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Gina Rodriguez to shine light on immigration rights with two new TV shows

Gina Rodriguez is making moves and preparing to educate the viewing public on immigration rights in the process.

According to Jezebel, the Jane the Virgin star has sold two shows with immigration as its focus. The first, Have Mercy, is based on a German series format and tells the story of an immigrant Latina doctor who opens her own clinic after working as a nurse’s assistant. This show has been sold to CBS, which, combined with Gloria Calderon Kellett’s History of Them, makes CBS’ new commitment to diversity seem a little more legitimate.

The second, Illegal, has been sold to The CW and is based on the life of Jane the Virgin writer and co-executive producer Rafael Agustin, who immigrated to America from Ecuador and discovered his undocumented status while attending high school.

According to The Hollywood Reporter Illegal will be an hourlong dramedy and is currently in development.

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Being Latinx in Hollywood: Media creators talk representation

Latinx representation in Hollywood is something that seems to be suspiciously under the radar, even though it’s highly important, as the Latinx identity is one that is diverse and multifaceted. Despite characters like Sofia Vergara’s Gloria in ABC’s Modern Family and the casts of Lifetime’s Devious Maids and TNT’s Queen of the South existing in the media, there’s still more that needs to be done in Hollywood, such as focusing more on darker-skinned tones, racial diversity, and whitewashing. For every Gloria onscreen, there’s only one April Sexton, Yaya DaCosta’s Afro-Brazilian role on NBC’s Chicago Med, or Carla Espinosa, Judy Reyes’ proud Dominican character on NBC’s Scrubs. Even the roles like Vergara’s role—which is a “sexy Latina” stereotype—need work in order to exist outside of the stereotypes that have been wrongly attached to Latinx characters and actors.

Two of the latest instances of Hollywood’s failure at Latinx representation are X-Men Sunspot and Dr. Cecilia Reyes. The Afro-Latinx characters, which will be part of the new X-Men film The New Mutants, will be played by Henry Zaga and Alice Braga. Zaga is Brazilian, but he isn’t black or biracial, which removes much of the context from Sunspot’s character, as his characterization stems from the racial issues he’s had to face as a biracial Afro-Brazilian. Alternatively, Braga is Afro-Latina, but being light-skinned, she’s able to exhibit a privilege that the original, darker-skinned actress up for the role, Rosario Dawson, can’t. Again, it takes an important piece away from a character that is not just Puerto Rican, but defined by her place in the African Diaspora.

Throughout this year, I spoke with several Latinx creators about how they feel about Hollywood’s Latinx representation and what can be done to make it better. This is a longform piece, so I’ll break this up into several sections:

The roles afforded to Latinx actors in Hollywood

Diego Luna in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (Lionsgate)

Latinx actors, like many POC actors, are offered less than their fair share of meaningful roles. When they are offered roles, they’re often racist.

“When Latinx actors do get roles, I feel they’re oftentimes stereotypes,” wrote Desiree Rodriguez, Editorial Assistant for Lion Forge sci-fi comic book Catalyst Prime and writer for Women on Comics and The Nerds of Color, in an email interview. “The Spicy Latina, the Buffoon, the Tough Chick Who Dies, the Sexual Exotic Fantasy, the Drug Dealer, the Gangster, and so on.

“…What I find frustrating is when Latinx actors do get roles, it’s a struggle and they are locked into stereotypes,” said Rodriguez. “I’m a huge fan of Diego Luna, but the first role I saw him in he played a Cuban – when he is Mexican – man who was basically the exotic fantasy for the white female lead in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. This isn’t even getting into how Afro-Latinxs, Asian-Latinxs, and other mixed raced Latinxs are barred from roles because they don’t fit Hollywood’s pre-packaged idea of what being Latinx looks like.”

