screenwriter to watch
LA-based writer and animator. Born in Panama, graduated from Carleton College with a B.A. in film. Winner of the Best Scripted Digital Series award at AFF 2018 for his animated pilot “Song in the Sky.”
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I had two friends in high school who knew me as “the writer guy” and asked me to pen a screenplay for their zombie movie. We never finished it (my final draft called for underground bunker sets, an exploding stadium, and hundreds of undead extras) but by the time production fell apart, I’d found my calling. And after teaching myself animation, I could finally visualize the big, weird stories I wanted to tell.
Director “Song in the Sky”
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. It’s easy to feel like you’re one step behind in this industry, like you’re in over your head and no one will take you seriously. But if you make something worthwhile, people *will* care. You just have to make them aware of you first. And try not to say “I’m sorry” too much during the meeting.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
Music plays a key role in “Song in the Sky” (as you can imagine), but before the pilot I’d never written a serious song in my life. Penning the titular tune, trying to make it sound like something that’d been passed down and sung for generations, was…a challenge. And yet it ended up really sticking with people. They even made me release the tabs. Now I just need an A&R man and a coke habit and I’m off to the races.
What was a major turning point in your career?
I’ll never forget the first time someone tweeted me their fan art of Angela’s fighter plane from “Song in the Sky”. I can’t even put it into words, it made me want to curl up with the thousands of Star Wars ships I doodled as a kid and sob for weeks.
What are you working on right now?
I’m moving ahead and developing “Song in the Sky” into a full miniseries. A number of artists who saw the pilot have signed on to help me make more episodes, and I’m in talks with backers and distributors who can hopefully get it to a wider audience.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, or more accurately the hours and hours of behind-the-scenes extras, are the whole reason I’m making movies today. How to Train Your Dragon, The Iron Giant, and Castle in the Sky are my favorite animated films of all time, and I’m also a sucker for a great romance like The Handmaiden or The Big Sick.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the most exciting screenwriters working today in my book. Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Lego Movie are these gigantic, bizarre, thematically all-over-the-place stories that have no business working in anyone’s hands, and yet they’re perfect. Also, Guillermo Del Toro is a genius, but you already knew that.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
I was so blindsided by my win at the awards luncheon that I totally blacked out during my acceptance speech and don’t remember a word of it. I met up with my dad at a bar afterwards and had the best fish taco I’d ever tasted. I’m pretty sure it was the greatest day of my life.