Behind the Scenes Success Stories

(L-R) Sergio Alfaro, President, and Flavio Morales, Executive Vice President of BIG VIDA Entertainment.
 

As we embark on the road to the 2014 NCLR ALMA Awards, we would like to for you to meet two very important members of the team, Sergio Alfaro and Flavio Morales from BIG VIDA Entertainment, a Latino-led production company.  Both Sergio and Flavio who served as executive producers on last year’s show and return in these roles this year, exemplify the hopes that we have for the younger generations of Latinos. Sergio and Flavio prove that Latinos can, and will be, successful in the entertainment industry when they are given the chance to tell their stories both in front of, as well as behind the camera.

 

We recently asked Sergio and Flavio a series of questions that we would like to share with you:
 

Sergio, we know you started your career helping produce live concerts with artists like U2, Celine Dion and the Black Eyed Peas. Can you tell us how you decided this was what you wanted to do and how you got started in the industry?
Music has always been in my family.  My grandfather had a band and as a kid I always would sneak instruments from the music room and try to play them.  As for how I got started, I was lucky enough to begin my career with Ken Ehrlich via an introduction by David Wader.  As we all know Ken Ehrlich is one of the greatest live event producers ever.  Ken’s right had man Ron Basile took me under his wing and between the two of them we traveled the world working on projects together for over ten years. 
 

What is your most memorable experience or show from early in your career? 
I’d have to say the opening of the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina.  The silence in the arena was absolute, then Green Day and U2 started playing “the Saints are coming” and the roar of the crowd was incredible! People were crying, singing and there was a sense of unity amongst the thousands of people unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  I still get emotional just thinking about that moment.
 

Flavio, you started your career in media at places like LATV and mun2. How did you first get involved with the industry?
I started at 17 as a senior in high school producing a public access show with my brothers and my friend Richard Estrada called ILLEGAL interns. We played music from The Smiths, Depeche Mode, techno and then evolved to rock en Español. We also covered the Chicano art scene in East LA. It was this independent DIY style that helped me learn to produce regardless of the budget limitations. It was also the start of what is now bilingual TV.
 

What advice would you give young people hoping to break into the production side of entertainment?
GO TO SCHOOL! I had to learn the hard way and now appreciate the fact that higher education establishes relationships that are key in entering the job market. There also needs to be an understanding that entertainment is not like any other profession, nothing is guaranteed and you can never take no for an answer.

What’s the best piece of advice that was given to you that you still carry with you today? SERGIO: You’re only as good as your last show! 
FLAVIO: Last man standing WINS.
 

As a brand new production company, how did you end up working on the NCLR ALMA Awards? 
I worked on the ALMA Awards 14 years ago and again 12 years ago, so I was not a stranger to the NCLR family.  Flavio had the idea of going after it so we did and after convincing NCLR and NBC of our abilities, we got the job.  We feel we brought something new to the ALMA’s being a Latino-led company and felt a sense of honor and pride.  We got the chance to prove ourselves not only to the community but to our families.  We walked away from last year’s show proud. 
 

What was your favorite part about producing the 2013 NCLR ALMA Awards? 
SERGIO: Tough question, I had two.Aloe Blacc was great on so many levels.His song had not saturated the market yet nor had it been put on every other award show, we were the first.The “I am American” piece was beautiful.So often Latinos are seen as foreigners when in fact we are second and third generation Americans.The photos during that piece while the national anthem was sung showed how we Latinos are your doctors, teachers, nurses, lawyers and not just your gardeners and second hand cooks.


FLAVIO: Seeing people’s reactions in the theatre once the show was over. People could not believe how fast it went and how they wanted to see more. At the after party, meeting so many NCLR members that night and them thanking us for elevating the production and hearing them say over and over “you guys got the mission, you get it”.
 

As a Latino-led production company, what insight or perspective do you contribute to the show?                                                                                                                                   
SERGIO: Real sensibility.You have to be a part of a community in order to understand it.

FLAVIO: The ALMAs are the only nationally televised awards show focused on US Latinos, our job is to highlight and create a one-of-a-kind platform. That POV (point of view) can never be lost.
 