“I think currently, while we are seeing more visibility, the current roles that are offered or available to Latinos are the role of a servant position, like a maid or something that falls in line with the stereotypes people have about Latinos, like maybe a sidekick or a criminal,” said Janel Martinez, founder and editor-in-chief of Ain’t I Latina, a site celebrating Afro-Latinas and Afro-Latinx culture.

“For example, in Orange is the New Black, a lot of people were hyped about the fact that there was a great representation of Latinas in the actual show, which is awesome, but when you look on the flipside of that, this is a show about women in jail,” she said. “Also, Devious Maids, [co-produced by Eva Longoria], it’s a full cast of Latinas, two of them identifying as Afro-Latina, and they were maids. I think people are seeing the visibility, people are excited to be able to say if you’re watching the show, you’re seeing our representation…but I think it’s still in a very limited scope. I find that it’s not just a Carrie Bradshaw or just someone who happens to be a Latina but maybe they’re the magazine editor in the movie. Their identity, while it’s important, isn’t in line with stereotypes and then manifested in the character that they essentially embody.”

“Typically, I see lots of immigrant, day laborers and criminal roles going to Latinx actors,” wrote Gerry Maravilla, Head of Crowdfunding at Seed and Spark and writer-director of Cross, in an email interview. “I think this comes from often lack of interaction on behalf of writers and filmmakers with Latinx people in the real world. As such, they rely on what they’ve already seen in films or what they see from the vantage point of their more insulated experience.”

“By ‘insulated,’ I don’t mean that they live secluded or antisocial lives, but rather the lives they lead don’t actually include Latinx people in any meaningful way,” he said. “Instead, they see the Latinx peoples working in roles like day laborers or think about Latinx gang culture because of its coverage in the media.”

I think the most important thing to remember about stereotypes is how detrimental they are to Latinx actors who are trying to be cast in roles that are meaningful [as well as] to creators and consumers as a whole,” said Kimberly Hoyos, filmmaker and creator of The Light Leaks, a website designed to support, educate and empower female and gender non-conforming filmmakers. “As a Latina creator, I’m not going to write a character that I wouldn’t personally maybe want to act as. I wouldn’t create someone who is my ethnicity that doesn’t represent something larger as a whole. As a consumer growing up, that’s what I would see, maids and…anything that was oversexualized or overcriminalized. I think that in part pushed me to be a creator so I would be in charge of what was being produced.

Amy Novondo, singer and actor, said that several people she knows are frustrated with the lack of quality roles.

“[Hollywood] thinks of that over-dramatized telenovela atmosphere and [they think that] Latinos are only capable of that kind of acting their minds,” she said. “I know a couple of Latinos who are really mad about this because we barely get a chance to get into the audition room and when we do, we’re stereotyped right out of the box. It’s like, come on—I want a little more than that.”

Dascha Polanco in Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Why have these stereotypes stayed around, and why have they kept their power? The answers lie in the pervasiveness of media itself, wrote Rodriguez.

“Media has a lot of power. The images we see, coupled with the words we read or we hear imprint on us however subtly,” she wrote. “It’s something of an irony that the Latin Lover trope can be attributed to Rudolph Valentino’s – a white Italian man – performance in 1921’s The Sheik, while stereotypes like The Domestic – where Latinx characters are gardeners, maids, etc – are perpetrated by popular, well known Latinx actors like Jennifer Lopez. And in Lopez’s case, we have an instance where Hollywood shows how deeply entrenched it is with its discomfort and ignorance dealing with the Latinx identity.”

Rodriguez references The Wedding Planner and Maid in Manhattan, which exhibit Lopez in two roles that reinforce racial and ethnic hierarchies.

“In The Wedding Planner, Lopez plays an Italian woman who is, for all intents and purposes, highly successful and comfortably well off. In Maid in Manhattan, Lopez plays a Latina woman who works as a maid in an expensive hotel, just scraping by as a single mom, and only finds success after she falls in love with a white man,” she wrote. “This creates a distorted image. As an Italian woman, Lopez’s character is an independent and successful career woman who eventually finds love. As a Latina woman, Lopez’s character is a single mom (enforcing the idea that Latino men are absentee fathers/bad family men), working as a maid until a rich white man “saves” her; then and only then does she find success.”

