A story taken from my book, Day of the Wolf.
Years ago, a TV production company associated with MGM Studios contracted with me to help develop and produce a new television series. It was a fairly large company run by three partners with several series on the air and several more in development. One of the partners ran their television operations while the others took no active role in that side of the business.
The partner in charge was known as a bully. While he had this reputation among all the TV staffs that worked for him, when I joined the group I had no difficulties with him at all. He was charming and friendly and I tried to be the same.
The relationship went along well for a number of weeks. He was complimentary about my work. My assignment was to write a pilot script and guide other writers who would be writing the episodes that followed. I employed several professionals and we began working on stories. These had to be approved before we went into the scripting phase. Story creation is always a lot of work. In developing a story for a TV episode, you strive to be thorough enough so that writing the script will not be difficult.
Finally, after several weeks of meetings and multiple drafts, the first story was ready to submit for approval. The writer was an old friend who had worked for me in the past. Together, we had pounded out every detail and I was satisfied that it would make an excellent episode. After submission, we waited.
Several days later the executive I have mentioned sent word that he wanted to meet with the writer and me. The meeting took place the following day in my office. The writer walked in. A few minutes later, the executive arrived with the multiple pages of our story in his hand. I introduced them and they sat down in front of my desk.
We were barely seated when, without warning, the executive literally threw the pages at the writer and began cursing at him. Using the foulest language he knew, he execrated our story and the writer. The attack was shocking in its viciousness. Though I had spent years in Hollywood and dealt with many abrasive (and even abusive) people, never had I seen such a performance.
Psychologists tell us that when we are confronted with danger we must choose either “fight or flight”. Most people in Hollywood choose flight. They cower and run. Wolves assume that their victims will cower. That’s what this executive expected, but it was not to be.
While he was yelling and cursing, I stood up and bent across my desk toward the man. I am not a small person and he was not a large person. Staring at him with a kind of deathly calm, I told him to STOP. Then I told him that never again was he going to act that way with one of my writers. I was responsible for everything they did. He could scream at me and throw things at me all he wanted. But he wasn’t going to do that to them.
It was a horrible moment. The man shriveled into silence. He left my office without saying another word. It was reported that from that day, he was terrified of me. Though I told no one what had happened, the word got out to his company personnel and all the show staffs. A dozen years later at a Hollywood party, a writer who had been on one of those staffs came up to me and told me how much he appreciated what I had done. No one else had ever stood up to the man.
The problem with such confrontations is that they change everything. Afterward, I tried to be friendly and continue the professional relationship that we had developed, but it was impossible to return. When a wolf is frightened of you, he will attack from behind. A few weeks later I left the company because of things the man was doing behind my back. Several years later, he was fired from his own organization due to financial malfeasance.
When you confront a wolf, there is a price that must be paid. David’s defeat of Goliath earned him a dangerous enemy, another wolf who made his life miserable for years, King Saul. After a wolf confrontation, you can expect to carry wounds of various kinds that may last a long time.
Many years after my confrontation with the executive, the young man who had been his assistant became president of a major cable network. (That’s the way things are done in Hollywood.) He was a person whom I had liked. We had never had the slightest problem. He must have been bullied himself during the time he was employed by that man. Yet years later, he refused to meet with me to discuss new TV series. Why? There’s only one reason that I can imagine. Fear. He was one of the lesser wolves surrounding the alpha wolf. While I don’t know that he had attacked anyone, I’m sure that he had facilitated his superior’s viciousness. When you confront the alpha wolf, the lesser wolves will not forget.