"Chief, do you remember the time we rescued Captain Picard from the Borg?"
"How could I forget? That was touch and go for a while. Truth is,
there were a couple moments when I thought that we were all going to end up
"I never doubted the outcome. We were like warriors from the ancient sagas. There was nothing we could not do."
- Lt. Cmdr. Worf and Chief O'Brien, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "The Way of the Warrior."
above quote is from the 4th season opener of Star Trek: Deep Space
Nine, written by Ira Stephen Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe. This scene
occurs after Worf has spent some time on the station several months after the
destruction of the Enterprise, and he's in the midst of a personal crisis. On the Enterprise, victory was a given, but here, on this Cardassian-built station, everything is unfamiliar, and unfriendly.
first glance, it probably appears to be an odd choice to kick off a
post celebrating the five-year anniversary of this blog. Fear not. All
will become clear in time.
Worf's conviction in
himself and his comrades is the sort of attitude that we all should
strive to have. Notice I say "conviction" and not "arrogance." There is
a difference. Both in Hollywood and out, I've run across many an
arrogant person who's certainty of their superiority borders on
delusional. And out here, there are many a charlatan and life coach who
make a living by peddling the lie that all one needs for success is to merely
put that desire out into the universe.
especially vulnerable to this sort of snake oil. I'm aware of at least
one "class" that requires its students to go into the same casting
offices every week and drop off their headshots personally so that they
might introduce themselves to the casting directors. I believe this is
supposed to either show conviction or ensure your face will be
remembered by the casting directors. If those actors are remembered at
all, I assure you it will be for all the wrong reasons.
speak of a different sort of conviction - one that recognizes there may
not be any easy solutions, but there are solutions. The difference
between success and failure is the willingness to go the distance rather
than will it to come to you. Difficult? Yes. But not impossible - and
There have been many times in my
life when I have felt as Worf did about the Borg incident, despite the odds. I have spoken
before of the TV show I created and ran in college, and how we produced
two seasons of shows despite the deck stacked against us. But the
incident where I really was aware of my inner Worf came several years
before that, in my junior year of high school.
February of my 11th grade year when the School Board announced that they
had targeted seven schools for closure - and my school was one of
them. Five weeks from that announcement they would make a decision
about upholding those recommendations. Before that, there would be
community forums held at each of the schools. The intent was to give
the Board an opportunity to explain their reasoning while also allowing
representatives of each school to make any statements they wished.
reasons we were targeted were primarily ones of budget and capacity.
The district needed to close schools following the failure of a levy.
They were getting beaten up in the press about all the schools with low
enrollments and people were definitely calling for blood in the form of
school closures. My school had a population of a little more than 500
in a building with a reported capacity of 900. There was another high
school nearby that had a population of 900 or so, and their capacity was
in the range of 1500 or 1600.
(My recollections of
the exact figures might be a little off. Suffice to say, both buildings
were under capacity and it appeared the other school could absorb both
populations with room to spare.)
I will never forget
the experience of walking into school the morning after that
announcement. There was no chatter, no hustle and bustle in the halls.
Just silence. It might have been the loudest silence I'd ever
experienced. It was the sound of 500 people still reeling from being
kicked in the balls the night before. Someone asked my homeroom
teacher, "Do you think the school board will change their minds?"
"There's about a one-percent chance of that happening," the teacher said.
I couldn't accept that. No, I didn't
accept that. I believed as Worf did, that with everything we'd been
through, we were like those ancient warriors. There was nothing we
could not do. And I wasn't alone. That night, the PTA assembled.
Parents and students had a week to prepare for their community forum.
As luck would have it, we were first. If we did it right, we could set
the tone for all who followed. The local media was already eating up
this story - surely there would be a great deal of attention given to
the first of these forums.
You might think that the
plan was to make an emotional appeal, to parade students before an
assembly and talk about how unique our school was, what a community we
had built here and how much it meant to us. Oh yes, you can probably
imagine how this would play out as a scene in a movie. We'd tug on the
heart strings, play on their emotions and the School Board's heart would
grow three sizes that day. Our devotion would inspire them to
reconsider and save our school.
That's not what
happened. Sure, you can defeat an enemy by fighting them on your
terms. But do you know how you really win? When you kick the snot out
of them and humiliate them by meeting them on their terms.
wanted to make it a simple numbers game. Each of the targeted schools
would have their populations easily absorbed... no... "assimilated" into
nearby schools. It would solve the problems of too many buildings and
underpopulation all at once. So what did we do? We shoved those numbers
down their throat and up their ass at the same time.
thing about capacity numbers - they hadn't been updated since the late
70s or early 80s. They were almost 20 years out of date by this point. You'd think
that wouldn't be a problem because the structures of the building hadn't
changed, but the laws that calculated capacity had. To make a
long story less long, special education students had an impact on the
numbers. I don't recall the exact explanation, but the gist of it is
that special ed programs require certain resources that create a ripple effect that reduces the true
capacity of the school.