“This is, perhaps, a cynical viewing of what are two separate, and admittedly tropey romantic comedies. But again, media has power. Consciously or not, there’s a negative message to be had in the fact that Lopez’s Latina identity was erased in favor of an Italian one in The Wedding Planner,” she wrote. “By erasing our Latinx identities in favor of white ones, either by erasing the very existence of our Latinx identities or whitewashing them with white actors, media contributes to misinformation about what being Latinx is. Who we are as a collective culture and people – which is highly diverse and layered. Yet these stereotypes are upheld by this continued enforcement of ignorance and whitewashing.”

“[Stereotyping is] very, very detrimental and limiting because when you think of Latin America, we’re talking about over 20 countries and yes, we’re talking about Spanish [as a language] there are other languages [as well]…so I will say that when it comes down to not just representation, but inclusion in Hollywood, a person has to be invested in learning about the culture because there’s so many different moving parts,” said Martinez. “You can be Latino, Latina, Latinx, but you can be black, you can be Asian, you can be white and Latino. There has to be a great understanding of the culture.”

“…I think the work that is needed to really depict a Latino hasn’t been done and I think, specifically, when it comes to the representation, a lot of times they don’t even specify the nationality of the Latino [character]. …[Viewers] don’t even know if this person is Ecuadorian or Puerto Rican or if they’re from Honduras or Nicaragua or wherever because whoever wrote the role[.]”

Martinez also talked about how the different languages, slang words, and other cultural identifiers that make up Latin America aren’t taken seriously as characterization tools.

“When we see the portrayals on our screen, those things are not necessarily taken into account,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a strong grasp on what it means to be Latino, either Latino in America or Latino abroad.”

Jennifer Lopez and Tyler Posey in Maid in Manhattan (Columbia/TriStar)

Hoyos said that stereotypes are at their most insidious when people don’t even recognize them as such.

“I think the most dangerous thing about stereotypes is that to the untrained eye, they’re not seen as anything negative…To the average viewer, if they see one crime movie with Latinx as they gang members or the thugs, they may not even call that movie racist,” she said. “They might be like, ‘Oh, other movies do that.’ It becomes a normalized thing, and I think that’s why need to educate ourselves as a whole. I think a lot of that goes to correcting others when we see problematic media as a whole.”

Maravilla echoes this point by examining the news’ portrayal of Latinx Americans.

“I think these stereotypes originate from a similar place as the kind of roles that go to Latinx actors. They come from an isolated or insulated experience from Latinx people that prevents them from seeing or understanding them as complex, three-dimensional people,” he wrote. “When you look at other films, Latinx people are often criminals, immigrants, blue-collar people, and when they look at news coverage, this is also typically our depiction.”

“As filmmakers try to balance telling an engaging and affective story, it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of making a narrative work at a story level, he wrote. “Because their focus or interest isn’t necessarily on accurate cultural representation, they rely on stereotypes to satisfy their story needs, but end up not fully realizing (and in some cases just not caring) about the harm these stereotypes are doing.”

Next: Whitewashing and brownface in Hollywood

Amirah Vann Becomes Regular on “Underground” Season 2

Underground, Season 1, Episode 101 Photo Credit: /Sony Pictures Television
Underground, Season 1, Episode 101
Photo Credit: /Sony Pictures Television

Watching WGN-America’s first season of Underground was a delight in so many ways, and Amirah Vann was one of the main reasons for tuning in each week. Fans of Vann know her as Ernestine, the intelligent, strategic “mistress” of her master Tom Macon, whom (spoiler alert) she killed after he killed her oldest son Sam just for political gain. Last we saw her, Macon’s widow Suzanna sold her to get back at her. Now, we don’t know who what will happen to Ernestine or her youngest son, James, who is back at the plantation under Suzanna’s care.

