This Panel at Sundance Asked: Why Are US Latinos Invisible in Media?

Lead Photo: Photo taken from the Hollywood hills, Los Angeles California on April 17, 2017. Photo by Kirk Wester / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus
Photo taken from the Hollywood hills, Los Angeles California on April 17, 2017. Photo by Kirk Wester / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus
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There was an urgency palpable at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Not only had the Park City-hosted fest delivered on its promise to bring in a more diverse slate of critics to cover the films unspooling during the wintry two weeks but its programmers had also showcased a record number of female filmmakers. Diversity and inclusion, so its seemed, were not just buzz words but tangible effects felt throughout. Nevertheless, the place of the US Latino community within these broader attempts at diversifying criticism and filmmaking alike felt uncertain. During a panel titled “Incubation, Representation and Exposure: Latinx Talent and Projects,” the question of how to increase Latinx visibility was front and center. Moderated by HBO’s Axel Caballero and featuring Remezcla’s own Film Editor Vanessa Erazo alongside CAA’s Ruben Garcia, the President of the Acevedo Foundation, Beatriz Acevedo, and Sundance programmer Dilcia Barrera, the hourlong conversation tackled everything from how to improve the pipeline of Latino talent into positions of power to how to better leverage known networks to the community’s advantage.

As Acevedo reminded the audience, “Talent is equal but opportunity is not.” And thus, every attempt at fostering talent from underrepresented populations needs to understand that. But it’s not just about throwing money at the problem if filmmakers, talent agents, festival programmers, and the like aren’t also trying to uplift better representation. The reason we keep getting Sicario: Day of the Soldado (and Miss Balato an extent) is that visibility is privileged above any other metric. “The stories that executives are willing to fund, are willing to air about Latinos, doesn’t reflect the stories we want to tell about ourselves,” Erazo added. “They have a very specific image of what Latino is. It’s usually immigrant. It’s usually new to this country. When it comes to US Latino stories, I think it’s hard for Americans to reconcile that we are also American. That we’re part of this country, part of this history.”

And so while there’s newfound desire to hire Latinx talent and tell stories about the community (look at Starz’s Vida and Netflix’s One Day at a Time on the TV front), there’s no secret sauce that will immediately get you hired or get you signed on. As Garcia stressed, you gotta put in the work. Actually, you sometimes gotta put in more work than you’d like. It’s a burden, but unfortunately that’s how the industry runs. And yes, it still has to be good. Both he and Barrera stressed again and again that what you want in your story is authenticity.

But even before you shoot your film or submit it to festivals, there’s an oft-unspoken hurdle that Latino filmmakers find insurmountable: paperwork. Whether applying for grants and fellowships or submitting to festivals and competitions, sometimes having a good concept is not enough. “We have to break down that idea that an idea will get you money,” Barrera noted. “It takes a lot of work to get that money.” That means poring over application materials and taking them seriously — proof-reading them and making sure what’s on the page entices those willing to give you a chance.

As talk turned to opportunities for emerging filmmakers, the idea of building a list of resources — for grants, for fellowships, for labs, for film festival submissions — seemed a no-brainer. What follows below is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start for those looking to find the networking connections they need to finish that short, to fund that feature film, to secure money for that doc project you’ve been itching to produce. They run the gamut from local internships to all-out production grants. Research them. Jot down deadlines. And above all, forward them to all of your filmmaking friends who might need that push to finally make moviemaking a priority.

National Association of Latino Independent Producers

NALIP is a national membership organization committed to helping Latinx content creators with their professional goals. This is a unique place to find Latinx emerging talent. NALIP seeks to increase the quality and quantity of stories by and about Latinos by providing access to professional development, community building, and mentoring. They promote the advancement, development, and funding of Latinx film and media arts in all genres. In addition to their annual Media Summit, NALIP has a number of programs aimed at helping budding and established filmmakers:

NALIP’s Latino Media Market (LMM) is a great stepping stone for participating filmmakers to advance their projects and careers by meeting industry representatives who can provide sound advice on how to foster their project to the next level. If your project meets the specific needs of the company, this can potentially open a window for your project to be commissioned, obtain a broadcast license, or receive completion funds.

