The Creators of LA: Hollywood Assistant Lydia Whitlock
For the last 10 months, self-taught photographer Megan McIsaac has been traveling the West Coast in an RV — a 1977 Toyota “Dolphin” — and gathering portraits of friends and creative types she met along the way. Now settled in Los Angeles with a Mamiya c330 camera, McIsaac decided to document the community that’s inspired so much of her work: Tumblr. This is part of a series of photographic profiles.
Formerly the anonymous writer of the “To My Assistant" blog, Lydia Whitlock is a lady of many passions. She graduated from Yale in 2008 with a degree in film studies (and I highly recommend sparking up a conversation with her about movies). She welcomes me into her Silver Lake home with snacks, gin, and the soundtrack to Performance. And, of course, she’s hilarious — as evidenced by her blog-turned-book, which is a montage of pithy advice to her future assistant, based on the ridiculous things she’s had to do as an assistant herself. She quickly became one of my favorite people to be around and photograph.
Let’s start from the beginning. How’d you end up working as a Hollywood assistant?
I moved to LA one month after college, having never been here before. I had just graduated with a degree in film studies, and decided that if I was going to try to work in the entertainment industry, I should try right away, to get what I was sure was going to be a period of complete failure out of the way as soon as possible. I really had no idea what kind of job I should look for out here, but realized pretty quickly that being an assistant is the best way you can learn your way around the industry (as well as being one of the only entry-level jobs available). It allows you to figure out which aspects of the business you enjoy and which you don’t, kind of like showbiz grad school, which is how I try to view the job when I’m frustrated with it.
And what was it like?
I’ve had to do everything from putting together nine phone lines for a spur-of-the-moment conference call, to picking up a 20 pound babyshower cake emblazoned with the baby pictures of the expectant parents, to proofreading drafts of screenplays before they go to studio executives (guess which one of these tasks I liked best). The job can really vary from the professional to the way-too-personal. I prefer mine to be on the professional side — first of all, because I never signed up to be a personal assistant, second of all because it means less work on the weekends, and third because it results in fewer awkward moments that occur when I end up knowing far too many details about my boss’s personal life.
You’ve got a book coming out in April. Do you still work as an assistant?
Yes! As I say to myself on a regular basis, “Don’t quit your day job.” At least, not yet.
Besides writing, and assisting, what do you spend most of your time doing?
I love to cook and explore different LA restaurants and cuisines - this city is the perfect playground for an adventurous eater. And of course I have those standard 20-something hobbies — reading books, watching films, dabbling in photography, going out on weekends, spending a little too much money on clothes.
Did you ever imagine you’d be writing a book about being an assistant?
I certainly always dreamed of writing a book, being one of those kids whose parents had to forcibly take novels away from them at the dinner table, but I was never quite sure what it would be about. It’s kind of funny that the subject that ended up inspiring me was “terrible jobs,” but I guess the “write what you know” cliche is repeated so often because it’s true.
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