Showrunner Linda Yvette Chávez on The Disruptors Fellowship
March 25, 2021
When Julio Salgado, co-founder of The Disruptors Fellowship, reached out to showrunner Linda Yvette Chávez (Gentefied) and asked her to take part as a speaker, she says, " I jumped right on it."
The inaugural fellowship, which is for emerging television writers of color who identify as trans and/or non-binary, disabled, undocumented and/or formerly undocumented immigrants, is something that Chávez is more than happy to see and support.
"They're not just fostering BIPOC artists, they're fostering revolutionary artists that are telling stories in a way we've never seen," she says. "The fellowship supports them stepping into their power and wielding their voices as storytellers with real conviction and pride. Those are the type of artists I want to see come up in this industry. Those are the artists I want to hire."
Chávez says a mentorship like The Disruptors Fellowship is important in Hollywood because "creators of color need mentors and examples in the industry that can speak to their particular experience."
"There are the challenges this industry carries that all artists have to face, and then there are the nuanced challenges that artists on the margins have to face. They are very different obstacles, but we as creators on the margins have to face and overcome them all in order to succeed in this industry. That type of perseverance requires community and the wisdom of those like you who've faced those challenges."
Which is why Chávez says a program like The Disruptors, which brings on such varied mentors, is "absolutely invaluable. It's invaluable to the artists and it's invaluable to an industry in desperate need of diversity. "
In her experience, Chávez finds that a great mentor teaches, empowers and then creates a safe environment for their mentees to practice in a space where they can make mistakes and learn.
"Creativity is stifled by high-pressure environments and our entire business is high-pressured," she says. "I make it my job to make that environment just a little bit more creatively safe for my mentees, especially because I mentor folks who have other layers of trauma that they're dealing with. Trauma that comes from systemic and unjust institutions, from microaggressions, and sometimes from difficult childhoods. In order to see more folks from my community and communities like mine rise up, there's a bit of grace and sometimes a different type of support needed."
Chávez saysa great mentor also knows "they have as much to learn from their mentee as their mentee does from them. I try not to see it as a hierarchy. I try to see it as 'I'm training you to be my colleague. Hell, I may be even training you to be my boss someday.' And you know what? That often happens. You don't know how many producers I know who've gone from being the boss of an employee to pitching that employee a series when they've become an executive at a network."
In terms of what makes a great mentee, Chávez says it's someone who's eager to learn. "They come prepared with questions. They have clarity about their goals or are at least clear about where they're lacking clarity."
Chávez says there's a difference between "I don't know what I want to do in this industry" and "Directing, producing, and acting all interest me, but I'm having a difficult time figuring out which direction to go in." She says she has a better sense of how to help with the latter.
"A great mentee respects their mentor's time and understands that their time is like gold, so they come in prepared for that time," she says. "I also think a great mentee has hustle. I always invest in folks I see are working hard to get to their destination. They may not have it all together, they may be making a million mistakes, but if I see them get up every morning and hit the ground running for their dreams, then I'm in."
As a writer, showrunner and woman of color, Chávez says including BIPOC, WOC and LGBTQIA2S+ voices in her stories and on-set is "inherent in everything I do."
"Every project I write is written with the audience and storytellers in mind," she says. "From the cast to the crew, I'm always thinking about how to include my community and communities like mine in every aspect of the creation of the project. And it's been an incredible experience to empower those creatives through my own creativity."
As for her biggest advice for writers starting out, Chávez says authenticity overrides everything else.
"You need to work on yourself first and foremost. Do whatever work you have to do to get to the most authentic, empowered version of yourself," she says. "That's where you'll find your best work. It's from that place that you'll create characters and worlds that will resonate with others. It's also from that place that you'll walk into rooms and wow executives and producers."
Why? Because, as Chávez puts it, "When you take away all the titles and money, people are just looking to connect with something authentic, something that feels human and universal. When you stand in your most authentic power it radiates and it will bring all the right people and resources your way. So do you!"
Written by: Brianne HoganBrianne Hogan is a freelance writer currently based in Prince Edward Island. A film studies graduate from NYU, her byline's been featured in Creative Screenwriting, ScreenCraft, The Huffington Post, among others. "Jurassic Park" is unashamedly her favorite movie (at this moment). You can follow Brianne on Twitter via @briannehogan