#WEAREINCLUSION Profiles

  • Ligiah Villalobos

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 3:40 PM

    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. She is best known for her work as head writer for the Nick Jr. show "Go, Diego! Go!" and well as producing and writing the Sundance film "Under the Same Moon". 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.”

    Follow Ligiah

    Twitter: @JalapenoFilms

    Instagram: charbonete

  • Eduardo “Lalo” Alcaraz'

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 3:39 PM

    Eduardo “Lalo” Alcaraz is a producer, writer and political cartoonist, who is mostly known for being the creator of the comic La Cucaracha. Born in San Diego, California and raised on the United States-Mexican Tijuana border, Alcaraz loves Mexican pop-culture and Chicano art and is passionate about combining these two and making them art. However, growing up in a bilingual and bicultural environment, he did not see himself working in television in the United States. As a result, he shares that he “eventually discovered that I can make my own content and brown characters for other kids to see.”

    Being a television animation Producer, Alcaraz serves as the cultural consultant team of Pixar's 2017 film Coco, “we watch the film and give notes on everything such as dialogues, performances of pronunciations and the looks and everything.” When Alcatraz was first reached out by Pixar and Disney to work on the film, he did not believe that he was invited to the project given all the critiques that Disney have on his previous films, “that strikes a chord of humanity. You think it’s about a very specific thing about Mexican family, but it was a universal boom because of our love to our families.” Alcaraz is amazed at the contribution Latinos are making in the industry, “it is such a big moment in American film, made by the top animation studio and has so much money behind it with global reach but focused on mexican family. One of my job is to avoid typical Mexican portrays.”

    Alcaraz has been involved with NALIP for many years, recalling 15 years ago when he was crashing the conference and interviewing people from NALIP for his radio show. NALIP has invited him back to speak on panels, discuss issues and encourage other filmmakers. One of his most memorable moments with NALIP is watching Adrian Molin, the co-director of Coco, being on the panel and presenting movies. “It is very important to see Pixar and Adrian, the young talent, are introduced to the world of NALIP letting people know what you are doing. We appreciate when studios open the doors and when NALIP helps us grow and get this access to the media.”

    Alcaraz further mentions that NALIP has advanced his career by making him stay visible with people in entertainment. “We are all kind of involved and open doors for each other, to show we have not given up.” After 25 years’ work on Chicano theater, Alcaraz was very surprised and grateful for the achievement Lations have made in the industry. “We still can’t believe that the door of the access is cracking in our lives. I haven’t given up but I kind of thought ‘well, you know, my kids will get to see this someday.’But no, it’s happening now. When you open one door, you also have to have your peasants jump into the window, so more doors and more windows will open. ”

    Alcaraz believes NALIP’s #WeAreInclusion campaign speaks to everyone, not only the people already in the industry, but also helping others to be a part of the industry. “I think society is going through a moment right now, where all these movements need to come together and shake the status quo ‘what is happening’”. To take a part in the campaign, he addresses his attitude to take in his community’s feedback about brown characters, “my fans and readers will send me jokes and suggestions for me to write. They are always horrible and terrible. But once in a while, there is one suggestion that really is about the themes and issues that we face as a community. I incorporate that in my work whether in TV, film, or comics, and I believe we should all do that.”

  • Claudia Forestieri

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 3:22 PM

    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 addresses this 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.”

  • Gloria Calderon-Kellett

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 1:07 PM

    Latinx women Showrunner Gloria Calderon-Kellett is a first generation American, daughter of immigrant parents who came to the US in 1962 from Cuba. She is the Executive Producer, writer and co-showrunner of One Day At A Time previously on Netflix and now on CBS.

    As an actress she would only get roles to play a gang member’s girlfriend or sister, that’s where she got the inspiration to become a writer. Calderon embraces the lack of Latinx stories in the industry as a challenge, so she taught herself how to write for TV in order to get the presence she wanted.

    In “One Day At A Time” she tells the story of a Latinx family, who are hard working immigrants. The show also brings representation to the LGBTQ+ community. She thinks the secret of success of the show is that it is not only inclusive in front of the camera but behind the room has different culture crew like Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Rican, Argentinian, young and old.

    Calderon has worked with NALIP in workshops where she has talked to creators about the need of having Latinx content in the industry, to watch the shows and write powerful and amazing scripts that can take the lead.

    Gloria thinks organizations like NALIP show people that they are here to help them, to offer an opportunity as a platform to learn and grow. She thinks that “we are inclusion” means making sure that what you have in front of the camera is the same that’s behind because that’s what makes stories accurate and real. From inclusive rooms offering interesting conversations is where you get great stories.

