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What Will It Take for US Latinos to Thrive in Hollywood?

 

There was an urgency palpable at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Not only had the Park City-hosted fest delivered on its promise to bring in a more diverse slate of critics to cover the films unspooling during the wintry two weeks but its programmers had also showcased a record number of female filmmakers. Diversity and inclusion, so its seemed, were not just buzz words but tangible effects felt throughout. Nevertheless, the place of the US Latino community within these broader attempts at diversifying criticism and filmmaking alike felt uncertain. During a panel titled “Incubation, Representation and Exposure: Latinx Talent and Projects,” the question of how to increase Latinx visibility was front and center. Moderated by HBO’s Axel Caballero and featuring Remezcla’s own Film Editor Vanessa Erazo alongside CAA’s Ruben Garcia, the President of the Acevedo Foundation, Beatriz Acevedo, and Sundance programmer Dilcia Barrera, the hourlong conversation tackled everything from how to improve the pipeline of Latino talent into positions of power to how to better leverage known networks to the community’s advantage.

As Acevedo reminded the audience, “Talent is equal but opportunity is not.” And thus, every attempt at fostering talent from underrepresented populations needs to understand that. But it’s not just about throwing money at the problem if filmmakers, talent agents, festival programmers, and the like aren’t also trying to uplift better representation. The reason we keep getting Sicario: Day of the Soldado(and Miss Balato an extent) is that visibility is privileged above any other metric. “The stories that executives are willing to fund, are willing to air about Latinos, doesn’t reflect the stories we want to tell about ourselves,” Erazo added. “They have a very specific image of what Latino is. It’s usually immigrant. It’s usually new to this country. When it comes to US Latino stories, I think it’s hard for Americans to reconcile that we are also American. That we’re part of this country, part of this history.”

And so while there’s newfound desire to hire Latinx talent and tell stories about the community (look at Starz’s Vida and Netflix’s One Day at a Time on the TV front), there’s no secret sauce that will immediately get you hired or get you signed on. As Garcia stressed, you gotta put in the work. Actually, you sometimes gotta put in more work than you’d like. It’s a burden, but unfortunately, that’s how the industry runs. And yes, it still has to be good. Both he and Barrera stressed again and again that what you want in your story is authenticity.

But even before you shoot your film or submit it to festivals, there’s an oft-unspoken hurdle that Latino filmmakers find insurmountable: paperwork. Whether applying for grants and fellowships or submitting to festivals and competitions, sometimes having a good concept is not enough. “We have to break down that idea that an idea will get you money,” Barrera noted. “It takes a lot of work to get that money.” That means poring over application materials and taking them seriously — proof-reading them and making sure what’s on the page entices those willing to give you a chance.

As talk turned to opportunities for emerging filmmakers, the idea of building a list of resources — for grants, for fellowships, for labs, for film festival submissions — seemed a no-brainer. What follows below is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start for those looking to find the networking connections they need to finish that short, to fund that feature film, to secure money for that doc project you’ve been itching to produce. They run the gamut from local internships to all-out production grants. Research them. Jot down deadlines. And above all, forward them to all of your filmmaking friends who might need that push to finally make moviemaking a priority.