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Rising Through the Ranks: Latinx comedy-horror writer April M. Sánchez

October 5, 2021
6 min read time

April M. Sánchez’s cheerful vibes resonate even through a computer screen, her comedic timing and charm livening up a regular morning Zoom session. The comedy/horror writer has been writing to entertain since her high school days.

"I wrote plays and we put them on. I tried to do a short film, which was terrible ... but then nothing happened in terms of writing for a while. I got back into doing performances, directing, and doing stuff that was other people’s work. There was this multimedia project I was involved with, and a friend said, 'I’ve got a screenplay if you guys ever want to make a movie,'" she chuckles.

"And we started filming it and it wasn’t until we cut it together that we realized the story wasn’t working. Through that process — it was a film that we made to learn how to make a feature film — we learned just how important the story is. And I realized, why am I putting all of my time and resources into other people’s stories, when I could be telling my story? It was like, I’ve got something to say. Why don’t I do that? And I started to go forward from that point on and really focus on writing. I really liked it!" She laughs again.

"Then I started getting in labs and placing in competitions! All that other stuff, the directing and so on, it never really got me the recognition or validation. But the writing for some reason did and I really enjoy it, and it took on a life of its own."

That recognition has included being a finalist in the Sundance Screenwriters and Episodic Labs, a semi-finalist in the Academy Nicholl Fellowship and the Universal Writers Lab, as well as participating in the NALIP Screenwriting Lab, the Stowe Story Labs, the Athena Film Festival LA TV & Screenwriting Labs, and most recently, the NHMC Series Scriptwriters Program.

"[NHMC] was the first TV lab I’ve been in. I was focused on features for so long, when I started to pivot into TV to see if I was on the right track, I got into a lot of labs. I think it’s time for me to be a working writer," she smiles.

"I think I’m ready for it. I love TV, but [when I started the process] I didn’t even know what a working writers room was! I don’t know what I thought initially that would encompass," she said.

"Once I made the switch to TV, I was like, 'I love this! I love this process.' I love this idea that it’s a team effort so much more so than feature writing. My TV scripts have also been the ones to open doors ... I must be on the right track," she laughs.

"Now I’m really hoping to get staffed. I can’t imagine doing anything else! I guess all writers have that obsession."

On her experience in the labs, Sánchez says, "We had some really great mentors. What I learned a lot about is that it’s not like a movie in that you have to squeeze this whole thing into two hours — don’t overwhelm it! I’ve come to realize there’s this elegance and simplicity of certain things. You can have very complicated characters going through very real issues, even if it’s set in sci-fi or horror or whatever, they’re going through real emotions and those things are the things that drive the story forward," Sánchez pauses, contemplating a bit before she laughs again.

"I think I also learned who I am as a writer. They always talk about your voice ... I realized my television voice is — even in the serious stuff — I have this playfulness that comes through. Whether it’s the comic relief or the lighter moment ... it’s nice to recognize, 'Oh okay, that’s part of my voice.' I also learned [through the labs] if it’s not working, let it go. It’s okay. It’s okay to start over," she said.

"It’s better to do something right than be defined by a crappy draft."

So where does Sánchez want to end up? Well, it’s more about the journey.

"I never see it as a destination and that has actually saved me so much grief in my life. Ultimately, your destination, as morbid as it sounds, is death! So, to me the destination is not important. I think of it as little stops. The long-term goal is to have my own room, have my own show, bring in a wonderfully talented, diverse group of writers. But I also want to staff. I want to be part of something. I want to have that jumping-off moment where I get to contribute, where I get to learn and be part of that environment ... it’s like a video game, and you level up! It’s all pit stops. I think we get so caught up in 'this is how it has to be' and I’m much more ... it’s not so precious to me. In writing terms, there’s a delete button for a reason!"

Her infectious optimism extends to the type of work Sánchez likes to write.

"I love horror/comedy! It’s my jam. In my features, I also include a lot of magical realism ... but for my TV stuff I’ve written," Sánchez pauses, "it doesn’t have as much of that. It’s a coming-of-age teen dramedy! I wrote that to get it out of my system and all of a sudden it resonated with people. I didn’t realize I could expand out from my true love and ... discover that I really do," — she laughs — "like coming-of-age ... teen dramedies! If you have a teen vampire going through puberty, I’d be like," she throws her hand up, "Yes! Me!"

Until that time comes, Sánchez is working on pilots to build her portfolio in the genres she loves.

"What I’ve discovered; being a nobody, you can kind of play that game in a way. People will say, 'we’re looking for this writer' and you can say, 'I have that!' You’re not really tied down. I know we’re supposed to say we’re a certain type of writer, but it’s been fun because I’ve gotten bites, I’ve gotten meetings from different kinds of samples. But I think it’s going to end up being teen dramedy ... I’d be so psyched."

Her current day job, which Sánchez likens to being a "human telephone," affords her the time to pursue her screenwriting career while brushing up on her intrapersonal skills for that writers room.

"I get to nurture the little writer demon that has possessed me to write all these scripts," she said.

Currently an Austin, Texas resident who’s attended for years and years, Sánchez says every writer should attend the Austin Film Festival at least once.

"The pitch fest is my favorite ... the panels ... it’s this whole community. You’ll find your tribe; it’s very writer-focused. There’s something about feeling like you belong when you’re there."

She also advises other writers to "put yourself forward, but don’t expect perfection. You’re gonna get notes no matter what. Don’t get hung up on perfection ... I’ve developed that 'let it go' mentality. I move on. I rest. As writers, we beat ourselves up, but I’ve learned I do so much better stepping back. Give yourself a break, literally and metaphorically."

After we spoke, Sánchez was jetting off to L.A. to meet with her manager. Fingers crossed you get on that teen-vampire-coming-of-age dramedy/genre mashup one day soon!

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