Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hispancize 2012 Manny Ruiz, Roman Morales’ insight on how indie films can benefit

"It’s very important to note that we want to be a platform even for the existing film festivals. We want to be a friend and an essential ally to other film festivals." -- Manny Ruiz

Hispanicize Event 2012 -- Latino Film Showcase
April 11 to 13, Miami, FL

I had the pleasure of interviewing the main individuals launching the Latino Film Showcase at HIspanicize 2012 and if you haven't read the first part of my article, it's on or click on link:

Latino indie filmmakers don't miss out on this opportunity to submit your film art for consideration at the first annual Hispanicize Event 2012 Latino Film Showcase! If you've participated at other film fests, come and experience the difference it will make in progressing your film forward.

Latin Heat: Sounds like the attending marketers; innovators; influencers; and newsmakers will also learn something from meeting the filmmakers and watching the films.
Manny Ruiz

Manny Ruiz:  Yes! One side of the Hispanicize event showcases trends and trendsetters in Hispanic social media, marketing, business, cultural, and entertainment sectors while the Latino Film Showcase side allows participants to see these elements come together in the films they watch. Marketers and filmmakers will be in the best environment to engage with each other and identify who can best help drive their films.

LH:  Is the Hispanicize Latino Film Showcase in competition with other film festivals?

MR:  I want to be clear and point this out… There are simply not enough venues to help U.S. Latino filmmakers gain visibility and distribution. They are… we are still paddling up a creek as Latinos.

We are willing to make Hispanicize a place that showcases our fellow film festivals to help filmmakers understand how to maximize their visibility. We compliment other film festivals and like events.

We’ve established Miami as our permanent event home to bring the national, international, and social medial worlds together for the benefit of filmmakers. Miami’s international presence is well known. It’s close to New York and has a lot of media. From this perspective, our film event brings a tremendous amount of value to filmmakers. We definitely want partnerships and alliances. We don’t see ourselves as competitors but allies. We see ourselves as an invaluable platform and invite others to join us.

Roman Morales
Roman Morales: It’s a rare opportunity for any filmmaker to come to a Latino film event and gain exposure and access to so many valuable tools.

LH: At last year’s Hispanicize in Hollywood, CA, those who attended praised the event and raved about the fun they had. Will the film showcase also be “fun?”

MR: Absolutely! Doing business doesn’t have to be without some fun elements. There are many activities and surprises in the works. Participants are in for a major treat!

LH: It has come as a surprise to others in the Latino entertainment industry that you may have just put this film showcase together without much thought or experience in cinema arts.

MR:  Our Latino film showcase is not just thrown together. We started three years ago as a professional development conference that evolved into social media, bloggers… essentially a Southwest by Southwest Latino event. We have spent time and resources learning the lessons to get to the point where we are ready for primetime. We’re ready to be known as the U.S. Latino film event that showcases high quality product.

LH: The 2012 film event kicks off with feature length, documentaries and short films, what are the main criteria you're after in the area of subject matter?

Roman Morales:  We talked about this quite a bit, we just want quality films and films with worldwide appeal. Our objective is to find/discover filmmakers whose main goal is to make quality films that we expose the world to. Not just your run-of-the-mill indie films.

MR: We want to make an emphasis in this film showcase on U.S. Latino filmmakers. We are not excluding Latin American filmmakers or their films, but they are already getting fairly good treatment/exposure on national and global levels...where we feel we can especially help is with the U.S. Latino Filmmakers.

But we won’t dismiss Latin American filmmakers especially those who move into U.S. film space with a project.

One of our primary goals is to empower U.S. Latino filmmakers with more opportunities that they traditionally have had. But it is never enough and with this gap we have to do better.

RM: Also, stories have to be universal. We need to come up with different type stories and prove that low-budget doesn’t have to mean low-quality.

MR:  With government subsidies for filmmakers in Latin America it is easier to get produced, unlike the U.S. Latino filmmaker who don’t have these option.  We want to be able to help the U.S. filmmaker with exposure, finding funding and help them with their goal of creating better quality stories with universal appeal.

LH:  Why encourage U.S. Latino filmmakers to submit a film to Hispanicize Event?

MR: Their films screen with the right audience media and bloggers, professional developers, and opportunity to meet potential marketers.

RM: We expose the entire process it takes to get your film in front of the eyes who can make a difference in whether your film picks up a distributor or not.

