Page 1

SUMMER 2008

Focusing on Latinos In the Business of Entertainment & Media access • resources • education

Taking Latin Music

Mainstream Shootout with A Man Called

Valdes A Look Inside “The Wars” at

PBS GOING GLOBAL

Belinda Menendez

WITH

VOLUME 1, NO. 2

$7.95

President, NBC Universal International Television Distribution


SUMMER 2008

FEATURES

14 Going Global

With Belinda Menendez The ILE Interview

The president of NBC Universal International Television Distribution juggles success, family and sales to more than 250 countries worldwide.

24 A Man Called Valdes

24

30

COLUMNS 6 8

41

36

PRIORITIES

Higher Standards PBS chief Paula Kerger has turned a Hispanic controversy into a new initiative for proactive diversity.

46

14

One of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers on breaking into Hollywood and thriving once you get there.

30 Jorge Pinos: Super Agent From phone company employee to William Morris international super agent.

SOUND BITES

Industry news at the front. ACCESS: LATINOS

The Hispanic Vote... The Media Void News Flash: There are Latino voters in America. Take note. OUR FOOTPRINT

In The Know Broadcast journalist Michele Ruiz focuses on online edutainment videos for the Latino community. IT’S A WRAP

Hollywood Goes To The Dogs

DEPARTMENTS 4

Publisher’s Note

43 Marketplace

43 Advertiser Index 44

LOCALES

Production Hot Spots

ONLINE...

insidelatinoentertainment.com

Career Center Calendar of Events

SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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PUBLISHER’S

NOTE

Achieving More

Publisher Helen Hernandez helenh@hmhmedia.com Co-Publisher / Editor-In-Chief Jerri Hemsworth jerrih@hmhmedia.com Editorial Consultant Zenaida Mendoza zenaidam@hmhmedia.com

Dear Readers, Here we are with the second issue of Inside Latino Entertainment & Media. It has been a pleasure for us to find stories that speak to, reinforce and highlight the importance and influence of Latinos in the entertainment industry. I am sure you will agree once you have read the inspiring stories of our features in this issue. Belinda Menendez is a star, not as a “celebrity” being chased by paparazzi, but as an executive who has made her mark in one of the most challenging industries in the world. Her business acumen, smarts, professionalism all speak to her success as the president of NBC Universal International Television Distribution. The fact that she can do what she does and juggle motherhood, too, is remarkable and inspirational. We are sure you will be highly impressed by her story. Film producer David Valdes has reached heights in the world of entertainment often sought by others. His experiences and creativity have taken him to being nominated for an Academy Award for his film The Green Mile. But that is only one of his achievements. David still finds the time to inspire other young Latino filmmakers and to give back to the community. You will read how important taking advantage of opportunities is and how grabbing the brass ring can take you to new heights. Agent extraordinaire Jorge Pinos changed the view of Latino musical talent by breaking the “glass ceiling” for Spanish language talent and moving that talent into the mainstream. He has represented the likes of Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, Shakira as well as many others. His story speaks to taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. ILE was very fortunate to have an in-depth interview with PBS President Paula Kerger who discusses her experience and how she came to her current position. She fills us in on how she sees public television in the future and how it impacts the Latino community behind the cameras as well as in front of the TV screen. We hope that you enjoy the humor of Irma La Bomba as well as the insights—serious and “tongue in cheek”—of our own Carlos Garcia. Please send us your comments and letters. It is our goal to bring you an informative and inspirational magazine. Enjoy!

HH

Helen Hernandez Publisher helenh@hmhmedia.com

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INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

Chief Marketing Officer Brian Hemsworth brianh@hmhmedia.com Chief Legal Officer Bennett Root, Jr. benr@hmhmedia.com Advertising Account Executive Heather Brehmer heatherb@hmhmedia.com Advertising Account Assistants Nicole Zoeller Assoc. Art Directors Jenny Yang Steven Ernesto Copy Editor Abby Ventzke Contributing Writers Billy Colinas, Carlos Garcia, Irma La Bomba, Antonio Mendoza and Nicole Zoeller Contributing Photographers Steve Ernesto and Terry Sutherland

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SOUND

BITES

Nielsen Study Reveals Viewership Trends WHO WATCHES THE MOST TV? WHO WATCHES THE LEAST? The answers Nielsen came up with might be surprising. African Americans watch more television than the average American (defined as the U.S. composite population), while Hispanics watch less, according to the new study just released by The Nielsen Company. Hispanics are more likely to watch broadcast network programming than ad-supported cable (51% to 46%). Conversely, the U.S. Composite average and African Americans tend to watch more ad-supported cable. The study also updated some non-ethnic stats as well. The average U.S. television home has 2.5 people and 2.8 television sets. Some 61% of homes have wired cable (down 7% from 2000), while 27% have satellite (up 8% from 2005). In addition, U.S. homes with DVD players are now 87%, finally surpassing homes with VCRs, which are now 79%. I

General Dramas:

92

Variety:

56

Other (i.e. sports events, animation, quiz shows):

34

Situation Comedies:

33

Feature Films:

16

News:

9

Adventure, Sci Fi, Westerns:

3

NOTE: Data is based on 52-week 2006-07 season regularly scheduled programs.

62%

Source: Nielsen

ing Total View ds ol All Househ minutes per week 55 s 31 hour

58% 51% 46% Ad-Supported Cable TV

Broadcast Network TV

Ad-Supported Cable TV

Broadcast Network TV

Ad-Supported Cable TV

Total Composite US Households

Hispanic Households

Broadcast Network TV

40%

40%

Viewership of Ad-Supported Cable Television versus Broadcast Network

Types of Primetime Programs on Englishand Spanish-Language Broadcast Networks in 2006-07 Season

ing— Total View ican Households er African Am minutes per week 22 45 hours

ing— Total View useholds Hispanic Ho minutes per week 13 27 hours

“African Americans continue to watch more television than the total U.S. composite, while Hispanics watch less.”

African American Households

Univision & The Home Depot Create Web Series

Univision Online has entered into a partnership with The Home Depot to launch a new Web show called Handyman Al Rescate. The show includes six webisodes with instructions and advice on how to accomplish a remodeling or repair project, leveraging content from The Home Depot’s existing instore clinics. The microsite can be accessed through Univision.com by using the keyword “Handyman Al Rescate.” It includes streaming videos, expert tips and photo galleries. 6

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

The webisodes discuss how to renovate a patio, painting techniques, organizing a garage, remodeling a bathroom, organizing a house better, and beautifying a garden. “Univision.com is committed to partnering with industry leaders like The Home Depot,” said Cesar Conde, executive vice president and chief strategy officer. “Our goal is to deliver innovative content that addresses the interests of our audience, and Handyman Al Rescate delivers on both fronts.” I

Source: John Consoli / PR Newswire


Latino Themed Musical Wins BIG at the Tony’s! (NEW YORK) In The Heights made history this spring as the first Latino-themed musical to win a Tony Award for Best Musical. Not only was the top honor awarded to Broadway’s big hit, but it also took away the awards for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations. The show began as an original musical conceived by LinManuel Miranda during his sophomore year at Wesleyan University. Miranda grew up in Manhattan’s vibrant and diverse Washington Heights neighborhood, and his background in a close-knit Puerto Rican family inspired his work as a writer, composer and performer. A co-founding member of Freestyle Love Supreme, Miranda has toured comedy festivals with his group's fusion of hip-hop, storytelling, improv and musical theater. I

The 2008 Imagen Awards Will Focus on Creative Spirit (BEVERLY HILLS) The Imagen Foundation will host more than 1500 actors, entertainment executives, film and television studios at the 23rd Annual Imagen Awards Gala, to be held on August 21, 2008 at the

SOURCES: InTheHeights.com/Broadway.com/NALIP/TonyAwards.com

Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Tribune Broadcasting Partners with LATV (LOS ANGELES) Just before its one-year anniversary in May 2008, bi-lingual network LATV announced a distribution partnership with Tribune Broadcasting, bringing major stations in New York, Chicago and Dallas into its affiliate fold. The addition of the number-one, number-three and number-six designated market areas (DMA) places LATV in front of nine million additional television households. This brings the total number of households to 32 million in the United States and Puerto Rico. It also places the network in nine of the top 10 Hispanic television markets and six of the top DMAs, according to LATV. “In less than one year, LATV’s affiliate roster has jumped from five stations to 33 across

The Imagen Awards were established in 1985 to encourage and recognize the positive portrayal of Latinos in all media

the nation. Now, the Tribune deal offers us distribution in three of the most sought-after television markets in the country,” said Howard Bolter, LATV president and COO. “Tribune had many emerging network options available to put on their digital multicast spectrum and chose LATV, validating our rapid and successful rise in the TV landscape. They are a firstclass media company and we look forward to working with them as partners.” LATV currently has 33 affiliations across the country in 19 of the top 25 Hispanic television markets. LATV is also carried on basic cable through its affiliates and in Los Angeles on KJLA via cable, broadcast and DBS. I

and to increase Latino representation at all levels of the entertainment industry. Each year the Foundation presents awards in over 19 categories that include film and television. They also award a President’s Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award, a Creative Achievement Award and a Norman Lear Writer’s Award. For further details, visit www.imagen.org. I

Source: LATV

Leslie Valdes Awarded Disney-ABC 2008 Writing Fellowship (LOS ANGELES) Disney-ABC Television Group and The Walt Disney Studios, in partnership with the Writers Guild of America–West, named 14 fellows for the 18th annual Writing Fellowship Program. The 2008 writing fellows, who began their year-long paid fellowships this spring working with executives from Disney-ABC Television and Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, include NALIP (National Assoc. of Latino Independent Producers) member Leslie Valdes. Cuban-born, Boston-bred Valdes

has written for film, television and stage and has an MFA from Columbia University’s Graduate Film School. He recently served as the writer/producer of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He also wrote for Dora the Explorer. Valdes has written 10 books for Simon & Schuster. Selected from more than 2,500 applicants, the 14 new fellows join an impressive alumni group that numbers over 200 participants since 1990. I SOURCE: NALIP and DISNEY-ABC

SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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ACCESS:

LATINOS

The Hispanic Vote... The Media Void BY CARLOS E. GARCIA NEWS FLASH: THERE ARE LATINO VOTERS IN AMERICA. TAKE NOTE. he Hispanic vote has been getting a lot of coverage in the press these days, particularly in the Democratic primaries with a Latino candidate in the mix (early on, at least). Latinos have been making up approximately 30 percent of the Democratic primary vote in California and about 35 percent in Texas. This is big, this is news, and what does this all mean? Well, for in-depth, uninformed commentary, let’s turn to the Anglos, blacks, Jews and Brits who have no understanding of this community whatsoever. Am I the only one who sees the flaw in this? Apparently CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC and MSNBC don’t. Neither does The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal. Recently, CNN identified three Latino commentators it could channel in and out of its coverage. Not one represented the Mexican American community—the largest segment of the U.S. Hispanic/Latino population. Perfect for analyzing the Democratic votes in Texas and California, don’t you think?

