I read a post this morning that took me back a "few" years. To 1991, when I was working at Paramount Pictures.
It's odd, really, because I was thinking longingly of the Paramount lot just this morning. Working on a studio lot is much like being on a college campus, complete with the annoyingly stupid
students employees and people in crazy outfits (Candy the hat-lady anyone? Or her friend the cat-lady?). There are beautiful little parks and quad areas, old, unique historic buildings, small convenience stores for sundries, the commissary, and all the huge warehouse size studios, not to mention actors in crazy costumes and stars just popping up out of nowhere.
This morning I was specifically thinking about the commissary, and how it stayed open all morning and through the early afternoon---shut up. I was hungry and running late and knew the building cafeteria would close shortly after I got to work. Anyway, I started really missing studio life and especially Paramount. I spent nearly 13 years on that lot. Thirteen very impressionable years. I loved working there -- even when I didn't love it. I loved working on the lot, loved working in Hollywood and in the entertainment industry, loved working in television, even though I was just a lowly "assistant"; I loved it. And there are days when I really miss it. It's like being in a family, I think. There's a camaraderie and sense of pride for your studio home, and you can complain and moan about it endlessly but no outsider better say anything bad about it or you'll snatch 'em bald-headed. And now matter how long you've been gone, you still get homesick once in a while. Once it's in your blood, there's no getting it out.
So this morning I'm already missing my "home" and my peeps, when I read this post by Ron Moore, the executive producer of Battlestar Galactica (one of my favorite shows; if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend renting the DVDs and getting hooked. It is one of the best pieces of television out there) and I started missing Paramount all over again.
At the risk of writing an overly long post, I want to tell the story of my encounter with Ron Moore. I'd love to send him an email about it but I cannot find an addy -- and he'd probably be bored silly with it anyway -- so for now this will be my "open letter" to Ron. If you're not up for a trip down someone else's Memory Lane, now would be the time to get some popcorn.
Back in 1991 I was a young dreamer with big plans to be a television/feature film writer-producer. I'd been working in television development for two years, and was very ready to move on. I wanted to work on a television show, so I interviewed with every show on the lot that would give me 30 seconds, including Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). In fact, that was one of my earliest interviews. I met with Ron and Brannon Braga one beautiful late spring morning to interview for a job as their assistant; a job Ron described as "Den Mother" to a bunch of crazy and wonderful writers who needed nurture and a lot of cleaning up after. I did my best to impress them with my knowledge of Trek history, scripts (I'd read every single one for the two years prior), characters, and storylines, as well as my enthusiasm for the franchise itself, without sounding too much like the drooling fan I was.
I have admitted before that I am a Trek fan. A Trekkie (not Trekker; I'm old school, not a snob about my fannishness) who once collected tons of memorabilia. I've since divested myself of most of it, but the fan within refuses to die. I watched TOS (The Original Series) as a child -- though I must admit that at first I hated the show because it supplanted my beloved "Lost in Space" in the prime 3pm viewing time. But I soon forgave and embraced TOS as my new beloved favorite. As a pre-teen/teen I read every Trek fiction book there was (passed between my two sisters and me), went to all the Trek films within the first week, if not on opening day; and, as part of my 21st birthday celebration, went to my first Trek Convention during Star Trek's 20th anniversary celebration year, where William Shatner and others regaled us with stories of their adventures during filming. When TNG began airing, I never missed an episode (though I did miss episodes of subsequent iterations of Trek). I don't know if my pure-fan heart was obvious to Ron and Brannon -- I tried not to look like a complete dork -- but I was in heaven just being in the Hart building among such history. And I wanted that job soooo bad.
The interview was in the same office I had met with Hans Beimler and Rich Manning a year or two before (can't remember now). Ron mentions Hans and Rich in his post, and as I read I remembered realizing that his office was their old one during our interview, but I'd forgotten that fact till today. Anyway, if memory serves (sometimes it doesn't), Ron told me as our time ended that I was their pick of the people they'd interviewed, but that they had already offered the job to someone outside -- a friend or friend of a friend, something like that -- but had to go through the union-required three lot-employee interviews. They were very apologetic for making me "waste" my time and seemed sincere in both their apologies and their desire to offer me a job. I was bummed but I understood. It happens. I was just excited and happy that I'd made a good impression and a good contact for the future (btw, that policy of having to interview three lot employees was eliminated from our next union contract because so many of us had gone on wasted interviews and complained very loudly about it).
Flash forward a couple of months. I'd finally managed to land, at the very end of the "staffing season," a job on the show "Dear John." Two weeks later I get a call from Ron Moore (himself!!) stating that the woman they'd given the job to had quit to take a better job on another show and I was their first choice to replace her. Oh. My. Gosh! Star Trek! Ron Moore! Wants me!! How cool is that!!
I had the most bizarre mixture of excitement, pride, and sorrow I'd ever had in my life. While I was elated and humbled that they would remember me and, even more, want to hire me, I knew I could not in good conscience leave the show I'd just started to go work for someone else. I was later told repeatedly that I'd been foolish to think that way; that many people left shows during production to take better offers. But that's just not who I am; I didn't want to leave my bosses and co-workers in a lurch the way that other assistant had just left Ron and Brannon and the TNG staff. I had to, with much respect, honor, humility and sorrow, turn down the offer. And explained all this to Ron (at least I think I did).
It. Killed. Me. Can I tell you? It utterly killed me to turn that opportunity down. But I just had to for the sake of my own integrity and conscience. Not to mention that I felt Ron and Brannon would always wonder if I would leave them should a "better offer" come along (is there such a thing??). I don't ever want my bosses to think I'd leave them hanging.
I look back on it now and sometimes wonder where I'd be, what I'd be doing now, if I had taken that job. I think I would have stayed till the end of Ron's run on the various Treks, and perhaps followed him to his next few shows, if he was willing -- or I was interested. Ron went on to work on two of my favorite sci-fi shows, Roswell and the aforementioned BSG, so that would have been very fun. But I also wonder what it would have done to my conscience and my heart. I'm a pretty sensitive girl, and when I violate my own code of ethics, even in a minor way, it weighs very heavy on my soul. I usually don't survive long before I have to correct the error and make things right. And I don't know how I would have made that situation right.
I also don't know if I would have ended up leaving Hollywood behind and living in India in 2001 and Cyprus in 2002-03, and eventually moving to Nashville three years ago. As sad as I am that missed the opportunity to work with Ron, I think the former would have been the greater tragedy. My life is so much richer because of these experiences. I realize each time I look back with longing and a pinch of regret at that summer day in 1991, that as painful as that decision was, it put me on a path that I would not change for all the precious gems in the universe.
I have deep respect for Ron as a writer-producer and as a person. Our one meeting meant the world to me both as a Trek fan and as a prospective assistant, and his phone call and job offer did more for my ego and self-confidence than I can truthfully measure. To him it was probably just a quick call to solve a frustrating problem; to me, it was a solid affirmation that I was in the right business, on the right track and had what it takes to succeed.
Ultimately I think my life took the direction it was meant to take. I'm convinced that was summer day was a defining moment in my life, and a gift of a new direction -- even though that new direction wasn't reavealed for another nine years. Isn't God amazing? And isn't Life good! Man, I am blessed.