by Lynnette Ramirez, Vice President Programming, NUVOtv
In 2002 I optioned a feature film script given to me by the still photographer working on Two Days, an indie film starring Paul Rudd that I was co-producing. The script was by a recent USC film school grad and was a beautifully written, elliptical story set in East Los Angeles. All the lead characters were Latino but I didn’t think much about this particular aspect. I had no idea of the challenges that lay ahead since I would later learn this project would be deemed a “Latin film.”
Historically, latin films or television shows rarely found a place in the traditional Hollywood system. As I began the journey to attach talent and financing to this project, I found myself stumbling into what I now have come to know as the challenging “Latin world of Hollywood.” I didn’t recognize at the time that during the first five years of my career I was in the “general market.” As a Latina who consumed all her media in English, I was aware there was a “Spanish speaking market” but I never thought about content in English whether it be film, television or music as having an ethnicity or racial identity. Being that my last name was Ramirez and I’m of Mexican descent, it’s surprising this was lost on me… or was it?
I quickly learned it wasn’t because at the time if you weren’t a Spanish speaker there wasn’t much, if any, media being produced that focused on the experience of being Latino in America. In Hollywood, the “English language Latin market” was being talked about but it didn’t yet exist in the actuality of consciously creating content for this growing demographic. If it happened it was by pure accident and forgotten about regardless of whether it was successful or not.
The more I took meetings on this indie Latin script, the more my eyes were opened to the fact that I grew up with virtually no role models in film or television and that stories about second and third generation Latinos were nonexistent. True, every ten years films like La Bamba or Selena came along, and there was always I Love Lucy reruns, but that was all there was to point to as commercial, mainstream successes. The fastest growing demographic and largest minority group in America – Latinos — was being overlooked.
There was, and unfortunately still is even today, a lack of overall diversity in media. Given the statistics of 50 million plus Latinos living in the U.S. there doesn’t seem to be a good reason ethically or business wise why Latinos are still largely ignored. I realized back in 2002 I could continue to try and raise financing for one small film, peddling my project around town while having to explain over and over again to financiers and top Hollywood brass why content that felt very general market but had an authentic Latino POV was needed. Or, I could opt not to wait for Hollywood to catch up with the demographics of the country, i.e., their audience, and instead apply my own authentic experience as a American Latino to build a brand as a producer and executive to seek out stories in any medium; film, television and even short-form digital content, the web as it was called back then, to bring these stories without tired stereotypes, to screens large and small.
Establishing this brand as a creator of content led me first to a development position as a senior vice president for George Lopez’s Warner Bros.-based production company, and now to the post of vice president of programming for NUVOtv, the first English language network for the American Latino.
At NUVOtv, we seek stories that not only break stereotypes but also put Latino characters in the forefront, driving the story and capturing their shared experiences as Americans while still embracing the ties to their cultural roots. I call this “General market sensibility, Latino POV.” I say that a lot in meetings when speaking about what type of content that defines the English language Latino marketplace.We also strive to be inclusive not exclusive, meaning you don’t have to be Latino to watch NUVOtv but if you are you’ll find your shared, authentic experiences reflected.
Along with our Chief Creative Officer and partner Jennifer Lopez, NUVOtv relaunched the network’s look and feel as well as its content this last July.Sitting at the upfronts in New York last May as part of the programming team, I was proud of the shows that we presented and have since aired. As a Latino and brand ambassador for NUVOtv, I am convinced our shows are delivering on the promise of good stories without stereotypes from an American Latino POV in English, all boxes checked off.
As our brand continues to evolve along with the face of America I continue to be excited about the programming we have premiering in 2014.
Hollywood has come a long way in the 11 years since I began my foray into this niche market, and while there is still a long road ahead, I’m proud to be at the network, NUVOtv, that is a pioneer in the English language Latino marketplace.
Lynnette Ramirez is Vice President of Programming for NUVOtv, the premiere English-language entertainment network created to embody the spirit and multi-dimensional lifestyle of the modern Latino audience. Jennifer Lopez services as NUVOtv’s Chief Creative Officer and collaborates closely with the network on programming strategy, creative elements, production and marketing.
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