News & Updates

  • A New Disney Princesa Carries Responsibilities Beyond Her Kingdom

    Posted by on July 16, 2016


    “It was finally my time.”

    Those words, spoken by the animated Princess Elena in the first episode of “Elena of Avalor,” a new Disney Channel series, are meant to reflect power: The zesty teenager has reclaimed her tropical kingdom from an evil sorceress. But the line has a deliberate double meaning. With Elena, Disney has created — at long last — its first Latina princess.

    “It’s not a secret that the Hispanic and Latino communities have been waiting and hoping and looking forward to our introduction of a princess that reflected their culture,” said Nancy Kanter, the Disney executive overseeing the show, which will begin on July 22 with toy and theme park tie-ins. “We wanted to do it right.”

    Did the company succeed? Or is Elena, like some of her royal counterparts, about to run afoul of the princess police?

    Few matters in entertainment are as fraught as the Disney princesses, a dozen or so characters led by Cinderella and Snow White that mint money for the Walt Disney Company but also are cultural lightning rods. People who love the princesses (they’re pretty and live happily ever after!) and those who despise them (they promote negative female stereotypes and unrealistic body images!) square off endlessly. Academics study their adverse societal impact, even as women dress like them for their weddings.

    Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog” Credit Disney

    Add race and ethnicity, as Disney is increasingly doing with its cartoon heroines, and this is a minefield, especially because animation by its nature deals in caricature. In 2009, when Disney introduced its first black princess, Tiana, every corner of her film, “The Princess and the Frog,” was dissected for slights.

    Aware of the scrutiny that “Elena of Avalor” will receive, Disney has loaded each 22-minute episode with Latin folklore and cultural traditions. Avalor has Aztec-inspired architecture. Episodes will include original songs that reflect musical styles like mariachi, salsa and Chilean hip-hop. Elena’s black hair, gathered in a luxuriant pony tail, is accented with apricot mallow, a flower native to Southern California and Northern Mexico.

    “We brought in a whole lot of consultants to advise on everything,” Ms. Kanter said. “We wanted to make sure that she didn’t have a doll-like appearance, and we really wanted to steer clear of romance. She has male friends, as teenage girls obviously do, but we did not want it tinged with, ‘Ooh, they’re falling in love.’”

    Elena in “Elena of Avalor” Credit Disney

    The first episode, made available through a Disney Channel app on July 1, has received positive feedback. “We were all very pleasantly surprised at how well the character was conceived,” said Axel Caballero, executive director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. “This is going to have a great impact.”

    Already, though, “Elena of Avalor” has run into questions of princess parity, starting with the medium: Why is Disney introducing her through a television series aimed at children 2 to 11 and not in a full-fledged family movie, like her counterparts? “It really seems like a shun,” wrote Mandy Velez, a co-founder of Revelist, a publication targeted to millennial women.

    For Rebecca C. Hains, author of “The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years,” the newest member of Disney’s royal court wins points for her heroism. In the first episode, Elena, after the deaths of her parents, tries to prove that she is ready to be queen, even though she is only 16.

    “She’s not an ornament,” said Ms. Hains, an associate professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University. “This is a princess with real political power, and that’s genuine progress.”

    Still, Ms. Hains was cautious. “The mashing together of cultures gives me pause,” she said. Noting that older characters speak with Spanish accents and that Elena (voiced by the Dominican Republic-born Aimee Carrero) does not, Ms. Hains added, “Being modern and cool seems to mean talking like an American.”

    Craig Gerber, who created “Elena of Avalor,” said the accents simply reflect a generational gap, a dynamic seen in many Latino families. He called the attention given to the Disney princesses “incredibly daunting,” but something that made the show better. “I really hope that young Latino children are happy to finally feel represented,” he said.

    Serious people closely scrutinizing a cartoon character is the blessing and the curse of being Disney. Because its programming commands such attention, especially among children, the company is often held to a higher standard than competitors. Seemingly everyone has an opinion — often delivered as a demand — about what Disney should be doing with its characters, especially when it comes to diversity.

