Representation matters. This sentiment is at the heart of the inevitable change Hollywood must go through. And it is going to happen — either por las buenas o por las malas. Paving the path for this change is The Center for Cultural Power with their creation of the Disruptors Fellowship, where ten chosen emerging TV writers of color will “disrupt” the industry by moving away from the status quo.
“The Center for Cultural Power is a national organization that activates artists around social justice issues, including racial and gender justice and climate change,” Favianna Rodriguez, President and Co-founder of The Center for Cultural Power previously told BELatina News. . Thus, their attempt to zig-zag through Hollywood’s typically uniformed road makes all the sense in the world.
This fellowship is tailored for writers of communities who are often excluded.
Though there are plenty of diversity programs around the nation, the Disruptors Fellowship stands out the most. Its programs are divided into three cohorts: trans/non-binary, disabled, and undocumented or formerly undocumented.
The second annual group of disruptors has been selected, and their diversity can easily give Hollywood a run for their money. These fellows are getting trained to navigate spaces that are not often accessible. Through the fellowship, they receive mentorship and training from industry experts. They also get paid a $6,000 stipend, allowing them to focus on their craft properly.
BELatina News recently spoke with three out of the ten fellows, Teresa Jusino (she/her), Camila Alvarado (she/her), and Francisco Aviles Pino (they/them). During this conversation, we were able to dive into what this opportunity means to them.
Telling stories that matter
“This fellowship has made me realize that other people also believe in my writing and that our story, not only my stories, but the stories of Black and Brown people, People of Color, Indigenous people, are our stories,” Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker, Camila Alvarado, said. “People want to hear our stories, and that’s because it is what can shape humanity.”
The skills being developed by the mentorship programs in the Disruptors Fellowship are only enhancing talents that were always present in the fellows’ lives.
For example, Jusino, a native New Yorker and proud bisexual, revealed that she had been writing stories the second she knew how to read and write.
“That’s how I express myself,” she said.
Alvarado, who is part of the undocumented/ formerly undocumented cohort, spoke about the moment when she realized that her talent for storytelling was more important than she thought.
She recalled being sent to jail when she was younger for being undocumented. Her cell deprived her of freedom, yet the glimpse of light she saw through a tiny window gave her hope — a hope to share more with the world.
She learned stories of people who had been in the system for as long as they could remember, making her see how broken the system was first-hand. Sadly, these people, more often than not, don’t get the opportunity to express themselves.
“I didn’t know how long I was going to be there. And I also was facing deportation. It was at that moment I was like, ‘I know I need to tell the stories of people that I would have never known had I not been in this situation.’ I needed to tell the stories of people who didn’t have a voice,” Alvarado said.
“I knew I wanted to tell the story of people, of humans who champion other humans. I knew I wanted to tell the stories of resiliency and the power of humanity and the strength that exists in the human souls,” she said.
A long-overdue program
There is no denying that the Disruptors Fellowship provides people of color a real opportunity to push forth their creative career goals. However, one can’t help but wonder why it’s taken so long for such a program to exist. After all, it is a tried and tested science that films and television thrive off diversity.
In fact, Aviles Pinos, an undocumented queer writer, and producer whose work focuses on incarceration, migration, and culture, wishes different production companies would follow suit, especially since they have the funds to allow people to spend quality time developing their craft is pivotal.
They also mentioned, “a lot of the entryways into this industry tend to have people work on their craft for really low pay or they have to do it for free.”
Such an account is not rare. It is known that the industry sucks dry the eager and talented or ignores those of the often excluded communities, hence one of the reasons #OscarsSoWhite came into existence.
These programs are not only vital, but they are also the future, and Aviles Pino hopes they continue.
“Having funded development for emerging artists of color is one of the most important ways to create equitable avenues for the arts, for poor people like us. It’s definitely a model that I hope continues and that we can attest to its success over time,” they said.
Thankfully, the dial seems to be turning in the right direction. A few more movies depicting the Latinx community, among other communities, are being released at a speed that was not typical even ten years ago. It’s yet to hit the mark for everyone, but it is a start, to say the least.
Jusino, of the disability cohort, said the fact we’ve been so starved for representation is what creates an urge to have every single thing that comes out to be perfect.
“And it’s never going to be exactly one person’s experience. So, if they don’t see themselves and that’s the only chance they get to see themselves, then it’s hurtful. It hurts,” Jusino said.
“But I’m really excited about this fellowship because once we all start making work, it’ll be so different, and we will get more voices out there to give more of a selection,” she said.
Nevertheless, the Disruptors Fellowship is a stepping stone into a more inclusive film and television industry. These fellows, along with the others before them and those who follow them, will be at the forefront of the new blueprint for creators of marginalized communities.
“I’m excited for us to really rethink and complicate what Latino representation is,” Aviles Pino said as we wrapped up the call.
The narrative of the entertainment industry will shift in no time, and it will be glorious when it happens.