always a dream to be on a movie like Joker," LeMicah Levert, an editorial and VFX assistant on the film, says. "I literally walk around with a graphic novel called Absolute Joker and Absolute Lex Luthor [Absolute Luthor/Joker] in the back of my car. Like, it just stays in the back of my car." Byrd adds, "I want to be a part of more stories that are about people's humanity and about us connecting to one another." 

Luke Pastor, an office production assistant on Little Women, expresses how he hopes the assistants' words will resonate with viewers: "I hope that you enjoy the people and you stick around for the credits. Dozens and dozens and dozens of people come together to do the impossible, to make a movie. Everyone has to be on the same page, under a common vision, and as assistants, we're really integral to that process."

YEA released the video hours after it premiered at an "assistants only" screening of Kitty Green's film The Assistant at the ArcLight Hollywood. Following the video and the feature, which depicts a day in the life of an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-like entertainment mogul, the audience broke out into a meditation and town hall discussion about workplace harassment, gender disparities and Hollywood's "pay your dues" culture.

Allison Begalman, YEA's executive director, says in a call after the screening that The Assistant was "triggering" to many of the assistants present due to an industry culture and "abuse of power dynamics" it depicts. Several attendees left the screening crying. During the discussion section, the deliberate lack of people of color in the film, office allies, gender pronouns and mental health were discussed. The point of the event was to "empower" the assistant group, Begalman says: "We do have access to huge power from the desks that we're at," she says. "Being able to empower this community of young people...that's the way we can change the industry."

The group has additionally shot assistants on Oscar-nominated films for portraits, which are available to view on YEA's Instagram page. See some of the portraits and the video below.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

John Thomas was a Manager Assistant at @theirishmanfilm and @justmercyfilm. He’s one of the #AssistantsBehindTheOscars appearing in our upcoming campaign. “The really exciting thing about how the industry has developed is that it's been able to empower different voices and bring to light stories that people might not have had the chance to tell 10, 20 years ago... Just Mercy is a really exemplary film of telling a story that no one's really familiar with and doing it in a way that makes that really unique vision... The Irishman is very melancholy. It's very thoughtful in the way that it approaches regret and life. But it's also injected with so much humor. Being able to effectively make that journey so funny at the same time is just really masterful to watch.” #AssistantsBehindTheOscars will be out this Friday 31st! Picture by @greggormanphoto

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Rachel Byrd was the Line Producer’s Assistant at @justmercyfilm. She is one of the #AssistantsBehindTheOscars appearing in our upcoming campaign. “My super power in this industry is my intersectionality. It's being a woman. It's being black.It’s just being a human that's living life with eyes open. I want to work on projects that remind us that we're more similar than we are different.That is why I'm in this business. That is why I'm in this industry. Because when you watch a movie and you see a bit of yourself in, no matter who that person is that you're watching, it just reminds you that we're all human.” Picture by @greggormanphoto

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