MR: I know some very talented filmmakers who have done very good work in terms of documentaries, you can see their talent shine but what frequently happens, there is still a big gap in understanding in how to make a living producing their artwork. Not enough entrepreneurship, we’ll give them this platform.

LH: What other unique aspect to Hispancize will filmmakers have access to:

MR:  There’s such an intense focus on the media part of our event that participants and general public think of us as the mother of all press conferences! We’ll have around the clock press coverage, a 4-day press conference, if you will. We expect a lot of use and configuration for press conferences, built-in to event. There is a press conference room set up for filmmakers to use. And, we still have mega surprises up our sleeves.

LH:  Will participating independent filmmakers who are veterans and former prize winners be able to submit for consideration?

RM: Yes, we’ll consider veteran filmmakers in talks to showcase and some studio films. There will be a $10,000 cash prize for the winning feature film and a $5,000 cash prize for shorts.  The studio films won’t quality for prizes but their presence and films will impact our event. We also have a major retro closing film… a cinematic spectacle!

LH: Roman, was it a hard sell to convince Manny?

RM: Not hard to twist Manny’s arm. The guy loves cinema. He’s put so many resources into event… it’s ultra special.

MR: Roman was an influence, inspired me to take as far as we are in 2012. Roman is a very influential in Austin film industry. It is important to me as a filmmaker and producer, I have a personal perspective of what I need and thus have every reason in the world to have this platform.

Thank you, gentlemen. We’ll see you at Hispancize Event and Latino Film Showcase next year on April 11th to 13th, 2012 in Miami, FL! 

For more information on event and how to submit to the Film Showcase, visit:  Early film deadline:  February 7; Late deadline:  February 21.

Manny Ruiz is the organizer and creative director of Hispanicize 2012, the largest annual event gathering marketers, bloggers and social media influencers as well as the chairman and co-founder of Hispanicize and Latina Mom Bloggers network.  A media trailblazer and award-winning PR professional, Manny is also the co-founder of the Hispanic PR Blog, the leading marketing trade journal focused on Hispanic public relations and the "daddy-in-chief" of the bilingual parenting web site  Prior to launching these properties, Manny was President of Multicultural Markets and Hispanic PR Wire for PR Newswire.  Prior to PR Newswire's acquisition of Hispanic PR Wire, Hispanic Digital Network and LatinClips in 2008, companies he founded, Ruiz was Chairman and CEO of HispaniMark, the parent company.

Roman Morales is the Film Showcase Organizer/Film Curator of Hispancize Latino Film Showcase. A filmmaker from Austin, Texas, and a producer on the award winning documentary Split Decision (2000), Roman has been a part of the Austin film community. Having worked in film and television as consultant and technical advisor for 10 years he is extremely excited to now be a part of the Hispanicize organization. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

At The Alma Awards!

Had such an amazing time at the Alma Awards this past Saturday. Most definitely, the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) 20th Alma Awards was the Latino Party of the year!

This year’s show has many changes, starting with the venue. For years, Alma would host at the Shrine Auditorium or in Pasadena at the Convention Center. This year, NCLR took their soul show to the beach at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Los Angeles.

I must admit I wasn’t thrilled with the venue. It was hot, muggy… guess the air wasn’t working and the seats were not elevated enough for us shorties. I spent most of the night stretching my neck and my luck had me sitting behind a super tall woman with a super high hairdo. But the entertainment, the smoothness of the taping, made these slight inconveniences worth it. Also, NCLR’s production staff, volunteers were all courtesy and helpful. Pros all the way!

There were a lot more A-lister stars and they all dazzled on the red carpet. Co-host Eva Longoria outshone George Lopez in a gorgeous coral mermaid strapless Oscar de la Renta gown. 

Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffin
Lord, help me, but Benjamin Bratt is drop dead gorgeous! He walked with Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Enrique Castillo, Edward James Olmos, David Zayas, Michael Trevino, Ricardo Antonio Chaviria and Tristan Wilds. Also, there were some important directors and producers like Gregory Nava, Dan Guerrero, Robert Rodriguez, to name a few. However, the most gorgeous male that night hands down was Modern Family’s Rico Rodriguez! A charmer whose talent is going to take him far!

Let's Talk ladies, Dyana Ortelli, Kikey Castillo,
Bel Hernandez & Enrique Castillo

Let's Talk co-host & CNN Reporter,
Naibe Reynoso
Hip-hop star Pitbull brought the house down with his off-the-charts performance!

