Hollywood’s Assistants Are Underpaid, Exploited—and Fighting Back (2022)

Jayce Jurado is pretty sure she is the only person to make it to Hollywood from where she grew up. The 30-year-old Filipino American hails from Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands. Given that Saipan houses only 48,220 people, Jurado is probably right.

For years, everyone Jurado met in the industry seemed to have the same backstory—a friend or family member who had some connection that landed them a job. She, meanwhile, found herself networking with strangers who often struggled to understand basic facets of her identity. (Yes, she’s a U.S. citizen; the islands from which she hails are officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. And yes, she’s Filipino as well.)

Jurado has spent years trying to establish herself in an industry that was built by and for people whose lives look nothing like hers—and sustained significant trauma from abusive bosses in the process. But she experienced something of an epiphany during the pandemic. And it all started when she got laid off.

“I just remember stepping back and thinking, ‘What the fuck am I doing with my life?... I sacrificed my twenties to the gods of the industry and have nothing to show for it,’” Jurado told The Daily Beast.

Imagine her surprise when she began making more on unemployment than she had at pretty much any job during her six-year career. “This is the first time I really feel stable,” she said.

She’s not the only one, either.

The Daily Beast spoke with 17 former and current support staff members who’ve worked as script coordinators, writer’s assistants, showrunner’s assistants, executive assistants, and production assistants. All of them said their jobs’ relentless demands and poor pay are unlivable. Even worse, they said, is doing this essential work in the same room as colleagues performing the same amount of labor for tens of thousands of dollars more than them.

“The constant interacting with people whose economic situation is incomprehensibly different from yours, who also often seem to show no interest or concern in the challenges you’re facing, and whose jobs would be frankly impossible without the job that you're doing? It all weighs on you,” said a support staffer of 10 years.

Hollywood assistants have not always received the consideration they deserve as a labor force. But they understand exactly why some restaurant and retail workers have refused to return to work after discovering that enhanced unemployment benefits pay better than their grueling jobs. After all, they’re living on office snacks to keep their grocery bills under $30 per week while their bosses tweet their emphatic support for the effort.

An assistant of seven years recalled one instance in which they watched several writers compare Rolex watches—one was mulling which to buy his wife for Mother’s Day. Meanwhile, she noted, “Our writer’s PA is sitting out here making $11 an hour. It’s disgusting.”

As one assistant of 10 years put it, “It’s like, ‘If we keep you poor, then we’ll always be in power.’”

It’s really hard when you make $30,000 a year and one of your bosses is trying to get her kid into a kindergarten that costs $50,000.

Jurado, like almost all of Hollywood’s assistants, has grown accustomed to jobs that pay below the Los Angeles low-income threshold but demand pretty much all of her time and energy. IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) Local 871 Vice President Marisa Shipley told The Daily Beast that members have reported putting off having children and even being unhoused while working full-time: “No one in this industry should be saying that. The industry has actively ignored this for multiple years at this point.”

The IATSE represents behind-the-scenes crafts including production coordinators, art department coordinators, writer’s assistants and script coordinators. The union is tentatively scheduled to resume bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, for a new contract on Aug. 17.

In a joint statement, the 13 IATSE production locals called for livable wages, pension and health benefits, as well as better working conditions and “reasonable rest” for their members. “These basic worker rights are the cornerstone of the labor movement, and we all are committed to fighting for them in order to create a more humane and equitable workplace,” the statement read.

Droves of assistants, meanwhile, have begun sharing their horror stories on social media using the hashtags #IASolidarity and #IALivingWage.

“If I could get people outside of the industry to understand one thing about this moment, it’s that [this is] really no different from any other labor issue,” a production assistant of 10 years told The Daily Beast. “We’re not coal miners, but we’re a labor force.”

Writer’s assistant jobs used to be a pathway toward becoming a staff writer after a few years of good work, several sources said. But the system now seems to run on nepotism and chance—and those who strike out can get stuck for a decade or longer.

“You are constantly trying to nail Jell-O to a tree,” one assistant who spoke with The Daily Beast anonymously said. “And that Jell-O is your career.”

John August, who worked as an assistant for two years in the 1990s before becoming a screenwriter, observed on his Scriptnotes podcast that today’s writer’s assistants can get stuck making lateral moves for up to a decade or more. Wages have barely budged since then, he added. Although $16 per hour, the current union scale for writer’s assistants, might have provided a comfortable living in 1994, it doesn’t go very far in 2021’s Los Angeles.

