x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Being nice has its perks - like a corner office and parking space

In any organisation, the person in charge of allocating offices and doling out supplies is the real centre of power.

For the past few years, I haven't had what you might call a proper office. What I had - like a lot of writers - was a room in my house for writing, plus a mobile phone. And what I did - as a lot of writers do - is sit in my house and check my email all day and try to figure out a way not to answer the phone.

These days - and this is mostly good news - I have an office to go to. I'm in production on a new television show, and I have a couple of large offices on a studio lot, with a fancy coffee maker and a bunch of assistants. This means that finally, after a few desultory years of working at home, I have a place to sit that's dedicated to getting something done, as opposed to the office in my house, which is dedicated to Facebook and naps.

Of course I still have a mobile phone and an email address, so I still get work-related calls and emails on those devices. And this is in addition to the phone in my office, where people also call, and my studio email address, which I didn't even know I had until I got an email at my personal email address asking why I hadn't responded to emails to my studio address.

All of this means that I suddenly have twice the commotion in my communication life. And that's the trouble with all of these devices. They're supposed to make us more productive, but they actually just make us more available.

Still, it's better, all things considered, to have an office to go to. That's what every writer wants - a place to go, a place for work, something a little more formal and composed than, say, a coffee shop.

Finding the perfect place to work is a complicated needle to thread, but two writer friends of mine have managed to do it. How they managed it is an instructive tale of how to make it in Hollywood.

Almost 10 years ago, they had a production deal at a studio, which entailed a couple of nice offices. During the term of the deal, though, because they're nice guys and unfailingly polite and show appreciation to everyone around them - this may have been the reason for their stunning lack of success in the entertainment industry, actually, but that's another story - they won the friendship of the person at the studio who's in charge of things like offices and facilities and work supplies.

As in most businesses, this is always the most important person in the organisation. Upper level executives come and go. CEOs get fired and replaced. But the person who issues the BlackBerrys and distributes the printer ink is the person who stays.

Stays, and remembers.

At the end of their studio contract, the facilities person let my friends know that if they wanted, they could keep their offices for a few months. That's how charming and polite and winning they'd been to this lower-status employee - she actually agreed to let them stick around in their swank movie lot offices, on the quiet, for a little while longer.

So for the next few months, they did just that, making sure to call in parking passes for themselves every day - you can only do that, it turns out, if you call from an on-the-lot phone, which they could.

A few months of this turned into a year, and they kept being gracious to the facilities person, who kept making sure that their offices were available, kept their internet service on, kept their offices stocked with paper and dry-erase pens, and in general kept them on the lot, like guys with a studio contract and unlike guys with a studio contract that had expired.

This has lasted, unchanged, for the past 10 years.

As of this morning they are still in those offices, still calling in parking passes, still eating at the studio commissary - all of which beats hanging out in a coffee shop trying to talk on the phone over the noise of the espresso machine.

This is a version - a clandestine version - of what's often called a "housekeeping deal," which is, essentially, an agreement between a studio and a writer in which the studio provides an office and parking and an assistant (but no money) in exchange for some kind of first-look arrangement with the writer. But that's a deal negotiated by lawyers and agents and studio business affairs people.

My friends' deal was negotiated by no one. It's just the result of two guys being nice and affable and polite to an all-powerful studio facilities person.

You can get a housekeeping deal both ways, of course. But for some reason I like my friends' way better.

Rob Long is a writer and producer based in Hollywood