Do you think it’s important to have more mission-focused award shows? 
Of course, we just need to continue to find creative ways of expressing the mission while entertaining.   

 

BIG VIDA Entertainment is dedicated to creating content in English and Spanish that serves the fast-growing U.S. Latino and international markets. Launched in 2013 by John Ehrhard, CEO of Pink Sneakers Productions, BIG VIDA is led by experienced TV producers Sergio Alfaro, President, and Peabody Award winner Flavio Morales, Executive Vice President.

 

 

 

Enter for a Chance to Attend the Premiere of Cesar’s Last Fast!

ATTENTION NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES-BASED ALMA FANS!
 


 

 

The NCLR ALMA Awards is giving three (3) lucky New Yorkers and three (3) lucky Angelenos two (2) tickets each to the premiere of the upcoming documentary, Cesar’s Last Fast! One Grand Prize Winner in each city will also receive a one-on-one opportunity to meet with director, Rick Perez, before the event!
 

Cesar’s Last Fast is an insightful documentary about the intense sacrifice and deep spiritual conviction behind Cesar Chavez’s life-long struggle for the humane treatment of America’s farm workers, and the untold chapter in the story of civil rights in America.

 

How to enter: Want to attend this exclusive event? Respond to this survey and tell us why you think it’s important that the stories of figures from the Latino community, such as Cesar Chavez’s, are remembered and shared today.

 

Enter HERE by April 23rd for your chance to win! Winners will be chosen in the New York tri-state area (premiere on April 18) and Los Angeles (premiere on April 25).

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Win Tickets to the LA Premiere of Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle!

ATTENTION LOS ANGELES-BASED ALMA FANS!

 

 

 

The NCLR ALMA Awards is giving three (3) lucky winners two (2) tickets to the Los Angeles Premiere of the upcoming documentary, Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, on April 28! The Grand Prize Winner will also receive an exclusive 15 minute one-on-one opportunity to meet with the filmmaker before the event!

 

Ruben Salazar was an American pioneer in journalism, being the first Mexican-American from the mainstream media to focus on and cover the Chicano community. His controversial death had the resounding effect of impacting others to take up the cause of tearing down racial barriers. Be one of the first to see this new film and learn more about Salazar’s life as an American leader. Enter the contest for your chance to attend the exclusive LA premiere!

 

How to enter: In 250 words or less, reflect on the life of Ruben Salazar, a man who broke down barriers in media, creating a more diverse workplace. Through ushering in calls for acceptance, he inspired others to achieve their life’s goals. Please elaborate on how his life and work has impacted or inspired you.

 

Three (3) lucky winners will have the chance to attend the premiere with a friend! One (1) Grand Prize Winner will also partake in a 15 minute one-on-one meet and greet with the filmmaker.
 

Enter HERE by April 23 for your chance to win!

 

 

Join Us for an Evening with ALMA Winner Rita Moreno

 

ATTENTION LOS ANGELES-BASED ALMA FANS!

 

The National Council of La Raza is hosting "A Conversation with Rita Moreno,” on March 13, 2014 at The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles!

 

Rita is the only Hispanic, and the first entertainer to have collectively won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony Award. Want to join us for this exclusive event? In 250 words or less, tell us how trailblazers like ALMA awardee Rita Moreno have impacted you.

 

Five (5) lucky winners will be given a chance to attend the event with a friend! They will listen firsthand to Rita talk about her impressive career and her new book.
 

Enter HERE by March 10th for your chance to win!

 

 

Luis Avalos: Farewell to A Talent, Mentor and Best Friend


 

In Memoriam
 

September 2, 1946 – January 22, 2014
 


On Wednesday, January 22, 2014,  Luis Avalos, a most beloved actor/director passed away of a heart failure at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, CA surrounded by friends and family. Millions of TV viewers will remember watching Avalos in PBS’s The Electric Company where he appeared in the over 650 episodes.
 

Born September 2, 1946 in Havana, Cuba, Avalos immigrated to New York as an infant with his father Jose Antonio Avalos and Estrella Avalos de Leon.  He began his television career in his early 20’s on the Emmy and Grammy award-winning program Electric Company (1972-1977) working alongside actors like Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Bill Cosby.
 