What you might not have realized is that Vann wasn’t listed as a regular during the first season. For as much script and scenery she was given, apparently she was still just a recurring actress. During the second season, though, she’s been upgraded. Vann is now a regular on the show.

Vann’s role on the show will continue to be one of the shining lights of the series; last season, critics praised her for the levels she provided her character. To quote the release:

Vann, who portrayed the head house slave who will do anything to protect her children, was heralded for her performance by critics as “one of the breakthrough roles of the season” (Huffington Post); “captivating as Ernestine, the duplicitous and wise head house slave and Rosalee’s mother” (Essence Magazine); “spellbinding” (Wall Street Journal); and  “tremendous” (Entertainment Weekly).

Vann’s promotion to regular status comes on the heels of the official casting of Harriet Tubman, Aisha Hinds. Hinds’ Tubman will take Rosalee on as her apprentice of sorts, enlisting her to help with the trek of going back to the south to save more slaves.  Also, the upcoming season will see America getting closer to the beginning of the Civil War. “The new season of the 10-episode Underground Railroad thriller follows an unremitting struggle for freedom within a divided America on the brink of civil war, each side vying to enact their own justice,” states the release.

Here’s more on Underground:

“Underground” delivered 3 million Total Viewers weekly, and made history as WGN America’s most-watched original program ever in its freshman season.  The series was honored with screenings across the country including the White House and ranked as the #1 most discussed cable drama on social media each week it aired.  From creators and executive producers Misha Green and Joe Pokaski and executive producers John Legend, Akiva Goldsman, Tory Tunnell, Joby Harold, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius and Emmy® -nominated director Anthony Hemingway, “Underground” season two will premiere in early 2017 on WGN America.

Starring in the celebrated “Underground” season two cast are Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“True Blood,” “Friday Night Lights”) as Rosalee;  Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures) as Noah; Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) as August Pullman; Alano Miller (“Jane The Virgin”) as Cato; ‎Jessica de Gouw (“Arrow,” “Dracula”) as Elizabeth Hawkes; Amirah Vann (“Girls,” And So It Goes) as Ernestine; Aisha Hinds (“Under the Dome,” “True Blood,” Star Trek Into Darkness) as Harriet Tubman; and Marc Blucas (“Blue Bloods”) as John Hawkes.

This summer, “Underground” was featured at the NAACP National Convention, where the series and its stars received a standing ovation at the National Underground Railroad Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  “Underground” was also highlighted at the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Conference in Washington DC with a panel discussion on the social movement “Underground” has become.

“Underground,” which tells the unflinching story of some of America’s valiant heroes—enslaved people who risked their lives to reach freedom—was recently honored with three CableFax Awards, including Best New Program, Best Historical Show/Series and Best Showrunners, Misha Green and Joe Pokaski.

What do you think about Underground? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

 

Disney Channel’s “Elena of Avalor” To Premiere July 22

Disney Channel fans (or family members of fans), take note: Disney’s first Latina princess, will make her debut on Elena of Avalor, airing Friday, July 22 at 7 p.m.-8 p.m. ET.

Princess Elena of Avalor will finally be presented to the world in a one-hour premiere event. Gaby Moreno, Latin Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist, will perform the theme song; Aimee Carrero, the voice of Elena, will also sing Elena’s anthem, “My Time.”

The show is set to star tons of talent, such as Switched at Birth and George Lopez star Constance Marie, movie star Danny Trejo, Jane the Virgin’s Jaime Camil and Ivonne Coll, Ugly Betty and Devious Maids star Ana Ortiz, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Tituss Burgess, movie and TV star Hector Elizondo and other guest stars. Here is a ton (and I mean a TON) of info, some of which is especially pertinent for those of you with the Disney Channel App and Disney Channel VOD.

