BAD ASSISTANT: A Comedic Yet Timely Satire About The Dark Side of Showbiz
For any aspiring actor or filmmaker headed for Hollywood, their dreams of success are instantly tempered by the cruel realities of the entertainment industry. As the #MeToo movement has proven, both vulnerable newcomers and prominent stars have been victimized by the predatory behavior of seemingly untouchable studio heads and on-screen headliners.
Surprisingly, not every case of abuse in show business is of a sexual nature. When it comes to the professional relationship between major Hollywood figures and the assistants who perform important day-to-day tasks for them, those assistants frequently have no choice but to do what their superiors tell them to — even if such actions are completely uncharacteristic of who they are outside the workplace.
One assistant who’s dealt with that uncomfortable fact of industry life is actor/filmmaker Paige Klone, whose new comedy short film Bad Assistant satirizes the outrageously uneven partnership between Hollywood big shots and the idealistic people who try to make their demanding lives easier.
Bad Assistant will have its next showing at the Manchester (England) Film Festival on March 8th as part of a six film shorts block beginning at 3:15 PM (U.K. time), and will be available on streaming services later this Spring.
Co-written by Klone and Rachel Forman and directed by Kyle Cogan, Bad Assistant co-stars Klone as Emilee Rank, the harried personal assistant to conceited action movie icon Parker St. Garrett (played by Rushmore/Mozart In The Jungle star Jason Schwartzman, whom Klone currently assists).
When Emilee discovers the dead body of Parker’s drugged out friend “Sexual Jay” (Cooper Johnson), Parker desperately tries to “fix” his unexpected problem by involving Emilee in an illicit transportation of the corpse to his childhood home. That situation tests not only the professional loyalty between Parker and Emilee, but also the limits of Emilee’s own personal character.
While Bad Assistant is not explicitly inspired by Klone’s direct encounters with Hollywood royalty, it is based on an accumulation of stories that involve both the demanding demeanors of industry moguls and their frequent abuses of power against those on the very bottom of the show business food chain.
As Klone explains, Bad Assistant’s dark comedic scenario, plus the characters played by Klone and Schwartzman, spotlight how those abuses of power afflict every ambitious Hollywood rookie on and off the set.
Chris Hadley: You’ve been a personal assistant to many prominent Hollywood actors over the past few years, including the co-star of Bad Assistant, Jason Schwartzman. Talk about how your experiences as an assistant inspired you to make this film.
Paige Klone (co-star/co-writer, Bad Assistant): I’ve been an assistant now for 8 years. My first job out here in L.A. was to be a personal assistant. I think everybody thinks that this movie is specifically about people I work for, especially Jason Schwartzman, but it’s really not about anyone specifically. When the #MeToo movement came out, I felt like there was more to the story than sexual harassment. It’s more of the idea of when you have somebody who’s more powerful over you, it’s hard to say no.
I wanted to explore that and what it’s like to be at the bottom of the barrel in this industry, and what it feels like to start your way out here, and how it’s easy to fall into manipulation, and (into) saying yes to things that you never thought you’d say yes to. It’s less about the assistant and more about what it’s like in any industry to be starting out, intimidated and scared, and just wanting to be the best at what you do. Sometimes you lose yourself within that. That’s what Bad Assistant is about to me.
CH: In what ways did those experiences influence both the assistant character you play, and that of the decidedly arrogant movie star Jason plays in Bad Assistant?
PK: A relationship between a boss and an assistant in Hollywood feels really real, to me, and natural. It’s very much like you become friends and you’re taking care of each other. You’re always walking this fine line of being someone’s friend, but also pretending you’re not in their life; being invisible. That all feels real, and our characters — to each other — were inspired by all of my bosses and my friends’ bosses in terms of what that dynamic is like. You’re doing this very personal work because you’re helping them organize their life when they’re schedule won’t allow it.
CH: Thankfully, you never had to carry a dead body from one place to another like your character is forced to do in the film.
PK: I definitely have never had to carry a dead body before. The dead body (in the film) is more of the idea of saying “yes” to things that you don’t really want to necessarily say yes to. Sometimes, you’re stuck in these positions where “I shouldn’t say yes to this. This is crazy, but I am going to do it because it is a part of my job.”
CH: It does represent the power that these celebrities have over their assistants, unfortunately, in the industry.
PK: It’s not even just about the assistants. It’s more about the people at the bottom of the barrel. It’s PA’s (production assistants) on set, and interns, and nannies and assistants and everybody that holds this position in any industry where they are young and trying to do the best they can. They get ignored, pushed to the side and are told they have to scrape by, figure it out and be pushed around a little bit.
Bad Assistant shows that world, because I think a lot of times people who work in this industry at bottom of the barrel roles are treated poorly. That’s what is expected for those positions, and you’re like “well, I had to go through that, so you’re going to have to go through it too.” That’s what I wanted to explore. They’re really the next generation of this industry and we’re treating so many of them like sh*t. That’s what I wanted Bad Assistant to be.
CH: What was it like making this film, and working with Jason on it — considering how long you’ve worked together off-camera?
