Assistant to Writer/Director
New York City, New York
Written By: Paul ManiaciPosted: 08/27/2006
Lillian Parker turned her interest in the films of writer-director Wes Anderson into an internship at his production company, American Empirical, and later a full time job as his second assistant. Lillian is proof that you can make your own destiny happen with hard work, a little luck, and smarts. She is an aspiring screenwriter and a supreme ukulele player. Look out for her second album.
CCB: If I am not mistaken Wes Anderson is your favorite filmmaker, if not at the very least he is someone you admire a lot. How does it feel working for someone whose work you respect so much?
LP: It feels great. As an aspiring filmmaker, it’s awesome to get this kind of filmmaking experience from a filmmaker whose work I love so much.
CCB: As an NYU film graduate with screenwriting aspirations what types of things have you learned through working with Mr. Anderson?
LP: Stay organized. Take lots of notes on all of your ideas. Stay confident. Know what you want and don’t take no for an answer. Be very courteous to everyone.
CCB: Have you learned any technical or creative techniques apart from the business stuff from working where you do?
LP: I'm sure, whether I think it has or not, some has definitely seeped in. But I'm sure I would take credit for it, or think I learned it at Tisch. (NYU) But definitely, some of the organizational skills that I have perfected have come in useful in my writing.
CCB: You have been very fortunate to translate an internship at American Empirical (Wes Anderson’s production company) into a full-time job. You are a career counselor’s best friend. Can you explain how you got the elusive hire?
LP: I was working an internship at New Line Cinema which I thought was pretty awesome and I was talking with my boss about what current filmmakers I liked. I told her I was really into Wes Anderson’s two movies (he had only made two at the time) and she told me she knew his assistant, would I like her to call him and try to get me an internship. I said of course. I called Wes’ assistant repeatedly -- Tenenbaums was about to open, so they were really busy -- faxed my resume, and called, called, called. You can never call too much! (I take that back – more than once a week is probably too much) Eventually -- I believe it was the day when I looked worse than I ever have in my whole life -- when I called, the assistant said, “Come over, we’ll meet.” So I dashed over, he told me it looked like a definite possibility, but he couldn’t say anything until the movie had opened and they were all much more relaxed, so he let me go and I went on my winter vacation full of anxiety. I called him a couple days after New Year’s and he said I should start on the fifteenth.
CCB: How did you go from interning to being employed?
LP: I had been interning there a year when I was about to graduate and feeling a bit panicked about finding a job. I really didn't even think of asking here, until my counselor at Tisch brought it up. He said, you know, the worst that can happen is they say it's not possible. So I asked Wes' first assistant, who is very nice and helpful, and he worked it out with Wes. I couldn't believe it.
CCB: Some people believe interning is beneath them, but you showed it can lead to a job. Can you describe what you were able to learn interning?
LP: I learned how to work in a professional setting. Also, I learned a lot of what I described as having learned from Wes above, during the time that I was an intern.
CCB: What are your responsibilities as a second assistant?
LP: I basically work in concert with the first assistant, to take care of Wes’ business and personal calls, run errands, handle his libraries and phone books, find rare books/movies, manage the interns, take care of reimbursements from our parent company, take over for the first assistant when he is not here, stuff like that.
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to work in film? Did your interest in writing coincide with that?
LP: I think I realized I wanted to be a filmmaker around the time when I discovered there was such a thing as a “filmmaker” – someone who writes and directs and fills a movie with a sort of presence -- when I was thirteen or fourteen. I always watched a lot of movies growing up, always loved movies. My dad directed plays at the local high school when I was in elementary school, so that got me really into the concept of directing. Then I started writing random stuff (poems, weak attempts at novels, plays, etc) and realized that I could fuse the two into this incredible thing called filmmaking!
CCB: What were you able to take from NYU film school and apply to your current job?
LP: Well, most of what I learned at Tisch I have found helpful and useful in my screenwriting and filmmaking life. But I can say that they definitely strengthened my general knowledge of the film world and ambition.
CCB: Is there such a thing as a typical day at the office? I imagine it differs depending on the stage a film is in.
LP: It definitely differs depending what stage the film is in. Pretty much, though, if it's Pre-Production, Production, or Post-Production, it's busy here, just because most of Wes' calls and appointments go through us, here. I suppose it's calmest when Wes is writing, and when he's promoting the movie internationally.
CCB: Have you had any mentors in your career?
LP: This is going to sound extremely cheesy, but definitely my dad. He has always done what he loves, left when it was time for him to move on, and I respect that so much. Obviously, I have tons of filmmaker mentors – primarily Francois Truffaut, just because I love all of his films so much. I’d love to basically Xerox his methods. But also, the more I’ve worked here, the more Wes has become an actual career mentor, because he has so much of what every filmmaker wants – final cut and control over his movies.
CCB: Have any advice for people interested in pursuing the film industry? You have a coveted assistant position, which are few and far between. How can others get themselves noticed?
LP: Call anyone you know who might have the slightest link to the industry, find numbers, and look online. Get yourself a Hollywood Creative Directory and just call everyone in there that you care about (but try to sound like you care, not like you’re just going through the phonebook). Check on mandy.com or if you’re in university ask your career counselor if they have any ideas on how you can enter this field.
CCB: What qualities make an effective assistant?
LP: Patience and organization.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
LP: This may sound silly, but, as much as I feel I have a handle on these two qualities, I always find maintaining my patience and my organization a challenge. Also negotiating things on the telephone -- I'm really no good at that, but getting better.
CCB: People would be surprised to learn what about your job?
LP: Probably that it can be so stressful even when nothing is going on.
CCB: Why are things stressful when not much is going on?
LP: I guess really it's mostly me who makes it stressful. When nothing's going on, I feel like something should be, and I worry about what's on the back burner that I should be focusing on. Yup -- definitely certifiable.
CCB: What has been the coolest thing about the job so far?
LP: Getting paid to do this.
CCB: What are your career aspirations? Is screenwriter the ultimate goal?
LP: Well, filmmaker -- writer and director -- is the ultimate goal. Right now, I feel like I’ll do anything to get there and that might mean selling a script or two.
CCB: Who are writers that you admire?
LP: Definitely Charlie Kaufman. Wes Anderson. William Goldman (when he’s up, hehe). Robert Benton. Shakespeare. Nick Hornby. The Coen Brothers. Tom Stoppard. Billy Wilder. PT Anderson. In terms of filmmakers, directors who worked with their screenwriters a great deal, I should add Truffaut, Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Frank Capra.
CCB: What do you hope to get out of your current job?
LP: Well, two things really – I want to learn about filmmaking from every angle, from start to finish. And, you know, it wouldn’t hurt if somehow my current job got a script of mine into the right hands.