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.
Claudia Restrepo is a video producer, director and writer who is best known for her work on Buzzfeed’s “Pero Like”. Born and raised in Missouri, Restrepo never examined her relationship with the entire Latinx community. It was until she came to Los Angeles to attend college and started getting involved with other Latinx communities that she realized the positive impact this community could have had on her childhood. After studying and practicing acting and academic writing, she discovered her true passion in writing roles for Latinx individuals like herself. Restrepo recalls, “It just like enriched my soul and made me feel better like I was actually doing something was to write stories for myself and my friends who also are like people of color. That has just carried me so much further than trying to audition for a work that was not for me. ”
Working at a digital space and launching Buzzfeed off-spin channels on Youtube like Pero Like, Buzzfeed’s projects aimed at making “content that resonates with English-speaking Latinxs.” Restrepo expresses her pride and excitement about the progress they have achieved, stating “we are all making sort of like block content. We are always working on sort of long term like bigger scripted and unscripted projects.” Furthermore, Restrepo has been able to see the impact her work has had on mainstream media, “it has been great to see us grow as a brand and I feel like we are finally at the space where we have the skills and the audiences to get to start these individual channels, and really interact more with the audiences and have more direct impact with people to the Youtube space.” As a result, Pero Like gains great viewership and some of the videos have even reached over 9 million viewers. “People comment and seem engaged. Most people that I meet are young women that watch the channel, and it’s for everybody, but the majority of our viewership is young women and you get emotional when you just see a lot of 14 years old girls are like ‘we love it! I wanna do that!’ ”
Restrepo initially started her journey with NALIP through a writing workshop as a student member. She attended the Diverse Women in Media Panel in 2014, which greatly inspired her writing career. Last year, she presented for a workshop with director Marvin Lemus for directing in a digital space. She describes the experience as “I think everyone has a moment in their career where like ‘oh, I think I know what I am talking about’, and that is sort of the workshop for me. Doing the workshop feels like the full circle moment, which is that I feel like I’ve ripped the words of this organization for a while that to get to stand on the stage and share this knowledge with inspiring content creators. It does sort of feeling like a family watches you grow.”
When addressing NALIP’s #WeAreInclusion campaign, Restrepo explains that the campaign speaks to her on two different levels. “It says to me that there is a seated table and we are holding it for you, like we want you to be part of this industry. But also, the Latino experience is so fast and different but we are all this together. I think sometimes it can feel singular, like your experience to your culture or your background, but we are all in this team and we are all here supporting each other. That’s what it means to me.”
Carlos Aguilar’s passion for storytelling has led him to follow his dreams working as a film journalist and filmmaker. Originally from Mexico City, Aguilar moved to the U.S. at the age of thirteen. Being a filmmaker and also a DACA recipient, he is dedicated to bring awareness to Latino and Latin American cinema in the U.S by writing about films and covering film festivals. Aguilar has always been passionate about film, declaring it as the one thing that could encompass everything without subject to limitations, allowing people to share different stories and find meaning behind experiences.
Working on festival coverage, Aguilar spends half of the year traveling all over the country to cover festivals, and discover new films and projects made by filmmakers living outside Los Angeles and New York. For the second half of the year, he dedicates his time to reading screenplays for the Latino Fellowship to discover new talent. During the process of writing stories and critiques, Aguilar watches films, looking for special and interesting content. By arranging interviews or writing a review, he highlights a filmmaker’s work that he feels would connect with a larger audience. Particularly in his case, he is trying to find the angle that speaks specifically to being Latinx.
Aguilar has been involved with NALIP for many years now, and he has greatly benefited by attending the NALIP Media Summit as well as being part of the Latino Media Festival. “Me as a writer, it’s a very isolated profession to write by yourself in a room and to create ideas on your own. Being able to go to the Summit and to the Media Fest, all the events NALIP organizes, it’s a way to kind of know the effect or the importance that every part of the industry has,” Aguilar expresses. As a journalist, he also uses his platform to tell filmmakers about organizations like NALIP and tell the Latino community that there is a place for them to connect with others who will advance their careers, “on my end, knowing that filmmakers are trying to push forward how they’re doing, how their projects are becoming more relevant. It becomes a way to realize that there’s a community out there, that we all form a part of an ecosystem that’s pushing forward the collective efforts to push for our Latino content and our stories.”