T

NEWS FLASH: AMERICAN JOURNALISTS FELL ON THEIR FACES THIS PRIMARY SEASON AS THEY COMPLETELY FAILED TO UNDERSTAND, MUCH LESS EXPLAIN, A KEY DEMOGRAPHIC. FOR MORE, GO TO THE WORLD-WIDE-WHATEVERDOT-I-DON’T-KNOW-NADA-DOT-COM. Now, it turns out talking heads and media pundits have been getting a hammering 8

lately, and perhaps Latinos are just too smart to get in the line of all that fire, but I think they can take the heat. Perhaps the talking heads deserve the fire if they pile up on one candidate or another when they smell blood. Perhaps they deserve to be sniped at if all they do is pass along each other’s drivel without really thinking about it. How else could some news programs’ Smear and Rumor Mill Initiative transform our political discourse into Silly Season? The real problem is being a reasonably informed Latino (who follows politics and knows his or her community) listening to someone else’s inane suggestions “explaining” the Latino vote to the average American. To Latinos, these are often the most uninformed statements imaginable, and they sit there dumbfounded as all these supposedly smart people nod knowingly. Sigh. NEWS FLASH: LATINOS ARE OF EVERY RACIAL BACKGROUND, AND BEING HISPANIC MEANS SHARING A CULTURAL HERITAGE, NOT A RACE.

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

What do you mean Latinos won’t vote for a black man? Did you not know that a good 10 to 15 percent of Latinos are of African descent? Have you ever met a black Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Colombian or Venezuelan? And if not, why not? They’re great fun, and their contributions to our Latino cultural heritage are huge (remember Celia Cruz?) And did you not know that many Latinos have very dark skin from their indigenous heritage? They lovingly call each other Moreno or Morenita. (Moreno means dark.) This doesn’t mean there isn’t racism within the Latino community, but it’s more complex than outsiders think. Staring at exit poll numbers won’t give you insight into what those numbers actually mean without cultural understanding. What do you mean Latinos are sexist and won’t trust a woman to be president? Latinos who emigrate to the United States or who are born to immigrant parents go through a process of adaptation to the ways and cultures of the U.S. mainstream. This isn’t a straight line, this isn’t a linear


Don’t Miss This Year’s Most Prestigious Latino Awards Event!

Honoring Tony Plana, Lifetime Achievement Ligiah Villalobos, Norman Lear Writer’s Award Rodrigo Garcia, Creative Achievement Rosario Dawson, President’s Award Other award categories include: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Theatrical Short or Student Film, Best Primetime Series, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Variety or Reality Show, Best Documentary for Television or Film, Best Children’s Programming, Best National Informational Programming, Best Local Informational Programming, and Best On-Air Advertising.

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ACCESS:

LATINOS

concept, and different individuals within the same family will take a different route through the acculturation maze and often arrive at very different destinations. In many ways, Latinos are more in charge of their acculturation process than any previous wave of immigrants. In the last century, as Europeans from many countries fled poverty, wars and injustice, they streamed through Ellis Island speaking a multitude of tongues. At the end of

that century through today, Latino immigrants from many countries are also fleeing poverty, wars and injustice, and they all speak Spanish. This created a whole new phenomenon. I call it “Critical Mass.” Critical Mass means this immigrant culture has its own center of gravity, its own core power source. The ghettos are now called barrios, but they have slowly grown to encompass entire cities (is Los Angeles a barrio?). Speaking only a foreign

tongue was once a huge barrier to success, and, while speaking English is still a major step up the economic ladder, being a monolingual Spanish speaker isn’t the barrier it used to be. In fact, being bilingual/bicultural is a major advantage in the business world and just getting through your day. Some have said that this Critical Mass has, in fact, impeded the progress of the community, but that is true only if you think becoming indistinguishable from the average American is progress. Latinos see it otherwise. To them, they are at a Chinese restaurant with a menu from which they can pick and choose their courses. So they will say yes, we will take the American attitudes toward financial matters, punctuality and pets. We will accept some of the attitudes toward a hectic, over-scheduled life, some of the attitudes towards food and health, but we will adamantly hold on to our Latino attitudes to the big stuff— family, elders, children, generosity, warmth and conviviality. NEWS FLASH: LATINOS ARE A LOVING, HARDWORKING, LOYAL AND FUN-LOVING PEOPLE WHO PUT OTHERS FIRST, ADORE THEIR PARENTS AND THEIR CHILDREN AND WHOSE VOTING PATTERNS REFLECT THEIR LOYALTY ABOVE ALL. LATINOS ARE RESPECTFUL OF POWER, GENEROUS TOWARD THE LESS FORTUNATE, COMMUNITY-ORIENTED, AND REJECT HATE, SELFISHNESS AND MEANSPIRITEDNESS AS VALUES. Perhaps I reveal too much. I think I just said Latinos are naturally Democratic in their values because of how they live their lives. If Democrats stick to the values Latinos live by, they will win them. We have seen how Americans were persuaded to vote against their economic interests by manipulation of their social values, and Latinos are not immune, but watching Republicans fall over themselves trying to be the most vitriolic anti-immigrant voice out there has totally undone whatever inroads President Bush might have once made with this group.

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INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008


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ACCESS:

LATINOS

During the primaries, Latinos had the same Obama-Clinton divide that was seen in the Anglo world. Young people “got” Obama while the older and less well-educated people “bowed” to Clinton. I think this came from several sources—one is the Latino loyalty factor. They were loyal to Bill Clinton and family is family, so they

voted for Clinton (not necessarily for Hillary Clinton). Also, they tended to be influenced by the political machine with its levers and pulleys comprised of jobs and earmarks, much like every past hyphenated group in America’s history, Clinton was the machine candidate, so the Hispanic-Americans went that way

“It turns out talking heads and media pundits have been getting a hammering lately, and perhaps Latinos are just too smart to get in the line of all that fire, but I think they can take the heat.”

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INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

just as the Italian-Americans and PolishAmericans went with the machine. Young Latinos understand Barack Obama and I have heard stories of intense arguments between young Latino voters and their elders about this issue—the elders think the young people are being disloyal, while the young people think their elders don’t understand Obama’s eloquence and cross-cultural, new-politics paradigm. They’re both right. Tell that to CNN. CARLOS E. GARCIA is an accomplished professional in both qualitative and quantitative research as well as a successful entrepreneur. Prior to founding Garcia Research Associates, Inc. in 1990, he directed the quantitative divisions of two minority marketing research firms. Mr. Garcia also held the position of Research Manager with Maritz Marketing Research. He can be reached at 818-5667722 ext. 101.


 GOING GLOBAL WITH

Belinda Menendez How the president of NBC Universal International Television Distribution juggles success, family and sales to more than



250 countries worldwide.

Photography By Terry Sutherland

14 INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

M

ost of us consider ourselves busy. We rush across town for a meeting, pack in some long hours before a deadline, and still make it to Junior’s soccer game. In Belinda Menendez’s case, the term “busy” takes on global proportions. The woman who heads up international distribution of NBC Universal’s portfolio of filmed entertainment, including 9,000+ feature films and more than 55,000 television episodes, hops aboard transatlantic and transpacific airliners the way most businesspeople hop on a freeway. Her day in Los Angeles starts with Europe on the phone, and by mid-morning business has shifted to New York. By late afternoon, business with Asia and the Pacific Rim starts rolling. And somewhere in between she juggles deals with dozens of other countries, manages her office in Universal City, Calif., keeps up with the trials and rewards of being a mom, and carries on a semblance of a normal life. Yet despite the grand scale of her business affairs and the challenges of managing a busy life, Menendez maintains poise, grace and composure usually found in a southern belle or European royalty. She is focused in her purpose and committed in her actions. Her disarming calm belies the immense power and strength lying just beneath


 the surface. These qualities make her a negotiating force you want on your team and not on the other side of the table. She is one of the most successful international media distribution experts in the business.

GLOBAL BEGINNINGS It would be hard to imagine a more suitable path for getting into international distribution than Menendez’s upbringing, schooling and career history. Each piece, though seemingly a left-hand turn at the time, was in fact a right turn—or better put, the right turn. Born and raised in London, she grew up in a close, sup-

looking for ways out of their careers. Soon she, too, looked for a way out, landing a job as a receptionist for a small film distribution company. The company represented producers and distributed their product in the United States and Latin America. She got the job on a Thursday, and the whirlwind began. “They called me on Friday, and said there was a festival starting on Monday at the Century Plaza,” explains Menendez. “Since I spoke fluent Spanish, they had two executives coming in from TVE, and they needed someone to translate. On Monday morning these two executives took me under their wing, and I discovered this whole world of

“So I went to work for Televisa,” says Menendez matter-of-factly. “I was heading up their distribution area. When I first started at the company, they only had distribution in Latin America, Italy and China. I worked there for six years, and by the time I left, they were in more than 80 countries.” portive family with her two brothers. Her parents had made the move to England from Madrid, Spain, so she grew up learning both Castilian Spanish and the Queen’s English. After the requisite schooling in England, Menendez headed off to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, studying topics as diverse as history and theology. She continued her education at Erlangen University in Germany (correctly Friedrich-Alexander-Universität), adding German to her already-impressive linguistic abilities. It wasn’t long before Menendez headed westward, this time spending a year studying liberal arts at Sweet Briar College, an all-women’s school in Virginia. (We know that technically English is the language spoken in Virginia, but the argument could be made that the English spoken at a private all-girl’s school in Virginia could be considered yet another language Menendez learned to speak.) Her journey continued its westerly heading, and she landed in Los Angeles, studying masters’ level economics on scholarship at UCLA. It was not Hollywood, though, that drew her to Los Angeles. It was law. Menendez decided to clerk at a local firm while contemplating law school. It wasn’t long, though, before she noticed a lot of unhappy attorneys

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distribution. I thought, ‘This is so much fun. I love this.’ I sat in every meeting, went to all the breakfasts and dinners. I was just fascinated. I thought this was exactly the type of career that I’d like to spend some time developing.”

THE DISTRIBUTION DECISION Menendez’s career picked up speed. After the two weeks at the Los Angeles Screenings, she was promoted to assistant for the partner who focused on the Latin American market. Menendez spent the next few years immersed in Latin American distribution. She traveled, learned the business, and honed her skills not only in business, but in sales and international negotiation, as well. The firm did a lot of business with Televisa, the largest media company in the Spanish-speaking world. In time, Menendez received an offer to manage a major portion of the company’s distribution business. She accepted. “So I went to work for Televisa,” says Menendez matter-of-factly. “I was heading up their distribution area. When I first started at the company, they only had distribution in Latin America, Italy and China. I worked there for six years, and by the time I left, they were in more than 80 countries.”


