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“Selena: The Series” producer on normalizing Latinx representation in entertainment

A recent study on Latinx representation in Hollywood found that in 2019, just 4.9% of all speaking characters by racial or ethnic groups on the big screen were Hispanic or Latino. Jaime Davila, Campanario Entertainment cofounder and president, joins The Final Round to discuss how Hollywood can normalize Latinx representation in the industry, as well as one of his upcoming projects, "Selena: The Series" on Netflix.

Video Transcript

JEN ROGERS: Jaime Davila is a producer and co-founder and president of the LA-based production company, Campanario Entertainment. Jaime, you're out in LA. We had a lot of companies in the entertainment industry this summer, specifically after the murder of George Floyd, talking about changes that they were going to make, representation of Black and brown people in Hollywood. Have you noticed a change in these last few months?

JAIME DAVILA: Yes, I think you've seen a market change. And I think in general-- you know, I started my company, Campanario, almost seven years ago, before we had all this type of major discussion about inclusion and diversity.

But I think when we're talking about the Latino experience, we can't forget that Latinos represent 80% of the population, you know, much larger when you go into younger cohorts. We overindex in the box office by 22%. And Spanish is the second biggest language in the entire world, after Mandarin.

And so I think when we're talking about diversity and inclusion, and specifically, Latinos, it's a really great market. And it's a really huge opportunity that I think Hollywood is now starting to take notice of. And 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.

JEN ROGERS: So you have "Selena, The Series" is one of the issues that you have coming out. So you talked about overindexing at the box office. And there is basically no box office now. I'm wondering how the pandemic will impact this. Does that translate over to streaming? Do you think that the big streamers are paying enough attention to this?

JAIME DAVILA: Well, I am very fortunate that we get to premiere "Selena, The Series" on Netflix, you know, in this era where the box office is not as active, right? So I think, for me, as a producer, trying to get their TV show out there about an American icon, it's nice to know that maybe we'll have a little bit more attention on our series.

But yeah, that box office is a major issue, right? I think we want to bring the box office back. We want to bring movie theaters back. It's not just a huge major employer in this country. But it's also an amazing resource for community.

And I think that streaming is allowing to do that. I think we've had a lot of moments. Over the summer, we had "Hamilton" that sort of became a cultural moment, that I think we often forget, you know, that should be-- I would describe that as a Latinx show.

It's created by a Latino American. It's starring a lot of Latinos in it. And so, yes, obviously, it's about an American icon, but why can't that show be called "The Latinx Show"? I think it's intuitively inclusive and amazing.

And so, you know, when we're talking about cultural moments in the box office, we need to bring that back. And I think Latinos will be part of that driving force when we are allowed to bring movie theaters back and safe. Latinos will be, I think, some of the first people in line.

You know, as a community, we really enjoy entertainment, music. You see that with reggaeton being the biggest thing right now. Entertainment with a lot of the box office, and I think in streaming, hopefully with "Selena, The Series," you'll see this major movement of Latinos.

Because, again, I think when we're talking about Latinos, we're part of the mainstream in the US already, you know? We're already part of his general market. And I think what Campanario is all about, is celebrating that. And I think what Hollywood is-- what's exciting about Hollywood is that they're also getting excited about telling that story.

MELODY HAHM: Jaime, as an Asian-American, Korean-American, who has studied Spanish in college, I'm very excited to see the growth in both Asian films, as well as Latinx films. But there's just one phrase that I feel like has come up a lot when it comes to Latinx folks in Hollywood, [SPANISH] neither from here, neither from there, trying to figure out, are you American, are you Hispanic?

This integration when it comes to the cultural representation, there still is not enough, right? The USC Annenberg study, the annual kind of preeminent look at the Hollywood industry, found that Hispanic Latino representation on screen, only 4.9% of films and pieces of media actually have that. Asian, 7.9%, so a little bit better there. How do you envision incorporating stories in a very natural, organic, authentic way, and not just tokenizing our stories, right, and tokenizing our cultures?

JAIME DAVILA: Well, I think it's really important to work with our communities, right? And I think one of the big things that we do in Campanario through the Latinx lines-- and I know there's a lot of producers working on this through the African-American lines, or through the Asian-American lines, or just, you know, the larger lens. I think what we're excited about doing is working with these creators.

Because we have this huge talent base, right, that is telling amazing, hilarious stories that are really funny that can work all over the world. So I think it's about working with our community and giving them the resources that we give other Hollywood productions, right?

I think what Latinos consistently prove in this country is that when we're given an opportunity, we succeed. And so I think that's what we're trying to say for Hollywood, is that, you know, there's this ready marketplace that doesn't have to be tokenized, that you can work with us. We can work together to create these stories that speak to our community that feel very local and specific, yet also are universal.

And so, you know, I think what's really exciting about being an American in this era is that, yes, obviously, you have to decide, are you from here or there? But I think what I would say is that one of the things that Campanario celebrates is that you can be both, and that's a superpower.

It's exciting to have an outsider perspective on America. It's exciting to speak multiple languages. I also would argue that makes you American. And so I think what's really cool about the Latin experience is that we can really expand what it means when we talk about American and really make diversity and inclusion an inherent part of everything we're doing, not just in entertainment, but business at large.

Because I think, ultimately, you know, America is at its best when it celebrates the diversity. And so I think that whatever industry you're in, working with these communities, giving us the opportunity, working with us to create our authentic stories, that, again, can be comedic-- you know, we do comedies.

And we have a comedy on Amazon Prime right now, called "How to Survive Being Single." We have a documentary on abuse called "Colossus." So there's so many different things you can do to speak to different segment of the population, either scripted or unscripted. So I just think the opportunities are really endless.