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HOW THE LAUNCH PAD SAVED MY DERRIÈRE

By August 10, 2020 No Comments

Guest post by Manfred Lopez Grem, who made the Top 25 of the 2019 Launch Pad Feature Competition with his comedy script MAD RUSH, which went on to be optioned by AlteredLA and Launch Pad Jury Member Jorge Garcia Castro. 

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This is my story breaking in as a screenwriter. 

I’m a Mexican-American filmmaker who recently moved back to the US. Before that, I spent 13 years living and working in Mexico, where I managed to carve out a modest existence as a regional filmmaker. I was the founder of a nonprofit organization that worked with actors, writers and other independent artists, as well with private businesses and government agencies. Think of Red Cross PSA’s mixed in with random division one soccer commercials and short films promoting local acting talent. In this strange mix, of all things, there was also a government-commissioned video with the Pope.

Then in 2018 my family and I were targeted by a Mexican drug cartel. Looking back, I suppose it was inevitable. By that point I had appeared in over 100 news articles, had produced over 200 works including one season of a TV program, and had worked with several government administrations of different political affiliations, including one with a Governor whose brother eventually fled when he was discovered to be the main link to one of the cartels. Really looking back, it’s clear that my downfall was sealed the moment I had decided to found my nonprofit in the state of Michoacán, which is one of Mexico’s most violent, corrupt and lawless states.

In the last week I was down there, I was robbed of over 100K worth of filmmaking equipment, including all my hard drives, LTO tapes and backups of over 15 years of footage and projects. In other words, my entire career. Puff. Gone. A few days later, I received word that there was an imminent kidnapping threat against my family.

The choice to walk away empty-handed from everything was probably the most soul-crushing one I’ve had to make in my life. But on the bright side, this hard reboot also allowed me to re-invent myself and re-focus all my energy onto the next chapter of my career: Writing.

So, the challenge became: How does someone in their 40’s — starting from scratch in the US, but not living in Los Angeles — suddenly jumpstart a brand-new career as a screenwriter while in the middle of a pandemic? The answer amazingly enough turned out to be the Tracking Board‘s Launch Pad Feature Screenplay Competition. 

I spent a year writing a comedy titled Mad Rush. It went on to place in the Top 25 of The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Feature Screenplay Competition. Soon after that, I was contacted by a few producers and directors. I entered into an option agreement with a producer who has a first-look deal with Netflix. Now he is in the process of attaching name talent to the project, some of whom have already worked with him before and I consider my dream cast. I’m just amazed.

So, yes, this is the story of a 45-year-old former-cartel-targeted Hispanic indie filmmaker with thousands of hours of permanently lost footage, who managed to sneak back into the game thanks to a competition. That’s Launch Pad for you. 

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To see more of our inspiring Launch Pad writers’ success stories, visit our success page.

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