    Elsa in “Frozen.” Credit Disney

    In 2014, tens of thousands of people signed a petition pushing for a Disney princess with Down syndrome. In the spring, the company faced an online campaign to make Elsa from “Frozen” a lesbian. In recent weeks, an online brush fire has broken out around “Moana,” an animated Polynesian adventure to be released in November; an overweight male character has been criticized as offensive to Pacific Islanders.

    “Elena of Avalor” comes as Disney tinkers with its princess strategy. The company has started depicting its princesses in more active poses on toy packaging and emphasizing their various personalities. Pocahontas and Mulan, for instance, are now more prominent.

    (For the record, Princess Leia doesn’t count as a member of this group, at least in Disney’s eyes. And celebration over the introduction of a Pacific Islander princess in “Moana” has apparently been premature. Because the film barely mentions her lineage, the company will not be calling Moana a princess, according to a Disney spokesman.)

    As for Elena, Disney contended that television was better than film. Rather than relying on parents to take their children to a theater, Disney will pipe “Elena of Avalor” directly into hundreds of millions of homes. The series, which already has a five-season “content plan,” will run in 163 countries and be translated into 34 languages. Disney has also tried to make the series look and sound more like a movie than a television cartoon.

    “The goal is certainly to give it as cinematic a feel as possible,” said Tony Morales, who scored the series, drawing inspiration from José Pablo Moncayo, a Mexican musician.

    Disney is certainly not skimping on Elena’s promotion, including in the toy aisles, where analysts say there is an opportunity to steal market share from Dora the Explorer, the Latina preschool character that Nickelodeon introduced 16 years ago. It typically takes up to 18 months after a show’s debut for related products to arrive in stores, but Elena items — stuffed animals, shoes, children’s bedding, backpacks, clothes — were made widely available on July 1. Books and Halloween costumes are still to come.

    In other words, Disney’s expectations for a hit are high.

    “We know that the Latino community is extremely vocal and active,” Ms. Kanter said. “As long as we tell a good story and create a character who is compelling and interesting and stands for something, I think the audience will be really pleased.”

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  • NALIP: Bringing Latino Content Creators to the Forefront

    Posted by on July 16, 2016

    by Francesca Duffy


    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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  • Toronto International Film Festival Is Looking for Your 60-Second Instagram Videos

    Posted by on July 16, 2016


    Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has joined forces with Instagram to create the TIFFXINSTAGRAM Shorts Festival, and their team of judges will be choosing 30 shorts to be featured on TIFF's website and Instagram channel August 8-17.

    Since 60-second videos became a thing on Instagram, the platform has become more enticing for filmmakers wanting to showcase their work. So, here's your chance to impress some industry professionals and finally have your Instagram posts noticed amidst all the selfies and food pics.

    The acclaimed panel of judges include Ava DuvernayXavier Dolan, Illustrator and Animator Rachel Ryle, and Director and Photographer Nabil Elderkin. They will be selecting 30 finalists and a judges' award from all submissions. A fan favorite prize is also up for grabs for the most likes on Instagram. There are no guidelines as to what genre or style of content is encouraged, except that on the TIFF website, they state the shorts must be the original work of an aspiring or established filmmaker. So, in other words, go nuts!

    Submissions have been open since early July, and the deadline is the July 20. All submissions must be shared on Instagram with the hashtag #TIFFXINSTAGRAM. There is also a submission form, which can be found here.

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  • Apply Now For The 5th Annual New York Film Festival Critics Academy

    Posted by on July 16, 2016


    IndieWire’s ongoing efforts to support the next general of critics and entertainment journalists continues this fall with the fifth edition of the New York Film Festival Critics Academy, produced in collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and its publication, Film Comment, in addition to support from IndieWire’s parent company, Penske Media. The workshop, which also takes place with an international group of participants at the Locarno Film Festival in August, runs in New York from September 30 – October 16.

