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By Debra Dominguez Journal Staff Writer
March 9, 2004
REAL WORLD -- SOUTHWEST STYLE
Five Hispanic writers are selected to live and work together in Albuquerque to create TV scripts
This is the true story of five strangers picked to live at an Albuquerque bed and breakfast to find out what happens when they stop writing for themselves and start writing for major television networks.
Meet Conrad E. Gomez of Albuquerque, Nellie Medina of New York City, Quinto Reyes of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Davah Avena of Seattle and Rafael Garcia of El Paso.
No, it's not MTV's "The Real World." It's the National Hispanic Media Coalition's Latino Television Writers Program, which is being sponsored by NBC and Southwest Airlines.
The five Hispanic writers were selected from a nationwide pool of about 70 applicants to not only write together but live together for five weeks at Northwest Albuquerque's Cinnamon Morning.
Geoff Harris, the program's mentor and NBC's former vice president of story and writer development, said the program's short- term goal is for each writer to create a polished script by Saturday.
"Ultimately, we want to use their scripts to showcase their talent and eventually land them a writing position with NBC or another television network," he said.
Harris said the writing program, which was started last spring, has successfully placed one of its graduates, Victor DeJesus, on the writing staff of NBC's show "Third Watch."
"We're here in Albuquerque because we wanted to make sure these writers were away from their homes and away from distraction," Harris said. "We also wanted to see how they interacted, because this shows us how they'll probably get along with other network writers."
Chemistry evident, the writers sat around the dining table at the inn's main house recently sharing laughs and perspectives on the role of Hispanics in the entertainment industry.
"My background is Canadian-Mexican, but I guess because I live in the United States, which is right in the middle of the two, that makes me a real American," joked Avena, who recently visited Rio Rancho High School for script research. "I, like many other Americans, have a mixed background. But I don't think any of that matters. A good story is a good story, and a good writer is a good writer no matter where you're from or what your background."
Although the writers are focusing on scripts for network programs, including "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Bernie Mac," Gomez said many of his story ideas are based on his upbringing.
"I have character-driven type stories to tell," said Gomez, a Sundance Screenplay Writing Contest finalist who was schooled by Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya in the 1970s. "I want to tell stories about family and coming of age in the Southwest. I want to write with local flavor."
Bruce Evans, an NBC vice president, met the writers for the first time last week. He said he hoped the program would increase the number of Hispanic writers in the entertainment industry.
"It's a fact that minorities are underrepresented in TV and movies," he said. "This is an effort to address that problem. And we're hopeful that jobs will come out of this for all five writers, if not with NBC then perhaps with another network."