The following is a true story. Long before I knew how to read and write, I already knew I wanted to create horror stories. I was a kid from Mexico City who was afraid of the dark but loved scary monster movies, so horror films became part of my life. I was probably the only 8-year-old who knew The Shining and The Exorcist word by word, line by line.
Years later, as an adult, after working in advertising as a Creative Director, I decided to follow my true passion: writing horror films. And that’s how Field Trip was born. Today, my mission as a filmmaker is to make audiences’ hearts jump with the most frightening monsters and unique heroes. In short, to make people happy by scaring the hell out of them, just like my heroes did when I was a kid—heroes like George Romero, David Cronenberg, John Landis, Peter Jackson, William Friedkin, and Stanley Kubrick. Guillermo del Toro is my hero too, but I knew him way pass my twenties.
In developing Field Trip, I combined two scary elements: the experiences of going to middle school and dealing with eighth graders. They’re no longer kids, not yet adults, and mean as hell. What happens when a group of mean not-quite-kids visit a remote place and face a giant, man-eating, mythical creature? What do they do when their teachers are gone? How far will these middle-schoolers go to survive?
Who will end up being a monster?
For the ensemble cast, I wanted to represent a diverse group of students. I wanted to break the mold. I wanted a strong character who is a teen Latina and likes grunge music. No stereotypes. Great horror flicks have broken these barriers before, like Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) becoming the first African-American hero in a horror film and Sigourney Weaver (Alien) becoming the first strong female lead in a horror movie.
Sometimes people ask me about my process for scriptwriting. One recent question was, “Do you have rules?” That’s interesting language, “rules.” I don’t see writing as having rules, but I do have some recommendations:
1) There is no better film school than a movie theater.
2) Read scripts. As many scripts as you can. Go online and download whatever screenplays are available. If you’re writing a horror movie, download horror scripts. If you’re writing a comedy, download comedy scripts. Study the action descriptions, the character pacing, the voices, the balance between scenes, the beats and the sequences of the film.
3) Write your first draft write in paper. Yes, paper. By hand. Sharpen a dozen pencils, have several writing blocks or notebooks or stacks of printer paper, and write, write, write. Something about writing with your hand makes it more intimate and organic. Don’t censor yourself. Write from the heart. Write the whole thing. Then, on your second draft, copy your writing into Final Draft or a similar software. Then you can start editing and proofreading.
4) Before writing, prepare a playlist that matches the mood of your script. I had a Field Trip playlist of songs and themes from horror movies. However, remember not to write the names of the songs into the script—you might accidentally upset a producer!
Overall, writing a screenplay is extraordinary. It gave me the opportunity to disconnect from one world and create another one. Creating characters, giving them voices, developing worlds, and exploring a journey is beyond fulfilling. And having experts and artists like the people at the Atlanta Screenplay Awards recognizing your effort makes it even more special. I’m so thankful for this opportunity, and I look forward to all the wonderful screenplays to come.