#PayUpHollywood: Former ‘Walking Dead’ Showrunner Offers Tips on How to Support Underpaid Assistants

“Yes, we need to advocate for higher pay but whether or not the studios comply, there are many other ways we can support our hard-working assistants,” Glen Mazzara tweeted

Glen Mazzara photographed in 2016
Jerod Harris / Getty Images for A+E Networks

As Hollywood assistants have been speaking out through the growing #PayUpHollywood movement against their working conditions and low wages, former “The Walking Dead” showrunner Glen Mazzara chimed in on Sunday to share a list of actions he has individually taken to better support his assistants.

Included in the list was buying lunch and coffee for assistants, which “saves them hundreds per month”; reading scripts and providing “detailed feedback”; letting assistants observe the filmmaking process step-by-step; offering additional pay for those who help out with personal projects; and hiring assistants into staff positions.

Mazzara also criticized a culture in which writers and showrunners actively discourage assistants from participating in the filmmaking process, while also expecting them to do the work of a staff creative.

“I’ve seen showrunners yell at their assistants who are they to have an opinion. That’s mean,” he wrote. “I’ve seen staff writers expect assts to provide research or proof scripts for development projects w/o paying them. That’s taking advantage.”

Working as an assistant to a producer, showrunner, agent, or other Hollywood executives and power players has long been viewed as a viable path toward a career in the entertainment industry. But last month, the #PayUpHollywood movement grew in prominence due to a podcast episode from the “Chernobyl” creator Craig Mazin and the “Aladdin” screenwriter John August, where the two discussed how little Hollywood assistants were paid.

“All of you who are underpaying these people: You are playing with fire. They have your emails. They have your information. Wise up,” Mazin said in the episode. “If you don’t want to do the right thing because you’re a good person, do the right thing because you’re a prudent person.”

Shortly after episode was released, a hashtag created on social media by Liz Alper, a TV writer (“Chicago Fire,” “The Rookie”) and Writers Guild of America board member, quickly spread as assistants began sharing their grievances with their line of work. Chief among the complaints were non-competitive, low wages, exhausting work hours, and expensive barriers to entry.

In his Twitter thread, Mazzara urged other showrunners to advocate for their assistants and do more individually to support their career development.

“Yes, showrunners need to advocate for higher pay for assistants but very often the studios will just give you a flat no,” Mazzara wrote. “I’m throwing these tips out there to show that yes, we need to advocate for higher pay but whether or not the studios comply, there are many other ways we can support our hard-working assistants … I’ve had many great assistants over the years and I honestly wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”