Edward James Olmos reminded us that while the night was a celebration, it was the eve of September 11th and said, “We must try to help all the people who are sick because they went first to try to help when the buildings collapsed. That is my big understanding of what ten years of remember is all about.” Eddie, what a class act he is and I’m honored to call him a friend. Also, not many know that he was originally booked to take one of the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers. But the Sunday prior to the 11th, as he reviewed his flight itinerary, he realized that he would be arriving into LAX in early evening and he had to be at the Latin Grammy’s that night. So at the last minute he changed his flight and instead returned on Monday, September 10th. Destiny intervened.
Gregory Nava 

While the Alma Awards catered to the glitz and glam of entertainment, the chatter turned political when Gregory Nava, the great director, producer and screenwriter, accepted his Career Achievement Award.  “The immigration situation has gotten much worse since 9/11. The attack against the undocumented is now an attack against all Latinos,” said Nava. “This is an attack on all our culture…  we have to fight against because it is an injustice.”

The El Norte and Selena filmmaker revealed that he finished the script to Garden of Eden, which examines our current immigration issues.

Actor/Producer Enrique Castillo &
Producer Lorena Alvarado

Enjoyed seeing Danny Trejo, who wore a suit jacket that was lined with embroidered daggers… he looked “Machete” cool! He spoke eloquently about what the evening meant to him. “I love being Latino in Los Angeles,” he said. “Right now is the time for Latinos.” Oh, man, I’m in love! He speaks my Latino language! He got a huge round of applause when he said, “We’ve moved forward in entertainment industry because of people like Robert Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez who have pushed us into the main stream. We are movie stars, for lack of a better word, but we are out there with all of them, and I thank God for that!”

Demi Lovato & little sister
Demi Lovato performed her current single “Skyscraper” and she sang her heart out! That girl has a spectacular voice! It is better than ever. Her live performance was amazing! It was heartwarming to see that she’s happier and feeling better these days. Bravo, Demi! Keep it up!
The closing act was a spectacular performance by Latin pop icon Gloria Estefan. Her first English-language album since 2003, “Miss Little Havana.”  Her performance reminded us she still has the magic!

Naibe Reynoso interviewing Diva Eva!

I would like to mention that the sponsors of the Alma Awards spoke about how important Latinos were to their corporations, gave statistics, etc. Well, I felt they were preaching to the choir! I mean the entire audience knows this… I challenge these corporate tycoons to instead preach to other corporate leaders and billionaires who still are in the dark about the impact Latinos are making economically and demographically. Don’t preach to us… preach to them!

Don’t forget to watch the Alma Awards on Friday, September 16th at 8PM on NBC. It’s a night where every thing is Latino razzle-dazzle! I’m not going to give you the names of winners… you’ll have to watch the show! There are some surprises!

Clark Russell, hair stylist to stars and Kikey Castillo

At The Almas, Latinowood, Sept. 10, 2011 ©

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Enrique Castillo -- Just Wrapped Indie Homebound

Enrique Castillo as Cesar in Weeds

Enrique Castillo embraces his roles with the type of passion that remind you of a De Niro, Pacino, or Bardem. Like a true thespian, his versatility roars.

I had a chance to catch up with the SAG Award nominated actor recently where we discussed his latest project, Fanny Veliz’s indie, Homebound. Enrique goes from playing the villain in a recent episode on CBS’ NCIS to playing a cancer victim in Homebound.  The film, shot in El Campo, Texas, tells the story of a family coping with estrangement, love, and loss. Castillo plays Gilberto, the family patriarch, who is dying from a rare form of cancer and trying to prepare the family for the inevitable.

Latinowood: You just finished filming Homebound where you star in the principal role of a family patriarch.  This is an emotional role – how hard was it for you?

Enrique Castillo:  It was emotionally draining in that you have to invest in the execution of emotions to convey what the character was going through. Gilberto is not where I’m at as a person in my relationships with my own children; however, as the character, I had to feel the pain he was going through both health wise and in his relationship with his son. It was physically and emotionally exhausting.

LW: How has Gilberto changed you as a father or husband?

EC: I would say, only in the sense that it helped reinforce my feelings: that I love my children to the degree that I do and that I love and appreciate every day that I can share with my wife, my partner.

LW: What was it like to work for Fanny Veliz? She’s so young, talented and a real go-getter… in what way was it different working for her than other directors?

