Help! My Hollywood Dream Job is Eating Me Alive

Dear Work Coach,

Hello. First let me say that I’ve found your advice to be so insanely helpful.

I’m 27-years old and I work in the movie business, currently at a company that has a deal with Disney. The last company I worked for laid the entire creative department off, and I landed this gig two days later.

I thought I was doing pretty good. Cut to six months later at this new job, and I’m beside myself with what to do. Over the past six months, I had to move the entire company, we moved agencies, and I’m in charge of everything from administrative duties, to tech issues, to reading and covering scripts…basically I’m a one man show.

My problem is, I can never do it ‘just right’ for my boss. Today, for instance, within a one hour time frame, I had to finish coverage on a book, connect a conference call with five people, set eight pitch mtgs, confirm her cat’s vet appointment, assemble three writer’s lists for her afternoon meeting and make sure she had all her reading for the weekend.

To make matters worse, we discussed vacation. When I took this job, I was told I would get 2 weeks off in August. I have family all on the East Coast, so this was a big positive. Today, when I started talking about when we’d take off, she looked at me like I was CRAZY and said I got 10 days max. When I start to counter argue that, she says things like ‘when I was an assistant that’s what I did’.

Maybe that isn’t that big of a deal, but I feel like if she’s reneged on that promise, what else will she go back on. Promotion? Eventual raise?

I’m at a loss what to do. I’ve been suffering migraines, insomnia, and other issues since taking this job, and I’m at a loss what my next step should be.

Sorry for the long, prattling email, but any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,


Hi E!

First…I wish I could come over and give you a big hug. I know I am not alone in being able to relate to how you’re feeling. 🙂

When I read something like this, I feel painfully limited by all that I don’t know. But I will plunge ahead anyway and do my best. (Oh…and I just love the phrase “insanely helpful”. Thank you. When dealing with the wacky world of work, sometimes that’s the best anyone can hope for!)

I happen to have worked in a few different jobs within the entertainment industry, although not in Hollywood. But I did work for a Super Agent while we were negotiating a film deal with Rysher and several other major studios at the time. And I know that the industry demands long hours and really expects you to pay your dues in the early stages of your career. So what you tell me, doesn’t surprise me much. In fact, even in other industries nowadays, people are being pushed to the limit and vacation is almost a dirty word. But especially in entertainment, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) lined up for every job someone thinks is too much for them. So the deck is not stacked in favor of the employee.

As an aside…and I think I know the answer…did you get any of your deal in writing? Do you have a statement of work, contract, offer letter, or even e-mail that promises you 2 weeks in August on top of OTHER vacation? Have you already taken any of the 10 business days (2 weeks) she’s talking about? Can you at least negotiate one week in August? If you are doing all that you say and this is a busy time for the office, I can understand why she won’t let you take both weeks together. And maybe you’ll need to think about looking at this a different way: the time you put in now (even if it isn’t what anyone would call optimal working conditions) is the investment you’re making in your future. Once you pay your dues, you will get to better jobs where you will almost be treated humanely. 😉

BUT…what really bothers me is the toll this is taking on you physically. Are you an employee or slave? Are you learning tons of things that will help you move ahead, or are you just helping move her ahead? Are you meeting people and making a good name for yourself for when you are ready to start looking or are you mostly seen as her helper? In other words, if you do say wtf and decide to stick with her and pay your dues, will it get you to your next step?

It doesn’t matter if your company has a deal with Disney if you aren’t building your own career. And if you are feeling this way now and get no reassurance from her – and if a good one-on-one talk with her yields no change – then maybe you do need to look elsewhere. Consider maybe why she had the opening in the first place? And why you’re doing the job of 2 or 3 people? Did the last person walk out? (Maybe not. Just a shot in the dark.)

So at the very least, I’d have a good heart-to-heart with her, with your mind fixed on finding a win-win solution if it is at all possible. Think about what you would need from her to make this job worth staying in. Even if you have to give up vacation…is there some corresponding give on her part? A raise? A bonus? A part-time assistant for you? And starting now, if you haven’t already, look at what else is out there. Just in case – although if this is the career you truly want, I hope you can make it work.

But still, I am haunted by your words ” migraines, insomnia, and other issues since taking this job, and I’m at a loss what my next step should be.” Now everyone has to decide for themselves, but I can tell you that in my vast experience, no job – or industry – is worth you feeling that way. And there are a LOT of people like her and jobs like that in show biz.

So if even a small part of you is thinking that maybe all the glamor isn’t so much fun on the inside…you might also want to give yourself the chance to think about other options. Is there anything else you love that might offer your mind and body a bit more balance? Or, if you do want to stay in entertainment, are there other industry jobs that can do that for you?

Meanwhile, take deep breaths (in AND out) and give yourself permission to quit if you have to. No matter what. Headaches and other symptoms are often the result of inner conflict, such as “I want to do this” or “I think I want to do this” at the same time as “This is causing me pain.” THAT’S a huge headache. (Not to mention the effects of constant stress and lack of sleep.) But taking some deep breaths now (I’m waiting 🙂 ) and committing to yourself that you will find a GOOD solution whatever it may be, should help you start to release some of that built up conflict. Fear not…there is a way to make things better for yourself, E!

Hope some of these thoughts help. If not, please write back and we can try to zero in on the real question/issue.

I wish you the best of luck in figuring this out for yourself!

Ronnie Ann


Update: E wrote me privately and told me she decided to give her boss notice and look elsewhere. She told me she realized no job – not even a glamorous industry job – is worth her health and well-being. And she feels better already. 🙂

Great decision, E. Good luck!


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. This is great advice, and I wish you all the best E. Personally, I don’t feel like a career is ever worth going home feeling like crap. Are you working to live, or living to work?

  2. Amen!

    By the way…checked out your blog and there are some great posts. Thanks for adding a great comment on top of that!

    Ronnie Ann

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