Real Writers Break In! Lucy’s Journey from Small-Town-Mexico to CW Writers’ Room
All too often I hear from frustrated new scribes eager to break in: You can’t. If you don’t know anyone, if you’re not born connected, you might as well forget about that screenwriting/TV writing career. But that statement has been sooooooo far removed from my experience! The joy of my job is that I get to see new writers who come to this industry with nothing but talent, hard-work and passion break in ALL. THE. TIME. So I am making it my mission to highlight such writers and get totally granular on their experience.
And you don’t get much more not-from-the-industry than Lucy Luna. Born and raised in a small town in Mexico, Lucy, whom I realized is a force to be reckoned with as soon as I sat down with her for the very first time, is the real deal, and she has the career path to show for it. She came from nowhere. She knew no one. And yet, she is now a staffed writer on the CW’s Two Sentence Horror Story.
Here is how it all happened for her:
Where are you from? What was your life experience prior to you setting your sights on writing?
I am from a small city called Morelia, in Mexico. Small town girl with big dreams. I always dreamed of getting away, I knew there was something more for me. Before I focused on screenwriting I was already writing. I used to write poems, short stories, and I even wrote a book; 325 pages, I still remember. Then I realized my love for movies and my love for writing could coexist, and that’s when I knew screenwriting was for me.
Tell me when you started taking writing seriously, and really started pursuing it as your one-day profession.
I did a lot of research and put a lot of thought on to what my next step could be. I was writing and taking any programs available in Mexico or online, but I knew I needed to make a bigger move. I think the moment that it became real for me was when I moved to Los Angeles. That’s when I knew I was serious about it because I was taking action. I went all in.
What were some of the first steps that you took as you sought to get serious about your screenwriting and, by extension, screenwriting career?
I knew I had instinct for story but I wasn’t a writer, I was just putting pen to paper and enjoying it. Not the same. When I realized there was a difference between the two I knew I wanted to become a real writer, so the first step was finding a school. Sure, I read all the books on screenwriting I could find and wrote two scripts before I actually went to school, but I am a person who enjoys the learning, collaborative and mentorship processes. I needed a place where I could hone the craft. And honestly, it was one of the most beautiful experiences. I studied at the New York Film Academy and it was a hands-on daily workshop that helped me process and dive into story every day. I began to think like a writer, and thus, I became one.
Like most writers, you are not originally from Los Angeles. When did you make the move, and what made you decide to take that leap?
I made the move in 2014. I honestly couldn’t find a decent school for screenwriting in Mexico. We have a couple good ones but are more focused on directing and producing. So I decided to look abroad, however, money was a big obstacle, but as soon as it became a possibility I got on the plane.
Was the move to Los Angeles easy or difficult? And what were some of the first things you decided to dive into once you made the move?
At first it seemed easy because I had some money saved so I didn’t have to worry about it for a few months. I was studying and writing 4 to 8 hours every day. It was a dream. After school ended I ran out of money and that’s when reality hit; Los Angeles is an expensive city. And it’s very rare to get into the business right after graduating. I wrote full scripts at school but I graduated with first or second drafts, there was still a lot of rewriting to do before I could start sending my material out. I made the mistake of sending crappy drafts out and killing some opportunities by showing unfinished work. I was impatient. School gave me a 1-year work permit after graduating so I focused on getting a part-time job to pay the bills so I could continue writing and pursue my O1 visa. It was a rough period.
For new writers, getting that first manager is a huge stepping stone. How did you get your first manager?
I got my first manager thanks to Roadmap Writers. They’re probably some of the best humans in town. They truly care about writers and they sent my material non stop until I signed with a manager. I was thrilled. It ended up not being a good fit but was an experience that taught me a lot about who I am as a writer.
How does your personal story, experience growing up and origin story feed into your brand as a writer?
I’m still very impressed by how much writers need to pitch themselves, maybe even more than they pitch their work. The HBO Fellowship taught me how to link my story to my brand. I honestly didn’t think I had many interesting life experiences until I joined the program and realized how unique my story is. By diving into my personal story I was able to grab the essence of it. It was a process of discovery for me. I didn’t know everything I write has an underlying theme of fear. Now it makes sense to me why I am so obsessed with horror. I was able to understand my own obsessions and where they’re coming from. Why I write what I write. This allows me to grab examples of certain experiences, and pieces of who I am, so whoever I pitch to can understand what I’d bring to the table if they were to work with me.
