It’s coming close to that time of year when key players across the media and entertainment world will gather for the 33rd annual Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner, the most prestigious fundraising event in the cable industry. Every year the foundation recognizes organizations that demonstrate an unwavering commitment to diversity. This year, the honors go to the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and A + E Networks. In anticipation of the event, we caught up with Axel Caballero, the executive director of NALIP, to find out how the diversity advocate honoree is helping minorities in the business better navigate today’s changing media landscape.
Under Caballero’s leadership in the past three years, NALIP has come a long way in its mission to reach and advance the professional interests of Latino content creators.
NALIP, which has been around for 17 years, started as a gathering of creators and producers who saw the need to expand opportunities for Latino content creators in media. But over the years, as the media landscape went through drastic changes, it transformed into a professional development organization on top of an advocacy organization. And when Caballero took the helm in 2013, NALIP went through a full transformation. “While in the past we focused on mainly film and documentaries and access to those opportunities, we adjusted our focus to include TV components, cable access, technology and digital training,” said Caballero. NALIP’s leadership then restructured operations and program offerings to serve a wider membership and to appeal to the new media age. Even the logo changed from a film reel to a play button.
Caballero relayed that he drew a lot of inspiration in bringing NALIP to where it is now from a previous project that he founded, called Cuéntame. Cuéntame was an online Latino community coalition geared toward empowering Latinos in various social issues. Realizing that Cuéntame was opening up a lot of conversations at the national level, Caballero wanted to bring that same sense of empowerment to the voices at NALIP, and to focus on creating more pathways to funding and networking opportunities to help drive that empowerment among the membership.
NALIP’s revamped mission is best seen through its “incubators,” a series of initiatives that allow Latino content creators to gather together, share their best work, network and receive training that take their careers to the next level. Today, the incubators, along with the array of mentorship programs, media summits and showcases hosted by NALIP and which bring together key players in the cable, media and entertainment worlds, have expanded the meaning of what being a producer means. “In this day and age, everyone is a content creator. You have writers, directors, YouTube folks,” said Caballero.
Latino Lens is the media incubation program that contains specific tracks for Latino content creators, including film, digital, documentaries, TV, and technology arts. Caballero said that while the organization takes pride on promoting the diversity component in its mission, it’s also about showing its membership what is happening out there in the media landscape, and preparing them to compete and work within that framework. For example, the technology arts track is currently in development to include an emphasis on virtual reality, gaming and media mobile apps, and falls in line with where the media and entertainment industry is headed. In five years, Caballero hopes to see these new media projects fueling the careers and growth of NALIP’s membership. “As opposed to just NALIP being a springboard to opportunities, we want the organization in and of itself to be an opportunity,” he said.
So far, NALIP’s offerings are paying off, as many members and participants go on to write for hit shows. And another testament to that success is Nickolas Duarte, a NALIP member, film writer and director, who signed a deal last year with Warner Bros. at one of NALIP’s events to develop original digital content.
NALIP will be honored at the Kaitz dinner held in New York City during Diversity Week on September 21. To have that peer recognition, Caballero said, is incredibly important in moving forward: “It recognizes the hard work not only of the hundreds of individuals at NALIP, but also the hard work of our membership. Without them, there would be no NALIP.”
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