Concerning the current political climate and being a DACA recipient, Aguilar is open about going public with his immigration status, as he feels it is extremely important for people to know that dreamers are out there doing many professions and contributing in this country. Aguilar shares that being a dreamer or undocumented "makes things more complicated to achieve certain things or to do certain things." Despite this, Aguilar feels a sense of community and states that, “fact that most of us manage to do so much despite the limitations, it’s proof that DACA recipients have a strong spirit, a strong devotion for their families and for their themselves to better themselves and to do something good for this country. ”
Even though there is a lack of representation in Latino critics and Latino film journalists, Aguilar has positive attitude towards the future trend in the industry. “The way Latinos will be represented in entertainment in the near future is going to be major. It is a way that we’re writing and I think that’s not going to stop in a long time, that the industry is realizing that we’re here that we’re here because we’ve earned our seat by our talent, by our work, and the power that we have in terms of audience so it’s going to be undeniable in the future and we’re getting there.”
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York to Dominican parents, Kase Peña always had a passion for art and ascribes her identity and upbringing as motivations for always pursuing her dream of being a writer, director, and actor. She has now worked on a number of films and has made an impact on the industry by adding inclusion and positive representations into her work, telling stories that are important but that are not talked about often.
Peña describes always having a passion for art, especially drawing, from an early age. This passion eventually led Peña to applying to and attending the City College of New York (CCNY) where she studied film and began her journey as a screenwriter, director, and actor. When describing her choice of focusing on writing and directing, Peña explains, “I was always clear that I wanted to be a director. I actually went to an audition as an actor once and the experience was awful. I walked out of there saying, I need to do something where I’m in control because I felt very vulnerable in that audition so that’s when I decided, I’m gonna direct instead.”
When describing her writing and her work, Peña explains that people always want to see themselves on screen and always want to see themselves represented in a positive light on the screen. Peña describes that she now writes about what she wants to see on the screen. She describes that being a transgender women of color, Peña makes a great effort to write about characters with similar backgrounds as her and portraying them in a positive and productive way.
Peña emphasizes the importance of inclusion and explains, “every time you saw a transgender person in a film or TV, they were there just to be laughed at. We are human beings, fully-fleshed, three-dimensional just like everyone else. We have a desire to succeed, we have a desire to love and be loved, and to respect and be respected. We have voices that are strong, loud, powerful, and that deserve to be heard just like anybody else’s voice.”
Peña’s latest project that she is currently working on is a film called “I Love Hate.” This film as described by Peña, “is a raw, real family drama that centers around a transgender youth who seeks to escape the ghetto through schooling and education and the tension that exists between her and her unaccepting, straight older brother.” This film will not be the first time that Peña has done about the experiences of transgender people. Peña also wrote a short film called “Familia” about the struggles of a transgender Dominican woman. This short film is about a transgender woman, written by a transgender woman, and co-directed by a transgender woman. There have been films in the past about transgender women, but Peña explains the importance of having not just films about transgender people in a positive light, but also films that are created by those who are transgender.
Kase Peña has taken part in NALIP’s Diverse Women in Media forum and describes the positive and important experience that has come out of her experience with NALIP. Peña describes that as soon as she attended a NALIP event, she immediately made important connections in the business, has learned a lot, and has been made aware of opportunities she didn't know existed. Peña describes the events as, “very informative, educational, and they’re a big opportunities to network and make connections and without connections, in this business, it's gonna be very very difficult to survive and move forward.”
Joel Novoa is a director best known for his work on the recent 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.”
