No Qualified Latino Directors for PBS Latino Americans Series?

Executives of one of the largest public television documentary series on Latinos to come around in decades say they can’t find a qualified Latino director for their recreations and are instead bringing a former Director for the BBC, David Belton, for the position. "Latino Americans," a series which aims to chronicle “the experience, influence and impact of Latinos,” is a production of WETA.  Interim Executive Director Beni Matías of NALIP expressed our concern over this decision, and we include here a letter from the series executives, and our Board's response. We ask you to join in the dialogue by writing to us at comments@nalip.org



WETA and Bosch Productions response to NALIP concerns over hiring decision

Thank you for the March 26, 2012 letter regarding the “Latino Americans” series and for your time yesterday to speak with us on the phone. 
 
Like you, we are of course very excited about the series. As you note, “Latino Americans” is the first of its kind in a long time. We are very hopeful that the series will itself become a national event, with communities and families around the nation tuning in to share this rich history. As you know, we will also create a very extensive outreach program to ensure that people know about the series and have the tools, including digital and educational, to engage with the series and the stories we are telling, along with sharing their own stories and those of their community. 
 
We also appreciate, as you explain, that the “Latino Americans” series will become a benchmark for school age children now and in the future. We believe that is a wonderful statement about the power of public media and how, through programming, engagement, and education, we can together create a footprint that lives on for a long time. 
 
Because of this, like you we have long believed — and it is one of our guiding principles —that “Latino Americans” should not just be about Latino Americans but also be created by Latino filmmakers. The series will also allow those of us who work in public media and as independent producers to shine a spotlight on some of the most creative people working in media today. 
 
As discussed, while we have not announced series staffing, we thought it best to share some of this information with you now to correct some misinformation in your letter.  Adriana Bosch is the series producer and director, and has full responsibility for the entire series.  Other producers and/or associate producers working on the series with Adriana include Sabrina Aviles (Episodes 1 & 2); Monika Navarro, John Valadez, and Dan McCabe (Episodes 3 & 5); Nina Alvarez (Episode 4); and Ray Telles and Yvan Iturriaga (Episode 6).  
 
Each of the show producers are writing and directing their programs in addition to producing. Salme Lopez is the supervising producer working with Adriana on the entire series along with production assistant Javier Melendez and project manager Mary Sullivan. 
  
Like the landmark series “Eyes on the Prize,” we are proud of the fact that our production is training a handful of younger producers and associate producers who have not worked on this type of production before.  
 
Adriana is writing the scripts and crafting the vision for Episodes 1 and 2 that include the re-enactments. The position of reenactment director was first offered to and accepted by a Latino director three years ago, but due to scheduling conflicts he had to withdraw.  After considering others and talking at length with a second Latino director, we offered the position to a third Latino director who, for various reasons,, did  not work  out.   We subsequently offered the position to David Belton. Belton is widely respected in this area and has worked on such series as “The Amish” and “God in America.”  That said, the vision of the re-enactments of Episodes 1 and 2 is Adriana’s. 
 
As of now, re-enactments will make up approximately 12 to 15 minutes of the six-hour series. As discussed, Adriana has been working closely with Ray Telles on the entire series. In addition to his work on program six, and to further address your concerns, Ray Telles will serve as consulting producer to insure historical accuracy of these scenes. We believe that Adriana and Ray, working with David, will make sure that Latino history is portrayed accurately and honestly.  
 
We look forward to discussing this with you at greater length and hope NALIP will support  our efforts in bringing this important series to the American public. 
 
Best regards, 
  
Adriana Bosch 
Series Producer 
  
Jeff Bieber 
Series Executive Producer
and Vice President, News and Public Affairs Programming, WETA

cc: Sandie Viquez Pedlow 
      Series Executive Producer



From NALIP Board of Directors:
An Open letter to Latino Americans Series E.P. Jeff Bieber and Series Producer Adriana Bosch

We respectfully disagree that there is no Latino in America qualified or available to direct these recreations. 

While NALIP is pleased that Latino Americans is in production, we are dismayed that greater efforts were not made to hire a Latino/a director for the Recreations Director position.  It is not our intent to disparage the excellent work of Director David Belton, nor to imply that Latinos should not collaborate on media work with talent of all races. But we feel given the scarcity of Latino voices on a public entity such as PBS, that this series represents a unique opportunity to nurture above-the-line Latino directing talent in the PBS system.  A Latino Director's vision would only prove an asset for a series on Latinos, and principal responsibility for crafting the visual and emotional landscape of pre-photographic Latino history rightly lies with the direction of recreations.

For over a decade, NALIP has developed, supported and promoted Latino mediamakers of all stripes, including a cadre of talented directors capable of helming historical recreations.  Public media needs Latino audiences now more than ever. Hiring a talented, qualified Latino director of recreations is a perfect opportunity to authentically speak with and build this important and growing audience, and we reiterate our willingness to help identify additional names for your consideration.  

The NALIP board celebrates and wishes to support the Latino Americans series, and our valued NALIP members currently working on the series.  Going forward, our organization expects that greater efforts will be made to ensure that Latinas/os are hired for and exercise key creative roles such as writing and editing as well as producing. 
 
We also hope that this series is not the only representation of Latino history and life on PBS’s primetime slate. Given the Latino community’s diversity and complexity, we expect greater support for Latino programming in general, and greater support for Latino independents working in all genres. 
 
Public Media has a history of excellence and we hope to see that excellence grow, in partnership with our organization, and our extended Latino community and stakeholders.
 
Sincerely,
María Agui Carter, Chair
Rosa Alonso
Evy Ledesma Galan
Frank Bennett Gonzalez
Marcos Gonzalez
Dennis Hernandez
Elaine Romero
Bernardo Ruiz
Jose Tillan
Joseph Torres
Kirk Whistler
Juan Carlos Zaldivar

Cc:  Sandy Viquez Pedlow, Series Executive Producer and Executive Director, Latino Public Broadcasting
Sharon Rockefeller, President and CEO of WETA