Growing up, whenever I watched TV or went to the movies, I remember getting frustrated because the actors just didn't look like me. Don't get me wrong, they were cool, but there was just no diversity going on at that time. But you know what? Things are seriously changing---and not just on screen. We are finally beginning to see an emerging group of Latin Hollywood influentials working behind the camera participating in directing, producing, writing and, yes, even shot-calling within the major studios. You now have prominent Latinos like Salma Hayek, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen, taking off her actress hat and helming the producer's chair to produce Oscar winning, big box office films like "Frida," and TV's Emmy-winning breakout hit, "Ugly Betty." Additionally, you have the trailblazing sports/entertainment likes of Oscar de La Hoya, who has not only been a three-time world champion, he has also extended his reach well beyond the ring, delving into serious investments in Hollywood and revolutionizing his own sport by creating his own Golden Boy Promotions company which recently set the record for highest grossing pay-per-view boxing event of all time. Oscar serves as the executive producer and high ticket prizefight promoter of his own company, surpassing boxing promotion pioneers and legends like Don King. Both of these Latinos now successfully control the industries that made them stars, which can be viewed as the ultimate sign of respect and achievement, but this is just the beginning for us as a culture.
So how can you break into the field? There are many options, including organizations like the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) that are willing to give emerging writers, directors, producers, actors, editors, technicians, as well as other aspiring industry workers, an opportunity to test the marketplace, connect with, and interact with industry honchos every year during their national conference. We checked it out.
NALIP celebrated their tenth anniversary, and examined the present and future trends of Latino media at this year's conference, NALIP 10: A DECADE OF INFLUENCE, held from April 17 - 19 in Newport Beach, CA. Presented by HBO and the National Latino Media Council. The three-day event offered an unrivaled combination of conversations, panels, producing opportunities, and networking events for both established and emerging media professionals. NALIP's mission is to remain "...committed to creating more images by and about Latinos through professional training, industry networking and trend forecasting."
The conference kicked off with a high-level keynote luncheon where Michael Lombardo, President of HBO's Programming Group and West Coast Operations, accepted a special award presented to the network for their dedication to diversity and the Latino media community. The keynote address entitled: "Where Were We, Where Are We Now?" given by director and playwright, Luis Valdez ("La Bamba," "Zoot Suit") which got the crowd going, while the opening plenary followed with a panel discussion around "What's going on? Meeting Today's Challenges". The discussion featured a new Nielsen research report on the decade's Latino viewing habits in film and television; followed by NALIP welcoming PBS President/CEO Paula Kerger for a critical conversation about the role of Latino producers in public television. Concurrent with the conference, NALIP presented the fifth Latino Media MarketTM. Thirty two select feature production and development projects, documentary works-in-progress and reality television series ideas were accepted to participate in a special executive meeting series designed to advance each producer's project, arrange financing and attract broadcast licenses. SiTV took non-scripted television series concept pitches, and awarded a $2,500 prize, plus a 4-month development option to the strongest series concept pitched at the Market. The buzz this generated was unbelievable. Could this be you next year?