NALIP’s Diverse Women in Media Initiative (DWIMI) seeks to empower, inspire and advance women of diverse backgrounds to influential positions in media to improve diverse representation on and behind the camera. The Diverse Women in Media Forum is an exclusive one day event that brings together diverse women to meet, inspire and empower each other. The purpose of the Forum is to help women advance to positions of influence and power within media. Attendees will learn from dynamic industry women leaders, hear thought-provoking sessions and workshops to come away with new tools, ideas and connections to influence the future of women in media. During other NALIP programs, such as the Media Summit, trainings are held specifically to support our diverse female constituency, such as executive leadership, writing workshops, panel events, and industry access meetings

Voces Nuevas aims to discover and celebrate emerging film talent while providing a new resource for content development. Entrants will compete for the chance to win $10,000 plus airfare and accommodations for up to five nights in Los Angeles for the opportunity to meet with Sony Pictures Television executives there. The winner will also be awarded a scholarship to the 2019 NALIP Media Summit.

NALIP’s Latino Lens Incubator Programs are part of their core initiative to help advance content creators in media. Content creators chosen for one of our incubator programs (which include Film Feature/Short Film, TV, and Digital), will undergo an evaluation process by their Latino Lens Evaluation Committee. If chosen, the content creator will receive a grant to execute their project and receive mentorship with NALIP during the duration of the incubator.

Learn more about NALIP’s mission and its various programs here.

Latino Public Broadcasting Funding

Latino Public Broadcasting is the leader of the development, production, acquisition, and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community on public media throughout the United States.

Keep up to date with their funding applications here.

The NHMC Television Writers Program & Latino Scene Showcase

The NHMC Television Writers Program was created in 2003 and is an intensive scriptwriters workshop that prepares Latinos for writing jobs at major television networks. Modeled after the previously successful Hispanic Film Project, the program is a direct response to the lack of diverse writers in primetime network TV. To take NHMC TV Writers Program graduates to the next level, NHMC has also created the Latino Scene Showcase.

The Latino Scene Showcase is a private event for entertainment industry executives, talent representatives, and casting directors to watch the performance of original scripts written, directed and performed by graduates of the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Latino TV Writers Program.

The showcase presents a program of short scenes, directed, written and performed by Latinos, to introduce their talent to Hollywood directors, writers, talent representatives and casting directors. More than 200 entertainment industry insiders attend to network with participating Latino creatives after the showcase.

Find out more about both programs here.

Latino Reel

Under the rich, creative environment of the Sundance Film Festival, Latino Reel is a showcase event held during the festival where Latino film is celebrated in a forum of networking and storytelling. The annual event features panel discussions on a variety of topics from industry leaders and trailblazers, who share their experiences, expertise and advice. The purpose of Latino Reel is to provide a forum in which both aspiring and established Latino artists can network and share their knowledge and experiences while working to hone their filmmaking skills.

Learn more about it here.

Latino Filmmakers Network

Latino Filmmakers Network mission is to connect, inspire, educate, and create opportunities for the Latino community in Los Angeles while also promoting diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry.

Keep up with their events here.

Sundance Institute Feature Film Program

The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program (FFP) advances original storytelling from distinctive voices by supporting independent filmmakers from development through distribution of their feature projects. The program was established over 30 years ago, responding to the shared conviction that independent film has the ability to catalyze far-reaching artistic and cultural impact. Through Labs, mentorship, grants, and year-round customized strategic support, the Institute is committed to fostering self-expression, risk-taking, collaboration, and community. The program has championed the unique visions of a next generation of feature filmmakers from around the world, and has become an international model for supporting artists.

For fiction feature writers, directors, writer/directors, or writer/director teams, there are two tracks to apply for support from the Feature Film Program: the development track (for projects in the screenplay development stage) and the post-production track (for features in picture edit.) There is one application for both U.S. and international applicants; regardless of where you are based, you can submit your work using this application.

In addition there’s one Latinx-specific fellowship: The Latinx Fellowship supports one U.S.-based Latinx writer or writer/director through participation in either the Screenwriters Lab or the Screenwriters Intensive. In addition, the fellow receives an unrestricted grant of $2,500 in support of their work as well as ongoing creative and tactical support from FFP staff. The Latinx Fellowship is supported by Time Warner Foundation.

Find out more about FFP’s various funding and development programs here.

Sundance Documentary Film Program

The Sundance Documentary Film Program supports non-fiction filmmakers worldwide in the production of cinematic documentaries on contemporary themes. Established in 2002 with founding support from Open Society Foundations, the Program is a vibrant global resource for independent non-fiction storytelling.

Led by Tabitha Jackson, the Documentary Film Program believes that art changes the way we reach people. They focus on those values of Art, Reach and Change through encouraging excellence and experimentation in form; championing under-represented voices; facilitating the strategic distribution of grantee projects where needed, and supporting the social and creative impact of this work upon release.

