Blog Home

Authentic Latinx Storytelling Starts with Inclusion

Christine Dávila, Jairo Alvarado, and Sonia Gambaro work to amplify the talents of underrepresented filmmakers
September 22, 2021

Staff Writer

Christine Davila, Jairo Alvarado, Sonia Gambaro, Latin-heritage-month

In celebration of Latin Heritage Month, we met with three different leaders in Hollywood who are dedicated to providing opportunities for Latinx creatives in front of and behind the camera, to discuss their important work, and how they are affecting change for the next generation of creators.

Christine Dávila is currently developing and producing television and films for Tanya Saracho's Ojalá Productions and Ignition Lab, a working peer writing lab that includes storytellers from film and TV, documentaries, playwrights, and poets, in order to expand the pool of Latinx talent.

Jairo Alvarado is a producer and manager, currently working on 'Blue Beetle' for DC Films, and represents the director, Angel Manuel Soto with CAA at Redefine Entertainment.

Sonia Gambaro is VP of Television of 3Pas Studios, which focuses on Spanish and English-language films targeted at Latinx and crossover audiences in the US.

Each shared a unique perspective on why Latinx voices bring a fresh approach to storytelling and how they will propel the entertainment business forward.

Creating Opportunity

For the first time, a Latin actor will star in a major comic book movie: the DC Films and Warner Bros. forthcoming feature, 'Blue Beetle', which will focus on Mexican-American teenager Jamie Reyes. Streaming platforms are making film and television accessible to communities across the globe in entirely new ways, and giving voice to a global audience that is craving authenticity on the screen now more than ever before. Jairo Alvarado recognizes this desire and shares how he and his team on the project are working toward breaking the stereotypes of how Latinx characters are portrayed,

“When I think of something commercial and Latino-related, it always has to be something revolved around salsa dancing or a family that owns some kind of restaurant...maybe there's room for those stories, but I think what we really wanted to do is show a look where the heroes of our stories can be big in an intergalactic way.”

Alvarado further goes on to explain why a Latin character, starring in a major superhero movie, carries an impact in shaping the perspectives of younger audience-goers,

“[O]ne of the reasons I got into [the entertainment business], and I think a lot of work has gone into it, is there's aspiration and inspiration... And I think that's organically what a superhero movie brings to the table. It’s something that we can all aspire to… I mean the value and impact that can have on the imagination of kids everywhere; of all of us, growing up, who ran around wanting to be Superman, Iron Man, Batman, and now to have a character in someone that looks like you. I think about how much that will change things.”

'Blue Beetle' is a milestone in Hollywood, but it didn’t come easy. There are still many changes that need to happen to open the door to these kinds of impactful stories, and Christine Dávila believes that change lies in developing diverse talent,

If you want to make some innovative content, then you have to have creators who have a very unique point of view driving that content. I think it’s a missed opportunity if you’re not leveraging voices that need a little more development and more opportunity.

The Hollywood system, however, can present a difficult road. For diverse talent to make breakthroughs in major positions, especially roles as producers, directors, writers, actors, and cinematographers, it is not easy. Oftentimes, their voices, which could be shaping the storytelling, are lost along the way.

“Climbing the ladder,” is a financially challenging route. Sonia Gambaro believes Hollywood should be providing more opportunities for new talent to develop their craft. “[B]y the time you get a director to the point where they're a pilot director or a producing director, they have dozens and dozens of episodes under their belt. How do you get more Latinos their first episode? It’s a cost-prohibitive pursuit. You have to put a lot of your money into shorts, perhaps a feature. It can be a long haul, so it’s not typically a road that’s been easy for us [Latinx creators].”

In the risky business of movie-making, getting projects greenlit is a challenge, especially when it comes to Latinx content. Studio executives often choose the safer decision of known actors instead of expanding the pool of talent. As Gambaro points out, “With casting, there's very few actors with Latino backgrounds that are deemed value adds when we're packaging, and oftentimes, they might not have the right background for the character. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just really take the chances on the talent that we know?"

Authentic Storytelling

While major roles are just beginning to open up for more diverse talent during production, it’s equally important that these projects are told through the lens of a Latinx writer from the first word of the script. But that’s not always the case. Dávila points out that many BIPOC writing opportunities are often made available, “at the very end as a rewrite, or to take some white IP and make it brown or black, or Asian.” This practice is problematic because it not only impacts the overall integrity of the story, but it treats BIPOC writers as pawns to “sell” the movie to their specific audience.

