After spending years in his career as a journalist, Spanish native Miguel Ángel Parra realized it was time to make his dreams come true and make the jump from journalist to screenwriter. He then enrolled in the 8-Week Screenwriting program at NYFA where he wrote his screenplay for The Pink House, which has since gone on to win screenplay contests in the Madrid International Film Festival (2020), the LGBTQ Toronto Film Festival (2020), the All Genre Screenplay Contest (sponsored by Amazon, 2020), and become a semi-finalist in the Nashville International Film Festival (2020).
NYFA was able to catch up with the Screenwriting alum and discuss his successful script and what this journey has meant for him as a writer and creator to have other people recognize his work and to make such a huge career move.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Tell us a bit more about yourself. What first got you interested in screenwriting?
Miguel Ángel Parra (MP): I always wanted to be a journalist and I always knew that I would focus on the world of information and communication. I started my career as a journalist in 1997 working in a newspaper in my hometown, Jaén, Spain. I worked in different newspapers for 13 years. Then, somehow, I got tired of writing about reality and started writing fiction. I felt that I had a lot of stories to tell so I started taking writing classes. In 2010, I quit my job and went back to study at university. I got my Master’s in Scriptwriting in Seville, where I have lived since 2003. There have been a lot of voices that have been silenced across history, and I felt that it was time to make people listen to them.
NYFA: What made you want to study at NYFA? Is there anything specific you have learned that you have carried with you since you completed your program?
MP: New York is my favourite city in the world. I had visited the city several times as a tourist but I wanted to live there for some time. In January 2019, I lost my job, so I thought to myself: “This is the right time to make your dream come true.” Then I thought that it would be perfect if I could improve my writing skills learning from the best. I have a lot of friends and colleagues from Spain who studied at NYFA and I have always heard good things about the school. So I chose the 8-Week Screenwriting program and applied for it. The day I got an email from NYFA saying I got in was one of the happiest days in my life.
I learned a lot there, especially from instructor Dennis Green, my script writing teacher. He showed me the importance of the structure of a script, very useful techniques, and how to write better dialogues. Studying at NYFA helped me a lot in the scripts I have written since then.
NYFA: Was The Pink House the first screenplay you had written?
MP: The Pink House is my first feature film script and I wrote it in English! When I came back to Spain, I translated it into Spanish and rewrote it several times. During the quarantine, I finished it and translated into English again in order to be able to submit to international competitions. I have also written some short film scripts. One of them, Espich, was shot in 2014.
Last summer, right after coming back to Spain, I wrote another short film which was shot this August called The Eternal Angels, which won a prize at a national contest last year. Set in the XVIIth century, it tells the story of the famous Spanish painter Murillo and his wife, who lost their first three kids in the plague that devastated Seville in 1647.
NYFA: Can you tell us more about the story behind The Pink House?
MP: The Pink House is a story that needs to be told. It is basically about finding a home. It’s a comedy on the surface, but underneath there is a story about abandonment; the abandonment suffered by LGBTI seniors. The young activists who fought for the LGBT rights in the late 70s in Spain are nowadays men and women in their 70s and 8os and most of them don’t have a home to live in, as they were rejected by their families or have lost their partner.
In my country, we lived 40 years of a dictatorship, with a hard repression on these people, so I felt that I HAD to thank them for their fight somehow, because thanks to them we have the rights we have right now.
NYFA: What do you hope audiences feel after reading your script for The Pink House?
MP: I hope the audience, especially the younger generation, realize that we have rights and freedoms because someone fought for them. Things haven’t always been like this. Some people had to fight and suffer for us to live in a free world.
NYFA: How does it feel to have this story receive the notoriety that it already has?
MP: I am a bit overwhelmed. I submitted the script to a few festivals some time ago and the verdicts and decisions are happening all at once. Being my first feature film script, it is quite exciting to see that people (and jurys) like it. It’s been an honor to see The Pink House selected at the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and reaching the semifinals, being one of the Best Unproduced Scripts at Madrid International Film Festival, or seeing my script published and on sale on Amazon thanks to the All Genre Screenplay Contest. I never imagined something like this would happen.
NYFA: Do you have any other upcoming projects coming up?
MP: My short film The Eternal Angels was shot in August and it will probably premiere at the Seville European Film Festival in November. Besides that, I wrote a play that we hope still opens in January and I also wrote a TV pilot called The Golden Boys, as a renewed and gay version of the popular TV show The Golden Girls. There is a production company that showed interest in it so I hope it could be a reality very soon.
NYFA: Any advice to other screenwriters out there?
MP: I’m not good at giving advice but I would say something that worked for me: Never think you know everything and never stop studying, reading, and learning.
New York Film Academy would like to thank Screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel Parra for taking the time to share his journey on writing his first feature film script and the importance of telling the stories of those who have been silent for a long time. NYFA looks forward to seeing what is next from Parra and wishes him the best on his upcoming short film The Eternal Angels.