    Calderon feels the future of Latino in features and media is positive because the industry has been one way for a while. Although there is a lot of work to do, people are starving for representation, if we want a more inclusive and warm world, there should be more and many stories that show how diverse our culture is.

    “If I hired you for my staff you need to write one script weekly, so you need to work hard, read, and write until your eyes and hands are bleeding because that is what it takes” explains Calderon. She thinks that we should take advantage of having Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO and all these networks to watch all the shows and movies and get the knowledge we need.

    She thinks NALIP empowers people by reminding them that they can when people are saying they can’t. “If you have a great script and you’re part of an organization like NALIP you will make it because you’re surrounding yourself with people that are smart and know what they are doing and that’s the path to success”. Calderon most important advice to creators is to believe and to work hard because it takes time but it happens.

    In regards to the 20th anniversary of NALIP she thinks it’s incredible to see the people of this organization working together and say: “we wanna help, we wanna guide the future of this voices, we want to celebrate stories, we want to tell these young kids that the future can be different.” She thinks this is what makes the change that is happening. “I want NALIP to continue educating, to continue growing because it's working. I celebrate it because it’s working, we are able to create young storytellers that have the confidence and learning the importance of education and the ability to grow so we can tell more stories”.

  • Tanya Saracho

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 8:50 AM

    Tanya Saracho depicts the dream of an aspiring Latinx talent. As the Showrunner and the Creator of Vida on Starz until the show ended in May 2020, Sarah's humble beginnings as a playwright in Chicago and 15 year tenure served as the foundation of her career in writing for Television in 2012. Early in her career, Saracho recognized the lack of diversity and representation within the media and entertainment industry. She was determined to take charge of her career and in turn impact the way in which Latinx were represented.

    Initially being an actress, she saw how Latinx were not represented right because she was always auditioning for roles as maids or prostitutes, which she called the “Jesse Mr. Johnson” roles. Saracho expresses that it was “kind of out of the necessity” that she started the theater company called Teatro Luna, an all Latina company that I ran for ten years in Chicago. Sarah's break into the industry is best described as a preparation meets success story. She had been writing for years and invested time to perfect her craft. When the opportunity arose to write for TV, she was prepared to take the leap and begin her career.

    Her career transition into Television was led through an unexpected meeting with an agent who discovered Saracho’s talent to write for TV. One of her writings turned out to be Devious Maids. Currently, Saracho is working on Vida, the original half hour series on the Starz network. “It has been an amazing process working. My writers’ room is Latinax. My cinematograph, composers and my production coordinator are Latinax. Like what I did in Chicago with Theater Luna that I had all females, it is very important for a female gaze show to be let be females and Latinax.”

    As one of and the only show runners that put Latinax out there on shows, Saracho thinks it is not only important to have people in front of camera, but also show runners, as they are CEO of the show making not just creative decisions, but hiring behind the line. “ When we get into those spaces, we have our lens on, we sort of shifted to how we see the world, which is inclusive, which is this campaign “We are inclusion”. That’s all we want, that includes us in the conversation, like the Hamilton are. We want to be in the room where it happens. Right now, not enough of us are in the room where it happens.” With this in mind, Saracho signed a development deal with Universal Content Productions on August 2020 to create original content for television, develop podcasts and establish a lab and incubator program to amplify intersectional Latinx voices.

    Saracho’s involvement with NALIP started when she was working on a panel for a summit about 4 years ago. After that, she has always kept in touch with NALIP. When she was staffing her first room “Vida” for the first season, she was able to find and hire a brilliant writer Nancy Meheya from NALIP. As a talent buyer or as a producer once writer, she appreciates the access to great talent polls at NALIP. “Right now we need an access point, we need an access point. A lot of us are entering the industry, but we don’t have a lot of guides. Organizations like NALIP are imperative, because we need a place to gather and we need an access, an access point for resources and for community, just for information we could not get. Maybe we don’t have anyone we know in the industry. So this comes to be a great place for the community.”

    “We are inclusion”, to Saracho, is like a Hamilton song, being in the room where it happens. It is intersectionality, it’s access, it being there. “ My writer’s room, my set and post are mostly Latinax. I am trying to develop and train showrunners in my room. It is my job to do anything I can to train them to be showrunners, and it is our responsibility to open those doors because no one has open for us.”

  • Davy Perez

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 8:50 AM

    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 his directorial work through the Latino Media Fest.

    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.”

  • Eduardo Cisneros

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 8:50 AM

    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.”

