Entering a moviemaking contest was a family affair for Tacoma resident Crisantos Chavez.
He first went over his script idea with his siblings in their parents’ home in Yakima. His parents hosted family brainstorming sessions and his brother helped film the promotional video that eventually helped catch the eye of a locally based TV and film production company.
The Big Pitch, a competition from Seattle-based TLG Motion Pictures (perhaps best known for producing the reality TV series “Hoarders”), was looking for young adults of color to submit their television and film pitches. Chavez’s script film concept, “PRIV-I-LEGE,” was chosen as the winner earlier this summer, with TLG saying it will provide mentoring, access to production crew and equipment, and $20,000 toward the production of the project
“I felt like — well I know it was — meant to be,” said Chavez, 25, a production assistant.
“PRIV-I-LEGE” follows 13-year-old Will as he transfers from his private school to the lowest-performing middle school in the country. The protagonist learns about the selfish “i” in privilege through the experiences of his new classmates.
The script is inspired by Chavez’s and his siblings’ upbringings — the difficulties they had learning English as a second language and immigrating to the U.S. at a fairly young age. Above all, “PRIV-I-LEGE” is about a young boy who learns how to practice empathy, and discovers the privilege he’s surrounded by.
“I’m not presenting anybody’s real story,” said Chavez. “I’m just creating creative representations of what I’ve seen, of the stories that I heard. I want to present certain perspectives.”
For Chavez, finding out about The Big Pitch, and even getting to write “PRIV-I-LEGE,” was about being at the right place at the right time. Chavez found out about The Big Pitch a week before the proposal was due.
“I remember I read about The Big Pitch, and I was like, this is perfect,” said Chavez. “I basically had the concept already written, I just had to structure it” to make it work for the application. “It was like a team process getting it ready in time.”
“PRIV-I-LEGE” wasn’t even Chavez’s initial script — but during the recent protests against systemic racism and in support of Black lives, Chavez pivoted and decided to focus on this script. He’d always wanted to tell this story, but he felt “given the current environment, it was best to bring it to the foreground now.”
The social timeliness of the script was just one of the reasons why Chavez’s pitch won, said Courtney LeMarco, creator of The Big Pitch and the founder of TLG Motion Pictures, one of the few Black-owned production companies doing work in Hollywood.
“I think the reason why we picked ‘PRIV-I-LEGE’ is because of how well put together his application was,” said LeMarco, who lives in Seattle. “I like how diverse the people who he brought to the table were. It seemed like he had a clear understanding of various aspects of the industry that you know a lot of novices would not know.”
The winner of The Big Pitch was also required to produce their work in Seattle, but that’s one of the things that attracted Chavez to the competition in the first place.
“Courtney is fighting to keep stories here in Washington,” said Chavez. “I’ve met some very talented artists that are just looking for the possibility to start creating more content here.”
In addition to trying to pay homage to his hometown, it was also important for LeMarco to provide mentorship for young Seattle-based people of color. His inspirations for creating The Big Pitch are the hurdles he had to overcome while breaking into the industry.
He didn’t have a mentor until he was 42: Matt Chan, the creator and former executive producer of “Hoarders.” LeMarco hopes to give Chavez part of what Chan gave to him.
“[Chan] showed me the ropes. He’s like my Yoda. I consider him a Jedi Master, because he knows the industry,” said LeMarco. “He’s very smart about how he’s handled his business and he’s done great things. And he’s Asian, and you don’t see that in the industry, which makes it even doper.”
For Chan, the most important thing is to give back: “There’s a lot of times people of color just are so marginalized that they give up. They say, ‘I’m not gonna play the game. I’m done.’ But part of your job as a mentor is to say you’ll get through it. It’s not gonna be easy, but if you get through it, you could bring other people of color with you.”
Chavez realizes that power — the idea that if he can succeed, maybe he can help others to do so.
“I’m a DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] recipient,” said Chavez. “When that all happened, that was a big opportunity that a lot of kids before me didn’t have. I really take that to heart.”