We had the good fortune of connecting with Dawn Garcia and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dawn, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
Risk is, in my opinion, the only way to truly live out your dreams. Playing it safe is what most people do, but nothing great or exceptional ever comes from playing it safe. The magic happens when you say “f” it and stare risk in the eyes like it’s a long lost lover.

As for the role risk plays in my life and career, it has been pivotal in my personal and professional growth. As a writer, I would never have gotten the contract I have with MGM Studios/Gato Grande Productions if I played it safe. I primarily write drama and I was challenged with writing comedy. Comedy is one of the toughest things to do, but because I was willing to try? I’ve learned I actually love to write comedy. Mostly dark comedy. One of the reasons I was hired was because I take risks and push boundaries. I know there are plenty of writers who won’t do those things, and they may get a job over me, but I feel that a gift like writing – the power of words – it isn’t meant to be some play-by-play situation where everything is predictable. If it was? I probably wouldn’t be a writer.

The truth is, I find predictability boring. Now, that’s not to say you need to be totally unpredictable all the time because that will get you nowhere fast. It’s to say that taking chances, innovating, trusting your instincts … that is the sweet spot. At least in what I do. In every job I’ve had, my expectations of myself are immensely high, including the pressure I put on myself to produce high quality work and always learn more and hopefully get better. And for me that means incorporating a certain level of risk taking and fearlessness.

In my personal life? Good god have I taken a lot of risks. Some paid off, most were lessons to learn. Thankfully those mistakes (though I hate to call them mistakes because growth and self awareness derive from said mistakes) have pushed me further as a writer, mother, activist, and entrepreneur. I’m one of those people that genuinely believes you cannot attain long lasting success by doing what everyone else is doing. You become successful when you throw caution to the wind, utilize your voice, go with your gut, and come to understand that there is no failure in trying. Why anyone would choose to live life afraid of taking some risks is beyond me, but I know that because of that, it allows more people like me to be a little more gutsy.

I owe my fearlessness to the ones that played it safe. They’re key players in the whole thing. Without them, risk wouldn’t be possible. It’s the grand universal balance of things.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I’m a writer and creative. That encompasses a few things. I own a magazine called ATOD Magazine (A Taste of Dawn) that I started 12 years ago. I launched it because I wanted to create a more personal connection to artists, visionaries, brands, and people. But my main gig is I write films and create and write/develop TV Shows.

Risk is a huge part of the equation in terms of the answer to this particular question. I’ve just finished writing a new series that is a Latina, female-centric comedy with Gato Grande Productions and MGM Studios. The challenge was pretty big but I’ve loved every minute of it, and as I put the final touches on the Series Bible, we will start prepping for pitch meetings with networks which is super exciting. I am most proud of how quickly I put together a pitch to get this gig. I translated a pilot and series summary from Spanish to English, recreated a new concept and I did it in 5 days. I figured if I was going to get my shot, I wasn’t going to play it safe. I was going to lay it all out there and show the execs exactly what kind of writer I am. Not only did I get the offer to do the project but they have told me on more than one occasion that they are proud of what I’ve come up with. That is a feeling that seeps into your soul and validates you beyond explanation.

I’m also proud of utilizing the forced time “at home” to create multiple projects including 2 more TV Shows, 2 features, and 1 commercial. I’m super proud of the comedy series though. I never imagined I’d write comedy because I’m pretty heavily committed to drama. But all my dramas have notes of dark comedy to relieve intense moments, and the studio saw something in me and gave me a chance to take a stab at a new genre. And next on the list is turning one of my existing drama series’ into a comedy. Life is WAY too intense these days, so I think it’s fair to say a little comedic reprieve is in demand.

The process of working for a major studio and writing for TV has taught me SO much as a writer and creator. For starters, every studio does it different and this time around I was extremely lucky they put so much trust in my vision for the project. It was an adaptation of a project created by a very talented female Mexican writer, Adriana Pelusi. The story has changed a lot from the original and I’m really proud of where I’ve taken it. As a writer, being hired to adapt a project and make it your own can be a mountainous challenge. I tackled it head on and have had the most wonderful support from the studios. That doesn’t always happen so this time around, I kind of feel like I won the writing lotto! Carla (Vargas) is a badass and to be working with a fiercely talented woman as well as Moises (Amsel) – who is a serious champion of female writers – it’s a dream come true on so many levels.

