One of Fanny Grande’s earliest memories is of acting in school plays in her native Venezuela. Her dream was immovable: Fanny wanted to be an actress.
Life gave her the opportunity to move to the United States to pursue that dream and attend college.
However, a new country would bring with it a very different reality.
While in college, Fanny Grande could not land any roles in the plays her school produced. The college dean encouraged her to look for opportunities in “the Latino theater in town,” which, at first, discouraged the young actress.
However, it didn’t take long for her to realize that, as in Hollywood, Latinos are often overlooked.
It was then that Fanny decided to create her own content, not only for herself but also for other talented Latino actors who were not finding a place.
Today, Fanny Grande is an award-winning filmmaker, actress, and director, with over 20 years of experience in the entertainment world. She has been nominated three times for the Imagen Awards and has been recognized for her work in front of and behind the camera.
Her films focus on creating content that celebrates diversity, and her main goal is to transform the way Latinos are portrayed in the media. Four years ago, she co-founded Avenida Productions with her husband, Nelson Grande. Avenida is a consulting and production company specializing in empowering independent media content creators with a focus on diversity. Avenida has helped raise millions of dollars through crowdfunding for more than 200 media projects.
BELatina had the opportunity to speak with Fanny Grande about her journey, the obstacles she faced, and how her resilience and commitment to the community got her to where she is today.
What were the obstacles you faced in the industry as a woman of color?
The entertainment industry is tough for most but even tougher for women of color. Latinas are the most under-represented group in accordance with our numbers.
When I started as an actor, the roles available for me were very limited or were characters with negative stereotypes. So I decided to pick up a camera and start creating my own films. The road as a filmmaker wasn’t any easier. No matter how many film festivals I’ve won and how well my films do, getting representation or even opportunities for work as a director has not been easy to come by. But I have used these obstacles to carve my own unique way in the industry.
Why is the representation and giving a platform to all voices important?
Media is powerful. It informs how others see our community but also how we perceive ourselves. [It is essential for our youth to] see themselves represented on screen not just as criminals and negative stereotypes, but also as lawyers, teachers, business owners, and even presidents.
Media also affects business, the entertainment industry is a $40 billion industry, yet we keep being excluded. Latinos as a community should have access to these opportunities just like everyone else.
How did the idea for Avenida Productions come about?
I was a filmmaker that had won many awards with my short films, yet as I shared before, my career wasn’t moving as I thought it should be. So I decided to create my first feature film called “Homebound.”
I pitched it to studios and production companies, but no one was interested in a film about an American family who just happened to be a Latino family. They wanted me to have big celebrities attached, and my goal was to make celebrities not give a platform to the usual players. So when I went out to the community to ask for their support, I discovered crowdfunding. With only a promise to make a movie that represented us (Latinos) in a positive light without stereotypes, hundreds of folks contributed to my campaign. These contributions, small and large, led to the eventual funding of my film. It was a beautiful experience because I felt like I was making this film with the community. Once the movie was filmed, I couldn’t sell it. So I went back to the community, and people started requesting the film at their local movie theater. After having a few screenings this way, the movie sold.
Other filmmakers started asking me how I did it. So I started helping others on the side. My husband and I had just started dating at the time. He saw me coaching a client and said, “This is a business.” Shortly after, we opened Avenida. We started around our kitchen table, and now, we have just opened a 13,000 sq studio in the heart of Los Angeles with standing sets. Taking inspiration from my own crowdfunding story, we also launched our very own crowdfunding platform for creatives called “Support Our Story.”
In essence, Avenida came about to create an Avenue for creatives outside the Hollywood system that often excluded us.
What are the projects you have been working on?
We just finished a documentary about dreamers called “My DACA Life,” which will be released this year. We are also gearing up to launch a digital network called Avenida TV with American Latino content.
Anything else you would like to add?
I just hope my story serves as an inspiration to those reading this. Sometimes, when things seem impossible, you have to think outside the box and create your own destiny.