Writer and director Maru Buendia-Senties is a Mexico City native who relocated with her family, when she was young, to move to the United States. Her work promotes female representation, showcasing her personal experiences on the screen. She has been honored by the Princess Grace Foundation and has worked on five award winning films. Buendia-Senties got her Masters in Fine Arts Film Production from the University of Texas in Austin. She was part of the NALIP Latino Lens Short Narrative Incubator and produced her award-winning short film “Windows” and screened at the 2016 NALIP Media Summit. Her short film touches on the topics of humanity and technology. See more about the film here.
Buendia-Senties talks about her work with a select genre of films and their significance. “I like to write stories about horror, action, science fiction and I like it because when you go into genre filmmaking, you open an endless world of possibilities.” Working with these genres has not been easy for Buendia-Senties. She explains, “Genre filmmaking, is not usually something you see in female Mexican writers/directors. For some reason these genres are associated with men, ‘Men can do action better, men can do horror better.’”
When creating characters, Buendia-Senties provides female representation by giving women the same skill capabilities as men. Inclusion to her means, “The reflection of what the world already has: different races, different genders, and having them all come together. That's what we reflect by being inclusion.” She included language is an important factor when it comes to writing the dialogue. “Why not put a female lead in a sci-fi film? Why not have them speak Spanish, that's what I did with my sci-fi “Windows,” Buendia-Senties states.
A NALIP member for over four years, Buendia-Senties shares her positive experience with the community she has built. Her work and self have developed more professionally and she expresses her content when engaging with other NALIP members and affiliates, “It was actually seeing somebody believe so much in a project and understanding what the project was about.” Latinx representation has risen over the past couple of years and Buendia-Senties voices why she chose to commit to NALIP, “I was inspired to get in touch with their whole mission. They really do give you an opportunity to be your best and show people what you can really do.”
Daniel Eduvijes Carrera is a writer and director who is most notably known for his award-winning short film “Primera Comunion”. As a first generation student coming from a family of Mexican immigrant, Carrera started his film trajectory by leaving his Southern California home to attend the University of California, Berkeley, receiving a bachelors in Film Studies and then moving to the East Coast for Columbia University’s Graduate School of the Arts, obtaining his Masters in Filmmaking. In addition to his film work, Carrera has taught film courses at Columbia University and been awarded the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts Entertainment Scholarship.
With “Primera Comunion” having screened around the world in multiple festivals, Carrera has now asserted his attention to “MÍSTICOS”, bringing in his Mexican culture to the story and staying true to his personal connection to the film. “MÍSTICOS” was awarded the 2017 Djerassi Residency Award for film development.
Carrera introduces what film, stating, “MÍSTICOS is a feature-length film, it would be my debut feature. It explores the idea that I have been researching for some time exorcism in rural Mexico.” He also mentions what he found when conducting research on exorcism for his film. “I started to find that a lot of the young people that were going into those spaces were actually queer young people, who are going there for a certain sort of...I guess it was sort of becoming a gay conversion therapy but through the church,” Carrera says. “It’s a fictional story that explores the intersection between queer identity, sexual identity, spiritual identity, and all of that within the Latino experience.”
Pushing for inclusion has been a challenge for Carrera but he is motivated by seeing the need to continue to break barriers. Carrera does this, “by creating work that is uncompromisingly Latino. I create work that is uncompromisingly Mexican. I create work that crosses the border. I create work that speaks to who I am as a young Chicano. And I create work that speaks to being a child of immigrants.”
When speaking of NALIP as an organization he expresses, “NALIP has been incredibly instrumental in the formulation of my career. Through NALIP I have met my greatest friends and strongest collaborators.” NALIP has served Carrera with opportunities that he would not have received anywhere else, saying, “how great to be able to participate in an organization that not only looks out for your best interests but is also going to connect you with potential collaborators to create their work?”