In summary, the year-round support of filmmakers through the granting fund, the labs, a fellows program and strategic advice from development to distribution amounts to a commitment to documentary as an increasingly important global art form and a critical cultural practice in the 21st century.

Learn more about the program’s various labs and fellowships here.

HBO Access

The HBO Access Directing Fellowship invites emerging television directors to demonstrate their talent, skills and—most importantly—growth potential. Every other year, three directors are selected to shoot pilots created during the HBO Access Writing Fellowship.

Learn more about the program and apply here.

The HBO Access Writing Fellowship provides mentorship for up to 8 diverse, emerging storytellers. Following a one-week intensive of master classes, participants are immersed in 8 months of mentoring by HBO creative executives, as each participant develops a script suitable for HBO or Cinemax.

Learn more about the program and apply here.

The IFP Filmmaker Labs

The IFP Filmmaker Labs annually selects 10 fiction features and 10 nonfiction features—all in post-production and directed by first-time feature filmmakers—and provides the creative teams behind these films with key support through the completion, marketing, and distribution of their work. The Filmmaker Labs consist of three modules: the Completion Lab, IFP Week, and the Marketing & Distribution Lab.

As part of the participation in the Filmmaker Labs, selected projects are granted participation in the Project Forum at IFP Week, which takes place in Brooklyn each September. At IFP Week, Lab Fellows can connect with key industry members—sales agents, distributors, festival programmers, and more—to help move their projects forward.

Keep up with the key dates for submissions here.

The Evolve Entertainment Fund

The Los Angeles Mayor’s Office is helping place work-ready young adults into paid internships within the Entertainment Industry which includes TV, Film, Music, Digital Media, Live Events, and Journalism. Students are eligible for a variety of positions within the industry including those at talent agencies and music labels, within marketing/PR, production and post-production, art, animation, administrative, event production and more.

The program will also train students in the soft skills they need to be competitive for these
positions. Students enrolled in the program are eligible to receive transportation support
services and attend educational site visits. Previous site visits included a lot tour and panel
discussion at Warner Bros, an Original Content “pitch workshop” at Netflix, and studio tours and resume workshops at BuzzFeed.

Learn more about how to apply here (open to students only).

Panavision's New Filmmaker Program

Panavision believes in helping students and beginning filmmakers achieve their dreams. More than 25 years ago, Panavision launched the New Filmmaker Program, an ongoing grant program that loans camera packages to film schools, training programs, and independent filmmakers – at little or no charge. Panavision’s commitment to the industry’s future provides student and beginning filmmakers the opportunity to work with professional grade equipment early in their careers.

The New Filmmaker Program loans film or digital camera packages (based on availability) to filmmakers for student thesis films, “low-budget” independent features, showcase reels, Public Service Announcements, or any other type of short not-for-profit project. The New Filmmaker Program has served hundreds of aspiring filmmakers, many of them eventually becoming regular Panavision customers.

Learn about how to apply here.

NBC's Writers on the Verge

Writers on the Verge is a program focused on polishing writers and readying them for a staff writer position on a television series. They are looking for writers who are “almost there” but need that final bit of preparation with their writing and personal presentation skills. They particularly encourage writers of diverse backgrounds to apply.

The program will consist of weekly evening classes at NBCUniversal in Universal City, CA. Once accepted, students must attend all classes and turn in all written assignments.

Classes concentrate on creating exceptional material to enhance their portfolio, and understanding the dynamics of pitching oneself in the television industry. Writers are given the chance to interact with industry players ranging from network executives to show runners to agents and receive valuable feedback on their work and pitch style. Writing assignments on a NBCUniversal television show may be available after successful completion of the program but are not a guarantee.

Learn more about how to apply here.

The NBC Emerging Director Program

The NBC Emerging Director Program is designed to take directors accomplished in their respective fields (features, commercials, music videos) and give them the opportunity to work alongside episodic television directors. The selected directors will foster relationships and fine tune their art to fit the episodic television format.

The chosen director will shadow for up to two episodes on an NBCU show, from prep to post production. NBCU will provide a flat weekly stipend, along with airfare and hotel accommodation for non-locals during the program. Directors placed on NBC shows will be guaranteed an episode to direct on that show within the same season.

Check to see when the next pool of applications  open here. Female Filmmakers should also look into the Female Forward program.

The Fledgling Fund - Outreach and Engagement Fund

Fledgling has an open rolling application process for grants to support outreach and engagement for social issue documentary film projects that have the potential to inspire positive social change around issues that affect the health and well being of the most vulnerable. It is a highly competitive process.

