Throughout the past 18 years, NALIP has evolved as a leader in the promotion and advancement of Latino content creators across media. Every day we are a step closer to changing the media landscape by seeing more images made by and about Latinos. As we continue to grow, we have been fortunate enough to develop an extensive network of people who help us strengthen our influence in the industry through collaboration, and we decided to launch a new campaign to highlight those faces of NALIP.
Whether you're a director, filmmaker or industry executive, your work with our organization has shaped what #WeAreInclusion means.
NALIP has celebrated the convergence of media and diversity in the general market. Now, we want to take it a step further and push for the INCLUSION of diverse stories and people in the industry. Over the past few months, we interviewed NALIP members; their answers and personal stories of tenacity, tribulation and triumph inspired a project highlighting their influence within the industry and NALIP. Hearing their stories inspired us to continue our commitment to inclusion and to widely declare that we are the inclusion that will drive the future of the entertainment industry forward.
#WeAreInclusion is how we move forward in the current media ecosystem. We hope you find inspiration through these stories and that they propel you forward or help you up in the ladder of INCLUSION.
Sabrina Almeida is a television writer who currently worked on the CBS show 'SEAL Team.' For Sabrina, #WeAreInclusion means the importance for Latinx content creators to support one another as well as to have the Industry understand the value of Latinx voices and what they can bring to the table.
In order to push Latinxs forward, Almeida puts them in her scripts and prioritizes female protagonists. She makes choices with characters thinking about their background, gender, and how that can be interesting or informative. Working in the writing room, she believes that its important to be supportive of others ideas and compel each other to do better. Having different points of view present when writing is extremely important, and she stresses the value of not being afraid to add your input during discussions to ensure that you can add to it and make it diverse. Her experiences have taught her how to read the vibe of a group and when to talk and how to do so effectively.
Almeida noticed early on the importance of representation in media. She says, “if when we watch television and we see certain people only have certain roles, we might limit what we think we want to pursue or can do”. This is unfortunately very true of Latinx in media, who are often stuck in very few stereotypical roles. Almeida sees writing for television as the best opportunity to show Latinxs in every aspect of society and humanity, better representing real life and positive possibilities for future generations.
Follow Sabrina Almeida on Twitter.
Make sure you check out CBS's SEAL Team airing weekly on Wednesdays.
Angel Manuel Soto is a Puerto Rican Film Director and VR Content Creator. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, he studied architecture and advertising and now travels all over the world to film, including Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, France, USA, and Puerto Rico. Angel has been involved with NALIP ever since he first moved to Los Angeles three years ago. NALIP screened his film "La Granja" for its Los Angeles premiere.
For Angel, #WeAreInclusion means family. It means being welcomed, it means "Ponerte Adelante" which translates to put yourself in front of people. Through NALIP Angel has been able to find a supportive community that is interested in the stories Latinos want to tell. “‘We need trust one another. We need to have each others back. I think when you have a unified front it's truly hard to break it.”
Angel’s work consists of narrative fiction and documentaries in which social injustices drive the main themes of his films. His influence stems from seeing his home country Puerto Rico perpetuated by colonialism as well as seeing the injustices happening around the world such as in the Middle East, in Europe, in Southern America, Central America and the brother islands of the Caribbean.
Angel is currently post production of his VR Film “Dinner Party”, which is set to premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. His film features the first ever recorded alien abduction in 1961 and touches on the subject of racism in America.
Debby Wolfe is a Salvadorian-Jewish comedy writer and film director from South Florida. A graduate of the University of Central Florida film school, her award-winning short films have screened in festivals worldwide, including Tribeca and NBCUniversal Short Cuts. She participated in NALIPs Writer’s Lab program & the NBC Writers on the Verge program which led to her being staffed on NBC's Whitney. From there, she went on to write for Disney Channels' Best Friends Whenever and Emmy-nominated Dog with a Blog. Currently, she writes on the Norman Lear Netflix series One Day at a Time which features a Cuban American family. She has also participated in the NALIP writer’s lab and the Latino Media Market.