“ When you’re balancing a global business, there are always ups-and-downs across the world, and you have to be mindful of what’s going on. We’re always looking for opportunities and where to focus our resources.” Without much infrastructure for distribution outside of Latin America, building the business took a lot of work. Menendez used that time to learn more about packaging programs to suit client needs and finding creative ways of opening up new markets. Her career took her to a number of high-profile companies in various cities. She was working out of Los Angeles, heading up distribution for the Cisneros Group, followed by a post leading international distribution at Michael Solomon’s S.I.E., when Canal+ came knocking on her door for television distribution. Menendez moved her family to Paris where she was soon promoted to dis-

tribution for theatrical, video and television. “We had a really extraordinary range of pictures,” recalls Menendez. “It wasn’t just the fantastic French library, but they also had the Carolco library, which was the Terminators and the Rambos. They just had some really fun properties.” Studio Canal and Canal+ were acquired by Vivendi, which subsequently acquired Universal. With corporate integration, Menendez was given the opportunity to manage international television distribution. And with that corporate move, she returned with her family to Los Angeles, and began her work at Universal. “It was so exciting,” explains Menendez. “I just couldn’t




 “ What makes it easy for me is the team we have across the world. We really have an extraordinary and diverse group of executives in each of our offices. It’s just a great team of people who are very focused and very passionate about what they do.” believe I’d been given such an opportunity, because I didn’t come from a studio structure. To come from smaller business and be given the opportunity to manage a much larger portfolio was really exciting. And very challenging.” Leveraging her smaller-business acumen, Menendez brought a lot of energy and a new perspective to her Universal business unit. That helped her during transitional times. There was great product coming through the pipeline, but changes in ownership and management (Vivendi, GE, NBC) brought the inevitable challenges associated with merging businesses, cultures and overall corporate strategies. Menendez has found her stride within the organization, as well as in life. She’s got the exuberance of someone just starting out in business, and the mega-conglomerate aspects of working for a parent company like GE haven’t fazed her a bit. She’s also found balance in her life. Over the past several years, she has involved her two children in family decisions about jobs, moving and opportunity. Her son is away at college in Northern California, which has been bit of an adjustment. Her daughter will be leaving for college this fall. And while it’s easy to see just how close Menendez is to her family, her value of education runs deep, something her kids have definitely inherited.

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TODAY…AND TOMORROW Today, Belinda Menendez is the president of NBC Universal International Television Distribution, where she is directly responsible for managing the international licensing of NBC Universal’s portfolio of filmed entertainment assets to all forms of television media. Simply put, she makes sure their television and film products are not gathering dust on shelves. “I think it’s always challenging when you’re managing a business that is global,” says Menendez. “Each new territory has its own unique set of circumstances and issues, whether it’s technology, infrastructure, politics, economy, etc. So when you’re balancing a global business, there are always ups-and-downs across the world, and you have to be mindful of what’s going on. We’re always looking for opportunities and where to focus our resources.” Diversity plays a significant role in the business Menendez manages: She and her team live it every day. By the very nature of being immersed in the international marketplace, they are dealing with customers of every ethnicity, gender, religion, language and culture. Rather than a potential obstacle, Menendez sees it as something to be embraced. “The variety of people we deal with on a daily basis, and the rich cultures we experience on the road make the job all that more interesting. I’m always learning some-


1 11 14 100+ 250+ 1500+

N

BC Universal International Television Distribution excels in diversity—the lifeblood of international distribution. Race, color, language, religion—none of these differences present a barrier to busi-

BUSINESS UNIT spanning COUNTRIES with OFFICES employing EMPLOYEES selling in COUNTRIES serving CLIENTS

ness. By embracing cultural diversity and treating every client as a unique individual, Belinda Menendez’s division has leveraged these differences into success. With more than 55,000 television

episodes and 9,000+ feature titles available for international distribution, “There’s something for every market,” says Menendez. She should know—her division doubled revenues over the past five years.

NBC Universal International Television Distribution Offices Worldwide

Los Angeles

New York

Miami

São Paulo

London

Madrid

Paris

Amsterdam

Munich

Moscow

Dubai

Singapore

Tokyo

Sydney

“Technology plays a much larger part in distribution today. Piracy is a huge concern, compounded by the immediacy of the Internet. ... Menendez’s team constantly explores and tests new means of more immediate distribution through innovative business models and legitimate alternatives to piracy.”




 thing new and would probably be bored without that element.” But managing a distribution empire is not a solo act. “What makes it easy for me is the team we have across the world. We really have an extraordinary and diverse group of executives in each of our offices. It’s just a great team of people who are very focused and very passionate about what they do. That’s one of the qualities we look for when we hire. We look for people who are really very passionate about the film and TV business. We really have exceptional talent, and that facilitates our day-today operations.” The satellite offices under Menendez’s management work through the Los Angeles home base, yet still maintain a healthy degree of automony in making decisions. Menendez has learned that, in order for local offices to be able to best respond to local needs, they must be empowered to make essential decisions in real time, rather than filtering everything back to the home office. Communication is critical, and the business unit’s strategy is presented before the team on an annual basis. Everyone knows the game plan and can make the necessary adjustments along the way. Technology plays a much larger part in distribution today. Piracy is a huge concern, compounded by the immediacy of the Internet. Traditionally, when a new program begins airing in the United States and starts its cycle of foreign distribution, common practice would find it in its first international markets within a year. Menendez’s team constantly explores Spending time with her teenage daughter Dominique is obviously time cherished by both. and tests new means of more imme- And even though Menendez’s son Julien is away at college, both of her children are never far from her thoughts. diate distribution through innovative business models and legitimate alterwatch in English with French subtitles. These programs will natives to piracy. One such example is a groundbreaking then follow with more traditional distribution on broaddeal reached in 2007 with France’s TF1 Group, which cast, satellite or basic cable, when dubbing and repackaging allowed viewers to watch episodes of Heroes season two for the markets is complete. The TF1 Vision results were so within 24 hours of their U.S. broadcast, at a premium price, successful, Menendez’s team is now extending this new via their TF1 Vision video-on-demand service web site. model to new seasons of Heroes, new territories and new Those viewers who “must see” the newest offerings from titles. As the highest form of flattery, other distributors have the States don’t have to look for pirated versions. They can since followed suit. simply go online and buy them, download the shows and

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INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008


While it’s easy to see just how close Menendez is to her family, her value of education runs deep, something her kids have definitely inherited.




 Menendez says that distribution has always appealed to her because it’s ever changing. With emerging technologies, business is more dynamic than ever. Her business unit views the films and television shows as digital assets, with virtually any distribution model now possible, including broadcast, cable, pay, Internet and mobile devices. Bottom line: If there’s a way to see a program, Menendez wants her team providing content and monetizing NBC Universal’s assets. It’s all working for NBC Universal International Television Distribution. Under Menendez’s direct supervision, the division has doubled its business in the last five years. That’s a great track record, but sets the bar high for the next few years, and Menendez is already implementing plans to continue her business unit’s growth.

How does someone get into international distribution? In the case of Belinda Menendez, speaking English, Spanish, German, French, and some Italian and Portuguese has certainly been a benefit. But more than that, she cites her focus as her number one success factor. During her darkest and most challenging moments, her focus on her own job and her goals never wavered. Beyond focus, Menendez recommends a good education, a passion for work, determination and finding key mentors and guides to help you along the way. International business is fun, exciting, but taxing and ever challenging. She also believes that balance is important. She admits that as an executive and a mom, every day is a challenge, but credits that balance of home and career as part of her success.

COLUMBO ROCKS! What plays around the world might surprise many Americans. It’s a showcase of the immense earning power of NBC Universal’s rich library of assets. ■ House is an enormous international

■ Columbo maintains the immense

hit. In fact it’s now the #1 most suc-

international popularity it has enjoyed

cessful U.S. series export around the

for decades. The classic 1970s

world, outpacing the likes of CSI, CSI

detective series continues to be a true

Miami, Lost, The Simpsons and Grey’s

phenomenon in major overseas territo-

Anatomy. It currently rates among the

ries such as Italy, Germany and

Top 5 U.S. programs in eight major

France. In Italy, for example, 18 clas-

overseas territories, including No. 1

sic Columbo TV movies ranked among

rankings in Germany, Italy and

the Top 50 films of the year for major

Australia. House is also the No. 1 or

broadcaster Rete 4. The episodes

No. 2 U.S. program on its channel in Mexico,

averaged an impressive 2.4 million viewers

Poland and Spain. It enjoys its greatest popu-

and bettered the channel’s usual primetime

larity in Italy, where it delivers an incredible 6

share by 50 percent.

million viewers per episode. ■ 1980–’90s hit detective series ■ Since making its international debut

Murder, She Wrote continues to air

in late 2006, Heroes has become an

overseas with great success. This

astounding worldwide success, lifting

past year it delivered terrific ratings

the show to the same level of mega-hit

performances in major markets such

status it enjoys in the U.S. On every

as the U.K., Spain, Italy, Denmark and

continent, in country after country,

The Netherlands. In the U.K., it

Heroes has debuted to record num-

remains a time period winner for

bers, often producing the highest-rated

BBC1 in its accustomed mid-afternoon

telecasts ever for the channels on

time slot, averaging 1.6 million view-

which it airs. It is currently a Top 5

ers to top all competitors.

U.S. series in the U.K., France, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Australia and Brazil.