Set in the enchanted fairytale land of Avalor, the series tells the story of Elena, a brave and adventurous teenager who has saved her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must now learn to rule as crown princess until she is old enough to be queen. Elena’s journey will lead her to understand that her new role requires thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, the traits of all truly great leaders.

The stories incorporate influences from diverse Latin and Hispanic cultures through architecture, traditions, food and customs. Magic, mythology, folklore and music also play an important role, with each episode featuring original songs spanning an array of Latin musical styles including Mariachi, Latin Pop, Salsa, Banda and Chilean Hip Hop.

A full-length preview of the first episode, “First Day of Rule,” will be available for verified users on the Disney Channel app and Disney Channel VOD platforms beginning Friday, July 1. Following its U.S. debut, the series will roll out globally in 33 languages in 163 countries on Disney Channels worldwide.

In the first episode, Elena officially becomes crown princess and rescues her sister, Isabel, from Noblins, elf-like shapeshifting creatures based on a Chilean peuchen myth. The episode also introduces Zuzo, Elena’s spirit guide in the animal world, based on the belief of a Mayan tribe in southern Mexico. In the second episode, titled “Model Sister,” Elena is torn between a promise she made to help Isabel and fulfilling her royal duties.

This fall, Disney Channel will air a special TV movie titled “Elena and the Secret of Avalor,” which explains how Elena was imprisoned for decades in her magical amulet and eventually set free by Princess Sofia of Enchancia.

Extensions for the series include Disney Parks & Resorts, which will welcome Princess Elena at Walt Disney World Resort this summer and at Disneyland Resort in the fall; print and e-book titles from Disney Publishing; and dolls, role-play products, accessories, home décor and apparel from Disney Store and licensees including Hasbro, Jakks Pacific, Franco Manufacturing and Children’s Apparel Network. Products will begin setting later this month at Disney Store and will continue to roll out at mass retailers throughout the summer. Walt Disney Records will release Elena’s anthem titled “My Time” as a digital single on iTunes Friday, June 24, followed by a seven-track EP featuring songs from the series on Friday, July 22, and Disney Studios will release an episode compilation DVD later this year.

“Elena of Avalor” stars Aimee Carrero as the voice of Elena; Jenna Ortega as Princess Isabel; Chris Parnell, Yvette Nicole Brown and Carlos Alazraqui as the jaquins Migs, Luna and Skylar respectively; Emiliano Díez as Francisco; Julia Vera as Luisa; Christian Lanz as Chancellor Esteban; Jillian Rose Reed as Naomi; Joseph Haro as Mateo; Jorge Diaz as Gabe; Keith Ferguson as Zuzo; and Joe Nunez as Armando.

The recurring guest voice cast includes: Constance Marie as Doña Paloma, Magister of the Traders Guild; Lou Diamond Phillips as Victor Delgado, a debonair villain who uses his charisma to deceive the people around him; Justina Machado and Jaime Camil as siblings Carmen and Julio, who run a restaurant in Avalor; Rich Sommer as Captain Daniel Turner, Naomi’s father and harbormaster; Tyler Posey as Prince Alonso, a charming prince from the Argentine-inspired Kingdom of Cordoba; Lucas Grabeel as Jiku, the leader of the Noblins; and Echo Kellum as King Joaquín, a monarch from the Caribbean-inspired Kingdom of Cariza, who is a trusted and close friend of Elena.