    The application process begins today; the deadline to send entries is August 1. Accepted critics will be notified by August 22. Emphasis will be placed on strength of writing and a diversity of voices, backgrounds and cultural interests.

    This year, in addition to welcoming applicants from the New York area, IndieWire and the Film Society are announcing the potential for limited slots for those from other parts of the United States. Participants will contribute to IndieWire and work closely with Film Comment to hone their skills. In addition to covering the lineup of the festival, they will also discuss and engage in criticism of other art forms.

    The Critics Academy was designed to foster the aspirations of strong writers with a focus on their role in contemporary film culture. Participants engage in a series of roundtable discussions with working journalists and other members of the industry, in addition to tackling a series of writing assignments. Alumni of the program have gone on to contribute and work at publications including IndieWire, Film Comment, Sight and Sound, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and Vulture. Others have pursued careers in distribution, publicity and programming.

    Requirements: Applicants must have completed a minimum of three years of undergraduate study or have no more than two years of experience creating critical and/or journalistic content about movies. They must demonstrate an interest in film criticism and/or film journalism as well as the ability to speak and write fluently in English.

    Applications must include the following:

    ● CV: A basic, one-page resume.

    ● Three articles or film reviews written in English. Please refrain from including lengthy academic papers or other scholarly materials that may not give an accurate reflection of the applicant’s capacity to succeed in this workshop.

    ● A 500-word statement of intent. Tell us about your background and why you would make an ideal candidate for the Critics Academy. Make sure to note any particular interests (genres, national cinemas, etc.). Passion, strong writing skills, and a deep knowledge of film history matter more than overall professional experience.

    Please send applications to [email protected]

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  • Workshop Intensive: Sell Your Movie Before It’s Made!

    Posted by on July 16, 2016

    By: Nosotros / Producers Resource Group / Film Connection

    WEDNESDAY AUGUST 10th in Hollywood, CA  / @ 6:30PM

    This is a rare opportunity for you to join a WORKSHOP INTENSIVE that covers the true "ins and outs" of what it takes to make a project with the end (sales) in mind --  FROM THE PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY DO THE BUYING! 

    The Intensive Workshop was designed NOT to be another boring panel discussion filled with unrelated business and financial discussions. A large portion of the seminar will be dedicated to answering questions from YOU! With the rapid growth in filmmaking technology over the last decade, almost everyone wants to make a movie... and almost everyone has tried! BUT NOT EVERYONE CAN SELL A MOVIE. There is a huge demand for content, but only a few filmmakers know how to profit from that demand.

    So be it with 10k or 300k - you'll learn how to maximize your budget to increase your chances of selling your film by filmmakers that have done just that. You'll get an understanding how all of the different roles fit together: distributors, sales agents, producer’s reps, acquisitions, aggregators, film festivals, and film markets like the American Film Market (AFM).  

    *** Please note: The workshop will concluded with a 30-minute mixer where you can mix & mingle with the speakers  and executives from companies such as (+) Entertainment, Mucho Mas MediaCinetel Films and Cinedigm Pictures as well as other filmmakers - so bring your business cards and have your pitch ready! ***

    Who should attend: Producers, Filmmakers making their first feature film, anyone involved in low-budget filmmaking or anyone with a film ready to sell!

    Requirements: Something to take notes with and plenty of questions. 

    By the end of this Workshop, you will know:

    • How to maximize your ultra low budget.

    • How movies are valued and distributed .

    • How to put together a realistic strategy to get the best distribution.

