Why I Write.

Nothing gives me more power than being able to write my own shit. The pen is
truly mightier than the sword. The keyboard is definitely mightier than the sword.

Writing allows my voice to be heard.

Writing gives me the opportunity to create compelling characters for myself that Hollywood wouldn’t necessarily give to me or see me in upon first glance. Or second glance. Or third glance. Or never. And not only can I write it, I can shoot it as well and present the evidence to others. Okay!

Writing gives me the opportunity to create compelling characters for my friends. I want to be on set with my friends!!!

As a writer, I made myself the boyfriend.

As a writer, I made myself the boyfriend to a transgender woman.

As a writer, I made myself the guy starting life all over again in the concrete jungle of NYC.

As a writer, I made myself the guy who stands up against James Franco.

As a writer, I made myself the guy who strikes up an unconventional relationship with a teenager.

As a writer, I made myself the guy trying to hold it together in a family business.

As a writer, I made myself the guy who maybe, just maybe, will finally follow his gut and his heart.

As a writer, I made myself the writer repped by ICM who has had wonderful success with his first two feature film scripts, but now needs help with his latest ones.

Writing allows me to be the things people don’t see me in, don’t want to see me in, can’t see me in, won’t consider me in, etc.

As a writer, I can defy the stereotypes that Hollywood places on Latino actors. I can write stories where I actually live in a beautiful home. Where I actually have a wonderful career. Where I actually have a college education. Where I actually have wonderful, informed conversations with Harvey Weinstein, Guy Oseary and Megan Ellison. Where I make decisions. Where I save the day. Where I save the world. Where I save a student. Where I save a community.

Writing means that the sky’s the limit.

Writing lets my imagination soar.

Writing allows me to show another side.

Writing allows me to be dangerous.

Writing allows me to make the world a little more colorful.

Writing allows me to play some amazing and cool fucking characters.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

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Sleeping With James Franco For 8 Months

For the last eight months, I’ve been sleeping with James Franco (a.k.a. writing a screenplay in which I envisioned him at the antagonist.) Writing is an intimate, personal process. Just you and the computer. And so it felt like I was in bed with James Franco for 8 months. Keep reading, it gets better 🙂

That being said, with writing, there are times where I would rather eat glass. Or jump off a 100-story building. Writing is one of the most confronting things out there. So much more than acting in my opinion. I have decided to take numerous “power naps” when confronted with the arduous task of starting a writing project. The mere action of starting a new story with the famous/infamous words, “Fade In”, have led me to become an expert in many areas of life.

For example, I am now an expert chef. I am now an expert mechanic (although I still want to give a HUGE shout out to Sam and his crew over at Express Auto Shop on the corner of Pico Blvd. & La Peer Drive in Los Angeles!) I sit on the boards of 17 charities and I have raised millions of dollars in one year for various causes I believe in (Bill Gates has nothing on me) I have figured out complex mathematical equations for fun and read a book about the Higgs Particle in the area of particle physics FIVE times. This is one Latino who is definitely not mowing your lawns or cleaning out your pools.

Okay, okay, I embellished above…

…well, not really though, because it’s amazing how many things would actually “come up” for me to tackle or how often I would get engrossed in many other things the second the computer beckoned me to write on it.

Cut to (Get it? Cut to…) November 2014. Richard Lawson challenged us in his Professional Development Program 2.0 class to create a feature film treatment in two weeks and to use Jeffery Schecter’s amazing “My Story Can Beat Up Your Story” as our guide. This is a book that clearly breaks down how to write a screenplay from start to finish, from Fade In to Fade Out. Jeffrey uses plain old English and humor to explain things in a very clear and direct way. I love people like that. Richard gave us this assignment because writing is one of the dynamics taught at his studio. Understanding the structure of writing not only helps us to become better actors because we understand our function and purpose when playing a particular archetype within a story, but it also empowers us to create our own evidence and product in the form of short films, feature films, TV series, web series, etc. Richard’s assignment would push us to continue developing and growing as writers.

