In this series, we will talk to up-and-coming Horror Screenwriters, find out their writing process, what projects they are currently working on, and get some tips of the trade.
Screenwriter April M. Sánchez was born and raised in El Paso, TX, on the US/Mexico border. Growing up in a bicultural city has inspired her stories, which often reflect the beauty, wonder, and traditional elements of border town Latinx culture.
April holds a bachelor’s degree in Screenwriting and a Latino Media Studies certification from the University of Texas at Austin. Her scripts have made their way to the finalist round in screenplay competitions such as the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and as a Semi-Finalist in The Academy Nicholl Fellowship and the Universal Writers Lab, amongst others.
April’s irrepressible wanderlust compels her to travel around the world, from India to Europe to Central America and beyond. She loves to explore the cultures and spiritual beliefs of the countries she visits. Especially fond of road trips, April will eagerly take an open road in any direction with friends or on a solo adventure.
What is your favorite genre to write? What genre are you looking forward to writing?
My favorite genre to write is horror, specifically supernatural/paranormal and creature feature type of horror. I love spooky stuff and it’s fun to write. However, I do look forward to writing more comedy because it is also fun to write and I’m rather a goofy person.
Tell us about a WIP that is in your favorite genre.
I’m currently working on a Latinx horror folktale that is inspired by a specter that has been seen by some people in my hometown of El Paso, TX. I love ghost stories and wanted to write one that takes place in my hometown, which is full of ghosts and ghost stories. El Paso is the perfect setting for a ghost story, and I want to see more Latinx genre movies, so I thought I’d write one myself. I’m a firm believer of writing the kind of stories that I want to see.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
My high school English teacher, Mr. Elroy Bode, was an author and encouraged all his students to write. He gave us a lot of tips and advice on how to keep up with writing stories. Some of our assignments were creative writing and I guess he saw something in my work. He encouraged me to write and to take a creative writing course which I did well at. He even invited me to compete competitively, and I credit him for nurturing that spark in me instead of snuffing it out.
Tell us about the moment you realized that you wanted to be a writer.
I’ve always loved writing, ever since I wrote my first story as an 8-year-old. But I really wanted to be a writer when I was 17 and wrote my first stage play. I loved writing the play and seeing an audience’s reaction to it. When people laughed in the moments they were supposed to laugh, when they laughed at my dumb jokes, well, it was a high! I was hooked! From then on, I switched from prose to screenplay.
What current show or movie do you wish you were in the writer's room?
There are so many! I am in awe of the immense talent out there so it’s hard to choose one. I think it’d be fun and amazing to be in the TV writer’s room for What We Do In The Shadows. As for a movie, I’d love to have been in the room for Malignant as I really enjoyed that movie and it took me down a path I didn’t expect while watching it, which is always a wonderful thing.
What keeps you motivated as a writer?
Other writers keep me motivated. Reading their work, talking with them, seeing them excel and move up in the world. I’m sure there are other things that might motivate me, but none would be nearly as joyful as connecting with other writers and their writing. Reading good work pushes me to do better and I think is just the right kind of motivation for this gal.
Who is a favorite character you have written and why?
My favorite character is “Abuela” in a horror script I wrote with the temporary title of The Trickster and the Demon. I love this character because she is loving but sad, tough yet vulnerable, funny and serious. She was just a joy to write and came to life on the page almost effortlessly. She’s the one character of mine that I would love to spend the weekend with and feel we’d be close if she were real.
What story, film or novel that has left an indelible impact on you as a writer?
When I was a child, I remember seeing The Color Purple with my family and I was absolutely moved by this film. It stuck with me for many years. For a long time, I didn’t understand why it stuck with me as I watch a lot of movies, even as a kid. Then in high school, I discovered the movie was based on a book - hey, I was very young when I watched the movie and didn’t know it was based on a book. Walker’s book and her writing blew teen me away. This led me to read more Black writers and I fell in love with Toni Morrison’s stories too. And then it hit me! The movie The Color Purple was the first time I had ever seen a movie that centered on a community that wasn’t white or about white people’s experiences or perspectives. I’m not Black, but as a Mexican American, I come from a community of color. This made me realize that I too could tell stories for and about my community that isn’t centered on white experiences or perspectives. This was a game-changer for me.
If you had the power to make changes in the screenwriting industry, what changes would you make?
More women and BIPOC getting greenlit and paid well for their stories. I would also love to see more women of color in showrunner and executive positions. This upsets some people, and I don’t understand why. They say it’s “diversity for diversity’s sake” as if there aren’t many highly qualified women out there who could do this work or deserve to do this work. The story is the foundation upon which everything is built so including these voices and paying them their worth would be beneficial to the industry as a whole.
What would you consider as your "brand" as a writer?
My brand is that I write stories that center on Latina protagonists and often feature elements of magical realism, whether the story is comedic or tragic. I love dark stories with whimsy so I strive to incorporate both, but no matter the tone, the story will revolve around a Latina and her journey.
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
I would like to, in some way, contribute to my community by ensuring Latinx stories are told. As a Mexican American woman, I long for more stories about and for me and my community. I think if I can “make it” I’d be able to hold the door open for future Latinx screenwriters. Others are already doing this, and I want to be part of that legacy.
What is next for you?
I’m finishing up some rewrites on two feature scripts and will begin work on a horror TV pilot that I’m really excited about. I’m a producer on a friend’s horror short film that will film in the spring, so I’m excited about that. Other than the horror TV pilot, I look forward to writing a new feature in the new year and reading scripts from other writers who I admire.