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INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

Information and photos courtesy Research from NBC Universal International Television Distribution


ILE talks with one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers on breaking into Hollywood and thriving once you get there. Photography by Terry Sutherland

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INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008


A Man Called 

AVID VALDES DOESN’T NEED TO TELL YOU HE likes Westerns. His home is a showcase for western art, and his voice, while not the same tone as John Wayne or Gary Cooper, has the same commanding and confident pace to it. His words are well thought out, well spoken, and dead on point. Looking at him, you can’t help but notice another characteristic straight out of the old West: gunfighter eyes. Steady, unflinching, revealing nothing. Eyes that reflect a profound clarity and understanding of the world he lives in. He “gets” Hollywood, but he “gets” the real world, too. Valdes doesn’t come from the stereotypical East L.A. Latino background, but grew up as an average Southern California beach kid. He didn’t break into Hollywood trading on the family name, but rather by outsmarting the system, seizing opportunity, and working his tail off. He is a movie producer, living in the rarified air of big studios and big stars. But spend a few minutes with him and you’re as likely to chat about kids or dogs or schools, or even the price of gas, as you are about box office grosses or deals in the making. And family. Family means a lot to Valdes. He has a deep respect for his family, his culture and his heritage. He seems to have found a balance between the old world of his family’s past, and the new world of his children and the industry he works in. Valdes has worked with some of the biggest names in film and television—Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Glenn Gordon Caron, Fred Silverman, Wim Wenders and Brian Grazer. Valdes recounts stories with the vivid detail that tells you he really lived it, yet he’s just as excited about his latest project—a digital comedy concert film in which he explores technological and cultural boundaries in ways he never has before. Entertainment has a real asset in David Valdes. So does the Latino community. Where are you from? I was born in Echo Park, California, and lived in Silverlake until I was five. We then made a big jump to Orange County. In Orange Country, there were no Latinos. You were basically Republican and white middle class. Even though you have a name like Valdes, the only person who thinks you may speak Spanish is your Spanish teacher. Growing up in Echo Park, I did speak Spanish, because my grandparents spoke Spanish, but once I moved to Orange County, I changed my ways. In Orange County, I was much more a beach kid. When did the Hollywood bug bite you? I was one of those guys who had no clear calling of what I wanted

to do, until one night my sister came up and said they were shooting a movie at the cove that was just down the street from where we lived in Laguna. I went down to watch them film Diary of a Mad Housewife and just stayed there all night and loved the whole ambiance. It was the ’60s. It was a day and an age when we were all rebellious and trying to make a statement. People were wearing sandals and had long hair. There was food all over the place, and they were getting paid for it! And they were very nice to me. I’d always loved movies, but I never could get into the movies because of that “Orange Curtain” that separates Orange County from Los Angeles. It’s like the fence they want to put up on the border. It’s hard to get over that. I didn’t have an East L.A. upbringing. My grandparents came from Mexico. My father and uncle, probably the biggest male influences in my life, were born in El Paso, Texas, which they say is sort of the Ellis Island for Mexican-Americans coming into the United States. Even though I’m second generation, my childhood wasn’t the Latino experience you usually hear about. That’s more like the experience a lot of Latinos have today. The studios and the marketers trying to target Latinos today think they speak Spanish or watch Telemundo or Univision, but they don’t, because their childhood experiences were very much like mine. Yes, I would come into Los Angeles to see my grandmother and she would be glued to her telenovela, and she would make us dinner but then quickly go back, and we’d hear her crying and crying, then laughing. There was a novella that she watched religiously, every day of the week, and never missed it. But that was foreign even to me. I didn’t even know we could get Spanish language television. The first award I ever received, in my mid-40s, was a Lifetime Achievement Award by Helen Hernandez [publisher of ILE] and the Imagen Foundation, and I thought, “My, gosh! Does this come with a walker and a respirator?” I thought these were reserved for people in wheelchairs at the end of their careers. Then I realized they didn’t have a lot of people to honor at the time, and I was given the award because of my ethnicity. But my ethnicity didn’t get me where I got to in this business. It was perseverance, and determination and tenacity, and maybe some talent. There was a real lack of diversity in the business. It was the first time I became aware of Latino affairs, and I took a great amount of pride in receiving that award. Since then I have won many other awards, but that one really made me aware of the importance. SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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A Man Called

VALDEs



That night two girls came up to me, both extremely nervous—probably high school or university kids. They said, “I’ve seen your name for years and you’ve been such an influence for me.” That really opened my eyes that people do read the credits, and when they see a Spanish surname, they say, “Hey he did it, and I may be able to do it, too.” So how did you do it? I was naïve. I figured I could just come to Los Angeles and get a job on a movie. I was only 18 or 19 at the time, but I learned the catch-22 of the business: You can’t get a job



I saw it as a great opportunity. I had a friend living in Vancouver, so I applied to the University of British Columbia, and thought I might be able to get onto a movie, and that’s exactly what happened. The call came in to the school one day that a movie was coming in, and they were looking for people who could build sets. The union couldn’t provide anybody, and they felt the university could. So I got my first job on a movie in the art department. UBC had a theater arts program, but not really a large film program, so later I ended up coming back down to UCLA and finished up school there.

“I was given a job that most people hated, but I loved. It was called ‘the fireman.’ I never knew what I was going to do one day to the next. The night before, I was assigned wherever they needed me.” unless you’re in the union or guild, and you can’t get in the union or guild unless you have a job. At Orange Coast College I had only attained an Associate of Arts degree, and I knew I needed at least a Bachelor of Arts degree. This was the late ’60s and neopotism was rampant. Didn’t matter whether you were Latino or African-American or gringo, it was a closed-door business. An article appeared in the Los Angeles Times about Robert Altman and his experience of making McCabe & Mrs. Miller up in Vancouver, and how wonderful it was, but there was no infrastructure. You had to bring an American crew up there, because the Canadian crews were really legitimate stage crews, not film crews. 26

Tell us about your first job back in Los Angeles. It was one of those “right-place-at-theright-time” stories. I literally graduated from UCLA and one day later I was looking in the back of Variety where they have all the classifieds. There was a manager looking for a reader and analyst. I went in and got the gig. This guy represented five celebrities at the time, and he couldn’t read all the material that was coming in. One thing I was skilled at was cramming for a test the night before and acing it the next day. So I could read a screenplay, write a two- or three-page evaluation, and give my opinion on whether or not it should be made. After six or nine months of that, I focused on where I wanted to go. I was

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

dealing with above the line people. Before I had worked mostly below the line. I was working with Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood on Grease, having just done Saturday Night Fever. These were big movies, and I loved the teamwork and the camaraderie. During that time I met a director who offered me a chance to work with him as an assistant director, so I never worked my way up the traditional way. In fact, not only did I get the job as assistant director, within a couple of weeks that director was fired and I found myself directing a feature film. No working as a P.A. or runner? Just right into the big game? This was when there was a cottage industry of non-union movies. That’s actually how I got into the union—there was a whole generation of people who had a lot of credits and experience who wanted to get into the union, and suddenly, for a little while, the floodgates were open. I worked at this company and had a plenty of days of experience, and got into the guild. It was really a great education—I worked with five different directors on five different films. Once I got into the DGA, it was just what I thought it would be. It gave me carte blanche and allowed me to work anywhere. I immediately got a job at Universal in television. I elected to work as a Second A.D., not a First. I really wanted to learn the craft—I was brought up that whatever you decided to do in life, be the best at it. I was a little afraid of suddenly going into the whole Universal studio system as a First. In those days, the studios were factories, and Universal was a television factory. They produced 20 to 25 hours of television programming a week. I was given a job that most people hated, but I loved. It was called “the fireman.” I never knew what I was going to do one day to the next. The night before, I was assigned wherever they needed me. So if Columbo had a huge crowd scene with 200 extras and they needed an extra assistant director, I would go there. If Rockford Files had an assistant director who was sick, I’d go


fill in. I would often work five different shows in a week. As an A.D., you’re seen as the drill sergeant or bad-ass, so I had to quickly ingratiate myself and get the crew to do what I asked, when they were used to taking orders from somebody else. I really enjoyed that job. It was really, really a great experience. What was one of your best moments as a producer? You deal with so many defeats as a producer, the proudest moments are pretty memorable, because they’re fleeting. The one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is savor them, because they evaporate quickly. I’d say that The Green Mile is one of my proudest moments. It was part of an incredible series of novellas that Steven King had written that I was obsessed with. When Frank Darabont wrote the screen-

play, it came in even better than the original source material, and when we did the movie, the movie came in even better than the screenplay. I just knew every day on The Green Mile that we were achieving something spectacular. It was on the page, but the synergy between the actors was making what was on the page even better. I knew that we had magic. It was a problem show in the sense that it went over schedule and over budget. Every Friday, Alan Horn, who is now the president and COO of Warner Bros., would come over to the Warner Hollywood lot and talk to me about how overschedule and overbudget we were. And I’d tell him it’s part of this director’s process. There’s nothing we can do to accelerate the pace. The pace has been set. It’s a slow pace, but it’s a pace that lets the actors experiment. All I could tell him was that I thought he

would have a movie that would get a lot of Oscar nominations. I strive to make movies that will win awards, but I’m also out to win the “Bank of America” awards and make sure the picture brings in a profit. But that movie was never No. 1 at the box office. It would be No. 2 on one week, then No. 4, then back to No. 2. To tell you the truth, when the nominations came out, I was asleep. Even though it was successful, we weren’t sure the critics were going to see it our way. So I was actually kind of surprised when the calls started coming in at 5:30 in the morning. When we made Pale Rider in 1984 and Unforgiven in 1991, we had a responsibility to make the movies with little money, and just do the best job we could, because Westerns don’t fare well in market. We never, ever thought they would win any

SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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A Man Called

VALDEs

 awards. Clint, I think, would verify this for you today. There are a zillion reasons studios don’t want to make Westerns: women do not go to them, kids don’t like them, they don’t sell overseas. Westerns are extremely difficult to make today.



Latinos are increasingly becoming the focus of studios, networks, marketers and even politicians. What do make of all this? Everybody is trying to target this audience, but it’s like herding cats—very hard to do. As young Latinos grow up, whether you grow up in East Los Angeles or Laguna Beach, you suddenly identify with your heritage a lot more and take a certain pride in it. You want to know where your grandparents were from in Mexico, or Puerto Rico, or Venezuela. I saw La Misma Luna in Mexico in Spanish. and it really moved me. I thought it was really a good story. It would be interesting to see the exit polls on it here, and know who’s seeing it. I think it’s probably families trying to tell their kids what it was like to come to this country for the first time, and to not take our liberties and our freedoms for granted. With our heated election right now, especially in the Democratic Party, it’s interesting. I can remember when I was young, my father and my uncle and my grandparents religiously voted Democratic. And they voted because it was such a sham in Mexico. I think it takes couple of generations for a lot of Latinos to accept a system that is not as corrupt as it was in Mexico or Venezuela or wherever they came from. African-American entrepreneurs seem to have found the pulse of their market much better than we Latinos have for ours. Tyler Perry is probably the best example of that. We don’t have a Tyler Perry. Technology is rapidly changing this business, so I think that will turn around. It’s something I’ve been frustrated and stymied by over the years. When I got more involved with Latino affairs, I accepted a position on the board of directors for the Latino Theater Company downtown or LATC, the thing that always surprised me was the number of people 28

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008


who came up to me with good projects and ideas at a time when a lot of films were just regurgitating 1980s television fare, and this was like a treasure chest that had never been opened before. I tried to tell some of these stories, but I found it impossible at a studio level to have any of the doors open. Now they’re starting to open, I think, in part, due to Cuarón, del Toro and Iñárritu. We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask you about your experience producing some of the most important Westerns of our time. I’ve felt good about some of the things I’ve done. I love western art, I love Westerns, and I’ve done a lot of Westerns, yet I’ve never seen a Mexican in a Western. So on Open Range I did make a conscious decision of convincing Kevin Costner that putting a Mexican in one of the roles was important for period authenticity. I’ve been watching the Tyler Perry phenomenon from the sidelines for five or six years, trying to figure out how he’s doing it. The African-American community has its Oprahs, its major sports figures, its political leaders like Obama. But we’re just starting to break in to these areas.

