Maya Perez is a screenwriter and fiction writer. She is a producer on the Emmy Award-winning television series On Story, which just wrapped up its sixth season on PBS, and co-editor of the books On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft (University of Texas Press, October 2013) and On Story II: Screenwriters and Filmmakers on Their Iconic Films (University of Texas Press, October 2016). Perez is a former Michener Fellow, Sundance Screenwriters Intensive Fellow, and New York Stage & Film Emerging Filmmaker. Perez holds a BA from Vassar College and an MFA from The University of Texas at Austin. Her stories have appeared in The Masters Review and Electric Literature. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, artist Johnny Walker, and their daughter.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a writer? Or, what would be your advice to aspiring screenwriters? You cannot ingest too much art – screenplays and films, in particular, but all forms – or take too many walks. Whatever you start writing, finish. No matter how disenchanted you become with the story midway through, it is more demoralizing to have a bunch of unfinished projects than to have several mediocre finished drafts. Limit social media and avoid internet wormholes. This is the advice I give myself. I don’t always listen.
What are you working on right now? A pilot and a feature script. The feature, Bring Back Our Girls, takes place in northern Nigeria and is a fictionalized account of one of the 276 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. I wanted to write a war story from a girl’s perspective and explore how she becomes her strongest self under the most horrific of circumstances. The Bohemians is a one-hour drama series inspired by my mother and her friends who lived in Kenya in the late 60s, arguably the most turbulent years in modern history.
Do you have a favorite or memorable experience at Austin Film Festival? Watching Larry Kasdan enjoy Alec Berg’s panel. I love seeing established filmmakers and screenwriters sitting in the audience, getting as much out of the panels as the newer writers. The panel with Sydney Pollack, David Milch, and Shane Black at the Paramount was pretty incredible.