So that 900 figure that
supposedly was the number that our school could take? It was rather
high. The true capacity was closer to 750. And the proposed receiving
school had a similar adjustment - to the point where their true capacity
was too small to accommodate the enrollment numbers from both
That was the crux of our presentation. Not
"Please don't take our second home away," but, "You guys have NO idea
what your own study says." Our presentation was passionate at times,
but it carried much more fact than rhetoric. It was like a closing
argument in court, and the soundbite on all the local news stations was
the perfect distillation of our message: "The proposed receiving school
can not accommodate the enrollment numbers from both buildings."
One-percent chance, my ass.
redefined the story right there and put them on the defensive, both in
that forum and in the press. Myself and several other students were so
well prepared when the media came looking for quotes. Instead of
giving them the "I don't want to leave my friends" statements they were
looking for, we started rattling off facts about capacity and how the
initial proposal was based on bad data. I was particularly pleased when
a statement I cribbed from the O.J. Simpson trial ended up as a
soundbite in the paper. When asked what I thought about the proposal, I
noted the flawed numbers in the study's foundation, and concluded
"Garbage in, garbage out."
We found out later that the day after the forum, the superintendent held a meeting where he demanded some of
his people debunk the capacity argument we laid out at the meeting. I
wish I could have seen the look on his face when his underling told him
Three weeks after the proposal, the Board
held one of their standard meetings. I and many others from my school
attended, for some of our teachers were intending to use the "open mic"
time to plead our case again. As it turned out, we didn't have to. At
the top of the meeting, the Board announced - two weeks ahead of
schedule - that they were not going to be closing any schools for the
following school year.
We won. And I had never doubted
the outcome. This result - the Board crying uncle - was the only
conceivable conclusion I ever allowed myself to contemplate. As our PTA
President said, "You CAN fight City Hall."
So why tell
this story on my five-year anniversary of all days? Because I was
Worf. My high school, and later my college were my Enterprise...
and when I first came to Los Angeles over a decade ago, I was not
unlike that Klingon trying to make sense of a much harsher environment.
It was no longer like those days when I had the luxury of believing it
would always work out. Virtually everyone who had my back before was
I eventually got a job in the industry and started climbing the ladder, but do you know when things really
started turning in my favor professionally? When I launched this
blog. It was slow-going in the early days, I won't lie. And yet, the
more I made a name for myself (one that, ironically wasn't even my real
name), the more control I had over my own destiny.
blog became a great way to network, not just with other aspirings on my
level, but with writers who had earned the kind of success I was
desperately pursuing for myself. Somehow, I became someone who they
were interested in meeting. I'd created a sort of credibility for
myself and even though I'd only taken a few steps, along the way I found
something that had been missing for a while: The conviction that I could do this. That this wasn't just a pipe dream that I was doomed to pine for from afar.
those of you still at the start of your journey, I want you to remember
that the most important thing you can have is that certainty that you
can do this. It doesn't mean you wait for the universe to work out for
you. We did save the school, but that was a lot of work. I produced
two seasons of TV, but that was a HELL of a lot of work. Embrace
that. Own it.
Those of you coming to L.A. will
probably find it scary at first. But if you stay strong, you will reach
the point when you can look at yourself in the mirror and know, "I can
do this. All I need is the will to discover the way."
didn't truly find that will until I took control of my destiny and
created this little spot on the internet. This blog has forced me to
reflect on what I've learned in the industry, it's made me more aware of
my own shortcomings as a writer... and it's brought me a lot of
friends. It's definitely helped my career in ways I couldn't have
There are a lot of people I'd like to thank for their support and friendship over the years. The problem is that I'm certain that the more comprehensive I try to make the list, the more likely I am to leave someone important out. So instead, I think I'll pay tribute to one of my earliest supporters and the man who was critical in drawing an audience to my blog in the early days - Scott Myers. After Scott plugged my blog, my hits jumped from about 50 a day to 500 - and they kept rising. He's been a constant supporter and a good friend in the years since. If you're not already reading his blog, Go Into the Story, add it to your bookmarks immediately.
To all of you who have come here regularly, either from the beginning or starting more recently, thank you for being a part of these last five years. And good luck in finding whatever it will take to own your own path.