Latinx Heritage Month Feature: Indie Production Studio Producing Childhood Dreams

Dreams are the fuel of human action. They’re the goals we set for ourselves at the end of the track. Driving us to grow and learn to achieve them. Our history is molded by them and gives birth to the stories we tell to connect and understand one another. Dreamt up, day or night, they are the spark that ignites imagination, and catch fire in the minds of others. They can seem as tiny as a seashell or as gigantic and untamable as the sea. Making many shy away.  But for three siblings, they wouldn’t be so easily scared off. When faced to face with the chance to achieve it, they said “Why the hell not! Let’s do it!”  Wrightwood Studios was born from that dream.

Wrightwood Studios is a multimedia production studio located in the Quad Cities. Their dedication: to bring authentic, diverse, compelling stories to life in all mediums. Focusing on audio storytelling, their two fiction podcasts, Meteor City and CovenCast: A Disaster’s Guide to Magic are shining examples for that dedication. A medium that, until very recently, felt from a bygone era. The way families used to gather around the radio every night when the world was portrayed in black and white. The two productions of Wrightwood give the audience that same freedom to imagine how the noises and voices would play out for themselves but with the wide palette the modern era provides us. 

The studio’s lead creator, Madelyn Dorta, wanted to create stories that felt true to her and her siblings, Angel Dorta and Ernesto Valentine. The media the three grew up consuming wasn’t representative of them or their culture. Madelyn, creator, writer and producer, was insistent on making Latinas the lead. breaking free from the path laid down by countless before. Her characters would not be silent, the token maid or Chola, but the principal part. “It wasn’t until just recently where I began to see myself as the lead in my own life.”

Madelyn says, “As Latinas, I think our society and our culture play a big role in how we see ourselves and where we belong.  So, I decided…in everything that I make, a Latina will be the Lead, and she will never have to ask permission for it.”  Dorta kept that in mind as she was writing Wrightwood Studios’ first project. “ In Meteor City, the protagonist Bianca Diaz is an AfroLatina with a chip on her shoulder. She is fierce, angry, brilliant, kind, and flawed. She gets to be who she is regardless of whether people like her or not, and I think that is really important…”  That confidence and conviction paid off, with Meteor City having over 200,000 downloads off its first season and being nominated for multiple awards.

 Outside of her work in Wrightwood, Madelyn has an upcoming two-act play called Lina, a Thumbelina retelling about a first-generation Latina woman, Lina, who learns to fight for her freedom no matter the cost. Lina is being produced by Madeline Regina and Jennie Bissell of the Feminst Fairytales podcast. Madelyn describes her journey with audio storytelling as one with many trials and tribulations…“ Oh god, I failed so many times, I lost track of how many times.  All I knew was that I LOVE audio fiction, I love the intimacy of it, I knew I had to do….I had to make my own, then the hard part of figuring out how the hell to actually make it started…I think as creators we are so afraid of failing that we don’t even try, and I think that is a really big disservice to yourself and to world.” Dorta stated.

But this studio is not a solo act, but the collaboration of a three sibling crew. The name for Wrightwood Studios came from the home of their abuelita (Grandmother) back in Chicago, IL.  There, the three were able to play, to dream, stay up late laughing and telling stories, to be kids. “It was only fitting that we named our storytelling studio after it. It was Ernesto who actually thought of making Wrightwood a thing…fifteen years ago. In 2018, we manifested that childhood dream into what it is now” said Dorta. Each member has a hand in each aspect of their studio.

Angel Dorta, writer and composer, brings his love for music and audio engineering to work at Wrightwood. Angel is responsible for bringing the world of Meteor City to life. Every step, breath, voice and noise put together is a color for your imagination to paint the picture. Angel was nominated for Audio Verse Awards for Audio Engineering of a New Dramatic Production, Best Original Composition for a New Dramatic Production. 

Ernesto Valentine, a multimedia artist, brings in a wide range of skills to many elements of the studio. Working on sound for their podcast, CovenCast and a long list of projects. From music videos and an impressive photography portfolio, Ernesto has helped get their podcasts out into the world and enjoyed many.

Wrightwood doesn’t end with just these three. It’s branches spread out and invite the vision and creativity of other artists to play. CovenCast: A Disaster’s Guide to Magic was created by both Madeyln and fellow writer and friend, Amber Bulinski. The collaboration tells the story of a group of friends who discover their witches and decide to form a podcast. “CovenCast is the opposite of Meteor City in the best way, it’s very collaborative and light-hearted. We deal with some tough issues too but we do with levity. It’s so funny because this show came to life through a dm on Twitter. I get to write and produce a witchy comedy with my best friend, I’m honestly so blessed.” Madelyn said gleefully.

Wrightwood Studios is a testament that no dream is out of reach and all it takes is the confidence to step on the road towards it. Check out Meteor City and CovenCast: A Disaster’s Guide to Magic on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Soundcloud. For more info on Wrightwood Studios and the siblings that made it what it is today, visit their website www.wrightwoodstudios.com

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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