The high level of inequality in Hollywood is not a secret. From pay gaps to race discrimination, the American media industry is being seclusive since its installation in the 1900s. Although social movements have raised awareness, rallied and protested against these long-established issues, Hollywood still have layers and layers of a biased mentality on the grounds of race, age, and sex, that hopefully will be peeling until everybody ends up standing under the same umbrella.
Part of that group aiming to witness a change is Chicago Fire recurring actor Jeff Lima. The 29-year-old star created the Jeff Lima Production Award, an annual grant of $10,000 to a Latinx graduate student or alum from the New York University Tisch School of the Arts- Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, to help advance the Hispanic image in Hollywood. “What I hope with this grant is that I can just start to encourage folks who are black, Asian, white, Latinos to continue or to even start writing for the Latin community,” said the actor to BELatina. “There is empirical evidence that shows we are under-represented and I know that when the general market collaborates with the Latino community, it’s beneficial. It is lucrative to collaborate with us,” assures the New York-born Puerto Rican star.
Lima, who is also known for his regular role in the critically acclaimed HBO mini-series, Show Me a Hero, is concerned with the lack of representation, both in front of and behind the camera and how according to the “Latinos in Film: Erasure On-Screen & Behind the Camera Across 1,200 Popular Movies” study, in the top 100 Hollywood films that were released during 2007 through 2018, only 4.5% of all speaking characters were Latinx or Hispanic. “How are we supposed to stay encouraged as actors?” asked Lima. “And for those who do stay encouraged it is daunting to be part of that statistic.
“We are being invaded with this notion that we are starting to become represented and that we are starting to see our culture really manifest in mainstream film, but there’s also a plethora of platforms,” said Lima on how cultural representation is not growing as much as we think. “We have movies that go straight to theaters, we have movies that go on Netflix, Hulu and Apple, and so many other platforms and this inclusivity has not been able to keep pace with the growth of platforms,” continued the actor inviting people to be very mindful of the statistics and not let ourselves be influenced by public opinion.
“We are living in a political climate that really calls to exposé how we exist in America, in those instances in which we’re represented, we’re stereotyped,” said the actor. Lima is looking forward to helping people understand that we are more than how Hollywood portrays us and with the Jeff Lima Production Award he is offering resources to talented Hispanics that want to change Hollywood and most importantly the narrative toward the Latinx community.
The award is also challenging Latinos to create amazing stories with a modest budget and show that quality over quantity is still important. “We are looking for unique projects that describe a market validation and how this film advances the Latinx image on-screen,” explained Lima on what he and his team of specialists are looking in each applicant.
Ultimately, the actor is asking Latinos to take action and support the community with more than words. “We have to support each other and that’s so much more than encouraging each other with our words. We really have to pump our capital into other Latinx businesses and we fail to do it. We need to invest in our own because we are in a cycle where we run into blockbusters that don’t even have a Latino character in it and we even watch the film three times in the movie theater but if its an indie with two or three Latinos we may have some reservations,” said Lima. “Let’s invest with each other more!” concluded the actor.