She defines #WeAreInclusion as “a movement to encourage content to be made that represent our diverse landscape, to reflect the landscape that we live in.” For Wolfe, living in a country that is 20% Latino but yet can count on one hand the television comedies that feature Latinos in leading roles, is what drives her social responsibility to depict Latinos in a positive light in entertainment. “We’re strong, we’re smart, we’re hilarious.”
Debby has pushed the Latinx community forward by pitching projects with a predominate latinx cast and encouraging young talent to rise up. She takes on mentees and encourages them to get involved and make content. Through her experiences in going through several programs, including NALIPs Latino Writer’s Lab, she learned the importance of having a focus. “When you have a focus, you can be really good at one thing, once I figured that out, [and] focused, that’s when things started happening for me.”
Check out the Season 2 Trailer for One Day at a Time this Friday. Stay tuned.
Follow Angel Manuel Soto on Twitter.
Click on the photos below to view each story
Benjamin-Shalom Rodríguez, self-proclaimed queer filmmaker, comedian and writer, has been with NALIP since 2014 and was a buyer at the Latino Media Market.
Rodríguez began writing in high school and always had a knack for turning harsh tragedy into heavy and heartfelt comedy. However, growing up, he always felt out of place. With a Mexican-American and Jewish background, he was always caught between cultures. After going through spiritual therapy with a friend, he began to embrace his unique qualities.
His regained confidence led him to become a developing executive. “The only thing separating them from us is that they are just doing it. Why limit oneself?” He asks.
After joining NALIP, Rodríguez made numerous connections and friendships. Being a buyer at the Latino Media Market for 3Pas Studios, he realized that people need to learn to “present their projects.”
Rodríguez states that Latinos have to be unapologetic and let the masses know they are more than the stereotypes typically portrayed in the media. He knows that Latinos have to continue fighting for correct, accurate and just representation.
Rodríguez continues to progress by his short films getting accepted into Oscar Qualifying Film Festivals. His short films Alpha and Bettas were accepted into the Rhode Island International Film festival and HollyShorts Film Festival. Bettas did exceptional by winning Best LGBTQ Short at IFS LA Film Festival.
Rodríguez just released his latest comedy short online, Diet & Exercise, that stars Veronica Osorio and Veronica Mannion that has garnered over 5,000 views in its first week. To watch Diet & Exercise Click Here
Twitter/ Instagram: @thebunrodriguez
Nancy C. Mejía has a very humble beginning with NALIP. Her involvement began as a volunteer for the 2015 Media Summit because she could not afford a pass to the event by the time she heard of it. She drove the transport van for a week and was so busy she actually did not make it into the actual Summit. However, her hard work and dedication received recognition, and she was later able to showcase her short film as part of the Latino Lens program.
Mejía, born and raised in Los Angeles, is the middle child in a Salvadoran family of five. As a first-generation college student, she often lacked having someone to mentor her, and she had to be her own pioneer. Mejía’s creative experience began when she would get in trouble for drawing in church. She always knew creation was in her blood, but because of her working-class background she did not think she could have a creative career. As a queer youth, Mejía became very observant and passive as she learned what was acceptable in her family life.
In reference to the overcoming the obstacles she has faced, Mejía says, “I think what allows me to be persistent regardless of the challenges is that I’m an innately stubborn person. So if you tell me I can’t do something, it just creates a fire within me. That combined with the fact I have a support system. Whenever you’re feeling down or doubtful, they encourage you and that’s so important for anyone, especially someone trying to do something different.”
Mejía believes that content creators should discover their own voice and execute it in a way that is genuine and specific to them. In doing so, when people see the work, they become interested and passionate about helping nurture that talent. Ultimately, the campaign slogan means banding together as a community to support a worthwhile project.
Mejía believes that, for the very first time, it is up to the Latino community to decide where we are headed in the entertainment industry. She knows Latinos have a large influence within the industry and it is very exciting. “I feel like it’s okay for us to discover what our voice is and try not to put our work in a box or category we think we need to fit into,” she says.
It’s been said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” For Mejía, this quote has never been more relevant. After a recommendation by NALIP, an original pilot script, and two rounds of interviews, Nancy was hired as a staff writer on her first series by STARZ. Nancy recognizes it’s a privilege to start her professional television career in such a diverse, inclusive writer’s room. Nancy looks forward to practicing and refining her craft as a storyteller.
