Tools of the Trade

Nicole LaPorte is a Venice-based writer who covers the entertainment industry. Contact her at

A manager recently pitched a project to a producer, when suddenly the producer (who was glued to his Sidekick throughout the meeting) interrupted and said: “Could you e-mail that to me? That way I can digest it better.”

Hollywood’s technology codependency is swiftly making traditional forms of communication as outdated as messengers--remember those biped knaves who used to pick up and deliver scripts before it became standard just to hit “send”? They’re headed the way of secretaries such as the dutiful Miss Doolan, who typed her boss’ notes in quintuplicate in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Love of the Last Tycoon.”

Because of the sprint to digitize--many agencies have gone “paperless,” and BlackBerrys are upgraded as frequently as Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety status--Hollywood’s ferociously self-protected hierarchies are being upended.


E-mail, that great social equalizer, has given everyone a voice, as well as a means to connect to hitherto velvet-roped higher-ups instead of wooing said higher-ups’ assistants. And there’s always, where you can bond with your boss’ boss over the fact that you went to the same college (“I’m a Bobcat too!! LOL”) or are from the same half of the country. (Alas, such gestures don’t always meet with instant replies.)

Meanwhile, gone are gracefully passive-aggressive tactics such as the old “canyon” excuse: “What’s that? You’re breaking up . . .” This was used when wireless service was sketchy and inconvenient (or unpleasant) cellphone calls needed to be cut off quickly.

Today, thanks to Hollywood’s crack-like obsession with gadgets, certain protocol persists when navigating our brave, new, cursor-blinking world. Consider yourself cc’d:

Breaking rank is taboo, even over the Internet. “Anyone can e-mail anyone, but it’s very unorthodox,” says Shai Steinberger, the former William Morris assistant whose famous “goodbye” e-mail (in which he amusingly roasted his ex-colleagues) catapulted him into the limelight. “You have to be careful and not upset the code. Assistants e-mail assistants to give and get information, but they’re not supposed to e-mail agents.” Similarly, “a covering agent [i.e. an agent assigned to ‘cover’ a studio] can’t e-mail a studio head.”

Though Steinberger himself broke the code (not only with his spoofy treatise but also by brazenly e-mailing studio executives to congratulate them on a movie), he has become living proof of the power of e-mail--if used wisely, that is. His sign-off note attracted the attention of two major TV writers--who contacted him via and with whom he’s now working on a TV pilot--as well as a publicist and book agent.

You are your phone. Prius, shmius--what’s in your pocket? If it’s a BlackBerry Curve, you’re someone who lives in the moment and “gets” it, as opposed to those still stuck with the BlackBerry 8700. Treo (any model)? You’re an amateur, I’m afraid, not to mention living in 2006. IPhone? An artiste with vision, as long as you weren’t suckered into buying it at $599. BlackBerry 8830 World carrier? See you in Cannes!


BlackBerrying during lunch is rude, but there are ways around it. According to Roy Lee, producer of “The Ring,” sometimes it’s OK to hit “reply” while dining. “If the other person has a conversation with someone walking by, I’ll check [my BlackBerry]. Or if they’re checking theirs, I’ll check. It gives you something to do.” (In fact, keeping your BlackBerry on isn’t just acceptable, it’s a life-affirming action. To turn off your BlackBerry is to be dead.)

If your cellphone is part of your anatomy, avoid swank sushi bars. Chat-a-holics, including certain high-profile directors, are known to have received a stern “sayonara” from chefs at places such as Sushi Nozawa and Hiko Sushi.

If you haven’t heard back yet, consider yourself dissed. Don Murphy, a producer on “Transformers” and perhaps the last remaining BlackBerry-shunner in Hollywood (“I don’t want to be owned”), says: “I know people who are obsessive on their BlackBerry, and when I e-mail them and don’t hear back right away, I know they’re avoiding me.” *



Avoid swank sushi bars if your cellphone is part of your anatomy. Certain chefs say “sayonara”) to chat-a-holics.


Chat with Nicole LaPorte and Shai Steinberger, the former William Morris Agency assistant known for his “goodbye” e-mail, at 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15. Go to