“Everybody is trying to target this audience, but it’s like herding cats— very hard to do. As young Latinos grow up,whether you grow up in East Los Angeles or Laguna Beach,you suddenly identify with your heritage a lot more and take a certain pride in it.” We hear you’re working on a comedy film right now. Not a Western, but you are crossing into a new frontier. I’m doing a comedy show in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with Paul Rodriguez and three other comics. I’m doing it for many reasons, some of which we’re talking about right now. I wanted to do something targeted to the Latino audience. A lot of the humor Latino comics employ is about their families, their culture, and

that crosses into mainstream due to its universal appeal.. I’ve never done anything like this. It’s allowing me to do a lot of things unlike a studio film. We’re creating a viral marketing campaign targeted at the Latino community. We’re not taking ads out in the traditional way, on radio or television. We’re doing a lot with the Internet. It’s really fun, because it allows me to really experiment.

DAVID VALDES FILMOGRAPHY A Sampling of Theatrical Film Credits of David Valdes The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford— Producer, Unit Production Manager (2007) Open Range—Producer, Unit Production Manager (2003) Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser—Production Executive (2002) Time Machine—Producer (2002) The Green Mile—Producer (1999) Turbulence—Producer (1997) The Stars Fell on Henrietta—Producer (1995) A Perfect World—Producer, Production Manager (1993) In the Line of Fire—Executive Producer (1993) Unforgiven—Executive Producer, Production Manager (1992) The Rookie—Producer, Production Manager (1990) White Hunter Black Heart—Executive Producer (1990) Pink Cadillac—Producer, Production Manager (1989)

Bird—Executive Producer, Production Manager (1988) The Dead Pool—Producer / Production Manager (1988) Gardens of Stone—First Assistant Director, Co-Executive Producer (1987) Like Father Like Son—Producer (1987) Ratboy—First Assistant Director, Associate Producer (1986) Pale Rider—First Assistant Director, Associate Producer (1985) City Heat—First Assistant Director (1984) Tightrope—First Assistant Director (1984) Rumble Fish—First Assistant Director, (1983) Sudden Impact—First Assistant Director, (1983) The Outsiders—First Assistant Director, (1983) Firefox—Second Assistant Director, (1982) Partners—Second Assistant Director, (1982) Any Which Way You Can—Second Assistant Director, (1980)

SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

29


r e p u S Agent J O R G E

P I N O S :

One man’s journey from phone company employee to William Morris international super agent: Jorge Pinos talks about Latin music, the Latino market and how the industry is changing‌ for the better.


J

orge Pinos is a classic immigrant success story. His family immigrated to the United States, where young Pinos studied, worked hard and climbed his way to the top. Then again, his is also the storybook Hollywood tale: He played tennis with a William Morris agent, took a job with the agency in the mailroom, and worked his way up to successful entertainment executive. Either way, Pinos did it. And he’s still doing it. He’s entertainment through and through. A walk through his offices is like taking a stroll through a pictorial history of international music. He’s worked with the best, and has seen it all. Pinos has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and understanding about the burgeoning Latino market and has learned how to market to it successfully.

When did you come to the U.S.? I came here in 1974 to study. My family came here first, and they brought us kids here as we graduated from school. I had graduated from college and came here to go to university. We lived in Studio City, where I attended L.A. Valley College. I

Photography by Steven Ernesto

spoke almost no English when I arrived, so I took some classes, and learned English as a second language. I applied to UCLA, and enrolled the following year. The original plan was that I was going to study medicine. I originally majored in chemistry with a minor in economics. While I was at UCLA, I got a job in Van Nuys as a service rep with the phone company. Within a year I was promoted, and became the first part-time manager at the new phone store. It worked out perfectly for me, because I was still going to school. How did you make the move from the phone company to the world’s most famous talent agency? Around 1976 I met Dick Allen, an executive from William Morris, on the tennis court. I was an OK tennis player, and he used to invite me to play. We were good friends, but we’d never talk business; just play tennis. One day he asked me if I’ve ever heard of Julio Iglesias. I said that Julio was like the Frank Sinatra of Latin America. Dick had been invited to a big music festival, and asked what I thought. I told him he should go, that Julio would be a good guy for Dick and William Morris. So he went, met with Julio, and was really SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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Super Agent

impressed with the reaction of the crowd in Latin America. Julio was like a god! At the time, Julio didn’t speak any English. Dick called me in to his office and asked if I would help translate. So I went in a few times to help translate for Julio and his manager. I had already known Dick for a few years, and one day he said, “You should come work for me. I need somebody like you.” It was the late ’70s and early ’80s and I’d go to the discos and dance. I had a dance partner and we’d enter tournaments and make a little pocket money teaching people to dance. The labels used to play records in the discos before they’d put them out, so I knew what was happening in the music environment. My routine was: I’d dance until two or three in the morning, play tennis at six or seven, after tennis I’d go to school and then head off to work in the afternoon. Dick said, “I need somebody with the energy you have!” It was kind of a shock to my parents when I told them I wanted to check it out. It certainly wasn’t medical school! Dick wanted me to visit the office, so I brought my dad. We weren’t in the entertainment or music industry. My father worked at Security Pacific National Bank at the time. We sat down with Dick and talked, and he explained what he did. I was intrigued because I loved music. After we got home, I talked with my mom and dad, and Dad asked what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to give it a shot. I went to another meeting at William Morris, and they asked me to come to work there. By that time I had worked up to store manager with the phone company, and had invested in a house and a car, so I had a lot of payments. They told me I had to start as a trainee in the mail room, then dispatch, then to a desk as an assistant. I told them I needed to keep my other job, because I couldn’t take the cut in pay. So for about six months I was going to William Morris from about 7:00 in the morning until 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. The longer I was there, the more I liked it. I liked the environment. I liked the suspense and the idea of all the big monsters of entertainment we were working with. I liked the variety. So I stuck around. I worked in the mail room for a few months. Then I went to dispatch as a messenger, making deliveries to all the studios. Finally I moved to a desk as Dick Allen’s assistant, and eventually as an agent. As I was training with Dick, I started following a lot of other artists, and pretty soon I signed José Luis Rodriguez, Roberto Carlos, Juan Gabriel, José José, and lots of others.

When did you first connect with Gloria Estefan? In 1986, I worked in the International Department. We would look at the top 50 artists in England and Europe, and strategize on how to get them. At the time, Miami Sound Machine had a hit in England. I made a call to a guy we knew in Miami and found out the band was local. So I flew to Miami, went to the Estefan’s house, and met with Emilio and Gloria. I’ll never forget it because they had this little studio in their garage, and they played me their new record, Primitive Love. I heard it and really liked it. I wanted to sign them. Gloria asked me why, and I told her I thought they had huge potential. The first job we got for Miami Sound Machine was the L.A. Street Scene Festival, here in Los Angeles. Then we got them on American Bandstand, and Dick Clark fell in love with them. The rest is history. Working for International, our real focus was booking William 32

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

Pinos says there are many more opportunities for Latinos in entertainment than ever before. He has helped many Latinos break through barriers with casting agents, producers, networks and studios.

Morris talent into international markets. Dick handled Europe, and I handled Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia, South Africa, India, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. We’d book artists from here to there, but we began bringing artists in from the outside. You didn’t set out to work in entertainment. What was it that clicked so well and allowed you to be so successful? It had to do with my love for music, and not being afraid to try something. It also helps that I’m willing to learn. I had a good mentor in Dick Allen. As head of the music department at William Morris, he gave me the opportunity. Julio Iglesias was the first big artist we brought in. The second


Pinos' enthusiasm for the music industry and entertainment is infectious and has been a big reason why so many acts and artists have sought out his efforts as an agent.

was José Luis Rodriguez, “El Puma,” who also had a soap opera. His big song was “Dueño de Nada,” a huge hit with Latinos. So I started talking to him. He was Venezuelan and his manager was from Argentina. It was hard to pin José Luis down, but I kept on insisting that we could help. That was my first big experience moving up into being an agent. Was it always that easy for you? No. It was a scary experience. I had to prove to the agency that there was big business here. We tried to book a large theater for José Luis Rodriguez. I started sending notes to all the Latino promoters, telling them I wanted to work with them, but they didn’t understand what I wanted to do. They thought I was a promoter moving in on

them and they kept their distance. At the time, all the Latino promoters booked the Palladium, the Sports Arena and the Olympic Auditorium. But I finally started connecting with them. So we booked José Luis at the Greek Theater. And there were no sales. The domestic music guys at William Morris were very angry with me, complaining, telling me everyone was going to lose money. They asked what was happening, but I had no answer. I told them I’d check it out. At the time, there were only two Latino radio stations in L.A.—KALI and KLUV. There was one newspaper, La Opinión, and one television station, KMEX. So I went home, listened to two radio stations at the same time, read the newspaper three days in a row, and watched the TV station all night. I could see the concert wasn’t being promoted right. So I explained the situation to the people at William Morris and they set up a meeting with the marketing people. Jimmy Nederlander, who was in charge, came, too. I said to them, “You don’t know how to promote this.” Now, I was a young guy, and I didn’t mean a thing to them. Nederlander asked what I thought they should do. I told them José Luis was a big guy in Latin America, and they weren’t reaching his audience here. I explained where and how they should market this performer. I told them to spend $10,000 and do it right. All of Nederlander’s people thought they were about to lose a lot of money and didn’t want to spend any more. I persisted and told them that by investing a little more up front, they would lose less. I didn’t say they would make money. Everybody told Nederlander “No,” but he said, “Let’s try it.” That weekend, we ran ads on the right radio stations and in the right newspapers. It was only a week before the show and I was really nervous. If this performer didn’t sell tickets, it was my job. On Monday morning, I came into work really worried. The Greek had sold only 400 tickets before the weekend, and that venue held nearly 5,800 at the time. So Dick Allen and I called over to Nederlander: They had sold 2,000 tickets over the weekend! That was the biggest relief of my life. I had proven my point. He was going to lose less money. Then the buzz started, and every day more and more tickets were sold. As we got closer to the show, I went to a meeting about security. I told them they should plan for security as if it were Neil Diamond performing, and they didn’t believe me. They still didn’t get it. The night of the show, they turned away 2,000 people! The following week, Julio Iglesias was at the Universal Amphitheater, and he sold out four nights right away. So the night of the Greek Theater concert, it was as though everybody in town woke up to the realization that there was big business here. Not only did I get to work with all of these big Latin acts coming to the U.S., but I worked with our big stars going international. I worked with Paul Anka, Vikki Carr, the Bee Gees, Whitney Houston, Maxi Priest, Third World, Reggae Sunsplash, José Feliciano, and the list goes on and on. And now you have your own shop. After 24 or 25 years with William Morris, I decided to form my own company. In March 2005, I told them I was leaving, and they were great. It was spur of the moment. I came home one night and told my wife and kids that I wanted to open my own shop. Everyone in the family said, “Great.” So I talked to my clients, and when I opened up, I had clients come with me. I followed through with some things for William Morris. I worked out of my house for about SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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Super Agent

two and a half weeks, then opened up my office. I wanted a small agency, but full service. When I was at William Morris, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people in television and motion pictures, due to my clients. Every time we signed a Latino who wanted to cross over into movies or television, I would go to those agents and have them help me pitch them, because I knew about the artists. I knew their history; I knew what their music was about. Is your business easier or harder now, with more people in the industry taking notice? I’ve seen it and lived through it. The Hispanic market is huge. Years ago I compared the Hispanic market to the black market

