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How to Get Away with Writing a Hollywood Assistants Handbook

When I first moved to LA, the only things I knew about being an assistant in the industry were through books I had read. It was only natural that one of my first stop in ‘Merica was to another bookshop (Borders) to check out their collection.

I ended up getting a promising guide entitled “The Hollywood Assistants Handbook“.
The book touts “86 Rules for Aspiring Power Players”, all conveyed in a pretty snarky tone.
(And before you ask: yes, it’s still available.)

As I was cleaning my bookshelf last week, I picked up the book to see if the content was still relevant.
Before I had a chance to glance inside, I did a double-take noticing one of the authors– Peter Nowalk.
As in, the creator of ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder.
Clearly, some of the advice he gave worked out for him!

The book was published in 2008, so there’s definitely information that’s a bit outdated (specifically relating to technology or hot-spots).
That said, it still packs some fun and useful advice.
Interestingly, a lot of the perspective on industry bosses is through the lens of “you need to accept you’ll get a jerk boss and do their insane bidding”.

You can listen to Peter Nowalk and co-author Hillary Stamm discuss the book, way back in 2008 on KCRW’s The Business (starts at 10:00).
2008, what a time trip!

It’s always fun/cringe-inducing to look back at your past writing, as Peter Nowalk attested in 2014:

VULTURE: You co-wrote a book called “The Hollywood Assistant’s Handbook: 86 Rules For Aspiring Power Players.” You are a power player yourself.
PETER NOWALK: That is so embarrassing.

The best part of this story however isn’t that Nowalk got a book published– it’s what happened to his professional career afterwards.
Thanks (in part) to putting himself out there, he ended up with a literary manager, and the curiosity of Betsy Beers (Shonda Rhimes’ producing partner). She read his script, passed it on to Rhimes.
Cut to Nowalk beginning his professional TV writing career on ABC’s (and Rhimes’) Private Practice.

Moral of the post? Harness all your experiences (both professional and personal). Know when to use them to advance your career on the business side (in addition to applying them in your writing).

Peter Nowalk did it, and less than a decade later he’s able to justify murder on national television.
Or something to that effect.

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