Francesca Ricagni is always on the search for cross-over content that transcends borders, bound only by how great the stories are told. She believes now is the time for Latinos to push for inclusion because they are on the precipice of a new wave of cinema. She believes NALIP is here to best position Latinos for that leap.
Ricagni, a producer and writer for Migrante Content, says Latin America is a thriving hub for creative content. She travels all over the world seeking the best production teams and funding for the stories she believes in. “In our company, we’re always looking for young writers. We really believe that content is king,” she says.
She believes if someone has a compelling story to tell it doesn’t matter what ethnicity he/she is. Unfortunately, the current media narrative that Latinos are extremely different, even amongst themselves, hinders that notion. “The way to generate conflict and power is by keeping people divided,” she says. That is why #WeAreInclusion resonates with Ricagni; she believes it encompasses a mission to gather talented content creators and untie the entertainment markets.
Aside from joining organizations like NALIP, Ricagni encourages everyone to look at markets outside of America. She hopes one day international markets are not separated and easily crossed, but for the time being she thinks a film doesn’t need to be made in America to be a success. Many Latin American countries offer monetary incentives for filmmakers to produce and film their project in their country and she encourages creators to take advantage of those opportunities.
“When you get to Latin America as a content creator that has been in the United States, people open their doors to you because they’re hungry to learn,” she said. Ricagni advises U.S. Latinos to learn Spanish, if they don’t already know it, and to take advantage of the possibilities and opportunities outside of the country.
Recently Ricagni filmed a documentary for PSG and a pilot she wrote called “Corazonada.”
Ligiah Villalobos was at the very first NALIP meeting. She describes it as a meeting of 25 people in San Francisco where a bunch of Latinos were complaining about never getting their images out. “It wasn’t really about trying to find solutions,” she said. “It was just people being really pissed about their stories not being told, about them not being hired.”
It was not until five years after that first meeting that Villalobos decided to go back to NALIP and realized it had become an organization which was really trying to promote Latino voices and be a support system for the community. She was recently involved as a mentor at the NALIP’s Diverse Women in Media Forum.
Villalobos is a writer, producer and director, who has worked both in feature films and television. Before these roles, she was a studio executive, working at the Walt Disney Company. She has overseen the ABC Diverse Program and worked at the CW, overseeing six shows, such as Steve Harvey and The Jamie Foxx Show. Villalobos left the television industry when she realized she hated the way people of color were being portrayed. She questioned why she was working on shows she did not believe in – she calls it her moment of clarity. Thus, she became a writer.
“My focus has been to tell positive stories of both women and people of color,” she says. “I believe everybody has their own journey, and what is important to me may not be important to other artists. Follow your journey, follow your path – do what it is you’re passionate about doing. Hopefully along the way, if you’re not making a difference with the material you’re putting out in the world, hopefully you’re making a difference by volunteering, by mentoring.”
Today, Villalobos teaches at Cal State University, Los Angeles, because she wanted to teach to Latinos who need the knowledge. Over 50 percent of the student body at that school is Latino or a first-generation college student. She felt that was where her voice was going to make a difference. Villalobos is also currently developing two TV series ideas. To Villalobos #WeAreInclusion means “It doesn’t always have to mean tell the Latino story. It means hire the Latino writer, hire the Latino DP, hire the Latino editor, hire the Latino director.”
Ana Flores became involved with NALIP two years ago as it was starting to focus on a space where digital content creators can network and share their ideas. She is a part of the Diverse Women in Media Forum and is involved in introducing emerging digital content creators to NALIP.
Flores was born in Houston, TX and raised in El Salvador. She knew from a very young age that she wanted to be different. She refused to settle and was always filled with ambition. Flores started out as a television producer working for Univision, MTV Latin America and several other television outlets for 15 years.
When she decided to become a mom she discovered the world of mom bloggers, where other moms were sharing their experiences and challenges of motherhood. This led her to start SpanglishBaby, a resource and community site that helps parents raising bilingual children by expressing concerns regarding bilingualism and the Latina/o culture.
Moreover, building from her previous experiences in the industry and with SpanglishBaby, Flores created the #WeAllGrow Latina Network (formerly known as Latina Bloggers Connect). Through this platform, she connected brands to Latina bloggers and social media influencers. Today, #WeAllGrow Latina Network hosts the #WeAllGrow Summit. It promotes Latina women empowerment and ultimately connects digital storytellers to share their experiences and find business opportunities.
“The beauty of what we do as digital storytellers is we get to showcase our real stories without any barriers or any boundaries, and showcase what it means to be a Latina and what it means to be a woman at this time,” Flores says.
Earlier this year, Flores was named one of the 25 most powerful women of 2017 by People en Español: http://peopleenespanol.com/chica/25-mas-poderosas-people-en-espanol/ana-flores
Follow Ana Flores in Social Media at:
Marcos Cline has been a NALIP member for about 10 years and admires the organization because it is not meant to do the work for its members, but rather open doors for the members’ work.
As a producer focused on advertisement, Cline described how when he first started working in the entertainment industry, the Latino market was defined by language. Only films or television shows that were in Spanish were marketed towards Latinos; however, now the market is defined by culture, so filmmakers should not rely on stereotypes or language to be relatable. “We are doing in our market exactly what we’ve critiqued Hollywood was doing for years. When we make content, we always make it for a niche market,” he says.
Cline has always been vigilant as to what stories to produce that best represent the missing voices in Hollywood. During his early career, he interned at a production company in Los Angeles when he was given a script titled ‘The Mexican.’ He did not believe in the Latino image the script was portraying, so he told the producer, “I think this is a piece of junk. I think we’re beyond the time of stereotypes. I think we can look at Latino characters in a more nuanced, layered way.” The next day he learned Brad Pitt had signed on to do the film. Yet, that did not change his opinion of the script. “I’m going to protect the image I want to portray of my culture and my heritage,” he says.
It is a virtue he has carried on throughout his career. Cline has spent hundreds of hours producing content for the Latino market. He was previously MiTu’s Vice President of Content Development where he learned how to tell a story across various platforms.
Today, he is the executive producer for Altered.LA, a production company specializing in feature films and commercials.
To Cline, #WeAreInclusion means hiring the best people for the job. Those people may not always have the most credits, but will have more experience that benefits the project.“Tell great story, not because it’s a Latino story, but because you are a Latino,” Cline says as he discusses the importance of recognizing Latino talent.
Cline recently produced a commercial for Coca-Cola. His latest film Aliens: Zone of Silence releases October 24th, 2017 on VOD.
Watch the trailer for the film here:
Aliens: Zone of Silence
Rebecca Murga has been a NALIP member for four years. She believes having the support of people who want to see you grow and be better is critical to a filmmaker, and she is thankful for having that support.
Murga’s father came to the United States when he was 16 years old. He instilled in her the idea of service and giving back, which influenced her to join the military shortly after 9/11. Throughout that experience, she was able to interview a multitude of people from different backgrounds. As a filmmaker, having that experience and witnessing combat really impacted and shaped who she is beyond being Latina.
“I think filmmaking and the media is so powerful because it tells stories and it shapes who we are, and how we’re going to see our history,” she says. “51% of the population are women, and you have such a large population of Latinos in this country who are doing amazing things – they’re doctors and they’re lawyers and they’re working in various places, and if we don’t tell those stories, nobody else is going to. I think it’s important to tell those stories in an honest and authentic way.”
Murga has had the opportunity to be a part of the American Film Institute (AFI), and through that she got into an ABC program where she was able to shadow directors of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” According to Murga, these opportunities came from receiving a NALIP grant. To her, #WeAreInclusion is about telling stories that are meaningful and impactful, but also embody the community. “When you have those two things, the sky's the limit for artists,” she says.
She thinks right now is really the time for artists to come together to tell stories and get voices out there that are not being heard. She has never felt a more crucial time in the country for the media to really reflect the voices of young people in our community.
One Halloween, which was one of NALIP’s Latino Lens Shorts got picked up by HBO and it was released on Oct. 1st of this year.
Murga continues to thrive as a Ryan Murphy HALF Directing Fellow and as one of the Director for the ABC Directing Program and the ABC Casting Showcase this Fall.
When Nickolas Duarte, writer and director at Crown Chimp Productions, became a NALIP member two and a half years ago where he found the acceptance that was missing within the film industry.
Duarte, originally from Tucson, AZ, comes from a loving and supportive family. He had never seen himself as someone who had to overcome serious obstacles. However, after graduating from college and facing an exclusive industry, he realized that there were opportunities he was not able to take advantage of because of his status, background or ethnicity.
“Culturally, as Latinos, we have this mentality that we put our heads down and work harder, just put in the extra hours, which is great, but I think there are times that we need to put our heads up and be more aggressive about things,” he said.
Today, Duarte recently directed an eBay commercial campaign and is currently working on a series for WB. He will be premiering several works this fall; his short film Trouble Will Find Her premiering online this Friday through Film Shortage and Director’s Note and his documentary Jay premiering on November 9th at the Academy-qualifying St. Louis International Film Festival.
To him, our #WeAreInclusion campaign symbolizes collaboration and support. “It’s very important to have this group of people, this family that helps build you up.”
He hopes to be able to look back 50 years from now and laugh about how “how weird it was that studios had to put in diversity programs to bring in Latino or black voices.”
Instagram and Twitter: @mrnickduarte
Check out Duarte’s Portfolio at nickolasduarte.com
Sign up for Crown Chimp Productions Newsletter at crownchimp.com/newsletter
Yelyna De Leon is an award winning Writer, Producer and Actress. As an actress she can be seen in several television series such as Shameless, Bones, Ray Donovan, A Better Life and East Side Story. Behind the scenes Yelyna is committed and her work focuses on non-stereotypical characters for Latinos and strong female characters. Yelyna is a 16/17 NALIP, Univision writing fellow where her one hour drama, Las Fresas de East L.A. is a finalist in contention for an 85 episode order. She is also a 2015 NHMC, ABC/NBC writing fellow.
Currently, she is one of the writers of a series of animated specials created for Univision and has two television programs that are in post production. Recently, she wrote a bilingual play titled Blind Faith that recently premiered at the Stella Adler Theater in Los Angeles. Her latest work as a Producer, God's Tenants, is a full length documentary filmed in Brazil about a little girl that goes missing and is currently in the final stages of post production.
De Leon began as a theater actor in her town of South Chicago, writing a three-act musical due to the lack of representation of the Latina/o community in media. As a teen, she became a single mother, which fueled her to overcome the obstacles of her hometown. Her political climate, mother’s influence and multiple roles (motherhood, latina, filmmaker identities), led her to not only want to be in stories, but to create stories that would represent the Latina/o community in a more complex light.
She continues focusing on the “culture conscious” and how the world works, having been familiar with the fact that Chicago is segregated, but celebrates its cultures. She follows the spirit of celebration of all cultures, not only her own. It does not matter which parade--be it a Puerto Rican, Mexican, Black-- she knows that all kinds of life should come out and celebrate culture with everyone.
To De Leon, #WeAreInclusion is an invitation to all, not just the Latina/o community. “Together, you create your opportunities,” she says. Her experience with NALIP includes being a semi-finalist in the Latino Lens incubator with Televisa and Univision. De Leon became a NALIP member two years ago. Through her membership, she and NALIP have established a relationship that has helped her learn and grow in the ever-changing ecosystem of the film industry.
In five to ten years, Yelyna De Leon sees people of color more involved. De Leon knows the Latina/o community will be more involved in the future of media than it has ever been, especially in this political climate. “There’s room for everybody.”
Murder in the Woods, written by De Leon, premieres at the FICG in LA this Saturday, November 4th.
To purchase tickets visit:
Murder in the Woods Tickets
In case you miss the premiere, you can still catch a screening at the LA Skins Fest, November 19th.
To purchase tickets visit:
LA Skins Fest Tickets
Fernando Lebrija was working on television shows, commercials and music videos in Mexico at the beginning of his career, but he stopped all of that and moved to Los Angeles to go to film school. He said Mexico, during that time, was not a film market. The most scripted content at the time was telenovelas, but that’s not what he wanted to create, so he left.
Despite leaving, Mexico will always be Lebrija’s home as it was there when he formed his love for film. His father was a fan of film and would take him to see every movie they could. Even though his mom would fall asleep in the theater, Lebrija would watch every film because they made him feel different emotions, which is ultimately what he wants to accomplish with his own work.
When Lebrija moved to LA, he enrolled in the American Film Institute, so that he could learn how to write a scripted film or show to produce in Hollywood. However, as life would have it, Latin America is now a thriving market and Lebrija has gone back to Mexico to shoot his films ‘Amar a Morir,’ a Mexican-Colombian drama about a man trying to escape his past, and ‘Sundown,’ an action film about high school students trying to recover a valuable watch from a gangster in Mexico. “We need to put together an effort to create Latin stars that can lead movies, that can tell our stories, not just narco stories. There’s much more to say about the Latin world,” he says.
Lebrija was one of the first NALIP members. He was first hired to build the organization’s database and now continues to support NALIP through mentorship. He hopes to see Latinos showing their strength by telling a variety of stories and not just sticking to stereotypes.
Now, as a director, writer and producer with 20 years of experience, Lebrija reflects on the challenges and opportunities he has had. Despite his credits, he says he still needs to do a lot of “knocking on doors” to get a project off the ground. He says the film industry is relentless and those wanting to be a part of it need to understand how to be proactive, which is one of the reasons he joined NALIP.
Lebrija’s latest project is #RealityHigh, a Netflix original released on September 8th. Only one week after it released, it became the most watched movie on Netflix in more than 130 countries.
Follow Fernando Lebrija:
One morning, while working as an intern at a film office in Orlando, Vincent Gonzales was delivering a permit to a TV-movie producer and handed the producer his resume, telling him that he would like to work on his show. The producer told him to call his office. Gonzales did and they told him to come in to Universal Studios the next day at 9AM. When Gonzales arrived, the coordinator began asking him to make copies and coffee, then pick up someone’s dry cleaning. Confused, but persistent, he completed his tasks and then asked when his interview was. The coordinator told him that he had been doing the job for the last three hours. Thus was the beginning of Gonzales’ 25 year career in the film industry.
Today, he is a well-established and respected first assistant director with credits ranging from ‘The Sandlot’ to ‘The Walking Dead.’ He is known for his knack for working with children and animals, which are usually difficult aspects of film. When he first joined a film crew as a production assistant, Gonzalez was the only Latino on the team aside from the security guards and caterers.
“It was unusual to have a Latino in that field at the time and many people thought I was lost,” Gonzales said. Even now, Latino first assistant directors are rare in the mainstream industry. Why? Because “the film industry does not have Latino heroes,” Gonzales says. Whether in front or behind the camera, prominent Latinos are scarce within Hollywood.
Gonzales, a long-time NALIP member, has always perpetuated himself within the film industry, but he says now is the time to give back and support more Latinos trying to do the same, which is what #WeAreInclusion means to him.
“When I finished college and said I was going to make movies, all of my friends laughed at me and thought it was silly and such a dream,” he said. Nevertheless, Gonzales followed his dream and loves his job and every film he has worked on. He describes being a first assistant director as “almost a chess game,” because he has to have foresight and flexibility to work on the “biggest collaborative effort that there is,” which is making movies.
Recently Gonzales First AD’d two series, Freakish (Hulu) and Foursome (YouTube Red) and currently co-producing a feature in Colorado.
Evelyn Ortiz joined NALIP as the Media Summit Assistant Coordinator in 2015 and returned as the Media Summit Volunteer Coordinator in 2016. After college, NALIP was the first organization that she encountered that solely focused on nurturing Latino/a content creators. It was during this time that she developed a strong community within the industry and established relationships with producers and executives that helped launch her career.
After the Media Summit, she worked on shows as a Production Assistant for Netflix, Disney, FOX, NBCUni and independent content. She than continued to be the First Assistant Director for three feature films and various commercials. This May, Ortiz accepted a position as an Associate Producer at FOX Deportes. She continues to expand and strengthen her skill set to eventually transition to an Executive Producer or Showrunner position.
In regards to NALIP she states “NALIP does such an amazing job at planting seeds. It's up to every individual to nurture that seed.” She continues to support NALIP's mission and strongly enforces the "your victory, is my victory" mentality that is so prominent within the organization.
Ortiz’s passion for storytelling drives her work and supports her life mission to push humanity forward into a better tomorrow. She says, “My mentor shared once......Humanity needs scientists and artists. Artists create something out of nothing, and it’s not always profitable, but it moves people and the way it inspires and changes ideas, that’s where power lays.”
Claudia Forestieri has been a long-time member of NALIP. She began her journey with a Miami-based documentary, Girls Gone Bad.
Forestieri grew up considering herself a “bad latina.” Raised in Miami, she did not relate to the party scene and instead found herself immersed in books. Her parents were born in the Dominican Republic, but she was born in Puerto Rico. In Miami, she was exposed to many cultures. She noticed that those who held positions of power were not people of color. After this realization, she made sure she was writing stories that address or fis that issue.
“Growing up, I took my [Latina background] for granted. Growing up, I wanted to be American, then I got to college, got in touch with my community, and there I got to be more Latina,” Forestieri recalls.
#WeAreInclusion for her is a call out to people outside of the Latino community to work with Latinos. “Put our shows on television!” she exclaims.
Forestieri believes in a bright future for Latinos in Hollywood, such as African Americans have been able to pull their community and present stories that can relate with people outside of their community, “Latinos will have the gems that can prove [to be] artistic and crowd pleasers.”
Claudia was recently selected as a participant for HBO’s Access program for writers where she’s developing a bilingual script inspired by her experiences as a Spanish-language TV news reporter and producer titled, “Unimundo.”
Juan Martinez Vera became a NALIP member three years ago. At first, he thought NALIP was just a conference that happened once a year, but once he joined he realized it was much more – it is about constant collaboration.
As a writer and director, Martinez Vera focuses on feature films, short films and commercials. His short “Spark” was part of NALIP’s Official Selection and was screened at last year’s Media Summit. The short is about a teen who uses social media to look for his father who disappeared during a student protest in Venezuela. His inspiration came out of frustration with what was happening in the world around him.
“For me, storytelling is all about understanding the world around us and understanding ourselves,” Martinez Vera says. “If you don’t have everyone’s voice represented, you don’t really see everything around you. The gift of diversity is you get to see and experience someone else’s story.”
“The hardest thing is always finding the right people to work with, and once you find the right people, everything else falls into place,” he says. “Once you have two creative energies collide, it just explodes. That’s what happened with Diego Najera.”
His hopes for Latinos in the media landscape is for them not just to be a small part of the industry, but rather a part of the industry as a whole. Instead of hearing about “a Latino film,” he hopes people will see projects as “a film with Latinos.” He thinks people can fight for diversity, but if at the end of the day Latinos are stuck in a category, it does not feel complete. In the future, he would like the industry’s main focus to be on the story and goal of a project and not about where one comes from.
Diego Nájera was attracted to NALIP because it is a place where young people can connect and young creators can start out and get to know the industry. He believes in NALIP’s mission of networking creators to executives, not because of ethnicity, but because of a creator's’ talent.
As a child, Nájera loved film and would go to the movies every week. He began his career in Mexico as a producer for the Guadalajara International Film Festival and moved to Los Angeles three years ago to earn a Master’s degree from USC’s Peter Stark Film School. His biggest hurdle throughout his career has been coming to the U.S. and building a network.
“I think you’re always looking for who to do this with,” he says. “Film is a collective medium – you can’t do it on you own. You always need a support system or a group of people to help you out. I think that search is the most challenging part. If you don’t have that system, you’re on your own and you can’t do it. You can’t make it.”
Nájera’s believes the meaning behind #WeAreInclusion is community. It represents being able to connect with people with similar experiences and who are willing to collaborate. It is a model for the Latino community, which tells the world that Latinos are here and have stories to tell that are not the typical immigration and narco stories.
Having started off in Mexico, Nájera once felt like tapping into the American market was hard because no one was paying attention to Latino films. However, because of the success of certain Latino creators, there is now an opening within the American market.
“You do get noticed. You just have to do the work and have a good story to tell with passion and a point of view,” he says. “I think we’ve come a long way, but there’s still work to do. It’s a matter of working at it and opening doors and creating.”
Lorena Manríquez, documentarian of “Ulises’ Odyssey,” has been with NALIP for over a decade. She joined because it was not only for producers, but for “all of us:” all kinds of people in the industry of Latino heritage.
Manríquez was a civil engineer in Mississippi before deciding to become a filmmaker. Throughout her experience, she has learned that all works of field are difficult, but possible if one works hard enough.
It is her passion to display the repression of the Latina/o community. Though her stories were deemed “too political” by some, she says it gave her the fuel to put her stories outside of the box of normality.
To Manríquez, NALIP has been critical to the growth of her connections within the industry. She believes the #WeAreInclusion campaign means to create content by Latinos and people of color to show the “humanity” and “dignity” of their stories, and ultimately show a face to the world that truly represents “us.”
Manríquez encourages people to continue creating content and reach for those higher executive positions. She wants every Latina/o to continue making quality content and educate the masses. She believe that the more we do, the faster the stigmas and stereotypes diminish.
Sandra Avila, Avila Entertainment founder and producer, has been with NALIP for nine years. She has previously participated in NALIP’s Latino Media Market and Latino Lens programs, and her membership with the organization has been symbiotically significant.
South Texan native, Avila was born a “television baby.” Influenced by what she saw on the screen, she worked for Showtime for seven years and was also a part of MAYA Entertainment. She was pursuing a law degree, but soon realized she was not passionate about the subject matter. Her experience in entertainment and her knowledge of law led her to create her own company, Avila Entertainment.
“There’s something about being a producer. You’re constantly in a free-fall state, because you don’t know when the money is going to come, when the next job is going to come, so it’s embracing jumping off the cliff without the net,” she says.
Being at NALIP for nine years, Avila has utilized the Latino Media Market to get Latinx content out to the world. She has mentored previous Latino Lens creators and helped catapult them to HBO Latino. Avila recognizes NALIP as a place to create a network and opportunities for underrepresented creators.
Avila has dedicated her life to becoming the entertainment mogul of her dreams. Her advice to current and future content creators is that there is always work and that you just have to find it. “This is the business. This is the way it works, and you can make it happen,” she says.
Two men are fishing for lobsters. After every catch, they both fill up their tanks. The first man notices that the second man is not covering his tank, but he says nothing, assuming the man knows what he is doing. After their tanks are full, they stop the boat and celebrate by drinking some beer. With liquid courage in him, the first man tells the second man that the lobsters will crawl out of the tank if he doesn’t cover it, and so the first man offers the second man an extra lid. The second man says, “Thank you, but don’t worry. My lobsters are all Latinos so whenever one is going up, the others will pull him down.”
This is how Maurício Mota, ‘East Los High’ executive producer and co-president of Wise Entertainment, sees the Latino entertainment market. Originally from Brazil, Mota found a “safe haven” at NALIP, which he describes as neutral territory that brings together the Latino community to design a discourse. Now a member for almost three years and a previous Emerging Content Creators mentor, Mota has seen NALIP members gain a sense of realization about their career paths through NALIP’s panels and workshops.
“Success comes at a very high price. I had a lot of hair during the first season of ‘East Los High’ and now look at me,” he said. “Us as members, panelists or mentors, we’re tools and NALIP is the provider of those tools.” Mota’s hair loss was not for nothing. ‘East Los High’ is Hulu’s longest running drama (four seasons) and the first TV show in U.S history to have an all-latino cast, speaking English.
“People like to call [East Los High] ‘the unicorn,’ but being the unicorn is lonely. The truth is that we should have five more East Los Highs on the air,” he said. To Mota, #WeAreInclusion reflects this need; only through collaboration and inclusion will there be more unicorns representative of unique cultures in the media landscape.
Mota says he is tired of seeing stereotypes and simplistic Latino characters. He believes that society reflects pop culture and if the media is only portraying Latinos as “gang members or maids” it affects the Latino population deeply, demoralizing many to aspire to less. Mota did not create ‘East Los High’ with it being relatable in mind, instead he aimed for a great story with complex characters and being relatable turned out to be a byproduct of that.
Photo Credit: Yunuen Bonaparte