For Latinos to succeed in Hollywood, they face a catch-22. Imagine you're a young Latino and for your entire life, you have loved film and dreamed of being in it in some capacity: either behind the camera, in the writers room, directing or as an actor. You've sent your movie to thousands of literary agents; you've called these places; you've solely dedicated your life to win competitions and festivals; you've missed out on birthdays and holidays to ace your auditions; but the only way your film will get picked up is if it has a lead from a different Latino background or a different gender or if a white production company or a white director signs on.
No question we need more ethnically-diverse content, but we need to take it a step further and have this content be created by those specific ethnicities. We know diverse stories with Latinos and female leads can sell and inspire, but we also need the industry to do their part and be invested in telling those stories to their truest form. Let the story be told by the people living it. Hire people of diversity to tell those stories at every level, behind and in front of the camera — actors, directors, producers, interns, crew, everyone — instead of an all-white production company and all-white people telling the ethnically-diverse stories.
When I think of a recent project that displayed feminism prominently, Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit comes to mind first. This limited series sports drama highlighted the rarity of female grandmasters in chess and brought the heroine on top, but its subtlety was really where it soared. It didn’t leave you thinking “pretty good for a woman” or was especially brazen in its message. Instead, the phenomenal writing and acting let you see it for what it was: a woman who simply loved the game and wanted to win against her component, regardless of who it was.
As the vaccine rolls out, film sets will become safer and the big projects will resume. My hope is that we will demand diversity be represented at every level. I think one reason why Puerto Ricans, for example, are rarely featured in big box office films and primetime TV goes back to most Americans not knowing much about us, when in fact, we are a US territory and are US citizens. This disconnection has a lot more in common with the tragedies from Hurricane Maria than we realize. I’m hopeful and optimistic that in 2021 we can tell stories through film and TV to bring this to light, and showcase more underrepresented groups on-screen.
Puerto-Rican born Sevier Crespo (seviercrespo.com) is an award-winning film, television and commercial producer, who learned the ropes from such heavyweights as Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Mann and Ridley Scott.