At only 24 years old, Michelle Badillo has risen in the entertainment industry with her most notable work, Netflix’s One Day At A Time. Originally from Queens, New York, Badillo moved out to Los Angeles to pursue her Latinx writing career, having attended Loyola Marymount University and graduated in 2013 with degrees in Screenwriting and Women’s Studies. In 2015, she wrote and directed a short film through the OutSet Young Filmmakers Fellowship Program only for it to premiere at Outfest the same year. Her experience led her to become a writer for One Day At A Time and open up the door for her to also become a story editor. Inspired by Norman Lear’s 1970’s One Day At A Time, who now serves as executive producer for the 2017 remake, Badillo’s web series follows a Cuban-American family who navigate life one day at a time in a comedy-drama setting.
As an LGBT Latinx, Badillo is taking part in inclusion by, “making sure that my voice is heard and that my experience is expressed.” She explains her inspiration, stating, “I’ve never seen a gay teenage Latinx person on TV, I had no context for seeing that and I think that’s part of why it took me so long to figure out who I was, and where I fit into my community.” She mentions how creating the Cuban-American version of the One Day At A Time was a challenge at times due to pioneering in the intersectional issues the show explores, but she knew the messages she conveys is important, “I can’t be afraid that it’s something I’ve never seen before because that’s why I had to do it.“
“Just because I haven’t seen them [similar voices] on TV before it doesn’t mean that they are not true. And I don’t have to feel ashamed of them and try to change my voice to what I think people want to hear or what I think if normal.
On NALIP, Badillo expresses her need for a community that not only supports but actively pushes for diversity and inclusion. “I would have never have known how to meet so many people and get in contact with so many people”. Reflecting on her experience as a panelist, Badillo recalls the comfort in an inviting space, “to be in a room and see people that remind you of yourself but are also every type of person you could ever meet.” A quality still undergoing transformations in Hollywood, Badillo felt that NALIP highlighted Latinx talent while connecting each other on a deep level, “it was comforting and it felt like family.”
Latinx representation has been molding for the better and it’s thanks to NALIP’s tight knit community, according to Badillo. “The first step in elevating each other is making sure that we all have access to the same connections”. In giving advice to young LGBT writers, Badillo states, “don’t worry that you are being too yourself because that’s why you're in the room, they hired you because they want to hear your voice.”
Born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Cisneros has come to work on notable works in the United States. Cisneros accomplishments include signing a multi-picture development deal with Sony Pictures International with fellow filmmaker Jason Shuman in 2016. Serving as an associate producer on Eugenio Derbez’s hit film “Instructions Not Included,” and seeing the impact the success of the film had on Latinx across the United States, Cisneros want to bring his Spanish-speaking audience a greater representation in Hollywood, “The moment the movie came out and I started seeing all those stories that people share on social media about going to the movies together, about bringing Abuelita to the movies.”
For Cisneros, his career started in his home country of Mexico where he found success in networking with notable figures, “I started started my career in Mexico City as a writer for TV, for Televisa, for the big networks. I started writing comedy there, that’s where I started working with Eugenio Derbez and then I moved to the United States about ten to fifteen years ago.” He traces his aspirations for working on films to his childhood, where frequent trips to the movie theater and watching European movies with his dad made him realize that being a director and being a writer were actual career options. When reminiscing on his hardships, Cisneros views family support as the biggest obstacle many aspiring Latinx producers have to face. “When I think about a lot of the setbacks or a lot of the challenges that come with being a Latino writer or producer, I feel like we lack a lot of role models and we lack still a lot of inspiration for younger people, for younger generations to realize that you can actually do this.”
“Because we don't see that many success stories, then your parents freak out.” Due to the severe lack of representation in film from the United States, Cisneros had to convince his family on supporting his career path. “That’s not for you, that’s not for Mexicans, that not for Spanish-speaking people to do.”
Cisneros believes creating a stable community of Latinx producers is the foundation in bringing in more representation in Hollywood. “To really believe in the idea that you can be successful and happy and contribute to your community by way of your story telling, that's the very first challenge right there.” Because of this, he sees NALIP is a different light than other production organizations. In participating in the panels at the Media Summit, Cisneros sees how the interactions go “to the core of that impotence to create a community.”