A sampling of artists Jorge Pinos has been credited helping achieve mainstream success: Gloria Estefan Miami Sound Machine Julio Iglesias Shakira Roberto Carlos José Feliciano Jon Secada José Luis Rodriguez A sampling of artists Pinos has booked on major international tours: Diana Ross The Bee Gees Yes Maxi Priest Crosby, Stills & Nash Blondie Enrique Iglesias A sampling of other artists represented by Pinos during his time at William Morris: José José, Ivan Lins, Djavan, Miguel Gallardo, Pimpinela, Fernando Allende, Miguel Bosé, Camilo Sesto, Pilar Montenegro, Lucero, Mijares, Amanda Miguel, Diego Verdaguer, Angélica Maria, Raúl Vale, Raúl Di Blasio, Juanes, Enrique Iglesias, Paul Rodríguez, Maria Conchita Alonso, Patricia Manterola, Thalia, Eduardo Palomo, Roció Durcal, Marisela, Emilio Navaira, David Lee Garza, La Diferencia, La Mafia, Grupo Mazz, Rick Trevino, Daisy Fuentes, Martita, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Third World, Reggae Sunsplash, Spirit of Unity, Heart, Blondie, the Bee Gees, Crosby, Stills & Nash, José Carreras. Paul Anka, Leslie Ann Machado. A sampling of artists that Pinos has worked with since forming JEP Entertainment Group, Inc.: Juan Gabriel, Emmanuel, Pepe Aguilar, Jennifer Peña, Obie Bermudez, Tommy Davidson, Vikki Carr, Billy Ocean, José Feliciano, Anasol, Jon Secada, Daniela Guzmán, Mayra Verónica, Sandra Vidal, Rigo Luna, Kenya Berroa, Karissa Winnett, Reggae Sunsplash, Maxi Priest, Blondie.

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in the 50 largest cities in the United States. In certain cities the Hispanic population was about the same, if not greater. At the time, there was a huge black influence in the music business— the urban scene. I wanted to make sure that we all understood that Latin was a different genre of music, but that we, too, had a big audience that we could capture. People would always talk to me about crossover between Spanish and English. Crossover is a different thing to me. Crossover lies within the Hispanic community, within Latinos. You have Puerto Rican music, Dominican music, Central American music, South American music and Mexican music with its own genres. Mexican alone has mariachi, Mexican Cumbia, norteño music and others. The crossover artists, to me, are the ones who could play in different areas. It’s interesting that Gloria Estefan had a hit first in the English market, then in Latin America. Everybody asks what the Latino demographic is, and I say that’s very difficult to pinpoint. When you go see Black Sabbath, you buy tickets for you and your girlfriend, probably pretty far in advance. For the Hispanic market, everyone says you promote during the last two weeks, but that’s not right. You really need to let them know in advance, because they will start planning. They’ll tell their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandma, and everyone else. We say to ourselves, “Why don’t we take my sister, why don’t we take the kids?” And you make it an event. For the most part, the Hispanic community works really hard, but they really like entertainment, and they are really family-oriented. Another thing that I find is a lot of people came to this country looking for opportunities to work and to grow. Their kids have gone to school and graduated, second, third, even fourth generation. They’ve gotten degrees, and they’ve moved up. Thirty years ago there weren’t any Hispanic radio stations in middle America. Now every town has two or three Spanish-language radio stations. So you have a lot of people whose first language is English, but are of Hispanic descent, and they’re moving up. They’re big spenders, too. And very loyal customers. You can come in with a Latin artist who had a big hit many years ago, and they’ll come and see him. In the American market, because of the competition, you better have a record hit if you’re going to go on tour. Things are a lot better, from my perspective. Many years ago it was very difficult getting people on The Tonight Show or The Merv Griffin Show, if they didn’t speak English. Now they’re more amenable. The same thing is happening on the movie and television side. They’re looking at numbers and they’re looking at this family thing that we’ve been talking about. It’s a lot easier now to get a reading than it used to be. Previously, if you had an accent, they wouldn’t see you. But the same was true in Spanish television, too. If you had an artist from Chile or Argentina, you wouldn’t get in. They’d say, “No, you have to sound Mexican.” Now they can get in. If you ask me if there better opportunities now, I’d say, “Absolutely.”


PRIORITIES

Higher Standards How PBS chief Paula Kerger has turned a Hispanic controversy about Ken Burns’ The War into a new initiative for proactive diversity.

BY BRIAN HEMSWORTH en Burns is the king of epic documentaries chronicling the American experience. His filmography is like page from the table of contents of American history. His 1990 The Civil War brought a new generation of Americans back to PBS. It also made history interesting and real. Burns is a master of using the actual words of real people, woven into a tapestry of voiceovers, collage and montage to give it profound meaning and importance. Baseball, Jazz, The West, Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark are all among classic Burns that millions tuned into. You might have hated 9th grade history, but you can’t help but love a Burns documentary. Or so one thought. Burns’ recent effort on World War II, and one of his most anticipated, The War, premiered in September 2007 on PBS as a seven segment, 14+ hour piece. But even before it aired, the controversy began. First was concern over rumored offensive language used by veterans that Burns interviewed. Rumored, because few people saw the piece before it aired, but if one has spent time around WWII GI’s, it’s not hard to imagine. Paula Kerger, then the newly appointed president and CEO of PBS, staunchly defended Burns and the film’s artistic merit. Formerly the station manager of PBS powerhouse station WNET in New York, Kerger was no novice at defending an artist’s work. In fact, it’s something she is passionate about. She had gone on record as describing The War as “Burns’ greatest work.” Next came a timing issue. Originally, the program was going to begin airing opposite

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the Emmy Awards telecast. Could a PBS series of such high profile get the attention it deserves against the PR and publicity machines of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox? TV critics debated the point openly, and PBS ultimately shifted the program’s debut a few weeks later than originally planned. Then the third wave of controversy hit. To many in the Latino community, it wasn’t just a wave—it was a tsunami. It seems that the Burns film, in its original form, omitted

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

any mention or interviews of the Hispanic contribution to the war effort. In recent history, much has been spoken, and even celebrated, of the contributions of Native Americans and African Americans. Not so for Latinos. Certainly the internment of Japanese American’s has received attention in film and the media. According to the National WWII museum, between 250,000 and 500,000 Hispanic Americans served in the U.S. military dur-


Burns’ film originally lacked any mention or footage of Latino veterans. He later shot additional interviews with Latino World War II veterans including Bill Lansford (right) and Pete Arias (below).

“Public television has always had a deep commitment to reflecting diverse viewpoints, and has always been involved in a number of organizations that have sought to ensure that public television is diverse both in front of and behind the camera. Having gone through this experience around The War, it has really served to further emphasize for me how much we need to keep this front and center. As much good as I think we had done in the past, I don’t think it’s enough. We need to continue to focus and reach out beyond where we have traditionally gone.”

—Paula Kerger, President and CEO, PBS

ing World War II. These estimates are approximate, at best, as Hispanics were typically categorized as whites at the time. Depending upon your point of view, it was a snub, an oversight, or result of the structure of the film. On the NPR program Fresh Air, Burns said, “I can understand, particularly in the Hispanic community, after 500 years of having so much of their history marginalized on this continent, how important it is to be told. But we knew going in that we weren’t going to be able to tell the whole story and, in fact, we limited the film to four geographically distributed towns and a handful of people from those towns.” Purposeful or not, many Hispanics felt slighted. “How is it possible that in the six years it took to make this film, no one involved thought to ask where are the Latino stories?” asked Gus Chavez, founder of the Defend the Honor Campaign. Kerger, barely a year into the job, was front and center of the debate. She immediately met with a group of Latino leaders, including Chavez, Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez of the University of Texas at Austin School

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PRIORITIES of Journalism, and Marta Garcia, Chair of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Burns met with Latino and Veteran groups, and, in time, agreed to add material to the film. To do this, he enlisted the help of Latino filmmaker Hector Galán. When we caught up with Kerger, now a year after The War controversy began, she looks back on the events with the perspective one would expect, not only of a PBS executive, but as a lifetime supporter of public broadcasting. “This was a very difficult situation for me,” said Kerger, “because I am a passionate advocate for our filmmakers and our artists, and at the same time I’m passionate for serving all Americans and their communities across this country.” In just her first year at the helm, it would be hard to foresee the situation arising. Ken Burns, PBS, six years of production…how could this have happened? We asked if it surprised her. “I guess the best way to answer it was

that I was surprised and not surprised at the same time,” said Kerger. “The thing about public television that is always so powerful to me is that people feel an ownership in what they do. They hold us to a higher standard than any other broadcaster, and we should be held to a higher standard. I’m not surprised that that was the case here. “The War is a powerful piece of film, but the other thing it did, was that it generated other works. We had been encouraging local broadcast stations to think about work in their communities around the war. If you think about it, World War II veterans are dying off at the rate of 1500 a day—it’s a piece of history that’s really disappearing right before our eyes. Even with the scope of Ken’s series, clearly there were many, many stories he did not touch, or touch in the level of detail they would merit. I am aware of at least 50 documentaries that were produced around the country. A number of stations did use the opportunity to tell significant contributions of Hispanics

to the war. The other thing I am really proud of is that more than 100 oral history projects have come out of The War experience, and many of those have been stored at the library of Congress.” There are those in the Latino community who are still angry over the controversy. Kerger seems to be taking this all to heart, and she is really looking for ways, not only of preventing it from happening again, but sincerely trying to make some good come from it. “Public television has always had a deep commitment to reflecting diverse viewpoints, and has always been involved in a number of organizations that have sought to ensure that public television that is diverse both in front of and behind the camera. Having gone through this experience around The War, it has really served to further emphasize for me how much we need to keep this front and center. As much good as I think we had done in the past, I don’t think it’s enough. We need to contin-

PBS’ Other War BS has just premiered its latest powerhouse documentary, Frontline’s tremendously in-depth Bush’s War. Agree or disagree with the war effort, this is a documentary that truly warrants the term “must see TV.” It also marks a new paradigm for multimedia presentation, with an extremely detailed Web site where viewers can watch the full series online in streaming video, timelines, slideshows, maps, battlefield stories and a whole lot more.

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Paula Kerger on Bush’s War: When public television gets it right, we try to cover things in greater detail than others are able to do. What public television aspires to be is quality television, but in our news and public affairs work in particular, we aspire to context. You can’t do that in a sound bite. You really need to be able to take the time to lay out the background of a story.