EC: I enjoyed working for Fanny very much. I appreciate her trust in me and I hope that I did her work justice. I wish her all the success in the world and find no reason why she shouldn’t be able to build a very solid career in the film industry. What made the experience different is that it’s the first time I’ve worked for a female director in a feature. But I didn’t see her as a female director, I just saw her as a colleague and an employer that I was fortunate to be working with and for.


“The catena of roles throughout my career and how well I did my work, is what I hope in the end, defines me as an actor and not one role in particular.” –Enrique Castillo


LW: Homebound was filmed in El Campo, Texas and understand the Latino community was generous with their support. How so?

EC: My understanding is that many in El Campo contributed to the budget of the film. Also, there were several in-kind contributions. Many were extras and some even got speaking roles.  It’s a great credit to the producers that the project they pitched to the community was so well received. Given that the story reflects the community’s experience, I’m sure they took great care to ensure that the story reflected the positive aspects of their lives.

LW: Homebound will make the indie film fest rounds. What is it that you want audiences to take away after seeing this movie?

EC: That this is an American story that closely mirrors the rule and not the exception to the majority of Latinos. The characters have been in the U. S. for generations and helped build the culture of the West – not unlike what we’ve seen in countless of American Cinema stories. They live as Americans yet they are proud of their Latino heritage. They’re patriotic with several military veterans of foreign wars in the family. In fact, Gilberto is a Vietnam Veteran and proud of his service to his country …con orgullo de ser de la Raza Bronze.

LW:  How does your role in Homebound compare to your other film roles?

EC: I choose to look at this role as I do all the others I’ve had the privilege to portray: They’re human with a moral center that gets maneuvered either to one side or the other of the moral compass. How the audience perceives my character is a result of how well I do my work. I leave the judgment to the audience.

LW: Of all your roles, which one has defined you as the fine actor you are?

EC: The role of Montana in Blood In-Blood Out is the role I’m most recognized for in a public sense. The catena of roles throughout my career and how well I did my work, is what I hope in the end, defines me as an actor and not one role in particular.

For more information on Homebound, go to:

 ECastillo/Homebound, Latinowood © August 26, 2011
 Edited by: Casandra Moreno Lombera

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Miguel Torres & Mauricio Mendoza’s Supernatural Encounters Sets Industry Abuzz

Recently, the Imagen Foundation announced its 2011 Imagen Award nominees and the new original web series, Encounters, is among those nominated for Best Web Series. If you haven’t already read the first part of this interview on Latin Heat Online, make sure you do. Here’s the link: 

This year, Angel Flight Media launched its original web series, Encounters, and has already garnered a coveted Imagen Award nomination with only a few webisodes uploaded. The definitive formula for the consummate web series is still a mystery and pioneers are trying to figure out how to grab television-viewing audiences and keep them riveted for seven to eight minutes on their on-line screens. Not easy to accomplish, yet Encounters has managed to tap into our most sacred emotions and hold our attention for the entire show. How many of us have lost a loved one or maybe a not so loved one without ever having a chance to clear things up or say one more time how much they impacted your life? Watching Enounters could save you big bucks on expensive grief therapy!
Miguel Torres

I recently spoke with the series creator and co-executive producer, Miguel Torres, about both his show and the positive reaction from the show’s growing audience.

Where did you get the idea for your story concept?

MT:  I was jogging one day through Boyle Heights and I began to notice people… truly notice them. I don’t know what it was at the time but I felt the pain and hurt in them. Most of them walked with their heads down and I wondered why. I began to think about what I would say to a loved one who had passed away.  And, what if these individuals spoke to a loved one who had passed away? How would it change their current lives? Unfortunately for all of us, we often believe that have something holding us back in this world from becoming great and I feel that losing loved ones takes a bit of our soul away. The original name of the series was One More Day, but I decided to share the concept with one of my mentors, Jesus Trevino, who in turn suggested the title of Encounters. I loved it and it stuck. What we are most proud of is dealing with social issues like alcoholism, child abuse, homosexuality, and suicide. We feel we are doing something positive for our community and the world.

“Intrigue, mystery, confrontations, revelation—these are the elements that make up the new Encounters webisodic series…. Encounters explores human stories of passion, anger and love. Topnotch performances and filmmaking by Latino talent, in front of and behind the camera, make for dramas that are provocative, arresting, and memorable.”
-- Jesus Trevino, Director and creator

Mauricio Mendoza
 How did your partnering with Mauricio Mendoza come about?

