On the same day that many pointed criticism towards the Oscar nominations for lack of diversity, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a new initiative to help curb the issue, particularly for Latinos. The project is being called LA Collab, a historic endeavour that plans to link Latino talent to opportunities in the entertainment industry with the goal of doubling “Latino representation in Hollywood by 2030.”
According to the LA Times, the initiative has already “raised a quarter of a million dollars to finance a range of film, TV and podcast development deals and projects intended to provide opportunities for Latino filmmakers, writers and actors and crew members.” The initial funding for the project is coming from the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, the Annenberg Foundation, WarnerMedia and Endeavor Content, a press release from Garcetti’s office read.
Garcetti co-founded the initiative with Beatriz Acevedo, the founder of mitú and president of the Acevedo Foundation and Ivette Rodriguez, founder of communications firm AEM. The trio says that the issue of Latino representation in Hollywood is one that needs attention. The announcement is spurred by a 2019 study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California that showed how Latinos are vastly underrepresented in the film industry.
Despite making up almost 20 percent of the U.S. population, the study found only 3 percent of the top-grossing films from 2007 to 2018 had Latino actors in lead or co-lead roles. LA Collab wants to help and push more Latinos to the front and behind the camera in the next decade.
The study was a wakeup call for many civic and film leaders in Hollywood that were dismayed by the numbers that showed the growing disparity for Latinos in the entertainment industry. The report showed that only 4.5 percent of all speaking characters from the last 12 years of film were Latino, behind the camera, only 4 percent of directors of the 1,200 films were Latino.
“Latinos are a powerful force in Los Angeles’s culture and economy, and our trademark industry should tap into the diverse pool of talent in our own backyard,” Garcetti said at a news conference Monday. “On big screens or small, in front of the camera or behind it, our studios, actors, directors and producers inspire the world with the power of their creativity and imagination, and LA Collab will elevate new voices and empower the next generation of Latinx creatives.”
The lack of Latino representation in the entertainment industry is a problem that goes back many years with some putting blame on movie studios not greenlighting certain projects and films. Thomas Saenz, chair of the National Latino Media Council, told mitú back in 2018 that the problem is these studios overlooking Latino talent.
“When studios focus on diversity that can mean any minority group. Latinos in particular have been represented in minuscule numbers that don’t properly show what this country is made up of,” Saenz said. “In the last 10-15 years, African-American representation has gone up same for Asian-American. But I can’t say the same for Latinos. That has to change.”
The LA Collab initiative hopes to be a catalyst for that change. The project already has the support of some big Hollywood names that will be part of connecting workers with various employers in the industry.
Backed by Eva Longoria, J.J. Abrams, Eli Roth, Devon Franklin, Jason Blum, and Zoe Saldana, LA Collab will be working with all of them in some capacity to connect Latinos with opportunities. Roth will help connect Latino horror filmmakers via his digital platform, Crypt TV and Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films with Pantaya will also be hiring new bilingual voices for their projects. There have also been secured deals with multiple media companies, including Endeavor Content, WarnerMedia’s 150, Shine Global and Southern California Public Radio’s LAist Studios.
For Longoria, who has long championed the need for more Latino representation in the film industry, says that she will also be opening the door for more Latinos with her production company, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment.
“As a Latina, I want to see more actors who look like me on screen and behind the camera,” Longoria said in a statement. “I started my own production company to create content from our community, and I became a director/producer to be in a position to hire people who look like me. With LA Collab, I want to open the door for many more Latinx creators and fuel the emergence of a better entertainment industry that elevates and celebrates the diversity and richness of my culture.”
The announcement of LA Collab coincidentally fell on the day that Oscar nominations were announced. Criticism followed the nominations that had only one person of color, Cynthia Erivo, up for an award in the four major acting categories.
There was calls for multiple snubs on Monday morning as the Oscar nominations were revealed. Much of that criticism came from the lack of women of color, particularly the snub of Jennifer Lopez for her role in “Hustlers,” for which she won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. The omission stood out for many reasons including what could have been the fifth Latina nominee in the category and the first Latina winner in the award’s history.
This announcement of LA Collab comes at a time when the disparity in Latino roles and representation is the entertainment industry only seems to be going backwards. This year’s Oscars nominations is just one example of this continuing problem and one that Acevedo says can be fixed by working alongside studios and fellow allies.
“The radical decline of Latinos in Hollywood was the catalyst to rally Hollywood behind this crisis to create change together,” Acevedo said in a statement. “By facilitating unprecedented collaborations between the creative community … and other influential allies, LA Collab will ultimately drive exponential growth for the industry and our community.”