It’s an interesting week in the world of film. At its most prestigious level the industry is gearing up with the Academy Awards. While at a grass roots level, one of the industry’s most reputable festivals – Sundance – it is winding down. Yet, the two ends of the spectrum have one thing in common. The dearth of diversity. If you question the establishment, you’ll likely here the same refrain. There weren’t any films of quality to justify the accolades.
Let’s unpack that. In 2019 performers of color got major nominations at precursor awards such as the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. The nominees included Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers (nominated for all three), Awkwafina for The Farewell a Golden Globe winner, and Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name. That’s not even the full list. So how come no recognition or opportunity for women and people of color?
At the grass roots level, there are some industry insiders looking to change that. Enter Nelson and Fanny Grande, founders of Los Angeles-based company Avenida Productions. Avenida along with the The Latino Filmmakers Network collaborated at Sundance to address the lack of diversity by hosting the 6th Annual Latino Hub to show current and aspiring filmmakers there is more than one way to Park City, Utah.
The Latino Hub is a program where 12 Latino filmmakers are selected to attend the festival through an application process. Those selected got to stay at the Latino Hub for free and receive official credentials to the Sundance Film Festival. Providing access and opportunity to network and grow their career. The mission of Latino Hub is to give a voice to independent filmmakers of color, women, the LGBTQ community and those who are overlooked by a vast majority of studios.
This year’s event at Sundance consisted of a welcoming reception co-hosted by Latino entertainment not-for-profit group – Nosotros. Filmmaker Speed Dating, where a group of filmmakers networked with executives, producers, and distributors. And concluded with a panel hosted by HBO. Entitled Our Road to Sundance, it was a candid conversation with filmmakers and executives who have films showing at Sundance and their journey to get there. Ahead of Latino Hub, ‘LLERO had an opportunity to chat with Nelson Grande, a co-founder of Avenida and co-sponsor of the event to talk all things Latino Hub, the state of diversity in the industry and where he’d like to see it go.
‘LLERO: Realizing we are probably stating the obvious, what was the genesis for Latino Hub?
Nelson Grande: The lack of Latino presence in virtually all areas of the film industry. Latino’s make up a substantial portion of the movie going audience, yet it’s like diversity is a dirty word to people. It’s also why my wife and partner in Avenida decided we needed to do something about it – to level the playing field.
‘LL: Latino Hub seems like a great entry way for aspiring Latino filmmakers. What do you look for in the selection process?
NG: It’s not just one thing, the 12 filmmakers we selected were always moving forward, always on the grind, putting the work in. That shows, and we look for that.
‘LL: What’s a win in your eyes for a filmmaker that attends?
NG: Of course, getting that deal, but more than that, give them the Sundance experience. It could be getting that meeting, or connecting with that person. We’ve set up a speed pitching program at this year’s event. Almost like speed dating (laughs). We’re filmmakers get to pitch their projects to industry executives.
‘LL: Where would you like to see Latino Hub in say the next five years?
NG: A lot of the right people in the right positions. A leveling of the playing field so to speak. In short – progress.
With Latino Hub’s sixth year under its belt and folks like Avenida, Latin Film Network and Nosotros championing its cause. It seems progress is already underway.