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You commute how many hours?

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

This is the first thing I hear when I tell people about my morning and afternoon routine. But I don't complain. Yes, I have to take two to three trains every day to get to my place of employment, and the trip takes around 2 hours door-to-door, but I like my work and I only have to do it three times a week. However, it does leave me with a lot of time on my hands. At first, I did the usual. Read, watch shows on the phone, social media... okay, in all honesty I mostly spent the time playing games on my phone... but then it hit me. What if I dedicated that time to something a bit more creative?

I've always had a vivid imagination and I love telling stories. When I was little, my mother would send the housemaid and me in the cover of night to the neighbour's to "borrow" some aloe Vera leaves that was helpfully too close to the edge of her fence. On the way there, the housemaid would ask me to tell her scary stories. I would regale her with horrific tales I made up on the spot about homicidal dolls with sharp pointy teeth or other monsters lurking in the shadows. Since I was raised watching El Santo movies, these stories came naturally. For those who are not familiar with Mexican culture, El Santo was the most famous lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) fighter whose cinema career spanned the 60s, 70s and most of the 80s. These are cult movies where he fought a mosaic of monsters ranging from sexy vampires, zombies, mummies and other assorted beasts.

As I grew older, I found myself continuously making up elaborate movies in my head. I would think up relevant scenes and retell them to myself in different ways, always looking for ways to make them more exciting. I never really acted out on it and, as life took its course, time became a precious commodity which was better spent studying and later working. The tales continued forming in my head but would never with the same intensity. Fortunately, with family life came kids and with the kids, whole new possibilities for storytelling. Children's books can only take you so far and my kids were hungry for more... so I delivered. The night-time routine now included magical tales of fantastic creatures like the incredible adventures of the world's smallest giant (the size of your ear). They had to be exciting, fun and always... always end in a cliff-hanger.

As I found myself sitting on a train with a long commute ahead of me, inspiration struck. How about writing a movie? I mean, I love movies and everything cinema. I am a master in useless movie trivia (my movie experience doesn't with the rolling of the credits, but at the end of the trivia section at Years and years wasted making up stories in my head, how about finally writing one. So, I rolled up my sleeves, downloaded a screenplay template in MS Word and got started. I mean, how hard could it be?

The first thing I ever wrote was a sexy comedy in Spanish, because... why not? I outlined the whole story, then I fleshed out the scenes. I would follow the same routine: during the day, in every bit of spare time I had, like when I was compressed like a pack of sardines in a busy morning train, I would think of the scene I wanted to work on and played with it over and over until I was happy with it. When the time came to finally seat down on the train, I would get the laptop out and let the words flow out. Little by little my first masterpiece would take shape until, alas, one day it was complete.

Through a friend of a friend of a friend I got the script into the hands of a Mexican director who told me that, concerning the story, the concept, the characters, and the overall flow... it was absolute crap. It was full of clichés, new characters shot out of nowhere, some scenes were too long, some too short, my scene structure was the same throughout and the jokes fell flat. I was completely shocked, very much appalled, particularly outraged, utterly defeated, similarly spent and somewhat depressed. Mostly because when I re-read it myself... he was right. He was so right.

Thankfully, there was light at the end of the tunnel. My director friend said that there were some interesting ideas I could develop. My problem is that I lacked the experience and the technique to get them out. The best suggestion he gave me was to read a lot of screenplays. It was during my online search that I stumbled upon the only source I have ever used on how to write for the cinema: the Go Into the Story blog by Scott Myers. Within I found a community of like-minded screenwriters, from newbies to seasoned writers, who were more than willing to provide tips, guidance and, when all seemed pointless, emotional support.

This was six years ago. Since then I have written several feature length screenplays and TV pilots, in English and in Spanish, award winning short scripts, and even had a short story published. I have found my calling (screenwriting) and my genre (horror/sci-fi). I have a funnel of projects in different stages of development, two of them that I am currently writing. Furthermore, I am moving towards getting my screenplays into the big screen, which will require tons of networking, late nights and lots of work. I am not giving up my day job… yet. For the time being, what I really need… is a longer commute.


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