Because cultural specificity plays a crucial role in authentically shaping the world of the story, it’s also essential, from a language perspective, to incorporate Latinx talent from the inception of a project. Alvarado explains:

“[A] lot of the times, when you're reading something, I say it's not just about the dialogue it's about the description, it's about all these other things...the setting...the music...so many things add a layer to the storytelling... [that adds to] the authenticity of what you're trying to say, whether you're telling it from all aspects of culture, not just race, it could be religion, sexual orientation, class...there's a big difference between if you're going to tell a story that takes place in lower class middle America versus lower class Los Angeles.”

To educate his clients on a Latinx project, Alvarado will invite linguistic professors into the writer’s room to “talk about the importance of language and how it creates an impact” because it helps the audience to code switch and “tell the difference when you're at a cocktail party with your friends or a cocktail party with the parents.”

Understanding the nuances of the language during the development stage will help to avoid scripts from becoming, “watered-down, almost cannibalized,” as Dávila believes is happening when Latinx talent is left out from the beginning of a project. “[L]et's just continue to hit home by hiring the [Latinx] creators and making them a real part of the entire process of the creation, whether it's a TV series or a film. I think it starts there.”

Advocating for Change

As streamers continue to dominate, content needs to adapt to an ever-expanding global audience. The future of filmmaking can’t afford to leave out diverse voices because consumers demand authenticity on screen. Recognizing the importance of Latin contributions from development all the way to the red carpet, needs to come from leadership within the DNA of Hollywood, as Gambaro points out,

“Now, we have more streamers who will have multiple projects from multiple Latinx creators. That's extraordinarily encouraging, but we also need more Latinx executives at the networks, at the streamers, who are going to be in the room, in the moment, listening to these pitches and saying ‘yes,’ ‘this is great,’ and ‘why, I like this show!’ We don't typically have enough voices, advocating on the inside, for us [Latinx creators], but it is something that we see changing day to day.”

Encouraged by the growth in Latinx content and creators — it’s still just the beginning. Alvarado believes it’s about executives and the Latin community working together toward a more authentic Hollywood,

“For me, and for a lot of us as a team here, we are always trying to figure out how do we approach the conversation and come up with a business plan at the end of the day that studios and networks can actually understand, as opposed to just saying, ‘hey there's a problem here, you need to figure it out’ and then leaving it in their hands to kind of redo… I think that it's asking a lot of the other side, which, to be honest, has no clue. [W]e have to kind of guide them a little bit.”

Change will come by continuing to put in the work and pressing onward, despite the barriers. Gambaro recognizes this, and shares, “Invariably, there will still be those unseen biases that kind of rear up ahead. It's something that we're very aware of, and we put them aside immediately. We're always looking for something that's going to not be too on the nose, but still have an emotional intelligence to it that is going to help continue to push the nature of storytelling forward.”

In this spirit of progress, here at Entertainment Partners, we are encouraged by the work Jairo Alvarado, Sonia Gambaro, and Christine Dávila are doing to advocate for change and foster new talent. Keep the conversation going with them all month long as we share clips from our interviews on social media, highlighting opportunities of how we as a collective industry can all work together to amplify Latinx voices during every part of the production process.

Related Content

Cheryl Guerriero (‘Palmer’) and Jonathan Tolins ('Queer as Folk’) On Inclusive Storytelling in Hollywood

6/30/2021
Changing the conversation about LGBTQ+ representation
More
Celebrating Pride Month Panel

Celebrating Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Film and Television

6/24/2021
Celebrate Pride month with us as our panel of groundbreaking producers and activists discuss the past,...

Diversifying Hollywood Through Better Hiring and Training

6/22/2021
How new legislation and production incentives are promoting diversity and inclusion

The Path to Better Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood

5/25/2021
How production incentives are helping to promote inclusivity
Pantea Ahmadi and Joe Scudiero

SB 973's Impact on the Entertainment Industry

3/15/2021
How California’s new pay data reporting legislation, SB 973, applys to the entertainment industry
Topic: Legal
Watch
Identity Security Film Production-sq

Identity Security in Production

10/13/2021
5 Strategies to Manage Risk and Resist Cyberattacks in the Entertainment Industry
5 top payroll tax errors-Becky Harshberger

5 Top Payroll Tax Errors and How to Prevent Them

9/28/2021
Production payroll can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Payroll Tax expert Becky Harshberger...

Streamers and the Changing Landscape of Film Distribution

9/14/2021
Director/Producer Daniel Farrands on strategies for success in the time of VOD

Meet the Paymasters

9/9/2021
The hard-working payroll professionals behind Hollywood's paychecks

How to solve a compounding problem?

9/8/2021
The perennial shortage of production accountants has been made worse by the competition for resources, but...