MT:  Mauricio and I both know that we need to create our own projects if Hollywood is going to listen and we both understand the importance of universal themes and the quality of our work.  We were talking one day about working together on a project, any project. We threw ideas at each other but nothing felt right. I told him about my jog through Boyle Heights and about having one last opportunity to meet with a loved one who’d passed away. He loved the concept and within days we started calling our friends from Armando Acevedo (DP), Lorena Alvarado (Associate Producer), Kenneth Castillo (Series Director), Enrique Castillo (Actor, Series Writer), Joe Camareno (Series Director), Ruth Livier (Actress, Episode Writer), Stephen Murray (Series Editor), Kico Velarde (Series Editor), Kevin Sifuentes (Series Director), Yeniffer Behrens (Actress, Writer, Producer), Ruben Padilla (Series Writer) and others asking if they wanted to be a part of it.  Once we shared the concept, without hesitation, they were on-board. Mauricio and I are the Co-Executive Producers of Encounters. It’s tough to produce but we are enjoying most of the process and the professionals that are working with us are amazing.  Encounters has talented individuals that I cannot thank enough and we are also providing them with a platform so that their craft as storytellers can be seen. This is a win-win for all of us because we believe and trust in our work as professionals.

What is your average budget per webisode?

MT:  The average budget per episode is between $650 and $800 and all of the funding has come out of our pockets and many individuals, including the cast, are providing their time in hopes that we do get funding. As of now, the funding is all hard costs.
Latinowood Note: Keep in mind that this low budget does not reflect extensive built-in equipment ownership advantages. Most independent producers do not possess the inventory and must rent out equipment and facilities.

“Encounters is an excellent and fresh premise for an Internet series that promises to be emotional and heartwarming.”
-- Randy Zisk, Executive Producer/Creator, Monk

Are you & Mauricio seeking out funding/sponsor sources?

MT:  We would both love to have sponsors, a grant, or someone to give us funding for our web series but I know it’s difficult. I work freelance as a camera operator and editor for both and CNN Español, allowing me to put funding into the web series for the past two years. Sometimes you have to believe in yourself and in your projects and if it means funding it yourself, then do it.

When marketing Encounters, is your primary demographic target Latinos? If yes, how do you intend to cross-promote to mainstream?

MT:  The Encounters concept is a mainstream concept. We wanted to share the “encounters” stories of the various cultures in the world. We originally wanted to tell a Caucasian, a Black, a Latino, an Asian, an Indian, and a middle-eastern story, however, due to our resources, we went entirely Latino. But, here lies the key to the series and especially our culture: Yes we have a Caucasian in our series but they’re Argentinean. Yes we have a black in the series, but he’s Cuban. What our Latino culture offers us is a beautiful rainbow of colors. We have talent from the lightest skin to the darkest of skin. Is this a Latino project, by no means was that our intention but we called our friends and our friends come in various colors. Our creative team and the people behind the series are all Latino and we are great storytellers.

“Mi Media Naranja is a moving and wonderful webisode of Encounters. If they’re all this good, I’m not going to miss a one. Carlos and Mauricio take you on an emotional journey about how two brothers can look identical but still be so different. A real winner!”
-- Ed Begley, Jr.
Will there be a new season of Encounters?

MT:  We have completed 11 episodes and we’re launching the first 7 episodes of the first season. We are planning on taping three more episodes in the coming months to complete season 2. The scripts are ready for production. Hopefully we can obtain the funding to keep telling individual stories and produce many more seasons to come.

Has the importance of getting an Imagen Award nomination sunken in yet?

MT:  I was definitely nervous the day before the announcement of the 26th Annual Imagen Awards.  I watched them via live-stream on the site and, when the announcement was made, I was thrilled for the entire cast and crew.  I was thrilled that a prestigious organization like the Imagen Foundation recognized the hard work we’ve put into the series for the past 2 years. The nomination sank in immediately because it validated the series, the cast, and the crew.

Who does your casting because you have brought together some fantastic talent?

MT:  For budgetary reasons, Mauricio was in charge of the casting… meaning he called his friends!

Don’t miss any of Miguel Torres’ and Mauricio Mendoza’s Encounters:
Mauricio Mendoza and Miguel Torres
Executive-Co-Producers, Encounters

Encounters Latinowood © July 2011
Edited by: Casandra Moreno Lombera