His most recent work included a role in Dennis Leoni’s Resurrection Blvd., as Father Mario Reyes, for which he won an ALMA for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Television Series in 2002. He has also starred on several series, including Condo (1983) with McLean Stevenson and Julie Carmen as well as Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times (1993). 
 

In 1993 he wrote, directed and produced the award-winning special for the Telemundo Network, El Regalo de Paquito for which he received an Emmy nomination for best director and honors from the Columbus Film Festival and UNICEF.


Avalos was also nominated for a Bravo Award (as the ALMA Awards were formerly named), for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Variety or Music Series/Special in 1996, for his appearance on Latino Laugh Festival on Showtime.
 

Active in the Latino entertainment community, Mr. Avalos gave generously of his time and leadership to help organizations such as Nosotros, The Ricardo Montalban Foundation, Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and the Imagen Foundation. He worked tirelessly to help bring about a more diverse and inclusive television and film industry.
 

But it was in his community that Avalos made the biggest impact among Latinos.  In 2000 Avalos founded The Americas Theatre Arts Foundation in Los Angeles and served as artistic director.
 

His musical Paquito’s Christmas which premiered at the Los Angeles Theater Center in 1994 became a holiday tradition in Los Angeles earning him a  2002 Imagen Award for Best Theatrical Production.  This play would go on to mentor, introduce and provide a place for hundreds of talented Latino actors to work their craft and share the Latino Christmas traditions.
 

Luis Avalos will be remembered as the talented actor/director he was; a pioneer in the entertainment industry; a loving son to Estrellita (as his mother was known to all); and most of all for the twinkle in his eye, his jokes, his laughter and as the best friend he was to all who knew him.

 

 

 

Excerpt from Latin Heat Entertainment, read the full article here.

 

Amidst Celebration, a Reminder of the Long Road Ahead

 

The 2013 American Music Awards, hosted by past ALMA winner and performer Pitbull this past weekend, was undoubtedly a special night enriched with Latin flavor.  The 41st annual ceremony included a tribute performance by past ALMA honoree, Jennifer Lopez, to the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, with Marc Anthony taking home the award for Favorite Latin Artist. There has been a lot of buzz about the show overall, both positive and negative.  It is exciting to see other awards shows celebrating American Latino talent, something that the NCLR ALMA Awards have been doing for nearly 15 years. 

 

However, we continue to be concerned with the ignorance and negativity that continues to plague our society. The miseducation, prejudice, and outrageous comments that resonated after the show remind us of the importance of our work and of the mission that remains ahead.

 

We saw this tweet shortly after the show:

Ew marc anthony? And their latin why are they in the american music awards?

 

This unfounded comment sums up a lot of what frustrates us about the social media backlash on the Latino impact on the AMAs, especially when you consider that all of the nominees for Favorite Latin Artist were born in the United States, in New York to be exact. Marc Anthony, Prince Royce, and Romeo Santos may all sing in Spanish, Spanglish, or English but they’re Americans.  Just this past summer, ALMA winner Marc Anthony and ALMA performer Sebastien De La Cruz were booed and criticized for singing ‘God Bless America’ and the national anthem at major sporting events.  Why are these Americans being scrutinized for showing their patriotism?  This is something that is seen far too often.  This unfortunate demonstration of ignorance inspired the “I Am America” segment in our show last September.

 

It’s puzzling to note that there was no such backlash to be found about One Direction, a band who won 2 awards that evening, and whose members are all from England and not American.  It’s difficult to understand why naysayers express that Latin music, made by Americans, doesn't belong at the American Music Awards when foreign-born singers such as Justin Bieber (Canadian) are winning awards and not receiving this kind of negative feedback.

 

It’s important to keep the dialogue going on these issues because there are still people who don’t understand.  Today, close to one-quarter of all children in the U.S. are Hispanic, a fraction that will rise to one-third by the year 2030.  Latino contributions to entertainment deserve to be recognized, just as that of any other American.  ALMA stars Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Zoe Saldana, Daisy Fuentes, Naya Rivera, and Christina Aguilera all played a part in the 2013 American Music Awards, a true sign that the leaders behind these shows recognize what, at ALMA, we’ve known from the start: The contributions of American Latinos to American entertainment are dynamic and powerful and it’s important that our artists be recognized for their talent and for the good that they do to make this nation stronger.  We hope audiences will collectively catch up.