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  • These Are the Latinos Nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award

    Posted by · July 16, 2016

    Last year, Viola Davis made history when The How to Get Away With Murder star became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama series. In her powerful acceptance speech she made it clear that actresses of color still face a dearth of well-written roles. “And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” she said. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

    The same holds true this year. One glance at the list of nominees reveals the Emmys may need their own hashtag in the form of #OscarsSoWhite. Although there are some notable African-American nominations in the major acting categories, Latino representation is paltry. No Latinos in the lead actor categories, and almost none in supporting roles, save for Oscar Nuñez who got a nod for his part on The Crossroads Of History.

    A few pleasant surprises came in behind-the-camera noms. Julio Torres, a Salvadoran-born comedian and writer for Saturday Night Live picked up his first nomination. Anthony Mendez, the hilariously informative narrator on CW’s Jane the Virgin racked up a second one. In a statement, the Bronx-born, Washington Heights-raised bilingual voice actor shared his excitement on being recognized again. “I am, once again, thrilled and honored to have been nominated by the Television Academy! This narrator means the world to me and I’m having the time of my life helping to bring our incredible writers’ words to life.”

    A handful of Latinos were also recognized for their below-the-line accomplishments in technical categories like camerawork, cinematography, sound editing and mixing, music composition, and hairstyling. Below are highlights of the Latinos and Latin Americans nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award.

    Jimmy Kimmel returns to host the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards airing live on Sunday, September 18, 2016 on ABC at 5 p.m PT.

    Anthony Mendez, Outstanding Narrator

    Actors Justin Baldoni, Anthony Mendez, and Jaime Camil. Photo: Todd Williamson/Getty Images

    This is Mendez’s second nomination as the narrator on the CW’s Jane the Virgin.

    Julio Torres, Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series


    The Salvadoran-born comedian received a nomination along with the entire writing team of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

    Oscar Nuñez, Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama

    Photo By: David Moir/USA Network

    The Cuban-American actor received a nod for his role of Jack on History’s The Crossroads Of History.

    Rodrigo Amarante, Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music

    Rodrigo Amarante performs a Tiny Desk Concert.

    The Brazilian singer-songwriter got a nomination for his work on the theme music for the Netflix original series Narcos.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson, Outstanding Informational Series or Special

    MIller Mobley for Parade

    The African-American and Puerto Rican astrophysicist picked up a nom for his producing and hosting responsibilities on National Geographic Channel’s Star Talk With Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    Fred Armisen, Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

    Fred Armisen in 'Portlandia'

    The Venezuelan-American actor landed his seventh nomination together with the writers for Portlandia.

    Additional Latino Nominees

    Mark Gonzales
    Carlos Rios
    Rebecca Adorno
    James Alario
    Nick Gomez
    Daniel Salas
    Terrie Velazquez-Owen
    Gus Dominguez
    Dana Gonzales
    Kico Velarde

    See a complete list of nominees here.

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  • Oscar Isaac to Join Mark Rylance in New Steven Spielberg Drama

    Posted by · July 16, 2016

    by Borys Kit

    Tony Kushner wrote the script.

     oscar_isaac.jpgJohn Shearer/Getty Images

    Star Wars star Oscar Isaac is in negotiations to star opposite Mark Rylance in The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara for Amblin Entertainment.

    Steven Spielberg is putting together the true-life religious drama to tackle after he wraps the sci-fi thriller Ready Player One.

    Tony Kushner, who worked on Spielberg’s Lincoln and Munich, wrote the script adapting the David Kertzer novel, which has been in development with the filmmaker since 2008.

    The true story centers on a 6-year-old Jewish boy in Bologna, Italy, in 1858 who was seized by the police and removed from his parents' home. He was subsequently raised as a Catholic and became a priest in the Augustinian order. Rylance will star as Pope Pius IX.

    Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger, who produced Bridge of Spies, will produce Mortara.

    Isaac had a breakout year in 2015 with a buzzy turn in Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller Ex Machina then scene-stealing work in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He last appeared as the villain in X-Men: Apocalypse.

    Isaac recently wrapped Star Wars: Episode VIII as well as the Paramount sci-fi thriller Annihilation, which reteamed him with Garland.

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