Alexander Salazar is a force to be reckoned with. Having realized his true calling at a young age, he chose to pursue it. When faced with an opportunity that would up end his life but could lead to his dreams becoming a reality, Alex went all in. He didn’t pause, he didn’t second guess. No. He saw his chance and he took it. He moved across the country and had to leave his life behind. That conviction and fearlessness is what it takes to succeed in this industry and that is why I am excited to introduce you to this young filmmaker and screenwriter.
This is Alexander Salazar...
Growing up in a whimsical tree farm in the small town of Kirkland, Washington made the idea of working in Hollywood come across like an impossible dream. However, I always loved stories and as a child I was constantly telling elaborate tales featuring GI Joes and Star Wars figurines. My parents would come into my room to find a massive battle scene strewn across the floor and bed, with small vignettes telling important stories. Stories like when Chewbacca found love in a hopeless situation on the distant moon of “Argh” and Cobra Commander watched as his childhood friend left him to join the Storm Trooper army (I took some liberties in my childhood lore). Things only got more elaborate as I figured out how to use the old tape camera to record these stories and used stop motion to bring them to life.
Fast-forward to my acceptance into Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and TV Production on a leadership scholarship and making shorts, music videos and my first feature film in my basement. However, I wanted to work in Hollywood and experience a true set in action. I got a job offer in New Orleans as a Production Assistant and they told me I had three days to get there. So I packed up my car and hit the road. Four years later I find myself still in New Orleans, I joined the Director’s Guild of America as an Assistant Director and I’ve directed two feature films that had successful runs on the film festival track and sold to Amazon.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I wanted a better program then Notepad to write my stories on and found out there was a free script-writing program I could download. As someone who loved movies I thought this was perfect. Over time I started to teach myself how to write in script format and writing as a screenwriter just became my way of writing stories.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
I always loved movies and would sneak downstairs to watch them with my dad late at night. I am incredibly fortunate that both my parents supported me and my love of this modern-day circus we call the film industry. They encouraged me constantly and my dad starred in my first feature film, hanging out in our basement for a week as I learned countless skills and tips for making a movie. When I decided to make the leap to film school and then the actual industry, they rooted for me the entire way.
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Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
While my parents have been my biggest supporters, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I took a very small film production class at my high school with my teacher Leslie Sparro. It was my first time having to make legitimate shorts for an audience and I had no idea if I was actually any good at any of this. Leslie Sparro became my biggest advocate and would challenge me to do my best work. She also gave me a lot of leeway on said projects. For instance, I wanted to make a mock-u-mentary about a black bear that was living behind our high school that was a mix of The Village and The Office and she let me do it without complaint. Even better, she only had professional criticism and praise when I finished it. I took that support and ran with it.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
Watching the trailer for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Not the movie, just the trailer. By the end of it I found myself on my feet, fists raised. I was so excited and it was in that moment I decided I wanted to make some kid out there feel the same excitement I did. That’s when I turned my attention to this world full time.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
Knowing that at the end of the day I did my best, that I stayed true to my core values, that I like both myself and the work I’ve produced and lastly, that I have happiness on my mind.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl?
I used to be a Night Owl but in my old age of the late twenties I’ve become more of an Early Bird with a set wake up time.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual?
I’m very much the “roll-out-of-bed and get to work” mentality. Sleep is also a precious commodity that I don’t get enough of. Make sure you get your 8 hours a night!
What do you do during the day?
I’m an Assistant Director with the DGA so I spend my day helping the Director’s vision come to life and taking care of the logistics of that. Do they want tiny monkeys in top hats riding on a single unicycle with explosions in the background? We make that happen.
What do you do at night?
This is when I write. After a 16-18 hour workday I’m usually exhausted but this is when I’ll jot down my ideas, consolidate thoughts and collect inspiration I picked up throughout the day.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual?
I drink a cup of warm chamomile tea and then my head goes on the pillow and I’m asleep. Usually there are two puppies sleeping with me. It’s a great set up.
How do you define a successful day?
Everything that needed to be accomplished was accomplished and I end the day with a smile on my face.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Because my lifestyle is filled with work, finding the time to write is difficult. While a lot of writers are able to storyboard, develop character charts and use other tools of the “professional” writer, I don’t have the time to do that. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll jot down some ideas or character quotes so when a blast of inspiration strikes in between jobs I can sit down and write forty pages in one sitting. The skill of bulldozing my ideas into a fully formed script in two to three days has been incredibly important.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
Inspiration has to fully strike me to start writing. Sometimes it comes without warning. I’m not able to sit down and force myself to write, I have to wait, which means I don’t mass-produce work during the year. It comes in small spurts of inspiration that ends with a script. Therefore, I usually only write one or two scripts a year. But that makes them all the more important to me.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
Seeing people laugh and cry because of the work I’ve done – seeing the emotions and the reactions makes it all worth it. As a writer that’s all I can ask for, this opportunity to share with others.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
My favorite learning experience is hearing other people’s stories, both personal and creative. Stories fascinate and inspire me and I love to hear what makes the person they are today and they messages they want to share.