In contributing to NALIP's mission, Cisneros has come to strengthen his goal in bringing a greater Latinx audience to the theaters. “This is why now it is really important to me to create these opportunities not only for myself but for other people from my community, other people who speak Spanish, other people who look like me, and who sound like me, to be representative and have access to those shots.”
“It only becomes a positive snowball once you start bringing more people in , then you inspire more people and we have better representation and we have a better standing as a community.”
Gabriela Tagliavini is an award winning writer and director working with major production companies in the United States. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tagliavini came to the United States to receive her Masters in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, having already earned a Bachelors in film directing in Argentina. “I knew I wanted to be a film director when I was 10 years old. I thought back then that I wanted to win an Oscar,” Tagliavini recalls.
Tagliavini won the Best Director award through three international film festivals in 2001 with her directorial debut, The Woman Every Man Wants, also known as Perfect Lover, and her film Ladies’ Night broke out at #1 at the Mexican box office in 2002, winning three MTV Movie Awards Mexico. Tagliavini later worked with major production companies such as CNN, Disney, and Comedy Central, working as a writer, correspondent, and director. Tagliavini has also been nominated for two Imagen Awards for Best Director and Best Picture of the Year for her film Border Run.
Most recently Tagliavini had her sixth film How to Break Up With Your Douchebag, produced by Mexico’s Traziende Films, released in the United States by Tribe Releasing on October 13th 2017. Tagliavini feels like her film empowers women, remarking, “I think what I tried to do with this movie is show the women that that’s not the way to go. They should be independent. They can use their own brain.”
Tagliavini notes her close connection with NALIP, extending over various years, “I attended to all the conferences every year, I participated in panels, I go to any other events that they have.” She has served as a mentor through the NALIP, Women in Media Conference, where she met many young aspiring women searching for advise, “somebody asked me what is success, and I said it is the possibility to give back. I think mentoring is great, I think when you know something it is your responsibility to share that knowledge with others.”
Tagliavini encourages young Latinx content creators to never get discouraged, and keep working towards their projects, acknowledging that there are executives out there looking for the newest Latinx talent. “NALIP has helped me so much. I met an HBO executive at a NALIP conference, and then I pitched something and sold it years later. I just met a lot of interesting people at the conferences. You have to be a networker, it is who you know and who knows you.”
To Tagliavini, NALIP is the perfect example of inclusion, “NALIP is the only place that unifies Latinos. NALIP is inclusive of all the groups, from the student Latino to the establish Latino.”
Tagliavini will be featured in Take the Lead’s leadership program,“50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment,” filled with some of the most influential women executives, directors, producers, agents, and writers. “When you know what you want to do, when you have a vision of what your future looks like, nothing gets in your way.”
Veronica Falcon is an actor, choreographer, producer and writer. Born in Mexico City, she has come to be known as one of the country’s most respected and well-known actors with careers in television, film and theater. Gaining mainstream attention from her work on Everardo Gout’s acclaimed film “Days of Grace,” Falcon went on to become a notable figure in the industry, being nominated in 2014 for a “Silver Goddess Award,” for her work in Carlos Cuaron’s film, “Sugar Kisses.”
To Falcon, representation in the industry is amongst the most important factors that shape young talent, “we are inclusion means we lead with an example, inclusion is a right, it is not a privilege.” Noting the difference in Latinx work in the industry in Mexico versus the United States, she sees the lack of representation as alarming, “when people see themselves, and see their stories, you know it’s important, it empowers them, it makes you feel included.”
