On July 1st, the team at TIGHT5 made a formal announcement, awarding Writer Evette Vargas the top prize for the 2021 Short Form Screenwriting Competition. Below is a video of that call along with a written interview with Ms. Vargas
Click the YouTube link above to view the Zoom call with Evette Vargas as we formally announce her win. Below is a written interview between our Editor (in bold) and Evette.
INTERVIEW WITH EVETTE VARGAS
- Can you tell us what got you into writing and how it became your profession?
Visual storytelling has always been my jam. I grew up drawing, painting and writing. My artistic skills brought me to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, where I studied design. But after two years, I really wanted to tell stories, so I transferred to NYU Tisch School of the Arts on a scholarship. There, I majored in Writing and Directing. My senior thesis short film ended up winning the best of NYU, which got me a lot of buzz and that’s what got me to LA.
- You were named as an artist to watch by The New York Times, did that affect your career in any way in terms of opening opportunities?
To be recognized by the New York Times was a tremendous honor and the acknowledgment definitely impacted my career. It uplifted and amplified my voice as a storyteller and brand as an artist. The amplification brought me a number of storytelling opportunities.
- Where did you find out about the TIGHT5 Short Form Screenwriting contest and how did you choose Confessions as the script to submit?
Interestingly enough, as soon as I decided to submit the script to a contest, I received an email, featuring the TIGHT5 Short Form Screenwriting contest. The contest description and its esteemed founders sounded perfect for what I wanted to achieve, which was to test the script — To see if it resonated with the readers and judges.
- What was the inspiration for Confessions and what are your plans for it given the TIGHT5 win?
Confessions is a one-hour TV show built around Latinx history, mythology and is targeted at that community — People who want to see themselves in all their glory — And want to see their stories authentically told. English, Spanish and Spanglish will be spoken.
Our hero is Manuel de Castillo and his exploration of sin, atonement and faith echoes my own — a Latinx woman who faces adversity, turns to her faith to rise above it and owns who she is. As a Latina in this current climate, my faith is often tested to extremes. Hence, my erosion of Catholicism began when a priest slammed the confessional in my face, telling me to come back when I thought more about it. But regardless, I will tell you, that Catholic guilt is real. And walking around with that guilt is what inspired this series… I became fascinated with the question, “What if you committed a sin that you just could not confess? Then, how do you atone and right your wrong?
My intensions with the proof-of-concept short film is to direct and produce it. I plan to leverage the short film to sell the one-hour series as well as to direct episodic television. I originally submitted the script to the Tight5 to see if it would resonate with the reader and gain traction. I was overjoyed by the win and am more confident about producing it.
- Are you working on other projects now or branching out of other forms of writing?
I am currently preparing to take a TV series to the marketplace, which I set up at Entertainment One, with an incredible team. I am also writing a feature film for producer, Michael King, and developing a TV series for Twentyone14 Media and Shout! Factory. In addition, I’m in prep to direct my short, Confessions. This short will be a proof-of-concept for the one-hour series.
- Can you tell us about The Writers Room 5050 and what inspired you to create it?
A staunch activist of inclusion and equity for underrepresented storytellers, I’ve spent the last decade relentlessly creating opportunities for underrepresented storytellers in the business as well as fostering fresh voices. In 2019, I mentored five BIPOC and LGBTQAI+ screenwriters who wanted to break into television. So, I organized a writers room setting, where the writers broke a season arc, wrote an episode for that season, and ended the experience with a table read of their scripts. As a result, the writers and actors encouraged me to develop a lab for writers wanting to break into television. This was certainly something I had always wanted to do, but I just did not have the time. For months, I continued to hear from the writers about how instrumental the experience was for them and they urged me to create a series of labs. Ultimately, I conceived two labs: “Pitching the TV Series” and “Writing the TV Pilot.” These offerings became the foundation of The Writers Room 5050. My intention was to give storytellers the tools, experience and confidence they needed to sell their shows, write pilots that garnered attention and thrive in the writers room. The response from the storytellers has been overwhelming. All they needed was the mentorship and skillset to take their careers to the next level. What happened next blew my mind. A few weeks into the teaching the labs, I began to hear from the industry executives and producers wanting me to refer my alumni. At that point, I knew I was doing something important and needed to find a way to keep it going. That’s how The Writers Room 5050 Foundation was born.
- Recently you won two Clubee Awards on Clubhouse. You’ve been making quite a splash in that community and host many rooms throughout the week for storytellers. Tell us about that and what inspired you to create it and what inspires you to continue giving your time to it?
I’ve been on Clubhouse since mid-January. The experience has been transformational, especially during a pandemic. The Clubhouse streets brought human connection, community building and friendship back into my life. I was also blessed with meeting likeminded individuals and found my tribe. After recognizing the power of the app, I founded the “New Hollywood” Club, to provide a space for real conversations and solutions to Old Hollywood paradigms. New Hollywood is inclusive, we share information and resources, we identify new and existing pipelines, we are part of the creator economy and so much more. New Hollywood is you. New Hollywood is us. New Hollywood is here. New Hollywood is now.
New Hollywood rapidly became a very popular club, spawning The New Hollywood Movement. Each week, thousands of people join us to discuss all things New Hollywood. A few months later, the first annual Clubee Awards were announced and New Hollywood was nominated as the “Most Inspiring Room” on Clubhouse. I was floored, especially since I was also personally nominated as “Most Likely to be the Next Clubhouse Icon” and “Best Speaking Voice.” Last month, I did in fact win the “Most Likely to be the Next Clubhouse Icon” category and New Hollywood earned the “Honorable Mention” award, taking second place as the “Most Inspiring Room” on Clubhouse. I still can’t believe the wins and am further inspired to keep going!
- What advice can you give emerging writers, especially BIPOC writers given the growth of the film & TV industry due to changes in the way people watch content?
I advise all emerging writers to: practice their craft everyday; create their own content (establishing their own IP), distribute the content and build an audience; submit their work to contests and festivals to see if gains traction; get on set anyway they can; find assistant and intern opportunities; and establish real human relationships.
“I am extremely humbled and honored to be the first winner of the TIGHT5 Short Form Screenwriting competition in their inaugural debute. The caliber of the esteemed contest founders and their dedication to BIPOC storytellers is what initially attracted me to apply. I knew that I and my short film script would be in good hands. With this win, I am confident to move forward with directing and producing my short. I am and will be eternally grateful to the founders for their confidence and support.” — Evette Vargas
Come and celebrate with us on Clubhouse, check out more details here!