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Meet Cristina Sainz Rico

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cristina Sainz Rico.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Cristina. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Whenever I think about where my relationship with stories began, I always get to the inevitable conclusion that I didn’t stand a chance at doing anything else other than that. I grew up in a house in which you couldn’t see the walls because there were thousands of books and VHS movies piled up from the floor to the ceiling in every single room. I also grew up in a house with two literature teachers and with a poet as a father. Whenever I felt sad or lonely or misunderstood, stories were always there for me to fall into. And just like I found comfort in all those books, I always knew I liked writing, even at a very young age. Somewhere in my house, there is still a story I wrote about a shoe, in a booklet in the shape of a shoe, with lots of very poorly-drawn shoes in it. I feel like that was well before I even turned six.

And then movies come along and they changed everything. From the day my father decided it was about time, I watched all the Hollywood “classics” I became a 10-year-old obsessed with “Some Like It Hot” and “The Apartment” and so insanely in love with Cary Grant, all while my friends dreamt about the new teen sensation. However, it still took some time for me to realize that what I actually wanted to do with my life was to tell stories. It happened when I was about to get into a journalism and communications degree in college. It might seem silly, but coming from a small town, lost somewhere in the mountains of Spain, studying film was never seen as a real option. Nonetheless, the idea sparked in my mind and it wouldn’t leave me alone.

So I packed my things and moved far away to Barcelona to start studying narrative and stories and characters and movies. And it was amazing. I soon realized that the part I enjoyed most about filmmaking was writing the stories. Hence, I only took scriptwriting classes for the last two years. Each class felt like a group therapy session and I learned about how hard it is to open up yourself when you write, but also how necessary that is to create something that speaks your truth. With time, I also learned to use writing almost as a healing therapy for my soul or to express my innermost personal feelings and ideas. Writing for me has always been more than a hobby or an occupation. For me, it is a way of living my life, of seeing the world, of interacting with it, of feeling and understanding it. I could say that stories saved my life, in a metaphorical and not so metaphorical way. My safe place has always been a movie theatre, with the lights out, the silence in the room and a story on the screen.

The only other thing I love most, almost as much as stories, is traveling and going on adventures. Traveling and meeting new people inspires me to think of new ideas, of new universes, of new things I never even knew existed. I guess that took a big role in my decision of moving across the world to LA. It was that and the intrinsic need of running as far as I could from the small place where I grew up and where I felt there was nothing left to be seen or done. It now feels ironic since I spend more time missing home than I would care to admit. Nonetheless, LA has become my new home in a way I never thought it would. If I am being completely honest, I didn’t think I would like LA at all, and it is also true that some things still feel strange to me, like the lack of people walking in the streets. However, I found that LA is not just a city where the major film and entertainment companies are, but also a place where I feel surrounded by creatives of all sorts. And there is hardly a better feeling than that for any kind of artist.

Has it been a smooth road?
I doubt you can ask any artist and get a positive answer to this question. But again, life usually is not a smooth road, no matter what path you choose. I really think succeeding in an industry like entertainment is very hard and it takes a lot of persistence and tenacity. However, the biggest issue I have found at a personal level is the lack of contacts within the industry. Once you take a close look at it, you always end up realizing that most people got their first job because they got recommended by someone they knew. Another important factor in breaking into such a complicated industry is time. A lot of the time, persistence takes a lot of time. Being international can make that even more complicated, or even impossible, for many artists. I have always thought it was a pity because I met so many talented young people trying to break in that have to go back to their countries or cities of origin.

For many people, getting an entry-level job that grants you the chance to grow in the business is simply not an option. I had to say goodbye to so many talented individuals that made LA just that much brighter. I can’t help but feel it as a big loss for the city and for the industry. Finally, one last thing that has always worried me is the fact that people might think twice about giving me a writing job when my first language is not English. I have lived in the States for a long time and even took several writing classes in English and I feel very comfortable writing both in Spanish and English. I just feel sometimes people tend to go for the candidates that are native, and that has always been a thing I have struggled with and will probably still encounter along the way. Nonetheless, the important thing about this kind of job is having a supportive family and a strong group of friends and, most of all, to never give up on something that makes you happy. No matter what it is.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Currently, I am working as a freelance writer and I couldn’t love it more. For quite some time, I struggled to try and find a job at a production company. However, after several office jobs, I realized writing was what I actually loved doing and it didn’t make sense to wait any longer. Probably anyone that has taken that huge leap of faith that is flying solo for the first time can tell you that beginnings are not easy. Nonetheless being a freelancer, I can create my own schedules and work where I want to and when I feel more inspired, which usually tends to be in the evenings. I also love the broad spectrum of projects I can get to work on, and getting to choose them based on what I like and believe in.