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This [Bush’s War] is pointing to where the media is evolving, because on the Frontline Web site we have the entire program [four hours] on streaming video so you can watch it whenever you want. There’s also the time frame for more than five years, and interviews that have been pulled out of Frontline’s work that are put against the timeline, so you can hear first

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

person accounts of some of the people who were critical in the decision making leading up to and during the war. For us, as we think about working in the new media landscape, we have the opportunity to use all these distribution platforms that really do extend our work far beyond broadcast, as powerful as broadcast is. It’s a very exciting time. I


Paula Kerger President and CEO PBS

Original College Major — Pre-Med, University of Maryland Why She Changed Her Major — “When I hit Organic Chemistry, I realized that this was probably not going to be my life’s calling!” First Job After College — UNICEF (“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I had no great business ambition. I just wanted to do something interesting and important. For me, working in the non-profit world was an absolutely perfect match.” Next Job — Metropolitan Opera, New York City (“It’s larger than life, both on stage and off.”) First Job in Public Broadcasting — WNET, New York, later becoming Station Manager and eventually COO.

PBS’ NEW EVANGELIST aula Kerger is more than PBS’s President and CEO. She’s more than a PBS advocate. She’s a public broadcasting evangelist. Public broadcasting runs in her blood— literally. She’s the granddaughter of one of the founders of Baltimore’s public radio station, and public broadcasting has always been a part of her life. Here’s a brief look at Paula and her path to becoming the head of public broadcasting.

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Birthplace — Maryland Childhood Memories of TV — Sitting too close to the family’s small black and white television watching I Love Lucy (reruns, she wanted us to know!) First Memory of Public Television — Hodgepodge Lodge, a local children’s program on public television

On Being Recruited For PBS CEO — “I was not convinced that I wanted to take on this job. I was very happy living in New York and doing the work that I was doing at WNET. I did not feel that my work there was yet finished.” Memory of the PBS CEO Search — “All I remember was that I was at the end of a very large table with a large group of people from the search committee.” When She Knew She Wanted The Job — “By the end of the hour with the search committee, I felt like I could make a big contribution.” Our Favorite Quote From Our Interview With Paula Kerger — “Our goal, at the end of the day, is service. Our shareholders are on Main Street, not Wall Street.” I

ue to focus and reach out beyond where we have traditionally gone. “I will say to you—and I don’t want you to just think I’m an eternal optimist—I really feel that having gone through this experience, I’m personally a stronger person for it, because the experience enabled me to better understand issues I thought I already understood pretty well. It also enabled me to build relationships with people I treasure going forward.” Although PBS is headquartered in Washington D.C., Kerger doesn’t seem to be playing the politics of the matter and is feigning concern. She projects a passion for public broadcasting, defending artistic freedom, and is committed to serving the needs of all the American publics, big and small. PBS continues to support aggressive diversity programs through the minority consortia, not only for Latinos but for a wide variety of minorities. They also produce Latino-oriented programming, especially children’s. This is, in part, to the little known fact that a significant portion of PBS’ viewership is Latino. But Kerger isn’t just relying on the already-in-place diversity programs. “I’ve done a couple things since going through this. We’ve put together a diversity committee to look at leadership. I feel that ensuring that we have diverse leadership in our public television system is profoundly important. I brought in our first director of a new diversity initiative to look at the various areas, in terms of staff, procurement, boards, governance and program content itself. The other thing that I realized in going through the experience of The War is that I had people look at me and say, ‘I never see myself on public television.’ I realized that we have a bigger problem than we thought. If there’s a perception that we have no diversity on public television, we’ve really fallen short of the mark. So we’re looking to better communicate the work that we are doing, not only to get the word out on the work we’re doing in broadcast, but to extend the community outreach. One of the problems we have as public broadcasters, and I think now all media companies, is that there’s such media clutter. How do we let people know these programs are out there? “When I came into this job, I spent a lot of time on the road because I didn’t just

SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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PRIORITIES want my perspective of having worked 13 years at WNET to be the frame at which I looked at my work at PBS. In the months since my experiences with The War, I’ve tried to take everything that I’ve learned out of this and begin to develop deeper relationships with a lot of organizations that are doing extraordinary work in this country.” It’s hard to say how a commercial network would have handled the same situation. Chances are good that it would have depended upon advertiser support, or lack thereof. In the case of PBS, an organization whose mission is to serve, advertising doesn’t factor in. Viewer reaction and community opinion matter most. Sure, missing the efforts of Hispanic Congressional Medal of Honor winners and half a million Hispanic service men and women was an oversight. No question. And yes, PBS and Burns did change the product, whether willfully or not. But the bigger issue really might be that PBS and

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PBS programming includes (clockwise from top left): Made in Spain with Chef José Andrés; NOW with Maria Hinojosa and David Brancaccio; and the children’s favorite Maya & Miguel.

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

Burns actually made the program to begin with. This isn’t a sitcom celebrating bimbos and boneheads with a bad laugh track. It’s a very serious look at a turning point in our history. Ken Burns didn’t intend the controversy about The War to shed light on the Hispanic contribution in this way, but that light switch has now been turned on. Communities around the country have now been exposed to the work and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Hispanics. Discussion has begun, and continues. How we got here is now less in question. That fact that we’re discussing it, in the end, is much more important. Thanks must go to those who served. Thanks must go to those who tell their stories. And thanks must go to those who keep us all on track, and who shed light on the truth that lies within every story. Paula Kerger summed it up this way. “I feel like we threw a pebble in the water with this project, and the ripples will continue to be felt for a long time to come.”


OUR

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In The Know Broadcast journalist Michele Ruiz is focused on empowering the Latino community through edutainment videos online.

BY NICOLE ZOELLER nstructional online media is a powerful way to reach out to one’s community. And when it’s bilingual, it’s even better. SaberHacer.com has arrived, bringing with it the power to change lives. As the translation “To Know, To Do” suggests, this up-and-coming educational resource provides viewers with critical information and expert advice on topics that are pertinent and valuable to the Latino community. Think about some of life’s most important decisions. Who have you turned to for advice in the past? Where does your information come from? If you were purchasing a home for the first time, who would you talk with to get the right information? Think of all the people you would potentially have to speak to. And how would you know if you were getting trustworthy information or advice? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did the legwork for you? Well, someone already has. Thanks to Michele Ruiz, the experts have been tracked down, interviewed, and can be accessed at the click of a mouse at SaberHacer.com, anytime, anywhere. For those who are unfamiliar with Ruiz, she’s one of California’s most distinguished broadcast journalists. With her unique ability to assess and deliver the most meaningful and trustworthy information to the Latino community, Ruiz has not only been showered with prestigious accolades (five Emmy Awards and five Golden Mikes), but she has also established a bond with the Latino community through both her role as an anchor in the predominantly Hispanic market of Los Angeles and her dedicated role as community servant.

I

Ruiz is cordial, modest and exudes an inordinate amount of enthusiasm toward her new endeavor and the community for which it serves. Growing up in Orange County, Calif., Ruiz knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue a career in media. Naturally, that meant going to college. But when the time came, she encountered a dilemma: she was ready to go to college, but was not sure how. This dilemma is one that many Latino students face, and is perhaps a cross-cultural socioeconomic issue. “My parents would talk about college, and it was expected that I would go, although I was not told how or who was going to help me get there,” recalls Ruiz. Nevertheless, she was determined to make it, even if she had to figure it out by herself—which is exactly what

she did. Supporting herself through school, Ruiz attained a Bachelor in Communication with an emphasis in Broadcast Journalism from Cal State Fullerton. Her first big break out of school was landing a job with Channel One, a National news broadcast program for high school students. In 1991 she began her career at KTLA on The Morning News: Early Edition. After seven years she made a transition and went on to work for KNBC as a reporter and eventually as an anchor on the 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts. And now Ruiz is making her debut as entrepreneur as Saber Hacer’s founder and president. When asked about how she stepped into this new role, Ruiz felt that it was fate. “I don’t know if the stars are aligned but that combination of media background

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put me in a unique position to start the integrated media company,” says Ruiz. Demonstrating a profound understanding of the Hispanic market and utilizing her innate talents, Ruiz has created something special, something that she hopes will “evolve into a central place and resource center where Latinos can go to find culturally relevant information.” “Saber Hacer is about empowerment, plain and simple,” explains Ruiz. “Having the right kind of information is really key in terms of moving forward.” Accordingly, Saber Hacer has been built as an easy-tonavigate online video hub connecting Latinos with videos that are educational, but far from boring. The videos are straightforward, interesting, and probably the quickest way to access information and advice regarding some of life’s biggest decisions. To organize the information, Saber Hacer is divided into channels, with each video belonging to a general discussion/topic. Exhibiting a resemblance to an investigative story with titles like “How Much House Can You Afford” and “Scholarships for Latinos,” these videos provide practical information and simple instruction to help the viewer avoid mistakes and make the best decisions possible. The expertise and advice is provided through interviews performed by Ruiz and her production team, who find professionals who share their expertise in a bilingual format. Ever expanding, Saber Hacer is now home to six channels covering a wide range of topics. Ruiz feels that they have set a good foundation. “Hispanics really need information that they can trust on things like citizenship, education, personal finance…and there was just nothing out there like this. You can find some information in various places, but most of it is either translated from English/general market or put out by companies who have services to sell.” HOW IT ALL STARTED Before Saber Hacer’s launch in 2007, there had been a serious lack of educational/ instructional content for Latinos. And even though she has launched a business to assess this need, Ruiz never had the intention of starting her own company. “I never before saw myself as an entrepreneur or business owner,” Ruiz modestly admits. But 42

SaberHacer.com is a source for Hispanics to find guidance, empowering information, and "how-to" steps to move forward in life.

she couldn’t help thinking about it, especially when Telemundo was acquired by NBC and moved in next door. “At that point I really started paying attention to what kind of content was being created for Latinos,” she explains, “I also started to realize that the majority of the programming was, and is, entertainment, sports and news. Beyond that there is nothing, or very very little.” So when her husband overheard a conversation she was having with a colleague about Latino programming, he encouraged her to meet and discuss her idea with some possible investors who had invested in another type of instructional media company. Shortly thereafter Ruiz had a lunch meeting with those investors. More than anything, however, she sought their knowledge and expertise. “I bombarded them with a gazillion questions,” laughed Ruiz, and to her delight, by the end of lunch, they were asking questions about her idea. “I really lucked out. I had an incredible experience in which they later called me and said, ‘We love it! Tell us what you want. Capital? Do you want help running the business? Tell us what you want and you’ve got it!’” Although she was extremely thankful for their enthusiasm, she requested time to research the viability of the idea, and make sure that it was something she was ready to do. It turned out to be a natural move for Ruiz. “I have a tendency to, when I am taking on a new project or focus, to reach out and

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find the people who are doing it and have done it the best. And it has worked out that everyone is always interested in helping someone else out.” Naturally Ruiz did not take her research lightly. “I tracked down more than a hundred people, even people who didn’t know me.” Conceived in the fall of 2005, it wasn’t until late spring of 2006 when she reconnected with her future partners and signaled that the project was ready to move, full steam ahead. Today, SaberHacer.com is a one-of-akind Web site that integrates cultural understanding both contextually and linguistically. A simple click and one learns “Savvy rules for 401k investing” or discover ways to “Talk With Your Adolescent About Sex”; literally placing a world of knowledge and knowhow at one’s fingertips. According to Ruiz, the overwhelming response has been very positive. Comments about the site have included “greatly needed,” “very professional,” “proud that a Latina started this.” Sponsors have embraced the empowerment aspect of Saber Hacer. Ruiz’s mission is simple—to do what she can to help people and change their lives. Needless to say she has created a resource for Latinos that has the ability to do just that. By providing expert insight and content on topics ranging from finance to citizenship, Ruiz has developed Saber Hacer to be a tool that will empower Latinos, and perhaps forever change the way in which we seek information.