 

 

 

Pitbull to host the 2013 American Music Awards!

 

By Jessica Mayorga

 

We've been researching this over at the NCLR ALMA Awards headquarters, and based on our findings it appears that this Sunday Pitbull will make history as the first Latino host of the American Music Awards!  He will certainly also be the first Latino to both host and perform on this show.  We congratulate our hermano Pitbull on being selected for this incredible opportunity.

 

We are also pleased to learn of the tributes to Latino artists on this year’s show, which will be held on the anniversary of Gloria Estefan's first AMA performance.  A number of past ALMA awardees, presenters, and performers will represent our community in this broadcast.  As we celebrate this opportunity for American Latino entertainers on this national platform, we are reminded of how far we've come but how much of a journey we still have ahead.

 

At the NCLR ALMA Awards, we are proud to continue our mission of promoting accurate, responsible representations of Latinos in American media and entertainment, supporting our actors, musicians, writers, authors, and artists as they take leading roles and claim their success in this nation.  Not only do we value the talent of these great entertainers, but as this year's ALMA broadcast on MSNBC demonstrated, we are also thrilled with how our talent uses their success to open doors and give back to others.

 

As with the ALMA Awards, we look forward to young Latinos throughout the nation tuning in to Sunday's AMA broadcast to watch Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, and others.  We hope you will see in their presence endless possibilities for yourselves.  The road ahead requires us to support up-and-coming Latino talent, join the movement that brings Latinos to the forefront in ways that educate the nation about our contributions, and inspire the next generation to soar as they pursue their dreams.

 

Pitbull, we know you will make us proud on Sunday.  We'll be watching!

 

 

 

Calling All Independent Writers, Directors and Producers!

 

By Chantal Portillo

 

NUVOtv is accepting submissions for its first independent film showcase, Nu Point of View: The Emerging Latino Filmmakers.

 

The first English language network for today’s modern Latinos is embarking on a search for the next group of rising film experts. The Nu Point of View Film Festival, set to be televised in March of 2014, will air the best features, documentaries and short films from up-and-coming filmmakers whose ideas integrate stories of Latin@s today. NUVOtv is empowering Latino content makers with the tools, voice, and audience they need to tell their stories

 

According to Popcorn People: Profiles of the U.S. Moviegoer Audience, a Nielsen report released earlier this year, Hispanics represented the largest racial or ethnic group of moviegoers, yet remain underrepresented when it comes to on-screen portrayals and behind-the-camera creative control. This could be YOUR chance to make a difference.

 

Share your “Nu Point of View” – your passion project, content by Latinos, for Latinos. If selected, your work could be seen by millions of viewers on national television AND you could be eligible to win cash prizes of up to $3,000.

 

Submit today! The official deadline is November 15, 2013. For more information on the film festival, eligibility requirements, and terms and conditions, visit http://filmfest.mynuvotv.com/.

 

 

 

 

The Graduates/Los Graduados

by Bernardo Ruiz, Director and Executive Producer

 

Many of us have heard the statement that Latinos are the youngest and fastest growing group of Americans. Yet all too often, this community is misrepresented—if represented at all. And rarely do we get to hear from Latino youth themselves. The Graduates/Los Graduados, a bilingual series focusing on the diverse experiences of Latina/o youth in high school, is a continuation of the documentary work I have done with my collaborators through Quiet Pictures since 2007. Our past projects have focused on stories of racial discrimination, immigration, and freedom of the press, with a common thread of representing struggles to achieve dignity and justice.

 

For this series, I teamed up with producers Pamela Aguilar, Katia Maguire and editor Carla Gutierrez (who I worked with on my last documentary, Reportero). All of us grew up in bilingual households. And three out of the four of us were born outside of the U.S. (Pamela in El Salvador, Carla in Peru and I, in Mexico.) I would argue that as filmmakers we were able to start the conversation with the students in the series at a deeper place than if we hadn’t had the experience of coming to the U.S. as children or teenagers; or hadn’t grown up in bilingual households.