However, the first reaction I had when Richard gave us the assignment was to throw myself out of a window. The last thing I wanted to do was to create an entire feature film treatment. But a few seconds later, I got over my initial reaction and I was excited to tackle the assignment. It was an opportunity to create a story from scratch. When I got home that day and started going through Jeffrey’s book, I started to hate the assignment again: “I can’t believe I have to create a whole treatment from scratch. This is so much work!” Ahhhhh, there’s that beautiful word again, “work”. “Fine. Fine! FINE! I’ll continue moving forward with this assignment.” Although, to be honest, I did so with some hostility and a “whatever” attitude attached to it. The premise I created for the treatment was ridiculous because I just wanted to fulfill the assignment and return to my life.

At the time of my treatment, I had a crush on James Franco. And so I made him the antagonist. God honest truth. I wish I had a more profound reason for my casting choice, but again, I was just throwing in these arbitrary elements just to fulfill the assignment. I was blasé and had no attachment to it. “More explosions! We need more explosions!”

But ironically enough, this attitude allowed me to construct a fully-realized treatment in a few days time. Because I wasn’t precious with it, I wrote out the following components with ease: The four stages the protagonist goes through (orphan, wanderer, warrior, martyr), the formula/log line, the four questions and the central question for the protagonist, other character archetypes and 44 plot points. In a few days, I completed a treatment for a horror comedy. And when I looked it over, I realized I had something potentially viable and delicious over here.

Two weeks later, I presented my treatment to class and they loved it. They loved how it was a departure from the dramatic, edgier stories I normally write about. The loved the premise and the fun of it. They loved that I had James Franco as the antagonist. And they loved WHY I made him the antagonist. They loved that a WOMAN was the protagonist. Fueled and inspired by their support, I started writing the dialogue for Act 1. I was on a roll. I was on fire. The dialogue flowed very easily. I posted updates on Facebook and Twitter. My affair with James Franco began and it was hot and sexy. I knew a lot of people were jealous of our explosive relationship and I didn’t care.

However, by the time the holidays rolled around in December, I stopped writing. 2014 was a very challenging year for me and by the time December rolled around, I was burnt out. I spent the last two weeks of December not wanting to do anything for my career. I had no desire to act. I had no desire to write. I had no desire to dance. I had no desire to create. James would call me to join him in bed and I would always say, “No”. I felt awful because I knew we had incredible chemistry. We even talked about remaking the television series, “Moonlighting”. He would reprise the Bruce Willis character and I would reprise the Cybill Shepherd character. But I had to be strong. I did not want to be an artist anymore for the rest of 2014 and beyond. So I walked away from James Franco.

Even when I watched his film, “The Interview”, on Christmas Eve 2014 at my best friend’s place, I could feel him staring at me from the computer screen. I could see him looking into my eyes and begging me to get back to my script. Even when he sang “Firework” by Katy Perry in “The Interview”, he was singing to me. I mean, come on, read the lyrics and tell me he wasn’t singing about me:

“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under?
Screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, "Aah, aah, aah”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y"

And right as I was about to join him in an orgasmic-filled second verse, I exclaimed, “No!! Now hurry up and kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un!” When the movie ended, I walked back home. It was a chilly, windy night and not a soul was around. Just a white plastic bag being blown around in the distance. Wait, are we still talking about Katy Perry’s “Firework” or the white bag in “American Beauty”?

Cut to January 2015. Class was back in session from the holiday hiatus and I was re-injected with a new fever to create…on the acting side. Fuck writing. I was done with writing. However, by May 2015, I had amassed and completed a series of wins on the acting side and I was hungry for James’ big white–errr, to write again. I was hungry to WRITE again.

So, I located the latest Final Draft copy of the script and immediately got back to work again. I had stopped near the end of Act 1 and had to create dialogue for two or three more plot points before I would launch into Act 2. I could hear James speak my words and I became a giddy school girl again. James and I were back and our relationship was re-kindled.

I wrote with intention and focus. I became an ambulance in emergency mode again, cutting through traffic with direct precision. Chasing The Ambulance. Chasing The George! Nothing stopped me from writing! For example:

**I didn’t have a computer anymore by the time I returned to my script. Luckily, one of my best friends bought me an iPad and I wrote on that…with one finger…agonizingly typing each word one. letter. at. a. time. Then I discovered that my iPad had a dictation function. Sometimes the dictation worked accurately, other times it didn’t. Either way, it forced me to speak much more clearly LOL. I even went to the App Store and found the app for Final Draft, but the less-than-stellar reviews did not leave me with the confidence to purchase it. So, I copied what I typed into my iPad and pasted it into the body of an email that was addressed to me. The following morning, I would arrive an hour early at Richard’s studio so I could copy the content in my email and paste it into Final Draft. Then, I would spend that time formatting the content according to industry screenwriting standards. I did this process NUMEROUS times. Every single time I came early to the studio to format new scenes, I wanted to pull out the little hair I had left because I was basically doing twice the amount of work. And formatting can take a while depending on how much I’ve written…and I tend to write a lot as you can see from this blog entry LOL. I sometimes joke that I’m from the school of Quentin Tarantino. However, sans my own computer, I still wrote.

