1. Gabriel, congratulations on winning the 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge at FilmCon Awards. We enjoyed reading “Mari Juana Bakery”.
In less than 24 hours, you wrote a short screenplay about an elderly woman who gets a chance to fulfill her childhood dream - open her own bakery.
Let's talk about how you started out. Tell us about your background, what sparked your interest in screenwriting?
To be honest I am currently finishing my Bachelor of Science in Digital Cinematography in Atlantic University College in Puerto Rico. In my personal life I always liked when a story has good narrative in films or literature. I am always thinking about “WHAT WOULD MAKE A GOOD AND INTERESTING STORY?” that will make it possible to adapt it into film, tv series or even a book. In my childhood I use to draw home made comic books and I like to do home made movies with my friends. I could say that I always had imagination and the urge to tell a narrative, during the years I never stop creating stories in my head. Overall, I am not full-time screenwriter, but I am willing to write my own original narratives because it’s my imagination and my story.
2. Your winning entry, “Mari Juana Bakery,” tells the story of Mari, a 99-year-old woman who does not get along with her caregiver. The ongoing conflict between the two creates amusing incidents and leads to an opportunity: They start a business! Even if it doesn't last long, and even though it's not the most legit business, Mari finally finds a new meaning to life.
How did you come up with the idea, and what do you like about dark comedies?
I honestly thought about the message and the protagonist, I said to myself “WHAT KIND OF STORY I CAN TELL WITH A 99-YEAR-OLD WOMAN?” So I was thinking to avoid some the cliches or use something that been done but add a twist, I thought about “what if an elderly woman that sells edibles to drug dealers” the rest came to fruition. After I got the story that I wanted to tell, I started to think about what genre will fit in my narrative? I always been fascinated by the genre of dark comedies. The reason why is because in a dark comedy you can be more explicit and give that “SURPRISE SHOCK FACTOR TOWARD THE AUDIENCE”. I personally enjoy the European dark comedy films and the way they deliver an unexpected punchline just by only using couple of words and get straight to the point. Most my influence come from well-known films like Pulp Fiction, Shawn of the Dead, Being John Malkovich just to name a few… That why I like Dark Comedies you can give deliver the unexpected punchline.
3. Tell us about your writing process. How do you approach a new story? What kind of stories attract you?
My writing process is based on the fundamental of screenwriting. I have mentors that has taught me how to develop a more fleshed out story, characters and I am autodidactic, so I am always trying to learn something new to improve my scriptwriting skills. I read Blake Snyder “Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” Great book and teaches you the fundamentals of scriptwriting. The stories that attracts me are science fiction, fantasy, comedy, psychological thrillers etc.… Overall I enjoy mostly a bit of everything but for short film I rather go to more grounded narrative due to limitations.
4. What are some of the challenges in writing a short screenplay in 24 hours? Tell us about your experience with writing “Mari Juana Bakery.”
The challenges that I had was what was my story is going to be about? After I got my logline, I jumped straight into free writing because had limited time and after I wrote couple sentences I re read my story if I see something off, I quickly change it. My experience with writing “Mari Juana Bakery” was an interesting and challenging task because I didn’t get anyone to proof read my script, I did everything and I re read the script also had to make sure that the narrative was coherent from the begin, middle and end. In the end it was worth it and I took it upon myself to put it to the test and it’s a great exercise. I was open minded that someone can beat my screenplay because I am still learning but the key is to try your best, work hard and in the end, it will pay off.
5. In your opinion, what are the ingredients for creating a good screenplay? Do you have any tips for other first-time screenwriters?
My advice always be clear what is your story about. Like start of with the logline after you got that start freewriting see where your story goes and make changes If things do not add up. Its always good to have backstory for the protagonist, secondary characters, and antagonist this will help you understand and flesh out your characters. You also want have backstory or information in your world building if you are writing a fantasy, science fiction or fiction world. The better understanding you have on your own narrative, characters and world building, the more source material you have to work with and have a clear vision on what story you want to show the audience. As long it has interesting story, relatable characters and understanding the genre your targeting. The more likely to have a solid screenplay or narrative.