By Elia Esparza
German Michael Torres may be a Producer/Writer/Director of TV, film and digital content, but mostly he is a great storyteller and a man with a keen intuition who can recognize a good idea for a television show, film, or web series.
“I’ve always wanted to tell stories since I was about seven years old,” said Torres reflecting on his life. “I used to write short stories on paper and staple them together to create a book and then give to my parents.” His working in the industry became a done deal right after high school with his first job at a radio station. “I knew I had to make a move to the studios. Four years later I got a job at Columbia Pictures working for Denise Di Novi [Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Practical Magic].
His forge into entertainment came with a plan that included working in development, “and everyone told me to work at an agency to get to know the major players.” He moved on to ICM Agency. “I thought I had made a mistake… it was so stressful and working 14 hour days was the norm.”
Stress and long hours, agency work would prove to be the best decision Torres ever made. In his final year at ICM he sold his first TV show to NBC with writer and friend Silvio Horta (creator of ABC’s Ugly Betty). He just found a story and worked the system.
In 2011, Torres produced a little reality show, From Beyond, for NBC Universal/mun2 and the paranormal show delivered record ratings for the network and is one of the first paranormal shows for Latinos. Soon after, his production company GMT was producing a sizzle reel for a reality show called Paranormal Housewives and as soon as the Los Angeles Times caught wind of it, they published an article on the real paranormal investigator housewives. Then, no sooner had the ink dried, when production companies started sprouting like grass to produce this type of show.
“I followed up with one of them,” said Torres. “Out of [several] companies, I called Robyn Meisinger at Madhouse Entertainment who I knew about and felt they would be a great partner in the scripted version of the show. We brought the Paranormal Housewives [our original reality show concept] in to meet with the producer and talk about a scripted version of the show, which we had been thinking about for some time.”
According to Torres, Madhouse was coincidentally also thinking about doing a show about this subject matter. “At the time CAA had been searching for projects for Julia Roberts,” the producer/director recalled. “We, via Madhouse, shared this idea of the Paranormal Housewives with CAA and they loved it! They thought it would be a great project for Julia. They went to the mega star who once she heard the idea… was quickly on board to produce.”
Soon after, ABC Studios heard the pitch and bought the show. “We then went to Lifetime TV who instantly wanted to take it off the market.”
The evolution of Lifetime ordering a pilot for Paranormal Housewives, which now included Julia Roberts as Executive Producer, also included Torres and Rick Telles (From Beyond) to continue as producers, who together had shopped the reality show as partners.
Not to be confused with any other housewives shows on the air, Torres said there is a huge difference because the new Paranormal Housewives is now a scripted one-hour series and not a reality show. The show is more like the lives of the real-life housewives who do this type of work only now Hollywood will fictionalize the stories to bring alluring suspense about the paranormal that invades our daily lives. “It’s about three friends who are all wives and mothers but who are also paranormal investigators. Instead of girls night out,” said Torres, “they go ghost hunting! The spirit world does affect every part of the women’s lives in real life and we aim to capture that in the fictionalized version.”
With a powerhouse like Julia Roberts supporting Paranormal Housewives, there is a better than 50-50 chance Lifetime will pick up the pilot… Who also ordered episodes for Marc Cherry’s Devious Housewives in 2012.
What is next for GMT? “I am developing a variety of projects both reality and scripted. They include several paranormal shows including a show about witches and a Latino paranormal show, Torres said. Torres is also developing a comedy about a Latino family, “based on my childhood with Marc Rosen of Georgeville Entertainment producing. Alan Dybner (That 70’s Show) wrote a spec pilot.” The project is called Life With Girls and was originally optioned by CBS Paramount. Already there is buzz about Life With Girls.
What advise would Torres give other Latinos who are breaking into the industry and want to produce reality shows for TV?
“My advice for both types of programs whether scripted or reality is that they need to find a story they are passionate about and do whatever it takes to tell it. I also feel these stories need to have a universal appeal. It could be a personal story, but us storytellers need to find what is universal about that story and build on that.”
Torres reminds us that the universal element is “what is going sell to Hollywood and thus to the public.”
And, he’s right because it has been a key element that he never waivers on when pitching a story. “This is a business but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell them what you want. You just need to give it to them in a way they want it. This is true for both reality and scripted projects.”
Torres said to always think: Sizzle Reels. “It is a laborious task to do on your own time and dime. But the good news is if you have the resources to shoot something and put together a 2-5 minute tape you can very well have a great piece to shop and sell.”
He also states that, “scripted road is totally different. You’re dealing with scripts, writers, strong attachments, packaging elements, etc. In both cases packaging is key and in the end it’s all about the story and content.”
Torres also reminds Latinos that working at an agency at the start of their careers will put them in contact with A-list writers, directors, producers, and talent. “The agency, co-workers, and the friends I’ve made along way combined with what Denise [DiNovi] has taught me everything I know now. But you have to have a plan!
“Eat, breathe, and live who you are and what you want to do in the business. There is no a half-assing it! And, of course you have to love it.”
Lifetime’s Paranormal Housewives pilot is just one more accomplishment for the Latino producer who’s long list of credits is impressive considering he is a young, focused, and forward-thinking creative man. Aside from producing From Beyond for Mun2, he’s produced The Chronicle series for SyFy Channel, a TV movie for Lifetime TV, and has developed numerous writers behind some of the most successful films and TV shows as a manger. He’s had projects for CBS, ABC, Warner Bros, and NBC to name a few,”
German Michael Torres has absorbed the best from the best and followed their leads. “I gave them everything I’ve got and into this business.” And several industry trade articles (Latin Heat, The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety) have only fueled his credibility.
When naming one of Torres’ great mentors in Hollywood, he answers without hesitation, “Marc Gordon” (Producer of Saving Private Ryan, Grey’s Anatomy, and many other successful films and TV shows). “We need more mentors like him! Especially in the Latino community,” concluded Torres who is well on his way to becoming a powerful Hollywood player and the best producing mentor for Latinos ready to pave their own path to success.
GMT Films, http://www.gmtfilms.com
As if his incredible resume is not enough, there is still more to GMT:
And, if working long and stressful hours during his early years, in 2001, Torres also founded Professional Latinos In Entertainment (PLIE), a non-profit organization that helps Latinos make it Hollywood. PLIE continues to host events and mixers bridging non-Latino Hollywood with Latino talent. And, in 2012 organization produced an executive party to kick off NALIP conference. “Chivas Regal,” said Torres, “is our newest sponsor to come on board.”
Edited by Casandra Moreno Lombera