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Secret Agent Man

L.A. B.S.

L.A. B.S.
The other day, I was at my neighborhood Starbucks buying some agent fuel from the Robert Pattinson wannabe behind the counter. As I was walking out, I overheard the kid say to his friend, "Can you cover for me later? I've got a pitch meeting at Fox."

That little moment tells you everything you need to know if you're thinking about moving to the city of the angels.

Ah, Los Angeles. It's a place where the sun never stops shining and the idiots never stop talking. You see, this town runs on lies and exaggerations. The truth isn't important here. The only thing that matters is what people believe. I will spit in the face of my hottest client if that kid really had a pitch meeting at Fox.

Back in the day, I started out as an assistant on a top agent's desk. My boss was like a female Ari Gold but not as nice. As time went by, I found myself constantly impressed by how the other assistants always had deals going on the side. I felt like I was missing the boat. I shared this concern with my boss, and she laughed. "You need to get smart," she said. "I can't have an idiot for an assistant." Then she went on to explain they were all lying. I was shocked. That couldn't be right. But I slowly realized that none of those deals ever seemed to actually come true. They would just fade away, to be replaced by new ones.

So why does everyone lie here? Is it something in the water? Could the Santa Ana winds be at fault? No. It's a survival mechanism. If you're in the entertainment industry, you lie so others will think you're doing better than you really are. This is crucial, because if enough people believe you're a player, then there's a slight chance you might believe it too. I know that kind of thinking sounds stupid, but in Hollywood we call it "self-actualization."

The thing you need to remember is that L.A. actors have black belts in this behavior. When you join your first acting class here, you're going to hear a lot of nonsense from the other students. It will make you feel like a total loser. They'll tell you all about their meetings and auditions, and when one of them misses class, it's because he or she was on set that day. Are they all lying? Maybe not, but I'm sure there's a whole lot of exaggerating going on.

For example, an actor friend of mine moved here from Chicago about a year ago, and he was really bummed because one of the students in his class, a student who didn't even have an agent, had just booked a pilot. I smiled at him the way Yoda smiled at Luke. For the most part, pilots are produced by studios and licensed by networks. You have to test at both to be cast as a series regular, and they will not test you if you don't have an agent or a lawyer to negotiate the contract. So after doing a little research, we discovered that the actor had booked a nonunion "pilot" for an unknown producer who was hoping to sell his project to a network. From where I sit, that's not a pilot. It's a home movie.

I told my friend, "If you want to stay sane, learn the difference between a lie and the truth, and learn it fast. Because if you don't, this town will eat you alive and then ask for seconds."

So before you move here, run down to your local hardware store and pick up a high-end B.S. detector. And if the security people at the airport give you any guff about carrying it on, just tell them you're in the entertainment industry. That usually works for me.

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