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Of Zombies and Lucha Libre Wrestlers

There is nothing more exciting and at the same time more terrifying than a blank page. On one side it’s inviting, alluring; a world of possibilities just waiting for the first push of a key on a keyboard. Black characters filling the screen making up words, sentences, thoughts… only to be briskly deleted in a flurry of backspaces, followed by an exasperated sigh and a trip to the fridge/bar/medicine cabinet. Nobody said screenwriting would be easy. Well, I said it in my previous post, but that was only my initial understanding of what turned out to be a to-and-fro frustrating ride with numerous unnerving moments, all in the glimmering hope of a gratifying one at the end of the road. Basically, writing is a job and it is hard work.

But there are times when, as if by magic, everything falls into place. It starts with the most innocuous thing, could be a picture, a song, a sound, that forms an idea in your head and quickly develops into a full-blown concept. Take the above picture, for example. It was shared in social media by KanKun Luchador, a Mexican entrepreneur in London who developed a very successful (and delicious, I may add) brand of Mexican sauces. Seeing that image invoked a set of memories of my brother and me watching black and white lucha libre movies on the TV. This nostalgic trip brought me to a realisation: there have been no good movie depictions of lucha libre since the 1980s (except, of course for Nacho Libre which surprisingly captures the soul of the sport).

Then, like a flash, it all came to me. The accidental discovery of an ancient pre-Hispanic mask holding within an evil spirit with the power to raise the dead. An ex-lucha libre fighter now entrepreneur with an axe to grind, given a chance to avenge the fighter who defeated him and took his mask years ago (in lucha libre, masks are extremely important). A friend betrayed who wears the evil mask and unleashes a zombie apocalypse. An army of ninja friars determined to stop the zombie invasion. A wrestling match above the ring, mask against mask, for the sake of all of humanity. It’s Zombies Mexican Style. The story basically wrote itself… well, not exactly.

Edison is quoted with saying “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” Actually, his original quote was 2% inspiration, 98 percent hard work which, by the way, seems to have been adapted from a previous quote by Kate Sanborn who stated that “genius is inspiration, talent and perspiration” (another example of Edison and his penchant for appropriating things from other people). When it comes to success in storytelling in general, and screenwriting in particular, I believe that the formula involves three main elements: passion, inspiration and perspiration. In the case of my story, it was perspiration time.

I researched the perfect location, studied its folklore and history. I immersed myself into the lucha libre culture, the técnicos (rule abiding wrestlers) and the rudos (the bad ones who will happily ram a chair on your head when the referee is distracted). I studied the different fighting moves, watched countless hours of videos, went to lucha libre wrestling matches in London. With the help from my friend El Inquilino Guionista I was able to ground the story in the modern Mexican reality (outside of it being a zombie movie, of course), and to improve the flow. It’s gory, funny, campy and outrageous. And I am not stopping there. Recently, I reworked it again to make it the starting chapter of an all-Mexican superhero cinematic universe. It’s taken me over four years but now it is finally at the point where I want it.

By this point, you are probably asking, what were you thinking? Why write a story that would only be appreciated in Mexico, that requires a massive budget, extras, special effects and with very little, if any, probability of getting financed? As an unknown writer, why waste your time in this and not go for something more conventional or easier to market? Well, I wrote this because this is a story that I wanted to tell, that I needed to tell. It helped me grow as a writer and I had an amazing time doing it. Yes, the chances of getting this script produced are very small but, in a world where sharks surf tornadoes everything is possible, even a Mexican zombie movie with lucha libre wrestlers.

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