How This Becomes That



What is development, they would ask, when I spoke of my day job. In a monotone, I would reply it's the process by which one makes a script, not great, but good enough for a greenlight. Screenplays were put through the wringer - ceaseless notes, painful rewrites, fired writers. I, too, partook in the dismantling for the sake of rebuilding, wishing that I could change the words myself, scribbling all over the pages, dooming said project with a heartless pass. After being developed, the scripts were lucky if they bore some semblance to the initial stories that were told.

When Film Independent announced that the themes for 2012's Project Involve would be California and democracy, I was confident. I had bookmarked a Los Angeles Times article by Caitlin Liu that I wanted to write about. And with the city being my hometown, how could I go wrong?

I paid karmically. Though script consultant and story analyst Ruth Atkinson made sure the sessions were safe and constructive, development felt brutal. This plot has been done before, said one, citing LA MISMA LUNA as a precursor. I was humiliated (yet flattered) by the comparison. How in the world are you going to film a bus on this budget, said another. Somehow, the script managed to get through the development and production processes (including, not just one, but two title changes) and was made into a film, clinging to the original intent.


What were the upsides? This was my first foray into the world of crowdfunding and we raised successfully our budget through Kickstarter. THE 576 THE GRIZZLY PROMESAS The work was screened in a showcase at the Los Angeles Film Festival.



After years of toiling in the industry, searching for the four-quadrant franchise or ratings boon, 18-49 only, of course, I had forgotten why I pursued filmmaking in the first place. Enter Film Independent's Project Involve. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to participate in the program as a writing fellow. Because of time spent with others beginning their journeys, workshops with those who made it to the other side such as Dee Rees and Nekisa Cooper of PARIAH, not to mention finding a mentor in Tina Mabry, I found myself re-stoking that long dormant fire in the belly. I remembered that my love was for the story atypical.

Led by Francisco Velasquez and Jane Hwang, the fellowship was also my introduction to Film Independent, an organization that I am grateful belongs to Los Angeles.

This one's both a self and public service announcement as applications are currently being accepted here.

Photo by Miles Maker.


Word. More coming soon.

Ed Ruscha, Hollywood is a Verb. Image Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.