**When I would take the train AND the bus to work on days I didn’t want to drive, I still wrote.

**When I came down with a fever that started on a Wednesday night and lasted till Tuesday night, I still wrote. Even at 11:30pm on Saturday night, at the height of my fever, with me nodding off in front of my iPad, I still wrote.

**After my required periodontal flap surgery and frenectomy, which left me with stitches in my top left gums, pain, occasional slight bleeding and a swollen upper lip that made me look like a reductive Kim Kardashian, I still wrote. Reductive Kim Kardashian? Isn’t that redundant or an oxymoron? English majors, where are you?

I kept writing because I felt I had something great and fun on my hands.

When I started writing Act 2, I studied specific trailers and films in the horror comedy genre in order to find the two films I could compare my film to. In this way, I could say, “It’s this meets that.” In my research, I stumbled upon the genius of Edgar Wright and fell in love with Simon Pegg’s character in “Shaun of the Dead”. My research list of films was specific to what I was writing about and the tone of humor I was using. I borrowed and integrated a few story devices that these films all used into my own script like voice overs, set up and pay off, and most importantly, their unapologetic sense of IMAGINATION. The writers of these films created their own worlds and rules within the horror comedy genre. Each writer had their own voice and take within this particular genre.

Doing this research, I loved how grand, how preposterous and how ridiculous my story was. As long as I created the rules of my world and the logic of what was going on, my premise was plausible. And by following the structure laid out in “My Story Can Beat Up Your Story”, it would keep me on track while also enhancing my insanely wonderful ideas and voice. I had the freedom to create the rules of my very own world.

By July 5th, I had completed the first draft of my screenplay at 109 pages. When I typed “Fade Out” on the iPad, I exhaled deeply and I felt lighter. A big smiled formed over my face and I did a dance of joy…naked. It’s better when you’re naked. For anyone who has written anything, you know what I’m talking about and how I felt.

Some things to leave you with:

**Write about things that interest you or that you have a passion about. And just write. Let it all out like vomit. Don’t get stuck in “it has to be perfect”. You can always go back and edit.

**Structure helps me to play, to have fun and to experiment within it so that I can enhance my own voice. Structure gives me freedom. By doing all the work in “My Story Can Beat Up Your Story”, I wrote with more confidence because I knew what had to be fulfilled and achieved every step of the way in my story.

**This is a first draft. A few scenes are not great and would make me question my abilities as a writer. But the most important thing was that I was on “go” and didn’t allow judgment or perfection syndrome to stop me and my creative flow. Instead, I created placeholder scenes that I knew I could come back to and flesh out later. In other words, I knew what I wanted to say and/or see happen in those particular placeholder scenes, but I just couldn’t articulate them at that specific point in time. So, I just regurgitated everything I could and will come back to them later and make them more crystal clear. And that being said, there are a several scenes that are really well-written!! Like “Hot damn! That’s good!”

**Yes, I wrote a part for myself and…spoiler alert…he lives!

**And yes, James and I make amazing lovers and are still very much in love.

“Moonlighting” reboot, here we come!

How I Secured An Agent In 6 Weeks

In June 2015, I had 4 agent meetings in 2 ½ weeks. And not just any old agent meetings. These were agents that were on my target list. By June 30th, I signed a year-long contract with one of them. The length of time it took me to secure a new agent was about six weeks. Let me share what I did.

In mid-May, I received an email from my former agent saying that they were dropping me. I had been with them for a year and I sensed that the writing was on the wall because our year-long affair didn’t produce any results. I won’t sit here and point fingers and blame because I’m all about learning from the lessons and applying them to the future.

So, I didn’t have representation. I felt naked. I felt like I was starting all over again. This was the first time in years that I didn’t have representation. The prospect of starting all over again was daunting at first. But then again, I love rising to challenges. I definitely knew that I didn’t want months to go by without having representation. I knew that I wanted to secure great representation in a short period of time.

