Twenty-five years ago everyone was talking about Selena. Despite the shake-up around casting a Puerto Rican girl as the Chicana patron saint, we all became Jennifer Lopez fans once the film came out. But more than crowning JLo, “Selena” demonstrated the power of Latinx filmmaking – that we have our own stories to tell and our buying power can anoint icons. And out of the phenomena that was Selena, came NALIP.
After all, there could only ever have been one Selena Quintanilla but there should be lots more Selena’s.
“How do we organize as a community to demand inclusion and to demand that place within the entertainment industry?” NALIP Executive Director Diana Luna recently asked in a Zoom with LatinaMedia.Co. NALIP, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, was founded a quarter century ago to help answer that question.
Today, they’re busy “supporting people in front and behind the screen, and supporting in a way that is about creating access, or opening doors, providing the resources needed, through different professional development opportunities and creating community,” according to Luna.
She says Latinx people don’t lack in ability – but we do have trouble getting the powers that be to pay for our talent at a rate that makes a career in the arts sustainable. She calls it “the difference between being a creative and professionalizing creativity.” That’s the space she was working in, helping artists figure out the business side, when she got invited to NALIP’s Media Summit. Once there, she “fell in love.” It took a few years, but Luna is now thrilled to lead an agency focused on building a Latinx community inside the entertainment industry that can support its own while also building pathways for newcomers.
With this mission, NALIP has expanded beyond the “independent producers” in their title to include writers, directors, performers, and executives. “There’s a lot that we can improve, there is a lot that needs to be done,” Luna shares citing the “lack of [Latino] executives in the studio system. We need to support those few that are there and make their studios accountable for their success.”
Part of that is just tracking, which NALIP does (you may have noticed their logo on some of the Latinx-studies coming out). And, according to Luna, they’re also working on “providing the resources needed and creating those relationships.” She’s optimistic the result of all this work will directly result in more Latinx people and our allies being a part of the decision-making process and “becoming the next leaders of the entertainment industry.”
Lately, NALIP has been “reaching out to communities that maybe we’d never thought about that are also having these challenges and the love for media,” Luna says. She lists Latinx bar associations and chambers of commerce as examples. Why? Well, partly “because we all love movies and we all want to be part of it.” But also because Hollywood is a complex and layered industry that requires resources across the economy. Perhaps, the theory goes, if we can build power and connections across sectors, the Latinx community can finally achieve the change we’ve been looking for.
If that sounds far-flung, know that Luna identifies as an optimist. And it’s easy to get caught up in her view of a better future, especially as she notes the changes NALIP has seen over the last twenty-five years, declaring “Now we’re better connected, [have a] better network, and the accessibility to all these media [gives] us more visibility.”
As proof, she shouts out several of the Latinx films that came out this year – Blue Beetle, Flamin’ Hot, and Radical – and how our community made and supported those titles. But Luna also names the recently canceled The Horror of Dolores Roach, as another example of our output this year, if sadly a frustrating one. Still, she can’t help but declare, “We really want to highlight those projects and give them the voice, because they are good stories.”
And we agree.