Not long ago, I was working casting on a reality show. It’s very different from (read: “less professional than“) a scripted show. In scripted, the actors have scheduled appointments; they have scenes that they’re supposed to have prepared; they’re polite, but focused on the task at hand.
For reality shows, it’s basically a cattle call. These people who have no actual job to attend to on a weekday morning come in, hang out in the waiting room, chat, chow down whatever snacks have been laid out. Nobody seems to have put any thought into what they’re doing here, other than the women in too much makeup and not enough clothing.
As much shit as I give actors, at least there’s a talent involved. A reality show contestant is just a narcissist. But those aren’t the narcissists I actually intended to write about today.
As we were setting up the office, the casting director sent my fellow PA down to the Barnes & Noble to pick up some magazines for the waiting room. (It’s not like the applicants were rehearsing their sides.)
Here’s what she came back with: People, Us Weekly, In Touch, Star, OK!, Allure, In Style, Vogue, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Seventeen.
Seriously, I’ve only heard of half of these magazines. I thought Marie Claire sold pies, and OK! looks like a fake magazine from a movie about celebrities.
Plus, Teen Vogue? Holy shit. Something has gone seriously wrong, when teenagers are reading Vogue.
Back to the point, do you notice a pattern in these selections? Maybe the lack of, say, Car & Driver, Popular Mechanics, or hell, even Esquire. What about a goddamn Time Magazine or Newsweek?
Yes, a number of the applicants would probably enjoy gossip magazines; many of them did, in fact. But several flipped through the selections, then dropped them in annoyance. I’m sure some of the readers picked them up for lack of anything else to do.
Look, we’re talking about reality show contestants. I’m not expecting The Economist or the New England Journal of Medicine. But this girl was obviously buying magazines for herself. It was a Barnes & Noble, not the supermarket checkout; she had other options.
This is exactly what a production assistant shouldn’t do. A PA’s primary job is to serve others, even if what they want is stupid and ridiculous. And when you’re given a vague request, like buy a bunch of magazines for the waiting room, using your own judgement doesn’t mean buying what you like; it means buying what you think other might like, too.