#WEAREINCLUSION Profiles

  • Francesca Ricagni

    Posted by · September 26, 2020 1:57 PM

    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, Junior Development Executive at Amazon Studios, says Latin America is a thriving hub for creative content. She frequently travels all over the world seeking the best production teams and funding for the stories she believes in. 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.

  • Benjamin-Shalom Rodriguez

    Posted by · September 26, 2020 1:55 PM

    Benjamin-Shalom Rodríguez, self-proclaimed queer filmmaker, comedian and writer.

    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.

    Follow Benjamin:

    Twitter/ Instagram: @thebunrodriguez

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/benjamin.shalom.rodriguez

  • Daniel Eduvijes Carrera

    Posted by · September 24, 2020 1:58 PM

    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.

    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?”

  • Juan Martinez Vera

    Posted by · September 23, 2020 2:00 PM

    Juan Martinez Vera became a NALIP member four 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.

  • Carlos Aguilar

    Posted by · September 21, 2020 3:39 PM

    Originally from Mexico City, Carlos Aguilar was chosen as one of 6 young film critics to partake in the first Roger Ebert Fellowship organized by RogerEbert.com, the Sundance Institute and Indiewire in 2014. Aguilar’s work has appeared in prestigious publications such as Los Angeles Times, Variety, The New York Times, The Wrap, Indiewire, Vulture, RogerEbert.com, MovieMaker Magazine, Remezcla, Filmmaker Magazine, Slate, Bustle, Americas Quarterly, among others. He is a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA). Besides his work in journalism, Aguilar regularly works as a screener for the Sundance Film Festival and a screenplay reader for Sundance’s Screenwriters Lab. Carlos Aguilar has also been on the jury at renowned festivals such the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Outfest Los Angeles, Aspen Shortsfest, and the Los Angeles Indian Film Festival. 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 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 a 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.”

  • Ana Flores

    Posted by · September 20, 2020 3:57 PM

    Ana 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.

    Follow Ana:

    @laflowers

    @weallgrowlatina

  • Claudia Restrepo

    Posted by · September 19, 2020 3:58 PM

    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 enriched my soul and made me feel better like I was actually doing something 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.”

     

  • Lorena Manriquez

    Posted by · September 18, 2020 3:59 PM

    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 learned that all fields of work are difficult, but possible if an individiual 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

    Posted by · September 17, 2020 4:00 PM

    Sandra Avila, Avila Entertainment founder and producer, has been with NALIP for over a decade. 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 over a decade, 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.

  • Evelyn Ortiz

    Posted by · September 16, 2020 4:00 PM

    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/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 then continued to be the First Assistant Director for three feature films and various commercials. 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.”