The first step in assembling my dream team was to be clear about and to identify the type of relationship I was looking for. I had to be clear about the relationship I was going to have with this agent(s) for the next six months to a year. It’s no different from online dating. You set filters and parameters in terms of what you are looking for. You are very specific so that your search results yield close to or exactly to what you’re looking for. So if you’re going to be that specific when it comes to online dating, why not be as specific as to who you are going to have on your team for your career? Or as my teacher and mentor, Richard Lawson, says, “Who is on your career bus?” I reached out to my friends and shared with them what I was looking for–and if they liked their agents, could they refer me.

I knew that I wanted to create a career marriage, a career partnership, between myself and the other agent(s). Where there would be accountability, communication and hustling. Where I would receive their support and belief in my vision and dreams. I think it’s important and vital that an agent supports a vision that an actor has for themselves. And that the agent is willing to say, “Yes and…” and “Have you also tried this?” and “How about exploring this over here in order to help get what you want?” An agent that loves actors who are pro-active in their careers and administrate it on a daily basis. An agent who loves actors and loves what they do.

The second step I took, after I identified the type of relationship I was looking for with an agent, was to go on IMDb Pro. Not sure how many people are aware of this, but just as IMDb has a “Star Meter”–which ranks every single person in their database according to their popularity for the week–they also rank companies. When you log onto IMDb Pro, there is a link that says “Company”. Click on it and you will see a drop down menu which ranks agencies, management companies, production companies, etc. I selected “Talent Agencies”. At the time of this writing, the top 10 agencies included CAA, ICM, UTA, WME, Paradigm, Gersh, APA, etc. Now, looking at where I am in my career, my skill set as an actor and my credits, I probably would not be targeting these agencies. However, if I had an undeniable product that HBO or Showtime or The Weinstein Company wanted to acquire from me, then I would call any one of them for a meeting and representation.

So I knew that my target had to be boutique agencies who have working actors. They’re not A-listers, but B-listers who work all the time. And so I knew that I would start looking at agencies within the rankings of 75 to about 400. I didn’t want to look at agencies with rankings beyond 400. I didn’t want to look at any agency that had a ranking of 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 because it makes me wonder how much pull, clout or influence they have to make a phone call and/or get me into the doors of different casting offices. **If your experience has been different, please let me know. But that was the policy I created for myself.

Another element important to me was to find an agency that was SAG-AFTRA franchised. “A ‘franchised agent’ is a person, firm or corporation that has entered into an agreement with SAG-AFTRA under which they agree to abide by certain rules and conditions when dealing with performers who work within SAG and AFTRA’s jurisdiction.” (taken from the SAG-AFTRA website) This ensures that the agency is working with your best interests in mind as a union, professional performer.

Now here comes the tedious part. Here comes the work. But when you do the work, then everything else flows quickly. Don’t believe me? Again, refer to my first paragraph and see how quickly I got an agent…because I put in the work. I clicked on every single agency on the list between rankings 75 through 400 and looked for a few things. I looked at how many agents the agency had. I looked at how many clients they had: Too many clients, I may get lost in the shuffle. I looked at some of their clients’ credits to see what they have booked. I looked to see if the agency had a website. If they did, I visited it. It helps when they have a website because it gives me a personal insight into their company. When I would visit the agency’s website, I would look for their mission statement, their company philosophy, “what we do”, “who we are”, “about us”, “about the company”, etc. Again, think of online dating. You read through a person’s profile to see if their statistics, their bio, their status speaks to you and what you’re looking for. If any agency didn’t speak to me and what I was looking for, I would move on to the next one. The agencies with mission statements or company philosophies that resonated with me, I entered them onto an Excel spreadsheet and took notes.

So once I compiled my target list of agencies that spoke to me and what I was looking for, I started crafting cover letters for each one. I wanted to make the letters specific to the agency that I was writing to. This is where I would refer to the notes that I jotted down next to each agency. If there was something cool or unique that stood out on their website, I would include that in the cover letter as well. I made the cover letters short, but effective. Remember, these are agents. They are incredibly busy people who don’t have the time to read a very long letter. All day long, they are on the phone pitching their clients, going through the breakdowns and submitting their clients on many projects, taking meetings, negotiating contracts, working out conflicts and receiving tons of submissions from other actors as well.