Depending on their department and title, a support staff member might handle legal clearances; map out the Byzantine continuities of various cinematic universes; oversee budgets; or save a hospital drama tens of thousands of dollars by anonymizing X-rays. Script coordinators can (and often d0) save a production more than their annual salary—and up to a few million—by catching one mistake someone else made.

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A writer’s assistant can even be the one to help write the line that breaks the internet. A recent example: WandaVision creator Jac Schaeffer credited her assistant, Laura Monti, with perfecting the show’s most viral line: “What is grief but love persevering?

But average pay for department coordinators, assistant production coordinators, script coordinators, and writer’s assistants all fall below California’s low income threshold, Shipley noted. These positions, once a gateway into the industry, have become yet another obstacle for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of money to burn, famous parents, or well-connected friends.

Student loans have become such a burden that at least one source spent years working industry-adjacent jobs before becoming an assistant because they could not afford to make so little while paying $1,100 per month in loans alone.

Conditions are not this bad for every below-the-line position in Hollywood. As Shipley notes, male-dominated groups like the grip and teamsters’ unions have historically been able to negotiate better deals. To understand why some support positions earn such dismissive wages even despite unionizing, Shipley suggests, one might consider these crafts’ history; several of these positions emerged from secretarial roles and remain female-dominated despite Hollywood’s disproportionately male workforce.

Eighty-one percent of art department coordinators are women, as are 64 percent of assistant production coordinators, 55 percent of writer’s assistants, and 47 percent of script coordinators, she said, according to internal IATSE 871 data.

After that Scriptnotes episode debuted in 2019, a swarm of assistants began sharing their stories online. Television writers Liz Alper and Deirdre Mangan, both of whom got their start as assistants, created the hashtag #PayUpHollywood—which became an organizing force behind the anecdotes and eventually released a survey of 1,516 assistants that returned several chilling results.

According to the survey, 64 percent of respondents reported annual wages of $50,000 or less; Los Angeles considers anyone making below $53,600 rent burdened, a press release noted. The vast majority of respondents (78 percent) were white. And 79 percent reported that they received financial help from friends or family to make ends meet.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much one “leans in,” either.

After five years working in the industry, one assistant said, her only successful negotiation raised her pay by 25 cents per hour. An assistant of seven years said she’s tried to negotiate pay for every job she’s taken, whether or not she has a pre-existing relationship; each time, she said, either the showrunner or a line producer told her that the pay was a non-negotiable studio standard, and that if she didn’t like it she didn’t have to take the job.

“I was making $1,000 as a writer’s assistant when I was 23,” one source said. “That was 10 years ago, and now I’m making $1,250 as a script coordinator which is a way harder job.”

They don’t see me as a human being but rather as a machine who is available 24/7 to them.

For the past four or five years, Shipley said, IATSE 871 members have tried to collectively push for better wages, even outside of negotiations. It’s not uncommon, she said, for those who manage to negotiate a higher rate to see their hours cut—leaving them with a lower gross wage than their original take-home.

Multiple interviewees disclosed that they’ve accrued credit card debt in the five-figure range just to cover their costs of living and student loans each month. A showrunner’s assistant recalled paying $400 each month out of pocket for health insurance because her job didn’t grant her all of the benefits provided under the IATSE guild contract. She once waited seven years between dentist appointments because she did not have dental insurance. The #PayUpHollywood survey found that 67 percent of respondents held a second job; several sources I spoke with have worked as nannies, babysitters, Uber drivers, tutors, and more to make ends meet.

Almost every assistant I spoke with has put off at least one major life milestone, if not multiple, because of the daily and financial strain of their jobs—be it finally living alone or waiting to date, get married, or have children.

An assistant who’s worked in support staff for more than 10 years told The Daily Beast she’d planned to establish her career in her twenties and focus on finding a romantic partner afterward.

But getting to know someone usually costs money early on, and that’s not a luxury many can afford in Los Angeles on minimum wage. “It becomes such a huge thing when you’re an assistant making so little money.” Besides, she added, “You don’t have time for a dating life—like, at all... It has this ripple effect in your life of feeling stunted.”

It would be one thing if there were any end in sight—but after 10 years, this assistant said she has still never worked on a show that survived past 12 episodes. She’s not sure how much longer she can wait for a promotion that will allow her to build a life outside of work.