The guest voice cast for season one includes: Tituss Burgess as Charoca, a magical volcano creature based on a Chilean myth; Ana Ortiz as Rafa, Mateo’s mother; Ivonne Coll as Doña Angelica, an absent-minded and overly dramatic ghost; Hector Elizondo as Fiero, a wicked wizard; Odette Annable as Señorita Marisol, Isabel’s enthusiastic young teacher; Danny Trejo as Antonio Agama, a popular Avaloran hero; Anthony Mendez as King Juan Ramón, a monarch from the Argentine-inspired Kingdom of Cordoba; Eden Espinosa as Orizaba, an evil moth fairy banished to the spirit world; Marsai Martin as Cat, a budding scientist and adventurer; Aasif Mandvi as King Raja, a monarch from the Indian-inspired Kingdom of Napurna; and George Takei as King Toshi, a monarch from the Japanese-inspired Kingdom of Satu.

Latin Grammy Award winner Gaby Moreno performs the series’ theme song and will also voice a guest role. Born in Guatemala, Moreno performs her music, which ranges from blues to jazz to soul to R&B, in both English and Spanish. In addition to winning the Latin Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2013, Moreno was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music in 2010 for co-writing the theme song to “Parks and Recreation.”

“Elena of Avalor” was created by Emmy Award winner Craig Gerber, who also serves as executive producer. Silvia Cardenas Olivas is the story editor, and Elliot M. Bour is the supervising director. The series’ cultural advisors are Marcela Davison Avilés, founder of The Chapultepec Group, co-founder of the international Latino arts initiative Camino Arts, and Director of Humanities Programs at the FDR Foundation at Harvard University; and Diane Rodriguez, Associate Artistic Director of Centre Theatre Group and co-founder of the theatre ensemble Latins Anonymous, who was recently appointed by President Obama to be a member of the National Council on the Arts.

Check out some of the pictures of Elena and Isabel below. What do you think about Elena of Avalor? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Trailer, Posters, & Images from “Deepwater Horizon” Released

Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez is starring in an upcoming drama about the real-life tragedy surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010, something the gulf coast is still recovering from. The film, Deepwater Horizon, has released images, posters, and of course the trailer, which you can check out below the post.

Deepwater Horizon, which also stars the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich and Kate Hudson, will be released by Lionsgate to theaters September 30.

On April 20th, 2010, one of the world’s largest man-made disasters occurred on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor), this story honors the brave men and women whose heroism would save many on board, and change everyone’s lives forever.

Summit Entertainment and Participant Media present a di Bonaventura Pictures production, a Closest to the Hole / Leverage Entertainment production, a Peter Berg film. The film is directed by Peter Berg from a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand and from a screen story by Matthew Sand. The film stars Academy Award® nominee Mark Wahlberg, Golden Globe® nominee Kurt Russell, Academy Award® nominee John Malkovich, Golden Globe® winner Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien and Academy Award® nominee Kate Hudson.

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#YourBigBreak: NHMC TV Writers Program & the WIF Black List Episodic Lab

You might have heard me speak on the latest Black Girl Nerds podcast about the horrific Sleepy Hollow ending (which resulted in the much controversial death of Abbie Mills). I said in the podcast that the entire trajectory of Sleepy Hollow and its fan interaction is a masterclass in what not to do when creating a show, and that future showrunners, writers, directors, and even actors can learn from it. That leads me into another point, a point I forgot to say in the podcast, but have said in my Sleepy Hollow takedown article, so let me quote myself right here:

…[M]y anger has spurred me to write my own pilot. Do I know when my idea will become a show? Nope. But anger can be a great motivator, and I hope that other POC writers who are mad beyond belief will use their anger to create their own projects. It’s clear that diversity doesn’t start from the top down; it starts from the bottom up. We’ve got to be disruptions if we want the top brass to hear what we’ve got to say. Remember how wrongly Abbie, Tara, Lexa, Lincoln and countless others have been treated on these shows, and get to creating.

You might be reading this thinking, “YES, I AM ONE OF THOSE ANGRY VIEWERS! But where can I get my big break!? I don’t know anyone in the business or where the opportunities are, and I can’t just drop my stuff and move to California in the hopes of making it big!” I get you. I can’t move to California right now either. But what you can do is take a look at some of these workshops. If you’re already at the point where you’ve got a polished script collecting dust and want an in, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) TV Writers Program and the Women in Film (WIF) Black List Episodic Lab might be for you.

