The demands for better representation of Black and Brown people in Hollywood have been ringing louder this year, further ignited by the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests.
Jaime Dávila, producer, co-founder and president of Los Angeles-based production company Campanario Entertainment, has been fighting for more Latinx representation behind and in front of the camera since he founded the company seven years ago with the mission of bringing “people together by making the loudest noise with our content.”
“I think you've seen a marked change. I started my company before we had all this major discussion about inclusion and diversity. But I think when we're talking about the Latino experience, we can't forget that Latinos represent 18% of the larger population,” he said, referring to the share of Latinos in the U.S.
Latinos represent a disproportionately high percentage of the movie-going population, he pointed out in interview last week with Yahoo Finance’s “The Final Round.” Moreover, he noted, the Spanish language has the world’s second highest number of native speakers after Mandarin.
“So when we talk about diversity inclusion, specifically Latinos, it's a really great market and a huge opportunity that Hollywood is now starting to take notice of. We're very lucky to be sort of on the cutting edge of that working with a lot of these companies trying to do exactly that,” said Dávila, whose company is named for the Spanish word for “bell tower.”
The firm is behind a wide range of entertainment content across multiple platforms, including the upcoming Netflix (NFLX) original “Selena: The Series,” “Colossus,” a feature documentary on immigration, and the unscripted Bravo (CMCSA) series “Mexican Dynasties,” among others.
Dávila, a former development executive at Bravo, is also on the National Hispanic Media Coalition Board Of Directors. He founded Campanario Entertainment with his father, Jaime Dávila Sr., the former COO of Televisa and former Univision president and chairman.
“[Hamilton] stars a lot of Latinos in it. Why can't that show be called a Latinx show? I think it's intuitively inclusive and amazing. So when we're talking about cultural moments at the box office, we need to bring that back. I think Latinos will be part of that driving force when we are allowed to bring movie theaters back and say Latinos will be some of the first people in line.”
‘When we’re given an opportunity, we succeed’
While there’s been more momentum building, there’s still a deep chasm in the representation of Latinx and Hispanic characters onscreen, according a September report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which examines inequality in 1,300 of the most popular films in Hollywood.
While the number of films with underrepresented leads or co-leads hit an all-time high, Hispanic and Latinx representation on camera still lags other racial groups. Hispanic and Latinx characters made up 4.9% of all speaking characters (compared to 65.7% white, 15.7% Black, 7.2% Asian). Forty-four movies had no Hispanic/Latinx characters at all.
“I think what Latinos consistently prove in this country is when we're given an opportunity, we succeed. That's what we're trying to say to Hollywood...it's this ready marketplace that doesn't have to be tokenized. You can work with us and we can work together to create stories that speak to our community. That feeling of local and specific yet also universal,” Dávila said.
“I think what's really exciting about being an American in this era. Yes, obviously you have to decide, are you from here or there? I think what I would say is one of the things we celebrate is that you can be both and that's a superpower. It's exciting to have an outsider’s perspective on America. It’s exciting to speak multiple languages. I also would argue that makes you American,” he added.
Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.