In my most recent post, I wrote about the risk of revealing things about myself in my work. This post is along the same lines. I'm a Cuban man, but I've always been reluctant to have Latino characters in my scripts (especially male characters). Why? Since my work is aimed at an American audience, it's partly been a practical thing. But there's been something else at work. For reasons I don't quite understand, I've always been afraid that people would think I'm writing about myself. Or worse, that I'm writing about the way I'd like people to see me. Obviously, I have issues, but that's for another post.
I recently started working on a script that's aimed at a female audience. Because I know that it's a common fantasy (especially for American women), I decided to have a Latino man as my protagonist's love interest. I was reluctant to do this at first, for the reasons mentioned above. But after some hesitation, I went full out, making the character the guy I'd like to be in about 10 years (when I'm his age). Not only was this a good thing to do as a writer, but it seemed to help me be a little more comfortable with who I am. I'm a Latino man, and some women like this about me. Why not own it, right?
Now, for the weird part. While working on this script, called "Never Too Late," I found myself in a situation eerily similar to the character in my script. With little effort on my part, I was suddenly the love interest of a woman who's a whole lot like my protagonist (though different in many ways, too!). Was this simply a coincidence? Just life imitating art? Or did I make this happen by writing this character and embracing this aspect of myself? I honestly don't know, but I like it.
In part three of my posts on the risk of art, I want to talk about revealing things about myself in my work. For me, this is an uneasy balance. On one hand, there are things about my journey that have helped and informed my work. On the other, I hate the idea of coming across as a narcissist who believes his life experiences are so important. There are enough of those, already.
I just started working on a screenplay about a man who has Guillain Barre Syndrome. In case you're wondering, GBS is an illness so rare that it was mentioned on the show "House." Unfortunately, I had it as a teenager. Joseph Heller (author of "Catch 22") had it later in life and wrote (with his friend Speed Vogel) about it in the book "No Laughing Matter." Although a wonderful book, this isn't what I wanted to do. Instead, I wanted to explore my experience, but within a fictional framework. First of all, because of the reasons above. But also for a purely practical reason: it's hard to get a movie with a fourteen year old protagonist made. So I'm writing a script about a fictional character and GBS is the catalyst in his story. For me, this is a perfect balance. I get to share my experience, strength and hope, but also get to hide a little. Because, ultimately, it's not about me. It's about the work. And it's about the audience.