 

As a team, we were interested in creating a series where Latina/o youth were at the center of the storytelling. In each hour of the series, we weave together three student narratives in which Latina/o youth themselves are the drivers of their own stories. Hour one deals with the experiences of three young Latinas and hour two examines the experiences of three young Latinos. The stories span six different school districts from across the country, in both urban and rural settings.

 

Through each individual story, we glimpse a larger structural issue such as poverty and inequality or a specific issue such as zero-tolerance policies in urban high schools or the banning of undocumented students from state universities. Rather than have an outside narrator tell us what to think about these issues, in The Graduates, Gustavo, Stephanie, Eduardo, Chastity, Juan and Darlene tell us about these and other challenges in their own words. When we do hear from outside voices, (writers, activists, and elected officials) they are providing context or talking about their own experiences.

 

In the series, we also hear from parents, in most cases, speaking to us in Spanish. The parents are a key part of the narrative constellation of these stories—and if there is a recurring theme with the parent stories, it is one of sacrifice for their children. I attended a recent press event where a journalist wondered aloud if there was something in the culture of “Hispanic immigrant families” that didn’t value education enough. I took a deep breath. I explained that all too often people confuse “culture” and economic reality. Of course, when parents are busy working long hours, or even more than one job, they do not have the same amount of free time to support their children with homework help, or encouragement to attend extra-curricular activities. Where there are community resources, they are not always made accessible to Latino families, especially non English proficient families. Parents may want to help their children but often don’t know where to turn.

 

The series celebrates projects and programs—and there are many others like them, not covered in this series throughout the country—started by dedicated teachers, community leaders or youth themselves, that seek to empower Latina/o youth. At the same time, the series illustrates the need for school administrators, legislators, community leaders, and others to put forth institutional and legislative advancements that will give Latino students the best possible opportunities to succeed in their education.

 

One key theme, running throughout the series is that students are successful when they have the opportunity to become involved in their schools and communities. It is crucial both that they have a say in their own futures, and that they have community partners and supporters ready to listen to them.

 

Watch the full trailer here and don’t forget to tune in on October 28 and November 4 at 10pm EDT on PBS.

 

 

 

 

Made in L.A.: A Tale of Courageous Latina Workers

 

By Patricia Foxen, Deputy Director of Research for the National Council of La Raza

 

 

A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting Almudena Carracedo, the director and co-producer of the documentary Made in L.A., at a conference on low-wage women workers. Her film is a poignant portrayal of a brave and spirited group of Latina immigrant garment workers in California who organized to resist exploitative labor practices by their employer, popular clothing retailer Forever 21. Made in L.A. has won numerous awards in different industries—including an Emmy Award and a Hillman Prize for broadcast journalism—and has received nominations and special mention for many others, including NCLR’s very own ALMA Awards.

 

Upon viewing the film I was so moved that I immediately organized a viewing at our NCLR offices in Washington, DC. With the co-sponsorship of Amnesty International and Sojourners, the screening and ensuing panel highlighted the moral imperative to reform our current immigration system and eradicate unfair labor practices such as wage theft, discrimination, dangerous working conditions, and many more that are endemic to low-skilled jobs filled by Latinos.

 

These intersecting issues are not only vividly exposed in the film but at the center of NCLR’s work, including our advocacy for fair and comprehensive immigration reform and improved working conditions for low-wage workers. With congressional discussions on a viable immigration bill still in the works, we must continue to push for broad-scale change that will allow not just immigrant workers but all low-wage workers—those who pick our produce, prepare our food, and make our clothes—the right to fair and dignified treatment in the workplace and beyond.

 

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and with funding from the Sundance Institute, Made in L.A. is now available in a digital format and can be viewed by audiences throughout the country. Anyone who wants—or needs—to see the human faces and hear the human stories behind our current policies should watch this film; they will learn a great deal about the tragic real-life consequences of our broken system, but they will also leave feeling deeply moved by this touching story of perseverance and hope.

 

You can watch Made in L.A. on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, and Vimeo On Demand.