Film Forward

Few TV Shows Are Directed By Latinas. These Women Got Behind A Camera To Change That.

Why they're not waiting for Hollywood.

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

While some people in Hollywood are making the effort to diversify characters on television, others are working to make the same change behind the camera by giving Latina directors a place to thrive. 

The amount of Hispanic women directing television episodes has historically been low and continues to be in the grand scheme of the industry. Earlier this year, UCLA released its annual Hollywood Diversity Report and found that in the 2015-2016 television season, minorities directed less than 10 percent of episodes of broadcast, cable, and digital scripted shows. The report also found women directed less than 20 percent of broadcast shows, while there were less than 10 percent of female directors who worked on cable and digital streaming shows.

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In this time, however, some strides have been made. Actresses like Eva Longoria and Gina Rodriguez have found themselves behind the camera over the last year. Longoria –– who told Variety in April that she dedicated herself to directing last year over acting –– has directed episodes of shows such as Jane the Virgin and Black-ish

Meanwhile, Rodriguez made her directorial debut on Jane the Virgin last season and will be directing another one in the show's final season. She's also slated to direct an episode of The CW's Charmed reboot.

Earlier in September, Rodriguez and Longoria found themselves directing on the same lot and took an Instagram photo for what Longoria felt was a memorable moment. 

"Two women, two Latinas, two actors also acting...now I don't know if this was history in the making but I know I felt damn proud of this moment," Longoria said in the Instagram post. "This is progress, this is the future, this is awesome!"

When it comes to bringing diversity to Hollywood, Rodriguez told A Plus last year that she intends to lead by example. 

"As much as I can say what I think other people need to do, I don't find any solution in that. I find solution in what I can do," she said. "Instead of saying, 'Those people need to do it, Hollywood needs to get it together,' no, I'm a part of that community now, and I need to get it together. And I need to use my platform in order to create opportunities for others, because if I want to see the change, I gotta be the change. I've been creating avenues for others to have success the same way others have created it for me."

Longoria shares that same sentiment of leading by example in order to bring forth more opportunities for people in her community. 

"One of the reasons I went into producing and directing was I wasn't going to sit back and wait for somebody to create a role I wanted to do," she said to Variety. "I was very lucky Desperate Housewives fit into what I could do as an actor, but that's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You can't just sit around waiting for that, and I wanted to create that — not just for myself but for other Latinas."

Longoria and Rodriguez's directing projects seems to have piqued another Latina actress' interest. Just a few weeks ago, Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Stephanie Beatriz took to Instagram to share her experience shadowing One Day at a Time's showrunner Gloria Calderon-Kellet in directing an episode of the Netflix series.

The number of Latina directors who haven't been on the small screen like Beatriz, Longoria, and Rodriguez are slowly but surely rising. Calderon-Kellet, along with past directors for Starz's Vida such as Rose Troche, Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, and Aurora Guerrero, who directed an episode of Ava DuVernay's Queen Sugar, are just some of the names that have been popping up to bring their own visions to each show. And when Vida premieres its second season, showrunner Tanya Saracho plans to have all Latina directors for its episodes, herself included.

At the heart of a TV show, the choice to hire a Latina director to set the tone for an episode of a show is more than just checking off a diversity box, but bringing new perspectives to the table. In June, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers held a meda summit where Saracho, Calderon-Kellet, and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, The Carmichael Show's showrunner, talked about how they can't wait for Hollywood to catch up with recognizing diverse talent, so they're doing it themselves.

"So much of Hollywood is like wanting to be cool, wanting to be ahead of the curve," Sanchez-Witzel said, "Well, the curve is inclusion. It's already happening."

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