NHMC TV Writers Program

Submission deadline: August 7

Program dates: October 3-November 4

Application rules/Submission guidelines

The NHMC TV Writers Program is, as the NHMC websites states, “an intensive scriptwriters workshop that prepares Latinos for writing jobs at major television networks.” The program is modeled after the Hispanic Film Project and “is a direct response to the lack of diverse writers in primetime network TV.” For those writers who finish the program and want to take their craft even further, NHMC also has the Latino Scene Showcase.

Some important stats about the NHMC TV Writers Program:

Since its inception 12 years ago:

120 writers have completed the NHMC TV Writers Program
28 writing careers have been launched
25% of NHMC Writers have been staffed on shows at the following networks: ABC/Disney, NBC, CBS, FOX, Nickelodeon, CW, BET, LATV, VH1 and NUVOtv.

Some of the shows graduates of the program write for include East Los High, Devious Maids, Elena de Avalor, Rosewood, Superstore, Hot and Bothered, NCIS, The Catch and Jane the Virgin. 

Women in Film Black List Episodic Lab

Evaluations deadline: May 1

Submission deadline: May 15 (WIF members), June 1 (Black List members)

Program dates: August 2016 (specific dates not listed as of this post)

Application rules/Submission guidelines

FAQ

If you’re into film and/or screenwriting, then you already know how influential the Black List is. If you get your script listed on the Black List, then that means you’re considered the cream of the crop of upcoming screenwriters and, more than likely, you’ll get tapped to write a script for major studio. However, the Black List wants to do more than just showcase awesome scripts; it also wants to help bring new voices, voices who are often marginalized, into the fold.

The WIF Black List Episodic Lab will bring in eight writers who identify as women to Los Angeles to take an eight-week course in script development and script workshopping. The eight weeks will also include master classes with industry execs and veteran writers in the biz. Best of all, participants in the lab will have their final pilots read by networks and agencies.

More opportunities will be listed at JUST ADD COLOR when I see them online, so keep coming back to find the right opportunity for you!

Gina Rodriguez, Rutina Wesley star in “California Winter,” Now on VOD

I’ve been holding onto this for a while, mostly because I’ve been moving, and moving is the worst (even though the place I’ve moved to is nice). But if you’re fans of Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin fame, check out California Winter. 

Rodriguez stars alongside Michael Ironside (The Flash), A Martinez (Longmire), Rutina Wesley (True Blood), Walter Perez (The Avengers), Erik Avari (Hachi : A Dog’s Tale), and Elizabeth Dominguez in a film by Odin Ozdil focusing on risky world of real estate.

A companion piece to topical, award-winning triumph The Big Short ( though, as opposed to it, this is seen through the eyes of ‘the people’) California Winter– available this month On Demand from Indie Rights – tells of an ambitious young real estate agent who must fight to save her integrity and her father’s home from foreclosure when the risky loan she advised him on send his home into foreclosure.

The movie is now available on VOD, so if you want to see it, go for it! Here’s the trailer, the poster, and some stills:

What do you think? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

The NAACP Image Awards Does What the Oscars Couldn’t

The NAACP Image Awards was what non-white Hollywood needed to release pent-up aggression and, to paraphrase NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, to honor themselves. Even though the Oscars is seen as the highest form of award in the film world, it technically functions like what Chris Rock called it—a white BET Awards. The NAACP Image Awards was created to counteract the Oscars from the beginning, and once again, it’s purpose has been revisited and reinvigorated again.

