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THE MIAMI HERALD
Latin Screenwriters Polish Their Prose For A Route To Hollywood
By NICOLE ARRIAGA
October 28, 2002
By day, Luis Nieto teaches film classes at a high school in Uruguay. In his country, he's considered an accomplished writer who has published several books of short stories. But Nieto says his first love can't be found in a book. His passion is writing for the big screen.
The 18 other Latin American screenwriters, who along with Nieto attended the MPA Latin American Feature Film Project Development Workshop and Competition last week at the University of Miami, might say the same thing. Doing a job -- even one as interesting as writing -- pays the bills. Making movies would fulfill dreams.
''In Peru, out of 30 screenplays, maybe only one is produced each year,'' said Peruvian screenwriter Roberto Bonilla. ``It would be a golden opportunity to make some contacts in America and have our work shown here.''
The UM workshop could help their chances. For five days, the writers worked in intensive group sessions aimed at polishing their screenplays, ranging from murder mysteries to comedies to romance. The screenwriters dissected each script, mentored by four UM screenwriting professors.
At the session's end, three screenwriters -- Sergio Gomez from Chile, Ana Carolina Rivera González from Mexico, and Enrique Fernández from Uruguay -- each won a $1,000 prize and a trip to Los Angeles, where studios like HBO Latin America Group, Colombia, Warner and others will evaluate their scripts.
''It's almost impossible to get your scripts read in Hollywood without establishing contacts,'' says professor Rafael Lima, one of the UM mentors. A little tweaking can make the difference between a good script and a bad one, he says. ``Bad scripts don't get read, sold, or made. That's what makes these workshops invaluable.''
The workshop, sponsored by the Motion Picture Association, usually is held in a Latin American city. But Steve Solot, senior vice president of Latin American operations, says the association sees Miami as the perfect place to help nurture the Latin American film industry. ''The MPA wants to strengthen its ties with Miami as opposed to Los Angeles, because many artists view this city as the gateway to Latin America,'' he says.
Writers from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States were selected by their country's film institutes or ministries of culture to compete. To be considered, screenwriters had to have completed and own the rights to at least one feature screenplay.
Some attendees -- like Mexican screenwriter Xavier Robles Molina -- already have done films in Latin America. Now they're ready to tap into the American market.
''About 95 percent of American films are shown all over the world,'' Robles says. ``We want the chance to show American people how we make movies and express our culture.''
Jeff Peel, director of the Miami-Dade Office of Film and Entertainment, says he hopes the workshop will lure others in Latin American film to South Florida. ``We hope word will travel fast and many of these talented professionals will consider doing future films here.''