PK: At first, I was so intimidated and I still am. I just get paranoid and anxious about it. From the beginning, I was really scared. I was like, “am I really going to be good enough to be on screen with Jason Schwartzman? Am I a good enough actress? Is this a good enough story? Does the script hold its weight?” Then once we got into it, it was an extremely humbling experience.
I got to be on set with not only Jason Schwartzman, but my boss, who’s somebody I look up to a lot, and somebody whose career I admire. It was a very emotional experience. Then once we started acting in it, I was just like “oh! It’s just like being at work with him!” We get to joke around and we get to make fun of ourselves. It was just really fun, but really scary at the same time.
CH: While you co-wrote Bad Assistant with Rachel Forman, the script shifted in some areas to an improvised comedic style during filming. As an actor who regularly does improv, was doing Bad Assistant in this fashion easier or was it more of a challenge than you expected?
PK: I don’t think the original script changed. Although we did improvise a lot, we stuck to the original script. We got all the important lines out that we needed to get. We made sure we hit everything for the story, and specific jokes that we thought were funny, and then we got to play from there.
We had an incredible writer. Rachel wrote the first draft of the script in a day, and we had a hilarious script to work from. What was so special about that, and why we found so many moments to improvise is because it was Jason and I playing ourselves. Once we got on set, it was like, “we know what this is like and we know what would happen in this situation.”
We elevated it from there, which was really humbling because we had a script that was so great to work from, and then Jason and I came on and emphasized it.
CH: Though it’s a comedy, Bad Assistant is also an examination of how people on the very bottom of the Hollywood ladder are often mistreated by their powerful superiors in the entertainment industry. How did making this film help you to deal with not just that side of the business, but also your personal experiences with it?
PK: I am very lucky in a sense that I had two amazing bosses who really took care of me. They helped me thrive in this industry. I took a lot from my early experiences when I first moved out here, and then (from) a lot of experiences from friends. It helped me in the sense that I got to get over what it was like to be 22-year old Paige and being stuck in a position where I felt invisible, but it also was for my friends who had positions like that.
I hope (the film) sheds light into a world that most people don’t even think about, that they get to see what that job is like, and that they have a little fun with it. Although the stuff that I was talking about is very dark, I think Bad Assistant is very fun and silly. If you like my character, you’ll also like Parker’s character (played by Schwartzman). That’s very much what this industry is like.
Just because there’s a bad experience doesn’t mean it’s all bad, and it doesn’t mean that that person’s a terrible person. They’re still likable. People have their own issues, and we’re all dealing with our own things. Bad Assistant wasn’t this therapeutic thing for me, but it was a fun idea. It sheds light into a world that people ignore a lot, and I also think it will make people who’ve been in this experience laugh and remember what it was like to be living in that time when you first moved up to L.A.
CH: Bad Assistant was one of 3 films to receive funding via a grant from the SHIFT Creative Fund in 2018. Talk about how that helped make the film’s production possible.
PK: We got $30,000 from the grant. Because we won the grant, Simian Design Group came in and produced it. They are an awesome production company. Without them, we wouldn’t have the quality (it has). We wouldn’t have had the people who worked on it to make it what it is. Bad Assistant is really funny and we have a great cast, but our production value is stellar. Our director of photography (Justyn Moro), director (Kyle Cogan) and producer (Brendan Garrett) did amazing jobs.
We wouldn’t have gotten the chance to work with Simian at that level if we didn’t have that money, so that’s what made Bad Assistant. Because of that budget ($30,000), we were able to hire the right people. We were able to get Simian to come on fully. We had the best of the best on that set because we had the money to pay them, and I think that’s why the film looks so beautiful. I don’t think it would look like that if we didn’t have Simian producing it.
CH: As an actor and filmmaker, what were some of the biggest lessons you learned in working on Bad Assistant?
PK: I learned a lot about being a leader, and (about) how to properly communicate to people what I want, but I was also able to learn that sometimes people have better ideas than I do. I learned that it’s hard to hold so many hats on a production. I also learned that it’s okay to lean on other people and let them take on responsibilities that I want to take on but can’t because I’m doing so many other things.
I learned that I love (creating). I learned that I want to be a filmmaker and an actress. Ever since Bad Assistant has been done, my brain has just been gathering information and ideas. I’ve been trying to figure out what my next project is because I want to keep creating, acting, writing, and collaborating. I’m excited for my next project.
CH: Speaking of which, what are the other projects you’re working on right now?
PK: I am about to start helping Justyn produce a feature film that he’s DP’ing. After that, I’m in the midst of writing a few projects and I’m trying to figure out how to get them produced. I have a few ideas for a short film and a few ideas for a web series, but I’m just not quite sure which ones I want to do next.
CH: What do you hope people, including those who’ve worked in pressure-filled businesses like entertainment — take away from seeing Bad Assistant?
PK: I just hope they laugh, they have fun watching it, and that they enjoy it. I hope that they see it’s not easy to hold these kinds of positions (assistants), and that they have a little bit more empathy towards it, and that they remember what it was like when they were 22 and just coming out of college. Mostly, I just want people to laugh.
More info on Bad Assistant can be found on the film’s Facebook page: