Joel Novoa is a director best known for his work on the hit TV series Arrow, born in New York and raised in Venezuela for the majority of his life. He was raised in a family of film directors and film producers, Novoa grew up on film sets where he learned the art of telling stories through film. After studying and practicing law, Novoa realized his true passion, “I realized that this was my passion [filmmaking]. I wanted to tell stories, I didn’t wanna be in a courtroom or in an office, I wanted to be on a film set.”
Novoa began pursuing his career in filmmaking, creating his first feature film in Venezuela, which caused a lot of political controversy. This feature film was eventually banned by the government, causing Novoa to leave the country to the UK and eventually U.S. where he attended the American Film Institute (AFI). Novoa explains that this was a difficult moment in the his life but despite this obstacle, he was determined to tell people’s stories and continue making films. Novoa says, “even in the most painful moments I think that what kept me going when I was out of my country was, there was people who needed their stories to be heard.”
Novoa’s passion for having more Latinx representation and inclusion in film and the media has also served as a great motivation and inspiration for his work. In relation to Latinx representation, Novoa explains, “being from Venezuela and watching TV shows all my life, you never see yourself represented, you always see people that talk differently, that look differently that act differently and you see the credits and the names are not your last names so you think that’s not for you.” This motivated Novoa to fight his way through the industry and prove that a Latinx American director could do anything any other director could do, despite facing more struggles than others.
Novoa explains the importance of inclusion in American media, stating, “we are 17% of this country, we are more than 14 million just here in California, we are not guests we are part of this culture, we’re an important part of this culture and we should be represented more than we are.”
When speaking about NALIP, Novoa explains, “I attended the media summit in 2017 and I felt very empowered and I think for the first time I felt like I was in a place where I was not the guest and I was not being looked upon because of my accent or because of where I come from but people were interested of coming to our world and genuinely attracted to everything we have to offer.” Novoa understands the importance of having a space like the NALIP Media Summit and that support that these events and NALIP provide to those aspiring filmmakers. He explains that a person can’t do all of this on their own and that having support is key throughout this journey of becoming a successful filmmaker.
These passions and motivation have gotten Novoa to being a regular director for the series Arrow and winning various awards for his films, including his successful multiple award-winning film, “Esclavo de Dios” (“God’s Slave”). Novoa’s advice to other aspiring filmmakers and directors is to “follow your passions, follow your dreams, never settle, don't let the establishment get your ideas to the ground and fight your way through the obstacles because at the end it will be worth it.”