As a freelance writer, I have worked as a story analyst, writing coverage and helping find solutions for stories that might be stuck. I also have helped translate stories from English to Spanish and vice versa. One of my last gigs also involved video games. It was so much fun checking for grammar issues and doing editing while playing. Another thing that I enjoy a lot is creating content. I usually get requests from very diverse backgrounds and topics, which either allows me to read and learn about things that can be totally new to me or to approach things that are familiar in unexpected ways.

Besides that, I have also been slowly getting the wheels in motion toward more story-oriented writing. Actively looking out for writers that need help or producers looking for new ideas or help to develop existing ones. I have sold a romantic comedy treatment to a production company, assisted in the development of a feminist animated TV show for kids, and assisted the writing team in an adult animated TV show that was televised in Spain. Last month, I was hired by an author to adapt one of his novels to a TV show. Besides, I am also in the process of writing a horror movie for a producer that has already bought the rights. Being part of the whole process and working along with other creatives is such a big part of the fun for me.

About what sets me apart from others, I think the only true answer is my own style and perspective. Each writer has their own and it is intrinsically unique to each individual. That is why I think you have to be able able to choose the right writer for each particular project. I write about things that I can relate to, at one level or another, and always try to speak my truth. But so do most writers out there. So, the only right answer is to find the writer that most closely fits your ideas, style, and needs. On another note, I feel like I am a very comprehensive writer because I have always loved writing different genres and different formats and exploring beyond where I feel comfortable. So I think one of my strongest points is the ability to shift my focus depending on the job. If it is a challenge or a narrative adventure, I’m in.

Finally, I am very proud to say that I am working on releasing a personal web page and a blog where I will be able to showcase my writing and share more stories with anyone that cares to read them. As part of this project, I am also working on releasing a section with useful information for other writers or aspiring artist that might be considering moving across the world to LA. It is always hard at first to find your ground and understand how the system works in different countries or cities for people in our field. And even though I am still learning myself, if what I have found out so far can help others make their path easier, I would be thrilled. Creating a community of like-minded writers and creatives has always been one of my long-term goals. So, keep an eye out for my soon-to-be website storigyrl.com.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Honestly, LA has a lot of great things but it can also be a really tough city. I feel like everyone who loves storytelling or film needs to, at least, visit once in their lifetime. What you learn about the entertainment industry in LA can’t compare to what you might learn in any other city. However, at the same time, Los Angeles is crowded by people that go after the same goals and that can make it way harder to succeed than somewhere else. Also, as I commented before, my views on moving to LA to start a career in entertainment are tainted by my experience as an international person. I can’t really comment on how LA would be appreciated by someone that moved here from somewhere else within the States. As a foreigner though, I found the experience of striving to be a writer in LA very enlightening in a very personal way. It showed me the things that I like and the ones that I don’t about an industry as big as this. It helped me realize the type of projects I would love to be a part of.

However, it also made me realize that the reasons I got into writing in the first place are not necessarily the same ones that keep the movie-making machine running. I think my recommendation would be to first try and do some stuff wherever you are in the world. Maybe things might seem smaller and not as exciting there, but you would be surprised by how many doors can open if you have a good and stable background before you make the move to LA. Nowadays, writers can write from anywhere and still reach the whole world. And the same can be said about almost any other profession. In this modern world of hyper-connection, things are changing very quickly. A few years ago, if you moved across the world, it almost meant you had to start again from the very beginning. But I don’t think that is true anymore. Internet and the many platforms out there are breaking down nationality and even language barriers. So, give your own countries or cities a chance too.

On a final note, I would love to say that the one thing I’ve missed in LA is more mentorship programs that might help discover and form new talent. Some organizations are already trying, but they are still scarce and usually go hand-in-hand with really expensive fees. Mentoring the new generations and helping them break into the industry, even if they don’t have a network of contacts, would be a amazing to discover new talent and to get much-needed new stories out there.

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