Between Classes: Season 3 Episode 4, Peter Murrieta

Peter Murrieta thanks for being with me
Thank You Dean let’s just start like sure where did the idea of telling
stories through the the medium of television and film how did you think
that was possible for you well I think my father and my mother certainly
didn’t come from show business we grew up in Tucson little south from here and
I think we had a garrulous family that always told these crazy stories to each
other kind of. who was the best story teller? my Uncle Dave. Uncle Dave
. okay so let’s go back to tucson you grew up in Tucson great storytelling
family uncle, father .how does that
translate into I could do this for a living? well I went to school to be,
I was a creative writing major and I still had not thought I could make a
living in it. the goal when I was an undergrad was I was going to be a JV
baseball coach in high school and I was gonna teach high school English that was
the plan it’s very valid plan and the reason I chose JV baseball even in
undergrad I was like a varsity coaching job it seems like it had a lot of stress.
so I was very much a guy who has not looking for stress didn’t want to be in
the frying pan. right and so in college I fell in with this group who were doing
sketch comedy and the reason I fell in this group that was doing sketch comedy
was because my professor a humanities professor dr. Donna Swain was still
alive and retired she created one of my papers for
existentialism in humanities and I got this thing that said see me in my office
no grade. if you’re a student that’s not what you want to see. it is not what
you want to hear, see me no grade . so I go into her office and she says this may be
the funniest paper on existentialism I’ve ever read.
so the Wizards of Waverly Place and that’s yeah
clearly a big success. yeah. won a couple. few trophies
on that I got a couple nominations. two Emmys. so how did
the work you did from Tucson end up playing into this story that was a
broader story but still had characters yeah well the project was originally
called the amazing O’Malley’s there was a script Disney had and they were
looking for someone to come in and help out run the show perhaps do a rewrite of
it to make it Greenland and so I read it and they were fans of greetings from
Tucson of Disney people. and so I read it and I went in and met with them and and
very specifically I said you know well I’m very interested in telling the
biracial story of my family and a family’s liking so the first thing I’d
love to do is turn this into a half Mexican family and not an Irish family
and they were cool with it so I did that rewrite and we made a few other
adjustments I also wanted them to be more blue collar and so we did
that and they were very helpful in that process and in that experience and so when we got to cast it there were some problems because they
did not have the big well of actors to draw from and I remembered this tape of
this young girl who was probably 12 who done a pilot for Disney that didn’t go
and I asked about Selena Gomez for those things
and I asked and they said oh well she’s busy doing this other pilot and I
said well then why don’t we have Selena being both what a great opportunity to
really test your proof of concept right you’re not gonna be talking about well
we like this one pilot idea better but we like this actress and they bought it
what a what a great opportunity for her right she knew she was gonna be on a
show so they bought it. you’re here in part because your own
story and your commitment is aligned with our projecting all voices idea that
you know everybody should have an equal opportunity in this country to be able
to tell their story or to tell the story they want to tell. yeah so here we are
one of the fastest growing film programs in the country.
probably in terms of the total number of students perhaps more
non-white filmmakers than any other one of the top film main
attractions to me so what do you want
to say to them? you want to give students first of all that concept that they’re
walking around with a film studio in their pocket. they have the
tools and then you want to give them the expertise by putting them in places like
this with faculty that’s going to tell them this can be yours and finally to
your question about the business, you know the one thing I’ve learned in all
my years 20-some years in Hollywood is the business loves money and now that
you’ve got people dedicated to teaching those new voices , lifting up those new
voices it really is just a matter of time and by having an issue have the
faculty that it has people that are very knowledgeable about what’s happening
right now with film spark with herald-examiner building in LA . those
opportunities are going to be coming at these students so fast and they need to
be ready for them right because one of the things that happens is you get a
moment of opportunity and if you haven’t done the work, it’s going to pass you by. I like to conclude, you’ve already answered parts of this question but when you look back how
do you want to say you used your creativity to change the world? I think
I’ve been I didn’t have a mission when I started I just wanted to write and make
people laugh and I guess that’s a mission but I was at a conference called
amplify in Ojai and I met a woman who makes educational software
and she said tell me who you are and I said I’m Peter Ariana and I’m a TV
writer/producer and she said no you’re not I looked you
up and she said you’re somebody who has spent 20 years putting people of color
in front of him behind the camera and that’s the first line of your bio and it
should always be the first line of your bio because I looked you up and she
galvanized me I mean she made me feel like oh yeah
and it felt firm to me like that wasn’t some pamphlet or some statement that I
just read that was my life’s work and so I’m excited to be continuing that and
continuing it here , continuing in LA you know I just think that that’s me. Well
this can’t be a better place for that mission to live itself out. you
will touch thousands and thousands of students they will make their way in the
world and tell their stories tell their family stories and make our culture
richer and stronger. so Peter thank you for being with us, thank you for talking
we could have walked another half I know. but here we are all right at the
end of our journey All right see you soon okay

One comment on “Between Classes: Season 3 Episode 4, Peter Murrieta”

  1. C.C. Chapman says:

    What a great conversation.

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