Uriel Rodriguez is Rising Through The Ranks
March 18, 2020
The excitement 31-year-old Uriel Rodriguez feels as he heads to work for his entry-level position at Sony Entertainment in Hollywood can only be described as authentically pure; Rodriguez displays a resounding sense of pride and humility for a man who, by all accounts (thanks to his lack of privilege in America and family obstacles), wasn’t supposed to be here.
Rodriguez, an aspiring screenwriter, landed a gig as a branded integration trainee at Sony in early February. He looks for product placement opportunities in films. It’s his first job in the entertainment industry — a gig he said he’s utterly thankful for.
Growing up, it was difficult for Rodriguez to see past the confines of his own personal reality.
He was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts; a city about 90 miles from Boston, but moved to Puerto Rico when he was four. The son of a single mother of four, Rodriguez and his family moved back to Holyoke when he was 10. As a teenager, Rodriguez worked several jobs so he didn’t have to rely on his mom financially and so he could help provide for his family. When he wasn’t working, he was tirelessly studying with the goal of obtaining a scholarship for college.
Although Rodriguez rarely had time to think about himself or his own interests, he did eventually find a fondness and passion for movies and filmmaking. It was a passion he had limited time to cultivate, but when he could find a spare moment, he was watching Blockbuster rentals and making films with friends.
“When we made home movies, we had no editing equipment because I couldn't afford that,” Rodriguez said.
When thinking about college, Rodriguez lacked the luxury that many middle and upper-class American students experience; he was unable to follow his dreams. After putting his filmmaking passion to the side, Rodriguez focused on finding an affordable university and applying for scholarships.
Rodriguez received scholarships that paid for his education at University of Massachusetts Amherst. He majored in history with the goal to eventually go into education — a safe future with a predictable upward trajectory. Rodriguez couldn’t afford the uncertainty of the entertainment industry where money is scarce, especially in the beginning.
After graduation, Rodriguez moved to New Orleans and taught with Teach For America for seven years.
But as much as he tried to dilute and diminish his passions, as time went by he often felt like something was missing.
“I would be encouraging my Grade 11 students to follow their dreams only to self-reflect on my own missed opportunities,” Rodriguez said.
“What would have happened if I had taken a risk? Was I truly following my passion and am I in the right career?”
At the age of 28, Rodriguez began to ponder taking the first huge financial risk of his life: Entering the entertainment field. Around 2015, before he made any drastic moves, he enrolled at an improv theater and learned how to write sketch comedy. He was creating videos for a sketch troop, too. Rodriguez would volunteer in the box office one night a week to take discounted classes and eventually he became a house manager. It was here that he ultimately decided he needed to pursue a career in film and television; Rodriguez applied for graduate school in 2016.
He was accepted into the two-year screenwriting program at Boston University.
“It was so cool to finally be doing the thing I wanted to do,” Rodriguez said.
“It was the first time someone was reading my screen description, my dialogue and I thought, ‘This is what it's all about.’”
Hard work and tenacity continued to push Rodriguez through graduate school, where he honed his passion for writing while working full-time as a teacher's assistant and cashier/stocker at CVS. Six pilots and four features later, Rodriguez found his screenwriting interests lie in the sci-fi and magical realism genre.
“Writing in sci-fi and magical realism allows you to mask really important social issues and current events while still being entertaining,” Rodriguez explained.
“Some of the scripts I'm writing now deal with immigration, deportation and unjust inequality in terms of wealth.”
Rodriguez graduated with his screenwriting degree in 2019. In September, after working to save money during the summer, he and his girlfriend took a road trip to Los Angeles, where they spent a humbling few weeks sleeping on friends’ couches. Eventually, Rodriguez landed an internship at Escape Artists through a fellow BU alum. He was a development intern, which involved reading scripts, writing coverage and helping the assistants. During this time he also worked as a tutor while applying for jobs in the industry.
More than 100 applications later, Rodriguez got his first job offer at Sony Entertainment; a feat that years ago, he could have never imagined.
“I read scripts, create a form identifying all the different types of products used or that can be used in the script,” he said.
Rodriguez’s dream is ultimately to be in a writers room and to be a showrunner on his own show but until then, he’s just thankful to be working in the industry and learning from those who came before him.
Written by: Allison NorlianAllison Norlian is a three-time, Emmy-nominated journalist who has worked as a television reporter and anchor in markets around the country. She has covered a variety of stories from the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia to President Trump’s travel ban in the fourth circuit court of appeals. Allison has also won AP awards for her work and a Catalyst For Change award from the Arc of Virginia for her reporting on the disabled community. Allison just moved to Los Angeles with her screen writer husband and two cats and is excited for all LA has to offer!