Applicants can submit a Letter of Inquiry online at any time and will be asked to include a description of the project, its social change goals, project stage, timeline and budget needs. Typically, film projects have at least a rough cut. Fledgling reviews Letters of Inquiry on a rolling basis and aim to notify applicants about the status of your submission within 30 days.

Grants typically range from $10K – $25K. They support audience engagement planning and implementation. Support for planning is for building the strategy for outreach and engagement and can be used before a project is complete to prepare for its launch. Grants through this fund are not available to support production or post-production.

Learn more about the grant application process here.

Film Independent Artist Development

Film Independent Artist Development promotes unique, independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work.

Filmmaker Labs, like all Film Independent Artist Development programs, are offered at no cost to participants (beyond an application fee and requisite purchase of Film Independent Membership) and are open to all filmmakers, regardless of educational background or previous accomplishment. Film Independent Fellows receive year-round support, including access to the Film Independent Forum, Directors Close-Up and more. In addition to Labs, Film Independent’s Artist Development programs encompass a wide range of initiatives that help filmmakers push their projects forward.

With each program, they welcome a new cohort of Fellows into the community of Film Independent alumni whose voices and visions will continue to break ground in filmed entertainment. In 2017, 191 Fellows screened their work at the world’s most prestigious festivals and 24 were nominated for major awards, including Film Independent Spirit Awards, Academy Awards and Emmy Awards. Continuing their commitment to diversity, 88 percent of Film Independent’s Fellows were from communities underrepresented in the film industry, and 58 percent were women.

Learn more about Film Independent’s various labs and programs here.

Film Independent - Project Involve

Film Independent is proud to be a leader in the fight to make the film industry more inclusive. For a quarter-century, their most vital and effective program serving to accomplish that goal is Project Involve, an intensive nine-month program supporting filmmakers from communities typically underrepresented in film and entertainment.

Each year, 30 emerging filmmakers from diverse backgrounds are given the opportunity to hone skills, form creative partnerships, create short films and gain industry access needed to succeed as working artists.

This robust program pairs participants with mentors at the top of their respective field, provides hands-on filmmaking experience from pre-production through premiere and much more.

Learn more about the application process here.

CAPE New Writers Fellowship

The CAPE New Writers Fellowship discovers and nurtures emerging writers launching their careers in television and film. This unique, immersive Fellowship arms each participant with the practical and business knowledge they need to succeed as a professional writer in the entertainment industry. Each session is taught by top television and film writers, producers, agents, managers, and executives through a series of intimate panels and discussions. The Fellowship also offers a Writing Lab, which matches each Fellow with a high-level industry mentor to help them revise their scripts into professional-level writing samples to get them noticed and land that all-important first job.

Learn more about the application process here.

Firelight - Groundwork

Firelight Media is launching Groundwork, a new initiative created to expand the pipeline of independent, diverse filmmakers from the South and Midwest by introducing emerging artists to the opportunities that exist in the documentary landscape.

“Our goal is to help diverse filmmakers become more competitive for national programs such as ITVS Diversity Development Fund, and the National Minority Consortia,” says Firelight’s Documentary Lab Manager, Chloe Walters-Wallace. “We also see this program as a way to increase public television stations’ capacity to leverage the talent and content of local diverse makers.”

Learn more about the program here.

Disney | ABC Writing Program

Created in 1990 in partnership with the Writers Guild of America West (WGAw), the Disney | ABC Writing Program is based in Los Angeles. Widely recognized as one of the entertainment industry’s most successful writing programs, the one-year program’s primary goal is to connect participants to their first staff writing positions, via Disney │ ABC Television Group (DATG) series. Staffing is not guaranteed.

The program has launched the careers of many established and award-winning writers, producers and showrunners for hit shows across the broadcast, cable and streaming platforms.

Learn more about the program here.

The Women In Film Mentoring Program

The Women In Film Mentoring Program nurtures emerging talent in the entertainment industry by connecting accepted Mentees with established professionals and peers who can offer advice and guidance. Mentees get the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the entertainment industry’s business practices and culture, focus their efforts, and hone skills. The goal of the WIF Mentoring Circles is to establish a safe and open environment to discuss issues relating to career objectives. Mentors, Peer Mentors and Mentees are expected to maintain mutual respect, honesty, and confidentiality at all times.

The Women In Film Mentoring Program feels strongly that mentoring is a crucial part of their mission, and that it is incumbent upon people in the industry to ensure that new generations of women in the film, television, and new media business are able to take advantage of the experiences of those who have gone before them.

