The Vida creator and the studio, a division of Universal Studio Group, launched the Ojalá Ignition Lab on Monday. Under the umbrella of Saracho’s deal, the 26-week long incubator program will provide five writers and their own proposed projects with mentoring from experienced showrunners and EPs, including self-described “den mother” Saracho and an extended network to draw on for the future.
Putting real money where most merely put just good intentions and checked boxes, the aim of Ojalá is to foster a pilot script to completion with a commission by UCP at the end.
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Applications for the program run from today until July 19. Interested parties should submitted a one-page TV pilot proposal, as well as an existing example of their writing. Find more information here.
“You know, I keep starting things because there’s a need,” Saracho told Deadline of the lab, as well as the Writers’ Access Support Staff Training Program she helped kick off in March with former One Day at a Time EP Mike Royce and Day of the Dead’s Liz Hsiao Lan Alper, along with the WGA. “This is a legit writing lab and I’m so thrilled. I don’t know if there’s something like this out there — it’s a nurturing writers’ group.”
“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Tanya on her Ojalá Ignition Lab. She has always told diverse and inclusive stories, and this is a continuation of her inspiring work,” UCP president Beatrice Springborn said. “UCP is thrilled and honored to collaborate with these five fellows on their projects.”
“During Vida, those three seasons, having and all-Latina writers room, I realized that from the conversations in there that they had never been in a situation like that where they didn’t have to be an ambassador or had to defend their culture, their ethnicity, their race,” Saracho said of the origin of the Ojalá Ignition Lab. “In other writers’ rooms they might have had to do that, and there was something so beautiful about that because we could just create the story. We didn’t have to also wear the shield of our culture and have to figure out how to navigate that in maybe a writers room that’s more dominant culture.”
“So, that gave me the idea for this, to be a writers’ group that where there’s that cultural safety, cultural shorthand, and I don’t just mean Spanish because not every Latina speaks Spanish,” the EP added. “It’s like when you see yourself represented after not being, you know, after never seeing yourself represented. It’s just an alchemy like of safety that you can build and we haven’t historically as Latinas been building that way because we’re not enough of us in this industry to be surrounded by the same.”
Since Vida, which won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, ended its run on Starz in May 2020, Saracho spent time in the UK during the pandemic collaborating with musician and Lovesick actor Johnny Flynn for an upcoming project, among other work.
But as she made clear Monday, Ojalá Ignition Lab has long been a top parallel priority for the macro mode of her career.
“A lot of these fellowships are just listings on name,” she said. “You’re listed on a list, and it’s amplified, or there’s an honorarium. This is the thing that’s so exciting about this project; this is legitimate development commission, like a very well-funded development commission, and we are working through the WGA to do all that that entails.”
“And so, it’s really exciting because that means we are valued and this is literal value because this is an actual commission,” Saracho said. “So, I’m excited for these five fellows to feel seen and value-supported and with money.”
Saracho is repped by UTA, Writ Large, and J.R. McGinnis at Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson.