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Merryl Futerman P R OFI LE PA TO JULIAN CLARY AND CO-FOUNDER OF PAACCESSALLAREAS TRAINING COURSES Career highlights


HERE ARE CERTAIN TRAITS any PA needs: reliability, for instance. But to be a celebrity


PA, you also need discretion and flexibility, says Merryl Futerman of PAAccess All Areas. In the world of showbiz, things are always


changing, and there is no point getting precious about your carefully crafted itinerary, or stressed when something has to be moved around. You need resilience as well: it can be lonely in any organisation, but a celebrity PA works independently, without any office structure or other people that responsibility can fall to. Above all, stresses Merryl, you will want to be resourceful. The phone can ring at any hour, and you cannot react with shock or dismay to a request: you simply have to get on with it. Merryl’s background is in publicity within the film industry and publishing, so she knew her way around a film set and was undaunted by the challenges. Her move to freelance PA work began when she was starting a family, giving her a break from the constraints of a full-time job, and a more bespoke way of working: “I wanted to feel like I was looking after an individual. I’m quite a disciplined person but also a thrill-seeker,” she admits, explaining why the role suits her so well. “When dealing with a celebrity, sometimes it’s simply a case of judging whether they need a frank opinion or a ‘That’s fabulous, darling!’” She concedes that first and foremost it’s about what the client wants, but her unflappable air tells you she’s had to face down more than one challenging celebrity in her time. She had no idea originally


that the role of celebrity PA already existed. She now uses her 15 years in the industry to run courses for PAs in any environment, adding that she is happy to share tips and tools from working at the sharp end. What took her many years to learn left her feeling ready for the new challenge of teaching others. Even after talking about the


2012:Launches PAAccess All Areas with Josephine Green


2008:Finishes working with Anne Robinson


2007:Works with Henry Dimbleby of Leon restaurants


2000:Works with Graham Linehan and then Jonathan Ross and his wife, Jane Goldman


1997:Launches freelance career with first client, Julian Clary


1993 – 1996:HarperCollins, Press Officer


1990 – 1993:Corbett and Keene PR, Press Officer


1989 – 1990 Virago, Press Officer


“he does still surprise me”, such as when he chose to appear on Celebrity Big Brother (she knew about it for ages before the show started and had to keep schtum). When Julian won a challenge while on the show and was allowed a visit from his dogs, she had to orchestrate the entire trip. “I had them treated like superstars,” she recalls. She admits that being a celebrity PA does have a very personal aspect compared to that of a corporate PA role. She often works from her clients’ houses, and says that this can lead to you filling the role of wife, girlfriend or even mother. “You can feel quite maternal,” she says, describing doing everything from paying bills and invoices to keeping her boss’s spirits up when they are working on a difficult programme or exhausting acting schedule. As an example of the ‘girlfriend’ role, she says that one young actor had just moved to London, so she gave him advice about things to do and visit, and even helped him choose a sofa for his new apartment. This is alongside all of the normal admin


JULIAN REFERS TO ME AS HIS


PROFESSIONALWIFE


after-hours work, warning against difficult clients, and explaining that as a freelancer they have no sick pay or time off and no guarantee of full-time work, Merryl says she still sees an endless array of applicants for her course. She adds that the majority of her work is the same as any corporate PA, monitoring documentation and arranging itineraries. “I see a lot of young people who are passionate about the role,” she adds, explaining why she felt devising a training programme was the obvious next step in her career. She still works as PA to


one client, however – Julian Clary, who was also her first employer when she became


freelance. She has had up to three clients at any time, but has stayed with Julian throughout her career. “He’s great to work for, we’ve just gotten on so well… he refers to me as his professional wife.” She says that after 17 years she knows him very well, but


duties a PA would expect to encounter but, as she admits, roles evolve over time, and everyone treats their PA differently. “No two roles are the same; in fact, you never know until you get stuck in, but if you’re their first [PA], you have more chance to shape what the role will become,” she adds. In terms of dealing with demanding


clients, Merryl admits that you simply have to acknowledge that celebrities aren’t like normal people. Her clients have never had a nine-to-five lifestyle, especially in the film industry: a working day won’t start before 10am, but may easily go on beyond 10pm. “It’s not precious,” she says of late-night phone calls and sudden requests. “They just live in that world… when they think of something they want it.” But, she adds, you have to learn to draw a line, especially when working one-on-one. Judging by how successfully Merryl fits in her family life around her work with Julian and her training courses, it’s obvious that this is one PA who has her priorities in the very best order. ●


For more information about PA Access All Areas, visit PAAccessAllAreas.co.uk.


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