#WEAREINCLUSION Profiles

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.”

  • Nancy C. Mejia

    Posted by · October 23, 2020 8:49 AM

    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. She currently works as an executive story editor on The L Word: Generation Q. Twitter: @NanCwrites

  • Juan Avella

    Posted by · October 03, 2020 1:27 PM

    Juan Avella is an LA-based writer and director from Caracas, Venezuela who focuses on gritty thrillers and genre stories set in multicultural worlds. Juan’s two award-winning short films, HIJO POR HIJO (2017) and HER BODY (2018), were exclusively distributed by HBO after successful festival runs; the latter is currently streaming on HBO Max. He holds a Screenwriting MFA from the AFI Conservatory, where he won the William J, Fadiman Award for excellence in screenwriting for his crime thriller BOLICHICOS. This project was also the recipient of the 2019 TFI Sloan Film Fund grant from the Tribeca Film Institute, and the script was included in The Black List’s 2019 inaugural LatinX List. He is repped by The Gersh Agency and Thruline Entertainment, and his work has been supported by the Time Warner Foundation, Film Independent, and NALIP.

    In 2011, Avella relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a MFA in Screenwriting from the AFI Conservatory. During the study there, his crime-thriller feature script ALEJO was awarded the prestigious 2014 William J. Fadiman award for best screenplay and top achievement in screenwriting.

    In Avella’s career, “NALIP has helped me a lot and given me a lot of help.” Initially, the main reason he joined NALIP is because he saw other friends and collaborators benefiting from the community, specifically producer Diego Najera who successfully sold his short film Spark to HBO through NALIP. Inspired by Najera’s success, he became a member of NALIP six months later and luckily sold his own film to HBO as well. One highlight with NALIP, Avella shares, is getting to meet other cool people who are willing to collaborate with him and tell the similar stories he would like to tell. In Avella’s opinion, it is very difficult to find people who share similar ideas and beliefs, but NALIP has been that place for him to look for them.

    Talking about the current environment in the entertainment industry, Avella has very positive attitudes. “The entertainment industry is changing a lot, no one really knows where it is going. What I see the best thing for everyone is, both companies and content creators themselves are taking chances on new voices and new initiatives, to either find new creators or put new content out there.”

  • Rebecca Murga

    Posted by · October 02, 2020 1:31 PM

    Rebecca Murga has been a NALIP member for 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 2016.

    Murga was also a 2016 Ryan Murphy HALF Directing Fellow and as one of the Director for the ABC Directing Program and the ABC Casting Showcase from 2016-2018.

     

    Follow Rebecca

    Instagram: @rebeccamurga

    Twitter: @rebeccamurga

    Facebook: @rebecca.murga.1

  • Fernando Lebrija

    Posted by · October 01, 2020 1:42 PM

    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.

    One of Lebrija’s projects was #RealityHigh, a Netflix original. Only one week after it released, it became the most watched movie on Netflix in more than 130 countries.

    Follow Fernando Lebrija:

    Twitter: @flebrija

    Instagram: flebrija007

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Director-Fernando-Lebrija-780124222047712/

  • Adriana Martínez Barrón

    Posted by · September 30, 2020 1:44 PM

    Adriana Martínez Barrón is currently works as Manager in Content Acquisition at Netflix focusing on content for Spain and Latin America. She has been behind the creative executive for featuring films like "A Quién Te Llevarías a una Isla Desierta", "Como Caído del Cielo”, "Luis Miguel" season 2 and more. Prior working at Netflix, Barrón was Creative Executive at 3Pas Studios, the production company co-founded by Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez and former Pantelion Head of Production Benjamin Odell. Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Adriana studied Communication Science at Tecnologico de Monterrey and worked as a Production Coordinator in TV, commercials, and music videos. After attending the renowned Peter Stark Producing Program at USC, she began her career in Hollywood as a TV Development Assistant at Latin World Entertainment before stepping into the fast paced world of Entertainment PR.

    As a Creative Executive at 3Pas Studios, Adriana was responsible in overseeing Spanish language content for the company. She goes to film festivals and tracks everything that is going on in Mexico with the goal to find talent in the place that nobody is looking for.

    Speaking of the hardships in her career, Adriana mentions that her career has been full of many. She never had a straight pathway in her career, and she did many jobs in between, such as initially working in theater and music videos, to explore and reach the goals. “I am from Mexico which means that I am here on a work visa, and that is an extra application here on everything I do. But in addition to that, as a female, it’s knowing how to fight your battles with certain bosses whether they bring you or not to the projects. Sometimes it’s like how do you find that motivation from within to keep you going when everything gets hard around you.”

    Adriana has been a member of NALIP since 2013, and she states that attending NALIP events has always been helpful to her. “The conferences are really interesting. I always get this feeling when I go to the Summit of like feeling recharged and empowered and excited. When you are like this everyday, you forget why you are doing things sometimes. But when you go and you see other people who are doing the same thing you are doing, but like are succeeding, you get excited.” The biggest misconception about Latinx in the industry, Adriana believes, is that there are limited positions available for Latinx to become successful, because they believe there is only one role, one Latina executive and one Latino director in the industry. However, Adriana does not like the current situations and she would like to take initiative to change this condition. “I want to make sure that I do my part in supporting other young Latinos and helping that community grow, because if we don’t help each other, support each other and boost each other, we are not going to succeed.”

    “We are storytellers so we are supposed to be telling the stories of the world, and the world is much more diverse than the makeup of the entertainment industry.”

  • Vincent Gonzales

    Posted by · September 29, 2020 1:48 PM

    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.

  • Joel Novoa

    Posted by · September 27, 2020 1:53 PM

    Joel Novoa is a director best known for his work on the hit TV series Arrow, born in New York and raised in Venezuela for the majority of his life. He was raised in a family of film directors and film producers, Novoa grew up on film sets where he learned the art of telling stories through film. After studying and practicing law, Novoa realized his true passion, “I realized that this was my passion [filmmaking]. I wanted to tell stories, I didn’t wanna be in a courtroom or in an office, I wanted to be on a film set.”

    Novoa began pursuing his career in filmmaking, creating his first feature film in Venezuela, which caused a lot of political controversy. This feature film was eventually banned by the government, causing Novoa to leave the country to the UK and eventually U.S. where he attended the American Film Institute (AFI). Novoa explains that this was a difficult moment in the his life but despite this obstacle, he was determined to tell people’s stories and continue making films. Novoa says, “even in the most painful moments I think that what kept me going when I was out of my country was, there was people who needed their stories to be heard.”

    Novoa’s passion for having more Latinx representation and inclusion in film and the media has also served as a great motivation and inspiration for his work. In relation to Latinx representation, Novoa explains, “being from Venezuela and watching TV shows all my life, you never see yourself represented, you always see people that talk differently, that look differently that act differently and you see the credits and the names are not your last names so you think that’s not for you.” This motivated Novoa to fight his way through the industry and prove that a Latinx American director could do anything any other director could do, despite facing more struggles than others.

    Novoa explains the importance of inclusion in American media, stating, “we are 17% of this country, we are more than 14 million just here in California, we are not guests we are part of this culture, we’re an important part of this culture and we should be represented more than we are.”

    When speaking about NALIP, Novoa explains, “I attended the media summit in 2017 and I felt very empowered and I think for the first time I felt like I was in a place where I was not the guest and I was not being looked upon because of my accent or because of where I come from but people were interested of coming to our world and genuinely attracted to everything we have to offer.” Novoa understands the importance of having a space like the NALIP Media Summit and that support that these events and NALIP provide to those aspiring filmmakers. He explains that a person can’t do all of this on their own and that having support is key throughout this journey of becoming a successful filmmaker.

    These passions and motivation have gotten Novoa to being a regular director for the series Arrow and winning various awards for his films, including his successful multiple award-winning film, “Esclavo de Dios” (“God’s Slave”). Novoa’s advice to other aspiring filmmakers and directors is to “follow your passions, follow your dreams, never settle, don't let the establishment get your ideas to the ground and fight your way through the obstacles because at the end it will be worth it.”