Another writer’s assistant explained through tears that she’s avoided dating altogether because she’s afraid to have a conversation about children with a potential significant other. “It scares me knowing I could never be pregnant,” she said, “because I’d want to keep the baby and I can’t afford a kid. I can’t afford pregnancy, and that would kill me.”

Multiple women said that at one point or another, a colleague has suggested they freeze their eggs. (“Yeah, I don’t have $10,000 to spend on that,” a former showrunner’s assistant said.)

Another longtime assistant noted that each of the four shows she had worked on in the past four years featured a storyline centered on fertility issues. Multiple women in every one of those writer’s rooms were openly struggling with fertility, she said, because they’d been forced to wait so long before trying to conceive.

But perhaps most demoralizing, several sources said, is having to manage all of this financial stress while their bosses trade vacation stories from Aruba. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in an office, on my fifth late-late night of the week, sitting at a table where every single person there is making 10 times as much money as me,” one script coordinator said. “And I’m doing the exact same work as them.”

“It’s really hard,” a former showrunner’s assistant added with just a hint of acid in her voice, “when you make $30,000 a year and one of your bosses is trying to get her kid into a kindergarten that costs $50,000.”

Equally infuriating, if not more? When one of those same supervisors makes diversity, inclusion, and equity part of their brand.

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“All these people get on these panel discussions, and get Hollywood Reporter and Deadline spreads about the work they’re doing for diversity and inclusion,” a former assistant who recently became a staff writer said. “It’s like, are you doing that for the person sitting next to you?”

I have lost so many more friends who have committed suicide on this journey, being a writer working in the entertainment industry.

The support staff-to-writer pipeline has not adjusted to accommodate streaming. While broadcast seasons typically span dozens of episodes, these shows tend to run shorter—meaning there are fewer scripts to go around. Hiatuses between seasons can now also last a year or more, so support staffers can’t afford to wait for a renewal before looking for a new job. Because these series also usually run for fewer seasons, they create fewer opportunities for assistants to get promoted.

Historically, support staff counted on freelance script work to expand their credentials and pad their savings before the inevitable break between shows. Script assignments go to staff writers first; only afterward do assistants have a shot at whatever is left. But some showrunners would rather pay a fine than pay their assistants for freelance work as mandated by the the WGA’s agreement with studios, a writer’s assistant said. Instead of giving freelance to assistants, they said, showrunners will even occasionally give all the work to their friends.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly named IATSE, rather than the WGA, in the above paragraph. We regret the error.

Perhaps the shadiest maneuver that some showrunners have allegedly adopted, however, is to encourage assistants to provide freelance work for no compensation. They might offer the chance to compose an outline, multiple scenes, or more.

Each piece of writing on a given show is worth a certain amount of compensation, as dictated by the WGA’s minimum basic agreement with the studios. On top of the legal implications of skirting these requirements, free writing offers create an impossible bind for assistants desperate to showcase their potential after years languishing in support roles.

“I have personally helped co-write documents in their entirety that were worth thousands of dollars that a different writer’s name went on—for which I received no pay and no credit,” a script coordinator said.

At one point, the source recalled, they co-wrote a document that the showrunner roundly disliked—except for the portions the source had written, which the showrunner loved. “And the writer was very quick to give me credit, which is wonderful… Then I go home and I’m making $16-whatever an hour every week… That haunts me.”

In spite of how competitive assistant positions are, managers often treat support staff as though they are easily replaceable—and over time, that dismissal can eat away at one’s self-worth. Studios are cutting corners by folding multiple assistant jobs together for no additional pay, several sources said. But even in those jobs, their years of post-secondary education and experience suddenly seem to become immaterial.

Script coordinators, often the only person on a given production who can do that job, face the opposite problem: They’re always on call and can’t take a day off because no one else knows how to do their job or, too often, what their job even is.

“I am fully understanding of the amount of work that it takes to make a TV show, and the analogy of it being a train that is set in motion and can’t stop,” one script coordinator said. “...What I’m resentful of is the many, many times I’ve had to work crazy hours because of others’ whims, their poor time management, the fact that they have zero concept of what my job actually entails, the fact that they don’t see me as a human being but rather as a machine who is available 24/7 to them—like I’m a laptop that remains plugged in all day and night and not a person who needs to eat meals and sleep every evening.”