Find out how to apply here.

The Women In Film Finishing Fund

The Women In Film Finishing Fund gives grants to filmmakers working in both short and long formats, in all genres — narrative, documentary, animated and experimental. To apply for the Finishing Fund, the filmmaker must have completed 90% of principal photography and have a rough cut at the time of application (rough cuts must be uploaded at time of submission). You do not have to be a Women In Film member to apply and international submissions are welcome. Please note that student films and television/web pilots are not eligible to receive Finishing Funds for their projects.

Learn more about the fund here.

The Emma Bowen Fellowship

The Emma Bowen Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is building a more diverse media and tech industry by recruiting promising students of color and placing them in multi-year paid internships at some of the nation’s leading media companies.

Diversity is important in all areas of the media industry.The Emma Bowen Foundation offers fellowships that prepare students for careers in the Business of Media, Content of Media and Innovation of Media. Whether applicants are interested in being a producer, a journalist, a web developer, an engineer, a business executive, a PR agent, or in any other career in the media or tech industry, the Emma Bowen Fellowship is here to help then get their start.

Learn more about this (students-only) fellowship here.

New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) - The Writers Lab

Now in its fifth year, the groundbreaking program provides exclusive mentorship opportunities with leading filmmakers to women screenwriters over the age of 40, increasing opportunities for content made by women. The program has been supported every year since its inception by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, fostering work written by and about women, with 48 writers having completed the program to date.

The Writers Lab offers a unique and nurturing experience for 12 talented female screenwriters. Selected writers will attend a four-day retreat with outstanding female film mentors, engaging in panels, peer discussions and one-on-one meetings.

Learn all about the submission process for this program here.

The Borscht Corporation

Borscht is a nonprofit with the simple mission to redefine cinema in Miami. Local filmmakers created Borscht in response to the lack of regional infrastructure and support, empowering artists to tell fresh Miami stories. Since first receiving a grant from the Knight Foundation in 2011, Borscht has “legitimized the once-absurd premise of filmmaking in Miami” “spur[ring] a filmmaking boom in South Florida” by developing, overseeing, and commissioning the creation of dozens of short films, often by first-time filmmakers from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

Keep an eye out for applications for the Borscht Fellowships and Borscht Commissions here.

Creative Capital

Creative Capital supports innovative and adventurous artists across the country through funding, counsel, gatherings, and career development services. Creative Capital seeks to amplify the voices of artists working in all creative disciplines and catalyze connections to help them realize their visions and build sustainable practices.

Creative Capital serves artists representing a diversity of disciplines, education and career levels, abilities, ages, genders, ethnicities, cultures and geographic locations. They are proud to support their work and protect their freedom of expression. They are advocates against oppressive practices and barriers that limit artists and actively work to create a more inclusive and equitable culture within their organization and the field.

Their pioneering venture philanthropy approach helps artists working in all creative disciplines realize their visions and build sustainable practices. Creative Capital provides each funded project with up to $50,000 in direct funding and career development services valued at $50,000, for a total commitment of up to $100,000 per project.

Find out more about the application process here.

San Francisco Film Society

San Francisco Film Society (SFFILM) champions the world’s finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. SFFILM Makers provides significant financial and creative resources to independent filmmakers worldwide through grants and advisory services.

SFFILM is committed to supporting the imagination, talent, and professional sustainability of filmmakers, with an eye to an ever-expanding community of voices from diverse backgrounds. The Bay Area is an increasingly important hub for independent filmmaking, and they celebrate the region’s growing role as a convening point for artists and funders alike.

Learn about the various funding opportunities (including for Docs and Features) here.

Tribeca Film Institute

Tribeca Film Institute champions storytellers to be catalysts for change in their communities and around the world. Each year, they identify a diverse group of exceptional filmmakers and media artists then empower them with funding and resources to fully realize their stories and connect with audiences. Further, their education programs empower students through hands-on training and exposure to socially relevant films, offering young people the media skills necessary to be creative and productive global citizens.

The Tribeca Institute has a variety of grants and programs that help filmmakers, including the the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund (which provides finishing funds to feature-length documentaries which highlight and humanize issues of social importance from around the world), the AT&T Presents: Untold Stories (an inclusive film program in Collaboration with Tribeca that will ensure that diverse storytellers always have a screen to shine on) and Tribeca All Access (which provides grants to working filmmakers who come from communities statistically underserved in the film industry).

Find out all about these programs and more here.