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?

The whole thing culminated with NALIP's annual awards to honor world-renowned advocacy and filmmaking pioneers like Ray Andrade, this year's recipient of the Pioneer Achievement for Advocacy award. Andrade was the inspiration and associate producer for the television series "Chico and the Man," the first US sitcom set in a Mexican-American neighborhood. Starring Freddie Prinze, the series ran from 1974 to 1978. Raphael Montaez Ortiz, was this year's recipient of the Pioneer Achievement Award. Montaez Ortiz is a Rutgers University professor of fine arts who completed his doctorate at Columbia University in 1982. In the late 1950s, Raphael was a central figure in the international art movement including one of the first U.S. Latino films. In 1969, he founded El Museo del Barrio. His work has been exhibited in collections at museums around the world, including the MoMA, and the Pompidou of Paris, France. These two media luminaries paved the way for the third honoree and Outstanding Achievement Award recipient, Kenny Ortega.

Ortega is an Emmy-award-winning producer/director/choreographer whose box office gross for his creative work just surpassed $1 billion. Mr. Ortega went on to fame when he choreographed the 1987 classic film "Dirty Dancing". He has won awards for choreography in music videos, such as Madonna's "Material Girl" and, together with Michael Jackson, created and designed the Dangerous World Tour 1992-1993 and the HIStory World Tour 1996-1997. Ortega has achieved unprecedented success as the director/co-producer of the "High School Musical" series phenomenon and the Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. There is no doubt that the three individuals honored this year have certainly paved the way to change.

As clich as it sounds, if you can believe it, you truly can achieve it, and NALIP honors perfect examples of this idea every year, creating opportunities for hard working and well-deserving Latinos. Latin culture has long been regarded at the forefront of artistry and creativity in the world, and now, more than ever, we are finally seizing the roles of control and power that were simply unheard of in our parents' generation. What we choose to do with this power is up to us, but the most important aspect of commanding this respect and opportunity is to remain focused on who we are, as well as recognizing the hard work it took to get us here. Unity will always be one of our strongest assets and must not be forgotten as the torch is passed from generation to generation. No longer are we relegated to simply being entertainers, models, musicians, or athletes, we are at last creating a foothold on the corporate and industry sides of those entertainment professions that were previously closed doors to us in the past. The future is ours, let no one tell you what you can or can't do, and let no one deny you of your talents and aspirations, as dreams are all we've got in this lifetime. Let us take inspiration from those who have come before us as we seek out our own destinies. Be encouraged!

Resources
NALIP 411
Since its inception in 1999, NALIP has emerged as the premiere Latino media organization addressing the most underrepresented and largest ethnic minority in the country.

NALIP has four national initiatives: The National Conference - NALIP 10: A DECADE OF INFLUENCE -- This year the conference included the second edition of the highly successful Latino Actorfest and a spectacular line up of keynote speakers and panelists. The conference also offered a "Loteria" which is a special cash prize awarded to a conference attendee for project development or completion. The Latino Media Market focused on selecting top film, television and documentary projects for targeted one-on-one meetings with executives, representatives and funders in order to facilitate more business deals and steps to production. This year NALIP added a category for completed films seeking distribution.

The Latino Writer's LabTM -- This 10-day intensive program attracts Latina/o film and television writers from around the country. The curriculum advances their screenplays through work on craft, as well as through direct mentoring; the program also introduces writers to agents, managers, producers and funders in order to expand their professional network and further their projects and careers.

Latino Producers AcademyTM -- Feature, television and documentary producers and directors attend a ten-day intensive seminar in Santa Fe, New Mexico by special selection and invitation. Producer/director teams participate in seminars on advanced professional skills development and in-depth mentoring that support all aspects of their project development, production skills and marketing understanding as instructed by top industry professionals. Feature casts and crews are provided so that scenes can be rehearsed, shot, edited and scored. Presented in association with Time Warner and the New Mexico Film Office, Nielsen Media Research, the UCLA Film and Television Professional Certificate Program and the University of Arizona, School of Media Arts Department, the seventh LPA will be held August 4 - 21, 2009.

Latino Media Resource GuideTM -- A printed and online directory of Latino/a writers, directors, producers, crew members, executives and production companies, including their contact and credit information, plus deadlines for diversity initiatives, film schools and funding opportunities, distribution companies and Hispanic American film listings. This reference is provided free to members, as well as to all studios, networks, production companies and agents in order to enhance employment and build community. The database is also updatable online, at www.lmrg.nalip.org, where all of the additional resources, links, and connections are housed.

About Nalip
NALIP is a national membership organization that addresses the professional needs of Latino/Latina independent producers. It stands as the premiere Latino media organization, addressing the most underrepresented and the largest ethnic minority in the country. The mission is to promote the advancement, development and funding of Latino/Latina film and media arts in all genres.

Nalip has 15 regional chapters that provide professional development workshops & support in project development, fundraising, proposal writing and other essential media skills. Check out: www.NALIP.org.

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