A letter to Hollywood executives, signed by Latino creatives, lists five demands on how to implement systematic changes in the industry.
“The demands are simple, Hollywood: Put us in charge of our own narrative. Greenlight our projects. Represent ALL of us. Hire us for more than our identity.”
Those were the words of Gloria Calderón Kellett, writer and co-showrunner of the CBS television show “One Day at a Time.” Her demands are not just her own, but that of more than 200 Latino writers, show-runners, and creators, who signed a letter to Hollywood listing several ways to implement overdue systematic changes in the industry.
“We are tired of Latinx projects being developed with no Latinx writer, director, or producer attached,” the letter states. “We refuse to be filtered through a White perspective. We are tired of hearing ‘we couldn’t find any Latinx writers to hire.’ We are tired of Latinx writers being asked to repeat Staff Writer and lower staffing levels, which not only ensures that we stay at those levels, but also helps perpetuate the narrative that Latinx writers don’t exist at the Showrunner and other upper levels.”
In an interview with The Americano, Calderón Kellett said it was fitting to submit this letter as Hispanic Heritage Month came to an end because Hollywood executives want Latino representation during this period. However, more often than not, programming does more harm by depicting Latinos in stereotypical ways.
“This really comes in support of work that has come before,” Calderón Kellett said of this initiative, which is part of the Untitled Latinx Project founded by Tanya Saracho, creator of the television show “Vida.” The Untitled Latinx Project consists of Latina storytellers in Hollywood.
“What we found is previous initiatives are presented by people who aren’t pitching the shows and aren’t actually in these rooms,” she said. “We felt we needed to come together as the boots-on-the-ground writers who are actually in these rooms and are asked to adapt stories.”
Calderón Kellett said television executives often give orders to writers to “brown stamp” a project. “They don’t say it in those words, but we want to make sure these stories are intentional and thoughtful and are advancing our narrative.”
She said some executives want to be inclusive of Latinos and their stories but don’t know how to implement those changes. Their letter to Hollywood is a step-by-step guide on how to do just that.
The letter lists five demands, including hiring more than one Latino writer so that they’re not the “sole representative of a vast and heterogeneous group of people.” They also want their projects to be approved and get made. “Only a handful of pilots by Latinx writers are bought each year, and most of those are never made,” the letter says. The letter also states that Latinos do not equate to one kind of background.
“We are a diaspora from more than 20 different countries,” the letter states. “We are Undocumented. We are Disabled. We have different religious backgrounds and spiritual beliefs. We are more than our trauma.”
Several research reports have found that Latino representation in Hollywood continues to decline. Other reports show how damaging it is when Latinos are continuously represented in the media in stereotypical roles such as drug dealers, maids, and gang members. The Latino community makes up 18.3% of the US population. However, Latino creatives in Hollywood only make up 4.7% of feature writers and 8.7% of TV writers.
“We are funny, we are weird, we are dynamic,” Calderón Kellett said. “We are almost 20 countries under the umbrella of Latinidad, living, coexisting in the US and we want there to be more stories told from all of the different backgrounds that we so beautifully represent so that representation matters and we want to see a change because we see that it’s important.”