Latinos are STILL grossly under-represented in Hollywood.
A study came out last week, which took a look at the 1,200 top-grossing movies from 2007-2018 to quantify the representation of Latinos in Hollywood.
The study found that across the 100 top-grossing movies from 2007-2018, only 3% of films featured leads or co-leads with Latino actors. Behind the scenes, the numbers get worse. Across 1,200 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2018 only 1 director, you read that right, only 1 was a Latina. The study also found that most of the characters being played by Latinos were negative stereotypes.
If you take into account the fact that the study included Spaniards (Not Latinos) and those who are from Latin America; then you can clearly see that American Latinos are pretty much erased from the film industry.
For someone who works in the industry, I sadly was NOT SURPRISED.
I’m a Latina director and actor. Like many others, I moved to Los Angeles after graduating from college to pursue my dream of working in Hollywood. Once here, I quickly learned that being a Latina, which is a source of pride for me, was actually hindering my career.
Let me make this clear, the entertainment industry is tough for most everyone. That being said, as an actor and director working in Hollywood, I have seen time and time again how Latinos are ignored or pushed aside by the system.
The very few auditions I was able to secure during the first five years of living in Los Angeles, were usually for roles riddled with stereotypes. So not only are the opportunities scarce, they are generally negative portrayals of my community. At first, I thought it was just me, but as I got to know many other Latino actors and filmmakers, they shared the same frustrations. This latest study, proves what we already knew, that if you’re a Latino in this industry, the chances of being able to succeed are minimal, simply because of your ethnicity.
Very early on in my career, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I picked up a pen and started writing scripts that reflected my reality and the reality of many in the Latino community in the US. Over the years, I have produced, written, and directed several short films, web-series, feature films, and more. Many of my films have received awards. I have toured this beautiful country, sharing my work with theaters full of people, because Latinos are eager to see themselves represented. I’m very proud to say that I have been able to make a living as an actor, director, and producer for the past 7 years of my life. But, I have been able to do this entirely outside the Hollywood system: By funding, producing, and distributing my films using the power of social media. All of my funding has come directly from audiences, mostly from crowdfunding. All of my productions are a community affair, and I have been able to sell them directly to fans.
3 years ago my husband and I decided to open Avenida Productions. A company dedicated to supporting filmmakers that like us are eager to tell the stories that Hollywood has pushed out. To date, we have raised millions of dollars for over 100 media projects. Most of these funds have been raised via crowdfunding. This is more proof that there’s a hungry audience out there wanting to see themselves on the big screen. An audience that is willing to spend their hard-earned money on filmmakers that are ready to tell those stories.
A lot of times the excuse I hear is that Hollywood is a business and that executives have to make the films that will actually make money. Latinos are roughly 18% of the population, We are the largest minority in this country. We buy the most movie tickets than any other group. Serving our community makes perfect business sense.
The issue as I see it is that the few attempts at creating content geared to the Latino community by the studios have been created by people who are not part of our community. The few films released that are “Latino” themed are also full of stereotypes and in their majority, seem to look down on our culture. Another reason these types of films fail is because the marketing is inadequate. I have seen several outstanding films over the years in which I’m the only person in the Theater.
Let’s take, for example One Day at a Time. The show had three seasons on Netflix, and it had a very loyal fan base that fought for it. After season 1 fans fought to bring it back for season 2. After season 2 fans fought to bring it back for season 3. It was even trending worldwide on Twitter once Netflix decided to cancel it. Thankfully the network POP picked it up. I had never heard of POP before, but you bet I will be watching it now. Why? Because that’s the only show for the past 20 years of so that I can say I can truly relate to. Like me, many others will follow.
Representation in the media matters. It informs how others see our community, but most importantly, it opens up our eyes to possibilities we didn’t know were possible. That’s what I want for my kids, that when they turn on the TV or go to the Theater they can see themselves represented, not just as thugs but as the lawyers, and teachers, and why not even the President.
CEO Avenida Productions
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I agree there is a lot of room to grow, however as a community I believe we are focusing on the wrong thing. If we want more representation then we need more Latinos with capital firms, Latinos in boardrooms and Latinos as presidents for studios. We need to aim for the Top positions and learn to finance our own futures. How many Latino studio executives or admins do you know? We need a seat at the table not just to be seen at it.