Lessons Learned: Outline, outline, OUTLINE! Sometimes I’m a writer that just throws myself into a project and this time I had to really grasp outlining. I can now differentiate a beat sheet from an outline, a summary from a breakdown, a format from a series bible. I also realized my ego doesn’t take the reigns. I’m a highly adaptable writer, and this job has given me the courage to take studio notes and decide what is worthy of listening to and what I can dismiss. I let it all flow out and I have little hesitation. I also learned that all of my training as a journalist and magazine editor/creative director has been a huge asset because I am VERY deadline oriented. And most of the time I use self-imposed deadlines to finish things on time or early as often as possible. Studios are big fans of that!

Challenges: Adapting my style from drama to comedy, trusting my instincts, not being afraid of my sarcasm and utilizing it, infusing story with my own personal experiences and the characters created.

Brand/Story: I love what I do. I love film and television. I love creating. I love telling stories. I love bring characters that we all relate to to life, and I believe that if you can open one mind to unity, it’s all worth it. I guess if there is one thing readers should know about me, it’s that I always come from a place of love, passion and hope. I can’t be anyone but myself so what you see is what you get and it’s reflected in my work.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve gone back to my high school days of re-falling in love with Santa Barbara. And I’ve been escaping a lot to Palm Springs. I’m not drinking alcohol these days, so little reprieves to Santa Barbara or Palm Springs are heaven sent. I used to say Santa Barbara was the place where rich hippies lived and Palm Springs is where you go to be anonymous and that still holds true.

SB: I recently stayed at The Santa Barbara House via Air bNb Plus and I would go back there in a heartbeat.
SB FOOD: Barbareño, The Blue Owl, The Black Sheep, The Lark, Mesa Verde, Lab Social (for drinks if you drink)
SB COFFEE: Handlebar Coffee Company, Caje Coffee
The beaches in Santa Barbara are my favorite. They are spacious and clean and the people watching, especially right across from SB Community College is pretty epic.

PS: The Weekend, Dive Hotel, Holiday House
PS FOOD + DRINK: Cartel Coffee, Mr. Lyons, Tac/Quila, Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, Birba, Cheeky’s, MidMod Cafe
PS TO DO: Rent a bike or take a walk up through the mountains and into the most magnificent mid-century architecture haven in California. I’d also suggest taking the PS Tram. You go from scorching heat to ice caps in under 30 minutes and it’s beautiful.
PS SIDE NOTE: I get all my tattoos in Palm Springs. Best tattoo artist ever is Wyatt Johnson at Anarchy Tattoo. His work is impeccable.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

The team at the LA LGBTQ Center where I’m on the Leadership Council; the team at MGM/Gato Grande: Moises Amsel, Carla Vargas and Alex Lindgren because they are the reason I discovered my love of writing comedy and trusting my instincts; My Agent (Collin Reno), Manager (Leyla Kader Dahm), and Lawyers (Wendy Heller and Jillian Waldron) because they are incredible when it comes to negotiating contracts and supporting me; but most importantly my son. We can’t get anywhere in this industry or in the world without someone believing in us and seeing beyond what we see in ourselves. At the studios, Moises and Carla have taken a chance on me and trusted me creatively in ways that is beyond empowering. As my reps, anyone in this industry knows how hard it is to find reps you feel actually care about you and truly champion you and Collin and Leyla do precisely that. My lawyers advocate hard for me and that is a huge gift.

My son – he is my world. I’m proud of him and his journey as a trans male. He is so kind, smart, handsome and lives every day with this tenacity I admire and find contagious. I started writing when I was very young, but it’s the writing I’ve done ever since becoming a mother that I feel is the kind of writing I always dreamed of doing. Apollo (my son) constantly reminds me that what I’m doing matters, and he writes too. In fact he is a million times more talented than I ever was at his age! He is my inspiration every single day.

Website: https://www.dawngarcia.com

Instagram: @dawngarcia

Linkedin: https://linkedin.com/in/dawngarcia

Twitter: @atasteofdawn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DawnGarciaATOD

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/dawngarciaATOD

Other: IMDB – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0305175/ SHOP – https://drinkinginthepen.shop PODCAST – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/drinking-in-the-pen/id1557183473 https://atodmagazine.com https://vimeo.com/atasteofdawn

Image Credits
Main Photo (Horizontal) by Matthew Andris Film Image by Jamie Ezra Mark

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