Sunday, December 23, 2018

THE MAILROOM: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up

THE MAILROOM: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up by David Rensin reveals why Harvard MBAs fight to turn down secure six-digit corporate salaries to start work at a major agency for less than $400 a week; what it takes to appease impossible bosses, outsmart the competition, and "agent" the agents; and how a hungry, star-struck kid can become the next Geffen or Diller by sorting mail, eavesdropping on crucial conversations, and trying anything to get noticed. Reaction: these interviews, mostly covering the decades prior to our own, are revelatory and anecdotally interesting for anyone wanting to know how The Entourage’s (Endeavor’s) Ari and many other agents and agencies operate. There are a laundry list of interviews, with dirt shed on each. Apparently loyalty (as in DC politics) can be bought for a price. The team players switch teams in a heartbeat for better parking elsewhere, and rat each other out for advantage…worse than pro football. It’s not all a “sex slave versus master” dual of wills, as in the TV series, but Hollywood competition makes it difficult for legit and honorable people to thrive, although some do. “Mailroom” is a broad term here to mean, not just delivering scripts after hours, but also making phone calls, filling the candy jar, or carrying a giant inflatable ornament to a party on the roof of your car, while getting treated like someone who doesn’t have an MBA but is a nearly homeless person—whom you might well be. Why do college grads put themselves through all this? For the chance to talk to stars on the phone arranging meetings, on the off chance that a five minute aside in some corner office five years later might turn you into a “made” person, on the path to millions. (You lick boots until you can put them on and kick other butts.) It’s all here, too. Confessions, asides, name dropping, ego tantrums, and the agency equivalent to the casting couch. Did Michael Ovitz really start out in the mailroom, and does the new generation of agents and actors rely on family ties while feeling entitled without working long and hard? Find out in this recommended listen, narrated with consummate skill by actor and Earphones award winner Sean Runneth, new to audio on Christmas Day. ...And if there’s any agents reading this, I have a prequel script to the 2004 Tom Cruise movie Collateral in this ebook. See also Krakatoa by Simon Winchester.

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