So I have not been publishing my blog at all lately. There has seemed to be a more toxic writer's universe on Twitter. I know you've seen it. It kind of scared me off I guess. But I created this blog for newer writers and I have to remember that I have things to help them grow as writers. If you're an Academy Award writer, this blog may not be for you. Everyone else, see if you get something out of it.
So recently WeScreenplay hosted a zoom on Latinx showrunners and I was so inspired I had to post. First off, if you haven't been attending their zooms, they've been great. So keep your eye out for more. I've attended a couple so far and have loved them all.
So this one was hosted by Joshua Noble and had showrunners Jenny Lorenzo, Latinx actress and writer, from things like Victor & Valentino and Gentefied, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, producer, director, writer of shows like Lost and The Dark Crystal, and Evangeline Ordaz, producer, actress and writer of things like Queen Sugar, Vida and 13 Reasons Why.
They were all so passionate about what's going on with Latinx in TV and movies and had so many great things to say. So in no special order, here are some of the key things I took away from it. Mind you, I'm paraphrasing:
Jenny Lorenzo (JL) grew up Cuban in Miami and said she didn't fit in growing up there. Even when she'd go to casting, they didn't know what to do with her. So when she'd write about her Cuban Abuela (Grandma) then those details are what formed a unique character. Tip: Use those unique characteristics to create unique and diverse characters in your pieces.
Javier Grillo-Marxuach (JGM), from Puerto Rico, talked about when he wrote The Middle Man in 1998 he had to fight not to make a character more Latinx in a role. He didn't want a character to break out in Spanish or have Salsa music when his character walked. Because he himself is Latinx but doesn't like Salsa music. Every Latinx is different and has different experiences. They're all coming from different backgrounds and traditions. Tip: When writing a diverse character, make them complex then give them a Latinx name. Make them competent at their job and that's enough. That stays away from stereotypes.
They all spoke about how inclusivity is important so when other people see people like them on TV or in movies, then they stop feeling like the "other".
Plus, how it's their job to educate the execs. That they need to advocate for more people of color in those positions. Once we get to those positions, we do too!
JGM mentioned he was a product of a diversity program. And how execs have biases for diverse people. And in the past 10 years, there have been more execs of color. It's slow, but it's happening.
They all mentioned how networks want inclusivity but then they pitch to them and they all say, tone it down, it's too Latino. So it's mixed messages. But let's hope as more Latinx get in the exec roles, the less we will hear this.
JGM brought up how in TV, mentorships are missing. How important it is that when you sell a show, to find a Showrunner who will help your vision end up as the final product. Tip: Find a Showrunner who doesn't want to take over your show, but teach you how to run it. That way the Showruner can get it up and running, teach you everything, and then they can go off and run other shows and your show succeeds.
Evangeline Ordaz (EO) talked about how refreshing it is when she's in a room of all Latinx. She called it putting her "white brain on". When you're in an all Latinx room, you don't have to speak in different words or jargon because people all come from similar backgrounds.
JL moved from Miami 5 years ago and talked about how there were so many Latinx out there. But when she came to LA it wasn't like that. So she decided to create the content she wanted to see and wasn't seeing. Tip: Create what you want to see. There are obviously other diverse people who want to see that too! If it's a universal theme, a larger audience will too.
JGM mentions he writes any character as you normally would, and then suggests, making them Latinx. He tries to make at least one lead Latinx. Why not all of us?
EO says we're not just one thing, all Latinx people. We're many things! Basically, you can't lump Latinx into one category. When you do, again, you end up with stereotypes.
Even recently in my own writing group, I shared my Latinx sitcom. I have an amazing writing group of talented female writers. I based all my Latinx characters after my real relatives. But one non-Latinx writer gave me a note and said, 'Oh such and such would never happen so don't do this." Uh, what? I literally based this off my cousin! So, tip: If you are not a diverse writer, be careful when you tell a diverse writer, "such and such can never happen." Yes, it can! That's what makes diverse characters real! And not stereotypes! If you're not a diverse writer, tread lightly on "can never happen" notes.
So that's basically the Latinx zoom. I hope you found it as interesting as I did. And hope it helps you write better diverse characters. I look forward to seeing them on the screen someday!