Assistants don’t think making TV should be easy, the script coordinator added. “We just don’t think it should be made unnecessarily and unbearably difficult for no reason.”

A chief problem of the entertainment industry, one source observed, is that there is no HR department. “There is no one dictating or regulating what jobs are… And when there is an HR department, the HR department works for the studio; it doesn’t work for you and the show. They will always protect the studio.

As it happens, Krystal Dinsberg had already built a successful career in Colorado as an HR business consultant while taking production jobs on the side before she decided to move to Los Angeles last year. After George Floyd’s murder, she found herself thinking more and more urgently about bringing well-written Black characters to screen, particularly in network comedy where they remain scarce.

Despite her extensive job experience, Dinsberg was surprised to realize just how crucial connections really are in Hollywood. It’s not that qualifications aren’t important, Dinsberg said—all of these jobs are hyper-competitive. Still, relationships are now far more crucial to her success than they used to be.

To studio and network executives, Dirkes added another admonition: ‘If you’re not gonna promote us, you’ve got to pay us.’

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Benefits and vacations are usually part of the package when one takes a job in corporate, too, but Dinsberg knew better than to expect such luxuries in her new job. “With this job, you don’t get a package,” Dinsberg said. “You’re just like, ‘I hope someday somebody sees me.’”

Even going home for the holidays is impossible for most assistants, since productions aren’t required to pay support staff for the two-week hiatus. It’s common for writers on any given series to pool together money to give support staff a Christmas “bonus” of a few hundred dollars, another source added. But in fact, “a lot of support staff really count on [that] in their budget, which is just really sad because that’s meant to be a gift.”

Dinsberg still has some financial cushion from her old job, which she uses to supplement her anemic assistant wages. And after working in mini writer’s rooms for most of the pandemic, Dinsberg recently landed her first writer’s assistant job in a traditional room.

“I’ve got to give this a real shot,” she said. But the experiences of those who’ve been stuck in support positions for years, some for more than a decade, demonstrate the heavy toll that sticking it out can take.

#PayUpHollywood’s survey from 2019 revealed that 92 percent of respondents had seen their anxiety spike as a direct result of the stress of their job, while 66 percent reported increased depression and 24 percent reported increased substance abuse.

It’s more than credit card debt and missed birthdays. Multiple sources described having panic attacks at work, and several were hospitalized or sought urgent care because of stress-induced ailments. At one point during her career, showrunner’s assistant Christina Dirkes said, “I thought I had multiple sclerosis and so did my doctor—but it was just stress.”

Here’s another one: Have you ever driven to work with a walking concussion because you didn’t feel like you could go to the hospital after getting T-boned in a 5 a.m. car accident? Jerrica Long has.

Long said she’s missed out on weddings, funerals, and many other life events because of her job. She was unable to visit her grandfather when he was dying. “I’ve had friends come into town and I couldn’t see them… I’ve sacrificed my everything—relationships, friendships, everything.”

Like Jurado, Long has also found that her identity can be isolating.

“When you're a person of color and you are already coming into an industry that doesn’t see your value—or only sees your value if you look a certain type of way, if you’re a certain type of shade of Black… and then you’re also not paid enough? You’re not valued enough for the work that you do give? All that stuff literally is designed to make you feel worthless,” Long said.

No one had gone out of their way to mispronounce Long’s name before she began working on Black-ish in 2015. There, however, an allegedly “brutal” production coordinator did it so often that Long adopted a new refrain: “If you can say America, you can say Jerrica.”

That coordinator did nothing, Long added, when a fellow office P.A. called her the n-word. The reason for the slur? Showrunner Jonathan Groff had granted Long a couple days to recover from that walking concussion before she interviewed for a showrunner’s assistant job that she ultimately did not get.

It was veteran actress and Black-ish star Jenifer Lewis, Long said, who made it a point to check on her and spoke out on her behalf.

Representatives for ABC and Groff did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment; a representative for Lewis declined. The production coordinator did not respond to a request sent via LinkedIn.

The constant invalidation women of color face in their jobs can leave deep wounds. Countless friends have talked Long out of quitting on her dreams, and she credits her therapist with the fact that she’s still alive.

“I have lost so many more friends who have committed suicide on this journey, being a writer working in the entertainment industry, than I’ve ever lost growing up in Florida,” Long said. “You are literally dying to get to your dream.”

It’s hard to overstate how devastating these jobs can be, especially over time.