This is where the six-week journey began: The first round of emails went out on Tuesday, May 12th. The following Tuesday, May 19th, I followed up by mailing out a round of postcards to my target agents that said I was seeking a new dream team. A week later, Tuesday, May 26th, I followed up with another round of emails to my target agents. The email communication was slightly different since it was a follow up. That same day, I heard back from three different agents. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the answer I was looking for. They each informed me that they already had someone like me on their roster and so they didn’t want to create a conflict of interest. They were very nice and thanked me for reaching out to them. A couple of them even encouraged me to follow up in six months to see if they still repped the same person.

Later that same week, I started getting the answer I was looking for. Two agencies reached back to me and wanted to schedule a time to meet for next week (which puts us in the first week of June.) So that first week of June, I had two meetings set. When the first week of June arrived, I also received another request from an agent to meet the following week (the second week of June.)

I knew that outflow equaled inflow. That because I kept up the momentum, I finally started impinging on their universes. That’s three meetings right there. The fourth and last meeting I secured, interestingly enough, was an agency that I had somehow skipped over. On Saturday, June 13th, something compelled me to go back to the agency list on IMDb Pro. I did, and boom, I ran across this particular agency I somehow missed the first time around. When I clicked on their website, I was blown away by the company’s philosophy that actors need to treat themselves as a business. They want actors who are professional and who go after the careers on a daily basis. I was like, “Hell yeah! How did I miss this agency?!” I composed an email and sent it out on Monday, June 15th. Tuesday evening, I received a request from the owner of the agency to meet on Friday, June 19th.

To recap so far: First meeting June 2nd. Second meeting June 4th. Third meeting June 11th. Fourth meeting June 19th. Roughly 2 ½ weeks starting with the first meeting on June 2nd.

What I discovered in each and every meeting was the importance of being yourself. Because inevitably, the question that every single agent asked was, “So tell me about yourself?” That’s a question that’s hard for a lot of people to answer. People get tripped up on that question. But because of my training with Richard Lawson, and understanding the principles of politics, personality and craft, I was able to be myself and talk about myself. And not about being an actor. They know that. I talked about topics of interest with charm, humor and irony. I talked about growing up in Brooklyn when Brooklyn was the place you wouldn’t be caught dead living in. I talked about my ethnicity and how my older brother would call me a “dumb Rican” (I’m Dominican and Puerto Rican). I didn’t talk about my acting first because I knew that we would eventually get to that.

Which leads me to my next point: When the acting discussion eventually comes up, you have to know your product inside and out. Be prepared to tell them what you want and see for yourself. Be prepared to talk about your casting. Be prepared to talk about why you’re at the level you’re at in your career.

Your resume better be clean and professional. Your headshots better be clear and professional. You better have a monologue ready. You better have a scene prepared. You better understand the state of the industry today. You better understand writing and how to create content for yourself a la the Lena Dunhams, the Tyler Perrys, the Cristela Alonzos, the Mindy Kalings, the countless Youtubers, etc. You better know how to put yourself on tape for an audition as more and more casting directors are requesting taped auditions.

These agents wanted to see that I was clear about my product. These agents wanted to see that I was not green or inexperienced, pleading for a job. Pleading for them to hold my hand and do all the work for me. Because the reality is that they want you to do the work. You are a business. You are supposed to clock in and clock out like any other business. And many actors don’t seem to understand that. Every agent said to me that the actor is supposed to do the work. It is our job to be in class, to keep our headshots up-to-date, to understand the business of show business, to understand and utilize social media, to hustle, etc. When you come into the room with confidence, with life force, with your guns blazing, they appreciate that. Even if at the end of the day they don’t sign you, you at least booked the room and you’ve made an impression on them. They can look back and say, “This person is clear about what they want and they’re not new to the game. They’re serious about this business. They’re in it for life.”

In the end, two of the agencies passed on me. One is actually a manager who is deciding whether to take me on as an actor or as a writer (she’s currently reading two of my television pilots.) And the fourth agent–the one who I somehow missed the first time around on IMDb Pro–offered me representation on Monday, June 22nd. He was very excited to offer me representation and gave me up until June 30th to look over the contract, sign it and then get it back to him.

And there you have it. Well, my experience at least.