Film Financing Explained: Soft Money Financing

9/2/2021
Vivian Hua joins our panel of financing and incentive experts to discuss funding film and television...
Canadian flag

5 Things to Know Before Working in Canada

8/31/2021
Prepare for your next job in Canada with this checklist of payroll considerations
Topic: Canada
More

New Terms Under Return-To-Work Agreement

8/30/2021
RTW extension includes new two-part delineation, and the role of the vaccine
Topic: Legal
More
 John Hadity-Guide to Soft Money Financing-sq

The Beginner’s Guide to Soft Money Financing

8/25/2021
How filmmakers can capitalize on incentives, film funds, and more to finance their next project

‘No Straight Lines’ & ‘Firstness’ Among Top Winners At Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival – Complete Winners List

8/24/2021
Outfest has announced the award winners of its 2021 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival.
Paul Beyers prop master on set

Meet the Prop Master

7/28/2021
From script to screen, the creative mind behind the props from film and television

5 Things to Know Before Relocating for Your Next Job

7/20/2021
What production workers need to consider before moving to a new state
Equity Financing Panel-thumbnail

Film Financing Explained: Equity Financing

7/15/2021
James Schamus and Michael Helfant join our panel to share expert advice on funding film and television...

The Beginner’s Guide to Equity Financing

7/15/2021
Expert advice to help producers secure funding for their next project
Anthony De La Rosa EP Residuals

The Beginner's Guide to Film and Television Residuals

7/7/2021
Important details every producer should know as they budget for their next project

Meet the Producer

6/15/2021
From concept to the red carpet, the producer is there to keep the production moving forward
Sarah Westman-liu and Jennifer Liscio

Canadian Incentives and Legislation News

6/10/2021
The latest updates on incentives, CRA guidance on COVID-19 related costs, and more!
actors on set

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

6/9/2021
What productions should know as they head back to work

Choosing the Right Production Incentives

6/2/2021
5 questions to ask when selecting your next incentive-based filming location

Meet the Production Accountant

5/18/2021
From budgeting, to billing, to payroll, the financial powerhouse behind every production

Meet The Costume Designer

5/4/2021
The artist behind a character's signature style
Spotlight on Georgia Production Panel

Spotlight on Georgia: The Producers' Perspective

4/28/2021
A dynamic group of producers, industry experts, and incentive specialists discuss the state of production...

Innovations in Production Incentives

4/27/2021
How emerging local initiatives are driving productions to new jurisdictions

The Beginner's Guide to Production Financing

4/6/2021
What to know before starting your next film or television project

Editorial Spotlight: Dana Belcastro

3/30/2021
Producer and executive, Dana Belcastro, on how women are changing the way Hollywood does business
Producing through COVID women producers panel

Producing Through COVID-19: A Discussion with Six Prominent Women Producers

3/25/2021
Stories of navigating the entertainment industry and producing during a pandemic

Editorial Spotlight: Nancy Savoca

3/23/2021
In celebration of Women's History Month, director and producer, Nancy Savoca, shares her experience in...

The Beginner's Guide to Production Incentives

2/17/2021
EP helps filmmakers navigate the complex world of film and television incentives
Pantea Ahmadi and Alan Wu

California & New York Employment and Privacy Legislation Changes in 2021

1/27/2021
EP's Legal team breaks down important legislation changes impacting production hubs
Topic: Legal
Watch
Melissa Lintinger NBCU

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU

1/7/2021
How television crews are getting back to work during COVID-19
Becky Harshberger and Neddy Alonso

Preparing for 2021 Payroll Tax Changes and the New Form 1099-NEC

12/10/2020
EP's payroll tax experts walk through the 1099-NEC and other important changes
Paul Steinke

A Conversation with Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance at Walt Disney Studios

12/9/2020
Mark Goldstein and Paul Steinke discuss the state of the industry, emerging technology and more!
Christy Guilbault, Annette Martinez-Novo

EP Cares — The Industry's Leading Health Insurance Program

11/24/2020
Learn how to get your production company on the industry’s leading health insurance program for non-union...
Master Series Return to Work Agreement Panel

Understanding the COVID-19 Return-To-Work Labor Agreement

11/12/2020
EP's Legal experts explain the entertainment industry's safety guidelines
Pressing Play in Eastern Canada Panel

Pressing Play in Canada: From Nunavut to Nova Scotia, Production Returns to the Eastern Provinces!

10/29/2020
Producers from across Eastern Canada come together to discuss the exciting work coming out of the...
All eyes on Florida panel

All Eyes on Florida: Spotlight on Florida Productions

10/1/2020
Producers and Commissioners from across Florida discuss production, crews, infrastructure and incentives
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity