Can you tell us a little bit about your career journey?
I started my career working as a second stage manager on Univision’s El Show de Paul Rodriguez. It was there that I caught the writing bug and became a Writers’ Assistant on such comedies as The Wayans Bros. and The Nanny. A few years later, I landed my first writing job on Moesha. The showrunner, Ralph Farquhar, took me under his wing, meeting with me on every script and advising me on how to fine-tune my work, just as his mentor, Garry Marshall, had done for him when he was a young writer starting out on Happy Days.
I wrote on Moesha for five years and worked my way up the creative ladder from Staff Writer to Producer. After that show, I went on to write on more multi-camera shows, single-camera shows, features and animation (The Proud Family, Special Agent Oso, Elena of Avalor).
How has your culture informed your creative decisions?
I was born into a loving, funny and loud Mexican-American family. Some of my fondest childhood memories are family gatherings. We bonded over food, music and sharing stories. These stories were full of humor, drama and a hint of magical realism. But what inspired me most about these stories was that they were about Latinos. At this time, it was hard for me to find books with Latino protagonists in the library or see us on the small and big screen. So, these family stories filled me with a sense of pride and gave me permission to shoot for the stars. That’s why I am a writer today.
I can write for any character, but I’m most passionate about writing about strong female protagonists and Latinx stories. Representation matters. That means diversity has to be baked into the project from the start. You can’t add women and/or diverse writers, artists, and actors to the project after it is almost complete. The financial success of Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Wonder Woman and Coco is proof that baking in diversity from the start doesn’t just make sense, it makes dollars.
Tell us a little bit about what you’re currently working on.
I am thrilled about everything I’m working on right now. First of all, I’m the Co-Executive Producer and Head Writer on a Netflix Animation Limited Series called Maya and the Three. I recently sold Netflix an Original Live-Action Limited Series Musical steeped in Latin culture, but at its core, it is a universal story about the struggles between mothers and daughters. I am writing the pilot script now. I am also working on a couple of new animated series ideas as well as another prime time live-action comedy idea. I have so many stories to tell!
Can you talk about the LatinX in Animation: Masterclass and what someone attending can expect to learn?
People who attend the LatinX in Animation: Masterclass panel can expect to hear—how we got our start, how we navigate through the sometimes choppy waters of this business, and how we continue to create and be inspired. But I hope the big take away is: If you have the passion, the dedication and the drive, you can work in animation, too.
Why is it important for you to participate in these kinds of events?
It’s important to participate in these kinds of events because they provide an opportunity to network with other people interested in animation, learn about different parts of our industry, share personal knowledge and experiences and have fun!
Silvia Olivas will be on the LatinX in Animation Masterclass panel on Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. Learn more about the event here.