March 07, 2019
Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Producer and Alumnus, Presents New Scholarship Award at Craft Talk
By Matthew BenusaMedia Inquiries
On March 6, 2019, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, producer and alumnus from CMU's Creative Writing program in the Department of English, gave a craft talk in The Gladys Schmitt Creative Writing Center and also presented the first Grillo-Marxuach Family Scholarship to the program. The inaugural scholarship was awarded to undergraduate student Anna Anderson.
The talk and award presentation also signified the launch of the new B.A. in Film and Visual Media in the Department of English.
"Put your truth out there in the world so who has to hear you say it will hear it," said Grillo-Marxuach during his talk. "It is going to be necessary for somebody to hear your truth. I want you to do whatever you have to to express it." A version of the additional story below was originally published in The Tartan by Matthew Benusa.
Carnegie Mellon alumnus and Hollywood producer/writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach visited campus on March 6 to present a scholarship award to an undergraduate in Creative Writing and give a talk on his craft. The award is endowed by contributions from the Grillo-Marxuach family. All together, the family is responsible for the endowment of more than 20 scholarships across a variety of fields from science research to peace and justice studies. But writing has a special place in Grillo-Marxuach’s heart. He wrote, “When my parents set up the fund that makes all of this possible, they encouraged me to take an active role in the family’s philanthropy, and my mind immediately went to screenwriting and creative writing.”
Grillo-Marxuach graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 1991, and he went on to graduate from the School of Cinematic Arts at USC with an MFA in Screenwriting. After that, he became a junior executive at NBC, which helped to jump start a career in TV writing that landed him as a member of the writing team on Lost. Since then, he’s worked as a producer or writer on TV shows like The Middleman, Medium, and The 100. He’s also written a series of comics and two collections of his non-fiction. It requires a certain amount of capital to thrive like Grillo-Marxuach has, especially in Hollywood, and he recognizes that “supporting new voices is crucial” to the development of young writers. “Our field is highly speculative and requires a great deal of exploration, you don’t just transition smoothly from your student life into a high-paying job as a novelist upon graduation,” he wrote.
Before endowing the current award at Carnegie Mellon, the Grillo-Marxuach family fund endowed an award at USC for Masters screenwriters interested in Latinx studies, so the awards are designed to follow Grillo-Marxuach’s educational career. As a student, at Carnegie Mellon, Grillo-Marxuach was a member of Scotch’n’Soda and The Tartan, where he wrote two columns every week for a while: “I was generally tied to a keyboard most of the time.” And Carnegie Mellon gave Grillo-Marxuach the space to experiment, and fail, in his growth as a writer. All of the time spent typing and practicing his craft at college paid off for Marxauch, and he says that “it was the totality of of my experience that made it clear to me that supporting others who have chosen the crazy life of a writer is a good idea.”
As with anybody who comes to Carnegie Mellon, the city plays an important part in leaving a mark on the experience. The Carnegie museums and the Warhol museum were some of Grillo-Marxuach’s favorite places in Pittsburgh; he says they are “a source of endless inspiration for me.” And one year during college he tried vegetarianism, but he decided he had enough and walked from Craig St. to The Original Hot Dog Shop where he consumed a half-pound burger with bacon and an egg on top.
But Grillo-Marxuach is more than just a Carnegie Mellon alumnus who has gone on to a successful career; he’s choosing to endow a scholarship for a greater purpose than just the value of a single student’s education. The scholarship is one small way of giving back to the community that is responsible for a part of his education that helped him on his way through the world. More importantly, it’s part of a lifelong commitment to a larger system of making education more accessible for people that struggle financially. Through his podcast, “Children of Tendu,” Grillo-Marxuach and co-host Jose Molina have given away their intimate knowledge of the back rooms of Hollywood for free and for everyone. They’ve covered everything from production to agents to actors, and last year, they pitched a TV show on the podcast. The description of the two part episode reads “Most TV writers do not hear a series being pitched until they are the ones doing the pitching.”
The first Grillo-Marxuach Family Scholarship for the Creative Writing Program in CMU's English Department was awarded to undergraduate student Anna Anderson.