Personally speaking, I’ve long thought that the NAACP Image Awards and the BET Awards don’t get the credit they deserve, the NAACP Image Awards moreso. The prestigious quality of the NAACP should have had every person of color flocking to the theater to be a part of the Image Awards, even if it meant to just sit in the audience. Michael B. Jordan said that he would sneak in before he became a big star; everyone should have been doing that. To be fair, many in Hollywood do support the NAACP Image Awards, but you know you’ve seen the Image Awards in year’s past, and you’d see that half of the winners actually decided not to show up, as if they didn’t care to be honored by folks who look like them as the gun for the Oscar.

The current climate surrounding the Oscars is serving a purpose, and it’s garnered the change that has been sorely needed in the American media, but it’s also unfortunate that some of the non-white Hollywood elite needed this shakeup to wake them up to what has been in front of their faces for so long. The NAACP Image Awards has always been there; it’s just some of those that were in the audience hadn’t ever showed up. They’d let someone get their award on their behalf for whatever reason. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the reason was; they should have shown up because the NAACP is part of the reason they’re even able to work in Hollywood in the first place. They needed to have paid their respects long ago.

The theme of the NAACP Image Awards was to rightly diss the Oscars and to be the antidote to the Oscars’ and Hollywood’s problems. Anderson’s Straight Outta Compton rap was unleashed with pinpoint accuracy. Tons of speeches showcased the need to celebrate unrecognized talent. Stacy Dash was roasted by Anderson’s jokes. And, in comparison to what the Oscars didn’t do, the NAACP Image Awards actually nominated and gave awards to some of the biggest movies of the year, movies that were FULL of people of color. Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Beasts of No Nation, Dope, Infinitely Polar Bear, Lila and Eve, The Perfect Guy, etc., etc….all were honored in some way, and it was fantastic.

Want to read more about diverse entertainment? Read the February issue of COLOR BLOCK Magazine!
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Also honored were the year’s crop of television shows, including Being Mary Jane, black-ish, Rosewood, Sleepy Hollow, Fresh off the Boat, Jane the Virgin, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Empire, and more were given their due. But I have some bones to pick, which I picked at a little on Twitter.

There were snubs that I feel up-in-arms about. First, why were Rami Malek and Daniel Wu not given nominations for their dramatic work in Mr. Robot and Into the Badlands? Malek has been honored tons this awards season; it seems remiss that he wouldn’t be honored by the NAACP for the work he’s done on Mr. Robot. Ditto for Wu. Into the Badlands is a masterpiece of a slow-build action show, and Wu’s work is extraordinary and groundbreaking. In fact, both men have turned in some groundbreaking work. (Read why it’s groundbreaking here.)

Second snub: No comedy noms for Fresh off the Boat or Jane the Virgin or Master of None? Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang had a screenwriting nom, but the show didn’t get one for overall comedy, and Hudson Yang was nominated for his role, but the show itself wasn’t recognized. What was with these snubs? Also snubbed: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, despite Andre Braugher getting nominated for his Brooklyn Nine-Nine role. I love black-ish, and I do think it deserves its nominations, but how dangerous is it to have Anthony Anderson host (by the way, he should remain the host for all time) and then give black-ish all of the comedy awards? It’s probably not favoritism, but it looks like it. I think Anderson’s hosted it without having won for his category, so I’m putting a pin in this. We’ll see what happens next year.

Overall, though, the NAACP Image Awards was everything the Oscars couldn’t be in its current state. It addressed the current climate, and it also awarded those who have flexed their activist muscle to help the community, such as Bree Newsome, the woman who took down South Carolina’s confederate flag. These honorees embody what the NAACP has been at its core and, despite the organization’s growing pains, strives to continue to be. It’s this level of activism and awareness that has always set the NAACP Image Awards apart from other award shows. It knows its history, and it knows how it wants to steer us in the right direction for the future. All we need to do is support it and help its vision flourish.

Related articles:

NAACP Image Awards: The Complete Winners List (The Hollywood Reporter)

Anthony Anderson Talks #OscarsSoWhite at Image Awards: “This Is What Diversity Is Supposed to Look Like” (The Hollywood Reporter)