  • Steven Canals

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 8:50 AM

    Inspired by his very first project completed in high school, Steven Canals knew that he was destined to contribute to the media and entertainment industry. After being a college counselor for 10 years and away from the world of cinema he decided to follow his dreams. Steven speaks on the progression of Hollywood and how he notices the difference in the industry since now normalized stories are out in the open. He states his passion of storytelling and its value of educating and enlightening the audience. He believes that this combination of elements are what makes content real and dear to one’s heart.

    His debut show, Pose is a serialized one hour musical that debuted the Summer 2018 on FX. Set in 1980s New York, Pose looks at the concurrent rise of Trump-era downtown social and literary scene and ball culture worlds. He speaks about his inspiration of speaking on a topic that has not been spoken about. He speaks about the culture being appropriated and how it has progressed. He is passionate about bringing light to the community (ball culture) and the value of family and resiliency.

    Pose will serve as a television milestone since trans characters in this series take center stage and are not just seen as comic relief or background characters like in many film and television works of the past. This is not Canal’s first work in which trans characters take center stage; in 2016, he premiered his short film Afuera, at the LA Film Festival. The film Afuera (2016) told the story of an undocumented trans woman. That same year, he served as a Staff Writer on Freeform’s horror anthology Dead of Summer.

    He spoke about his interaction with NALIP in 2007 as he was a panelist at the annual NALIP Media Summit. He discusses his experience of attending the Media Summit and how amazing it was to be around Latinx content creators and share this passion with those who shared the same dreams and passions as himself. Steven speaks about why he believes NALIP is beneficial to filmmakers, It is an opportunity for you to reflect on your own art but also to be invigorated by this business and to come up with new ideas for content and opportunities to meet with individuals to someday collaborate with. Canal speaks about his experience of mentoring younger NALIP mentees. Canals speaks about not taking no for an answer. In 2014 he wrote a script while studying screenwriting at UCLA, then spent a few years being told it was “too niche” and that there would not be an audience for it being. He believed in his art and did not take no for an answer. Fortunately the script made its way to Murphy, and he got it. Canals is currently working on season three of Pose which is scheduled to be released in 2021 while also working on a drama project for ABC currently titled In The End. He will also be developing 91 Words, a limited series on FX revolving around the true story of gay activists Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings. Canals shares his advice with filmmakers who aspire to succeed in this industry. Canals says, “Find the stories that are most important to you”. Checking in with oneself and what is it that you want to talk about. Find it and make sure that you and pour yourself onto the page.

  • Jorge Gutierrez

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 8:50 AM

    Jorge Gutierrez is the director & co-writer of the Golden Globe nominated and Guillermo Del Toro produced animated feature "The Book of Life" for 20th Century Fox, writer & director of the Emmy nominated "Son of Jaguar" VR short for Google and creator (with muse and Emmy winning wife Sandra Equihua) of the multiple Emmy winning animated series "El Tigre, The Adventures of Manny Rivera" for Nickelodeon.

    Gutierrez attended the California Institute of the Arts for his BFA & MFA in Experimental Animation. During his time at school, he created the 3D short Carmelo that won the 2001 Student Emmy Award in animation and screened at various festivals around the world, including Cannes Film Festival in 2001. Gutierrez’s first Annie awards was brought by his passion project, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. The film received the Best TV Animated show & Best TV Character Design, and even one Emmy award in Best TV Character Design. In 2014, Gutierrez’s 3D computer-animated film The Book of Life also nominated for three Annie awards in Best Film, Best Director & Best Character Design and also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature Film.

    He is currently writing and directing an epic fantasy series "Maya And The Three" for Netflix and signed a deal with them on October 2020 to write, direct and produce new animated films, series and interactive projects through his production company Mexopolis. He is very glad that he has chances to access a large high-quality content talent pool through NALIP. “Thanks to NALIP, I have met a lot of producers, writers and a lot of other people in the industry who not necessarily do animation but are also doing the public content that I want to make. I want to cast behind scenes as many producers and writers as I can that are Latinos, so NALIP is now where I would go. But before NALIP, I could not do that. I asked people around me for Latino talents, but barely got anything because no one has representation.”

    Talking about the current phenomenon in the entertainment industry, Gutierrez believes the time is changing. “I first started my career in 1999 and what I have seen in the meetings are mostly white men. Now you can see people of color, you see Asian Americans, Latinos and literally people from everywhere representing in the room. They are still in junior positions, not the senior, studio heads or heads of development yet. But you are starting to see the changes shifting. You are also seeing the audiences react, not seeing themselves.”

  • Debby Wolfe

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 8:50 AM

    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. 

    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.”