Tell me about the process of interviewing for, and then being accepted into, the prestigious HBO Access Program.
This was intense. I remember getting the email, “Congrats, you’re a semi-finalist.” They asked for a second sample, which I had to submit right away, and it wasn’t long before they scheduled a phone interview. I prepared for that phone interview but I remember being so nervous because the call was cutting off every now and then. I had to ask so many times “could you repeat that, please?” I was so scared to come across like I wasn’t listening. To my surprise, that same day, they told me I made it to the finals. I was overwhelmed by how quickly things were moving. They called me in the following week for an in-person interview where I had to pitch three new ideas. They asked questions about my pitches, and at one of them they stopped me half way because HBO just finished shooting a pilot of that same premise. They were kind and respectful the whole time, but I just thought my ideas were not good enough so there was no way I was going to get it. I was very surprised to get the call. We had an intensive first week that was emotionally challenging. We worked on our personal stories and then each one of the fellows was assigned a mentor. We worked on our new ideas until HBO approved “the one”. Ever since it’s been writing, handing in material every month, and getting brilliant notes. The HBO Fellowship definitely challenges you, I understand now why the quality of what they do is so good. The way they approach story is simply masterful. One of the best experiences of my life.
Shortly after being named to HBO Access, your were also named a ScreenCraft fellow. What sort of doors did these two platforms open for you?
The ScreenCraft fellowship was more focused on the business side. It was a week of meetings all over town with studios and production companies. The ScreenCraft team also focused on the brand and career goals of each fellow. This is a tailor-made fellowship. They listened carefully to my aspirations. I was awarded with both fellowships with my drama feature, and I am now transitioning more into thriller and horror. I was so scared to be put in a box and ScreenCraft helped me identify my range as a writer. They focused on finding the best team for my voice, goals and dreams. They introduced me to my now manager.
In September of 2019, you signed with Kailey Marsh, and quickly thereafter rounded out your team with agents at APA. What made you decide on the right reps?
Kailey is a go-getter. She’s so young and has already achieved so much. She represents many writers I admire. She understands the business and the genre I deeply love. Kailey understood my voice immediately, and my range as a writer. It was an easy decision. My agents at APA are amazing and I connected with them right away. The relationship between managers and agents is one that writers don’t really have access to, so it was important for me to know that my team can work together. I paid attention to the way they interacted with each other, and immediately I knew I had found myself the professional family I needed.
You started your first staff writer engagement in a TV writers’ room on CW’s Two Sentence Horror Stories. Tell me about the journey to getting your first staffing assignment!
It happened so fast! I signed with Kailey in September, signed with APA in October, and by November I was staffed on my first writing gig. The interview was on a Monday. Tuesday they told me they wanted me. Wednesday the deal was closed. Thursday was Thanksgiving. I started the room the following Monday. Here’s where I highlight how important it is to have that pitch of yourself ready, in the interview that’s pretty much all we talked about; my personal story. They wanted to know why I was the right person for the job. I shared a personal story that ended up becoming the episode I’m writing.
How is life in the room on a cable TV show? What should writers staffing for the first time expect?
It’s my first time in a room so I have nothing to compare it to, but I think I’ve been very lucky. I got staffed alongside another HBO Fellow, Melody Cooper, so it’s been wonderful to have my first experience with someone I admire so much. All the writers are smart and kind, and I really mean that. I’ve felt so safe and comfortable which is necessary when things are moving so fast. I’ve heard many times that staff writers should not speak, just give a couple good pitches before and after lunch and then just listen. This room is not like that. Everyone is welcome to pitch anytime. I’m not sure if this is normal or not — I’m worried I’m being spoiled. But I guess what writers should expect is the intensity. Rest and eat well because you’ll be thinking all day, reading and writing a lot. Your brain doesn’t rest, so whenever you can have some time for yourself, take it!
With your room wrapping up in the coming weeks, what’s next?
I have been going on a lot of meetings so, hopefully, my next job!
What advice do you have to other writers who are coming to Los Angeles in pursuit of a writing career in the industry?
I would say there are three things that need to become a constant. The first is writing of course. The second is patience and the third is focus. It takes time, but the more focused you are, the better chances you have, and that’s one of the things that Lee Jessup helped me to achieve; to have concise goals and work on actionables. I know the journey is different for everyone, and I know each circumstance requires different action plans, but as long as you continue writing with patience and focus, I truly believe you’ll get there.