Time Warner announced Thursday that New Line Cinema, one of its marquee movie studios, would become a unit of Warner Brothers, ceasing to operate as a full-service, stand-alone unit.WOOHOO! I exulted.
In the process, New Line will shed an unspecified but substantial number of its 600 employees, including Robert Shaye, the studio’s founder...
Why? Allow me to explain.
In the early 1980s, I took a job as the assistant (read: abused secretary) to Shaye and his then-VP of production, Sara Risher. In those days New Line was a struggling indie located on the noisome fringes of Manhattan's Garment District. My duties were to:
- make phone calls for Shaye, even when the Rolodex was sitting in front of him
- answer the phone in a voice with the perfect combination of sophistication and servility (Shaye drilled me till I got the tone just right)
- serve coffee to important guests on specially purchased Royal Copenhagen porcelain (which I had to wash up afterwards)
- analyse screenplays when Shaye/Risher didn't want to pay for outside readers
- screen videos of movies from small-time producers looking for a distributor
- take dictation
- take notes during meetings
- type, type, type
- be yelled at--a lot--and like it
My only excuse for accepting such a wretched job is that I was broke and recovering from a severe concussion (my first equestrian mishap). I guess the brain damage was worse than I'd thought, else I wouldn't have kept believing the job--and my employer--would improve.
Barnes admirably understates:
Indeed, the consolidation may be as much about egos as economics. Mr. Shaye and Mr. Lynne — whose aggressive style and loyalty to offbeat projects like “The Last Mimzy” have raised eyebrows — have long resisted combining New Line with Warner Brothers, leading to a running soap opera for the company.I was constantly sick while I worked there, and not just because of the then-new office's unwholesome location on 8th Avenue just south of Port Authority. (On my way out to lunch one day, I saw a couple have a knife fight in front of their screaming toddler.) My predecessor had symptoms of MS, which resolved as soon as she left. I was so dispirited that I almost moved to New Jersey. Amazing what stress will do to you.
After 16 months, I found a new job (at an even smaller film company, but that's another wretched story) and gave notice. My last day at New Line was hell. Shaye berated me constantly and I left in tears. To my astonishment, a few days later I received a handwritten letter of apology. I still have it. By now it's worth thousands--maybe millions--as I'm sure it's one of a kind.