Jurado clarifies that her PTSD did not come from her work in the entertainment industry. (She is not the aforementioned source who developed the condition on the job.) But her career has escalated her case to complex PTSD, she said, and it also caused her first panic attacks and thoughts of suicide.

“At first I was like, is it just me? Can I just not hold a job?” Jurado said. “And then I was like, ‘Fuck no,’” Jurado said. “When I review them one by one, I'm like, these are all very terrible situations to be in.”

Until recently, Jurado didn’t feel as though she had a lot of agency in her career. She compensated for her lack of connections by networking as much as she could, and took jobs at big Hollywood, digital, and tech companies in the hopes of establishing a foothold. With each new job, however, Jurado seemed to find herself stalled all over again—and her mental and physical health worsened.

When Jurado began experiencing panic attacks at her first studio job in 2016, a doctor prescribed her the wrong antidepressants. When she complained of “zaps” in her brain, the doctor advised her to ignore them—even after she momentarily whited out and found herself unable to remember who she was. All of this culminated in a cardiac incident that sent Jurado to the emergency room, and a prescription for Benzodiazepine tranquilizers (commonly known as “benzos”), for which she received no instructions beyond “use as needed.”

After two years of using the drug, Jurado became chemically dependent and suffered a second cardiac event that nearly ended her life in 2018. She had been working as a trust and safety analyst for Snapchat, which meant spending her time identifying and removing graphic and disturbing images from the platform. She’d taken the job, like the rest, simply to make ends meet.

For five hours, doctors tried various lines of treatment while Jurado, who could barely speak, asked if she was going to be alright. For most of that time, they couldn’t give her an answer. As a last-ditch effort, she said, they restarted her heart. “They were like ‘If you didn’t call, you would have been gone,’” Jurado said. “I was in the room next to where people die.”

Jurado also once worked at Studio71, which at one point represented Jake and Logan Paul. There, she said, she typically wolfed down her lunch (office cereal) over a trash can until her supervisors inevitably pulled her aside for some menial task—if she ate at all.

On what turned out to be her last day, Jurado said she began to feel physically ill after working 12- to 14-hour days and barely sleeping for three weeks. She sent herself home around 3 p.m. and could barely remember what had happened by the time she woke up at 11 p.m. It was then that she decided that she could never go back—and for weeks afterward, she remained bedridden.

More recently, Jurado recalled, she took a job with CBS during the pandemic that paid an unusually reasonable wage—$25 per hour—but came with a boss who, among other things, seemed to expect her to stay at her desk at all times as she worked from home.

Multiple sources told The Daily Beast that at least one of their past bosses has policed their bathroom use. The practice is apparently so common that 20 percent of #PayUpHollywood respondents reported in 2019 that they felt uncomfortable leaving their desks to relieve themselves.

Her career has escalated her case to complex PTSD, she said, and it also caused her first panic attacks and thoughts of suicide.

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The micromanagement exacerbated Jurado’s panic attacks and stress-sensitive gastrointestinal problems—and even when she did secure a moment away to deal with them, she said, an inevitable barrage of phone calls and messages from her supervisor would inevitably follow after about 10 minutes.

As isolated as Jurado has felt for years (she hasn’t seen most of her family in a decade because doing so would cost a small fortune that she does not have) she’s noticed that the pandemic seems to have made people within and outside the industry more willing to be vulnerable about their experiences. That, at least, has made healing a little easier.

Jurado now works two consulting jobs, and is polishing some writing samples in the hopes of finding representation. She’s still holding out hope for a writing or producing gig, but given her past experiences she’s become selective. In the meantime, she continues to work with her therapist to reintegrate into society. Still, recovery has not been easy.

“I don’t feel like myself anymore, if that makes sense,” Jurado said. “I’ve seen little, little blips of myself here and there, but I haven’t felt like myself since before I moved here... I’ve felt myself become smaller and smaller.”

When Jurado described her plans for the future, however, her voice lightened. The financial and emotional breathing room her unemployment benefits provided have allowed Jurado to not only recover physically and mentally, but also to chart a new path forward—one she hadn’t realized was actually possible until now.

At this point, Jurado said, she wants to work on independent projects and amplify voices from outside the traditional Hollywood machine. She no longer seeks jobs through cold applications; instead, she consults assistant-led whisper networks, which have emerged as a form of protection against abusive workplaces. And she’s found a mentor who has also put her in touch with representatives for various studios—several of whom seem invested in her script.