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SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

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LOCALES

Production Hot Spots

Albuquerque Film Office Main Contact: Ann Lerner Phone Number: 505-758-3283 Recent Productions: The Eye, No Country for Old Men, In the Valley of Elah, The Spirit, Breaking Bad Incentives/Special Programs: State of New Mexico offers incentives: 25% tax rebate; Film Investment Loan Program; 25% Film Production Tax Rebate; Film crew advancement program. See Web site for details. City offers one-stop permitting, free film permit, is a 1.5 hour flight from Los Angeles, and has more than 300 days of sunshine a year. Latest news from the locale: Moviemaker Magazine named Albuquerque the #2 city in the U.S. to live, work and make movies. Last year, it was #4. Web site: www.nmfilm.com East Tennessee Television and Film Commission Main Contact: Michael D. Barnes Phone Number: 865-246-2633 865-384-5684 Recent Productions: Amateurs, Boys of Summerville, Quick Feet, Soft Hands, Heaven and Hell, The Horseman, Crime Wave for the History Channel, Scripps Networks Productions, Jewelry Televisions Productions Incentives/Special Programs: There are two incentive plans: • 13/15/17% film & TV production—13% of your qualified production expenditures for a feature film or TV program in the state of Tennessee; 15% if at least 25% of the 44

Photo courtesy of Fresno County Film Commission

Film commissions offer many incentives for productions. Here’s some prime real estate selections for Latino filmmakers and photographers.

Fresno County Film Commission Located in the heart of California, Fresno is just a three-hour ride from the metropolitan hubs of both San Francisco and Los Angeles. They offer a diverse variety of locations ranging from scenic Sierra Nevada to valleys rich in fertile fields. The agricultural offerings are endless as the region contains everything from orchards to vineyards, not to mention the 360+ crop varieties available throughout the year. Apart from the natural attractions, Fresno is home to 15 bustling cities and dozens of small communities that offer both urban and historic settings. One of their most recent productions has been the much anticipated movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Fresno has also proven a popular commercial location for companies like Edward Jones, Frito-Lay, Nissan, and BMW. Some of their production incentives include: film permits with no fees, no Fresno county hotel tax, and complimentary scouting and location assistance. Main Contact: Kristi Johnson Phone Number: 559-262-4271 Web site: www.filmfresno.com

cast and/or crew are Tennessee residents; 17% (maximum $100,000) if production company spends at least $20,000 for music created by Tennessee residents or for recording music in Tennessee. • 15% Head Quarters Fund—A 15% refund calculated upon qualified expenses that are necessary for the production of a theatrical film or TV show in Tennessee. Must meet qualifications to receive this incentive. Administered

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

though the Department of Revenue. Latest news from the locale: Premiere night of Boys of Summerville on April 17, 2008, at the Regal Downtown West; Actively recruiting three different movie and made-for-TV projects; East Tennessee TV & Film Tradeshow and Workshops—April 29, 2008, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Knoxville, Tenn. Web site:

www.state.tn.us/film/incentives.htm


Phoenix Film Office Main Contact: Phil Bradstock, Film Commissioner Phone Number: 602-262-4850 Recent Productions: S.I.S. (SONY Entertainment and Spike TV), Kids in America (Universal and Imagen Entertainment), My First Place (HGTV), Wife Swap (ABC), The Kingdom (Universal), Hidden Palms (CW Network), Nissan, OnStar and Nike.

Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Film Commission/Frank Bathis

Palm Beach County Film and Television Commission Main Contact: Chuck Eldred Phone Number: 561-233-1000 Recent Productions: Black Entertainment Television’s Spring Bling; untitled Teen Road movie; Abercrombie & Fitch Fall Catalogue; Lily Pulitzer Catalogue; The Turtle Song; 48 Hours Incentives/Special Programs: The state of Florida has a Film, Television and Digital Media Incentive totaling $2 million. There are four separate queues that filmmakers can become eligible for, earning anywhere from 10%–22% in cash reimbursements up to $8,000,000. Also, film and television productions can become eligible for a tax exemption on certain items purchased or leased that are an integral part of a production in Florida. Palm Beach County also offers some unique incentives to filmmakers. The Palm Beach County Economic Development Office has created a fund making up to $50,000 available to production companies and facilities that relocate to Palm Beach County. Also, GStart School of Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting offers an extraordinary incentive package at no charge to filmmakers. This package includes use of 84,000 square foot facility, featuring the 25,000 square foot G-Start facility, set on three acres of security fenced property. Latest news from the locale: Recent headlines include: “BET looks forward to another TV event in paradise;” “Production in Palm Beach county grows in 2007!” “Boca goes Hollywood;” “Opportunity rocks the Cine Awards.” Web site: www.pbfilm.com

Incentives/Special Programs: $50 million

available in transferable tax credits offered and administered by the Arizona Department of Commerce. Productions can receive 30% back on what is spent in Arizona with a cap of $7 million per production. Latest news from the locale: Phoenix has seen a flurry of activity from productions looking to shoot Los Angeles, but not be in Los Angeles. Several neighborhoods in the community have been identified by L.A. producers as Sherman Oaks, Burbank, Pasadena, Encino, Toluca Lake and Van Nuys. Web site: www.filmphoenix.com St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Film Commission Main Contact: Jennifer Parramore Phone Number: 727-464-7240 Recent Productions: Grace is Gone, Love comes Lately, Misconceptions, Hallow Point, Burial at Sea, Prison Break. Incentives/Special Programs: State and local incentives Latest news from the locale: Our pristine beaches and charming small towns are becoming a popular alternative to Miami. The locally produced film Misconceptions is scheduled to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Web site: www.floridasbeachfilm.com Wondering how you can get your commission featured as a production hot spot? Contact the editors by emailing us at editor@hmhmedia.com.

Santa Cruz County Film Commission Nestled between the redwoods and the sea, Santa Cruz County in California offers a diversity of locations. Within just a few hundred square miles, you’ll find majestic redwood forests, winding country roads, charming mountain towns, an historic narrowgauge railroad, old Victorian neighborhoods, colorful seaside villages, a beachside amusement park, lush agricultural fields, dramatic coastal bluffs, and 29 miles of coastline. This breathtaking county is conveniently located 35 miles south of San Jose, 65 miles south of San Francisco, 30 miles north of Monterey and 375 miles north of Los Angeles. A few of their recent productions are The Tripper, Annie’s Point, and Grave’s End. Some of their production incentives include: offering a talented crew base with global experience that call Santa Cruz home, in addition to a wide range of lodging, dining, equipment rentals and support services. Main Contact: Christina Glynn Phone Number: 831-429-7281 x112 Web site: www.santacruz.org/filmsite/

homefilm.shtml

SUMMER 2008 / INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA

45


IT’S A

WRAP!

Hollywood Goes To The Dogs Do you take your dog everywhere?

BY IRMA LA BOMBA don’t know where or how the trend started, but it’s highly unusual nowadays not to see photos of celebrities toting their four-legged friends everywhere they go. With their cute little mugs peering out from oversized and overpriced bags, decked out in designer duds, these dogs are among the world’s most pampered jet-setters. Licking their chops, they join their owners for lunch at classy restaurants and receive preferential treatment at doggie spas, doggie day care centers and several four-star hotels and commercial venues. Today, pooches can check in with their owners at pet-friendly hotels—think the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood or the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons. Shopping with their famous owners in the Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive shopping district, they won’t be turned away at places such as Tiffany & Company, Banana Republic or The Gap. The custom of the rich and famous taking their canines everywhere is not just a Hollywood fad. Recently, one of Mexico’s most beloved actresses, Angélica Vale (star of Univision’s popular series La Fea Más Bella), walked the red carpet clutching her doggie on her arm instead of a handsome Galan. What puzzles me is what these fourlegged creatures do when nature calls. Does their owner carry a portable potty or do they poop in their owner’s huge designer bag? It’s one of life’s great mysteries. My family had several dogs over the years, all named Butch. Butch was always a black, medium-sized mutt that was given all the freedom in the world—except sitting on the couch or going with us for fried chicken on Sundays. We never took our dogs anywhere they weren’t meant to venture. Heck, we were lucky if our parents took us along everywhere they went. Our dogs were content to

I

46

wag their tails, plaster our faces with big lickin’ kisses, and keep us company when we went out to play. Our childhood dogs pretty much knew their place, unlike my kids’ first pup, a tiny little thing named Snoopy (after Charles Schulz’s famous character). Whenever we went anywhere, he was the first to dart out the door, jump in the car, and hide under a seat. It usually took us a good half hour to coax him out of his hiding place and then we’d have to cover our ears to drown out his mournful howling as we drove away. Although our mutts were of no particular breed and didn’t have the status or fame of Snoopy, Scooby-Doo, or Rin Tin Tin, they did have the demeanor and appetite of Gidget, the “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!” Chihuahua—they loved tacos. They also loved to romp through mud puddles with us, play dead, fetch sticks, nip at our ankles as we raced after our kites and

INSIDE LATINO ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA / SUMMER 2008

lick off our chocolate ice cream mustaches. Our beloved four-legged creatures knew their place in our hearts, and in life, living the simple philosophy: Yesterday I was a dog. Today I am a dog. Tomorrow I’ll still be a dog. How about you? Do you take your dog everywhere? IRMA LA BOMBA is the brainchild of a former columnist and journalist who has written for two major community newspaper chains in Los Angeles. Her column, “A Look on the Lighter Side With Irma La Bomba” ran exclusively in Eastern Group Publications, the oldest and largest chain of Hispanic-owned bilingual newspapers in the U.S. She’s back with a whole new set of essays, as she shares a look on the lighter side of entertainment. She can be reached at editor@hmhmedia.com


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Inside Latino Entertainment & Media  

The Summer 2008 issue of the English-language magazine that focuses on Latinos in the business of entertainment and media

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