Present day, Falcon has been gaining momentum in the United States for her role of “Camila Vargas” in USA Network’s “Queen of the South,” having been nominated for an Imagen Award as Best Supporting Actress. “I was incredibly lucky because I got a preamble, you know these kinds of roles are not common women, much less for Latina women, and much less for Latina women over 51.” Having a career for over three decades, she acknowledges a change in the industry, specifically the growing need for creativity in order to work around a limited budget in a competitive environment. In order to bring more inclusion in the industry she protests production companies need to place more trust in young talent and the fresh ideas they bring, opening their doors to inclusion, equality and respect.
Coming to Los Angeles in 2015 looking for more challenging roles, she found herself surrounded by industry members frequently referring to NALIP’s work. She attended an event and saw the work at NALIP as essential in supporting young talent and women, noting the impact of increasing support within the Latino community. She is happy to participate in the workshops and incubator programs where she shares her passion for female empowerment and the nurturing of talent, finding the most satisfaction from her work by inspiring others. Recently, Falcon participated in NALIP’s Diverse Women in Media Forum, where she found inspiration and empowerment not only from the other women on the panel but the audience as well.
Having performed in various films, stage productions, and television productions in and outside of Mexico, Falcon is serving as a strong role model to countless aspiring Latinx actors and producers. She encourages new-comers in the industry in staying true to oneself when advancing and making connections, attributing her passion in keeping her drive alive through years of struggle. “Do not label yourself. You are more than just a gender. You are more than just one thing. You are a full human and you are a creator and you are capable of anything you want.”
Davy Perez is a writer, producer, and aspiring director who has been involved with NALIP since 2009; starting as a intern in junior college and becoming involved with several programs through taking on the role of production coordinator. Since then he's become a writer and most recently has showcased hisdirectorial work through the Latino Media Fest. Currently he is working on the CW show, Supernatural and previously was a writer on ABC's American Crime.
To Davy, #WeAreInclusion means being given a seat at the table. Whether it's in front of the camera, behind the camera or making content; having it reflect our experience and story is being part of that conversation. In order to do that, Davy asserts that companies need to include Latinos in the process at any given point not just in front of the camera, but also in front of production, story/concept, pitching executives. Davy pushes diverse Latinxs forward by taking the extra step in production in pushing for Latinx characters, even when it would be much easier to cast a non latino actor. In doing so he believe he is able to not only bring a more diverse story, but a more diverse world on screen.
In giving advice to future generations, Davy knows that emerging latinxs will have more opportunities to showcase their talent to a growing Latino market. “I would challenge our community of content creators to claim our space. By being self motivated, writing some specs and doing some digital content. By telling them to believe in your story, believe in your self worth, know that you bring value, know that you are bringing something unique, there is only you, and that is going to get you places. Write what you are most excited to write about and that's what's going to get you noticed.”
Linda Yvette Chavez is a writer and producer who most recently co-wrote the digital series “Gente-fied” along with co-writer/partner Marvin Lemus. “Gente-fied” premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and had its Los Angeles premiere at Sundance Next Fest in August 2017. The series was produced by Macro and America Ferrera and is now in development for television.
Linda defines #WeAreInclusion as an environment that celebrates and encourages people of very different backgrounds to fully embody who they are and what their truth is in this world. A space where people are not ashamed of who they are, tell their story, and speak their voice without anyone bringing them down.
Much of Linda's’ work revolves around telling stories about her community and empowering women through dramatic comedy. When she was working on “Gente-fied” she wanted to talk about identity and gentrification through a different lense, “we didn't want to show a muted, dark, depressing world. We wanted to show the vibrancy of a community that is dealing with difficult issues but that is really alive and kicking and happy and multidimensional and wants more from their community.”
She believes that the entertainment industry needs to lift up woman voices, brown voices, queer voices, voices that are at the farthest margins in our communities. Through upholding these marginalized voices and making a concerted effort to initiate programs in order to create careers is the way that these communities will be able to be supported. “We have to step in and make that happen and that's what I think this industry needs because when that happens is the beautiful things that we going to be able to put out there is going to be incredible.”
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 returning this January 26th on NETFLIX.
Follow Debby Wolfe 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.
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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