When she’s not writing, Jurado is assembling business plans and identifying potential funding sources outside the industry. She’s no longer waiting for the powers that be to validate her.

“Looking back, I’m really grateful for all those barriers because it really showed me who I needed to become in order to get to where I wanted to be,” Jurado said. “And now I feel super empowered… I'm kind of getting into my stride now.”

Jocelyn, a 28-year-old executive assistant who moved to Los Angeles from Miami in 2018 to become a writer and who asked that her last name be redacted, is on a similar journey. She got furloughed from her first job in the industry during the pandemic, and has spent the past year out of work because taking the jobs she was offered would have put her in more debt. Each time she was forced to reject a job, she returned to the same question: “Is this the end of it for me?”

Now, however, Jocelyn has decided to create her own opportunities. She’s realized she would rather be a producer than a writer, and that she doesn’t need to wait to get started.

“Before the pandemic, my career relied on them—are they gonna promote me or give me creative responsibilities?” Jocelyn said. “If I go on and produce my friend’s short film or whatever it is, I would much rather do that than go and try and find a job that’s just gonna overwork me, underpay me, and keep me stalled. At least I feel like I’m doing something.”

Dirkes urges aspiring writers to reject the notion that if they just suffer through exploitative jobs long enough, they’ll be rewarded. “That’s just not true,” she said, “and I think a lot of people still act as though it is.... So many people get hired off of just good writing. You don’t have to be an assistant to be staffed. So I’m just like, stop doing it. Stop playing into what they want.”

To studio and network executives, Dirkes added another admonition: “If you’re not gonna promote us, you’ve got to pay us.”

When asked what systemic changes would make these jobs tenable, support staffers offered a variety of ideas. Several called for a $25 minimum hourly rate at a minimum of 60 hours per week, as well as guaranteed health care. Studios should eliminate the cap on box rates, they said, which reimburse assistants who use their own equipment on the job to help cover maintenance costs. And there should be a clearer path from support positions to getting staffed and joining a union.

“We’re talking about network shows that find the budget for everything else,” Shipley said, “and it’s especially discouraging when someone like me or a production coordinator sees those budgets and knows just how much they’re spending on everything else, [but] I am told that I’m not getting a raise like the other crew is because ‘everyone above scale’ is not getting an increase this year. No one else ‘above scale’ is making less than $25 an hour.”

The IATSE has also published a toolkit to help studios support gender pay equity.

Another easy way to make a lot of aspiring writers happy? Showrunners could actually read their assistants’ work—a gesture that takes minutes and would demonstrate at least some interest in their career goals.

Asked what might need to happen to actually spark such changes, several assistants called for solidarity from Hollywood’s more powerful unions—SAG-AFTRA, the WGA, and the DGA, among others. As one source noted, support staffers passionately and vocally supported writers during their past labor efforts, including the 2007 writer’s strike. “We were in solidarity when you needed it,” they said. “We need it now.”

“I love the WGA,” a script coordinator said. “I’m incredibly supportive of what they do; I think they’re unbelievably important—historically and today. But it’s really hard to get around how they’ve left assistants sort of out in the cold for years. Anyone that’s working as an [writer’s] assistant or a script coordinator right now knows how much overlap there is between the work that we do and the work that a staff writer does.”

Representatives for the WGA and DGA did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A representative for SAG-AFTRA provided a statement: "SAG-AFTRA stands with IATSE members and strongly supports the #PayUpHollywood movement."

Several assistants called on prominent writers and showrunners for support—not just online, where several have already spoken out, but also in boardrooms and conversations with the executives who rely on these high-profile creators for programming. Showrunners with overall deals should demand living wages for their support staff as part of their contracts, they added. “There’s no reason why the Ryan Murphys and the Shondas and all these people have these million-dollar overalls at Netflix [while] Netflix assistants are getting paid minimum wage,” one former assistant said.

Another assistant with eight years of experience put it another way: “I just want my own room and bathroom.”

At the end of the day, Long said, “You can’t say you care about diversity and you care about the future of the industry if the assistants are falling through the cracks. It just doesn’t make any sense. We’re launching all of these diversity and fellowship programs, and that’s great, but what about assistants?... We’re important; we know your fucking social security numbers. We know your birthdays. We know where the bodies are buried.”

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“You say you care,” Long said. “But where is that in action?”


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