SAG-AFTRA National Spanish Language Media Committee free screening FRONTERA at the Latino Cultural Center.
I want to thank everyone who came out to this event last week. I certainly appreciate the efforts the local and national SAG-AFTRA union is attempting to draw in and engage Spanish speaking talent (actors, writers, directors, producers, etc.). The efforts are admirable but it's going to take a collective effort to truly wrangle existing and future talent. I'm referring to real talent and real bi-lingual folks. People who dominate both languages without any noticeable accent. People who have a drive and are committed to creating a career and not some hobbyist.
I was flattered to be featured by my union but I hesitated in the beginning since I don't want to be the poster boy for this type of topic. I guess I'm considered to be a "successful" Latin actor in this market. But guess what? It didn't happen by accident. And why is that? I never considered myself a local anything. I never thought small and I always think out of the box...always. First, I never think of myself as a Latin actor. I'm an actor first without me ever thinking of the Latin title. Second, my drive to succeed was fueled by my upbringing and my parents' struggles. Third, my drive led me to ask hard questions...like CAN I MAKE A LIVING AT THIS?, AM I GOOD ENOUGH?, WHAT ARE MY STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?, WHO IN MY AREA IS SUCCESSFUL AND HOW CAN I MEET THESE PEOPLE?, etc. I honed in on my common sense and what I didn't know I chased after it (resources, information, education). Ultimately what makes any actor successful is their persistence armed with preparation. To work you need a bad ass agent/manager and you need to better your odds (more auditions means a better chance to land work), to get the work you have to be available as much as possible. It's not rocket science. Your material (head shots, demo reels: film/tv and voice-over, talent listings) is an ongoing evolution. The more quality work the better your materials. Again not rocket science. If you focus on your smaller goals they eventually add up to the bigger ones. Pace yourself. Your journey is uniquely your own. Ultimately you might outgrow your own market...then it might be a great time to head to L.A. or NY. Or take your chances and head out there anyway...but have a solid plan for survival because guess what? You'll spend more time working to survive rather than working as an actor. It doesn't mean you can't get there but you have to have a solid plan. All of my years in this love and hate relationship with my profession has taught me several things. Sincere professional relationships matter...nurture them. I have been cast in several big projects due to my relationships. I've also learned that success is lateral and not top to bottom analogies. My family comes first, being kind to myself matters and impulsive decisions are fleeting and full of hot air. I learned a lot quickly through people like George C. Scott, Billy Bob Thornton, Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Daniel Craig...but it wasn't what they were doing, that was obvious...I learned from what they didn't do. I learned about leaving a legacy and not being afraid. I learned to engage and make myself valid in my work. I learned to treat people with respect but when I didn't receive it I went into self-preservation mode to get my work done. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, I learned that I'm a storyteller and my job is to help in that process. That's it...nothing else.
Now the issue of nurturing specifically Spanish speaking talent is important. In fact it will take talent agents, casting directors, and acting schools to go into the communities (local union theaters, neighborhood playhouses, elementary schools, high schools, and universities) to educate and scout out that talent. But guess what? It won't happen because agencies feel it's not their job. They feel it's up to acting schools to draw in that talent into the marketplace. Casting directors won't do it because they don't have time and they don't have the resources (space, money, staff, etc.). A well known casting director once told me, "I can't make money that way." Wow. Well if you foster that talent and plant those seeds, eventually we will get better bi-lingual talent and we will draw in more work. The sad outlook is that how can we have such a dismal talent pool (bi-lingual) in this part of the country where Mexico is our closest neighbor. I don't see things changing. I once tried to take the baton and run with it but I realized it was an uphill battle. Ultimately, the only thing we're left with is hoping that any actor whether bi-lingual or not will succeed through their own perseverance. I don't agree with not helping. So I decided to help by leading by example. That's all I can do.
Many blessings to my fellow actors. You are all special creatures with hearts bigger than you can handle. Be kind to yourselves and be real with your life.