SUPER ONDA (A Hispanic Magazine )
By Abelardo de la Pena

June 1998

Everybody’s anxious to finish school and get out there in the ‘Real World,’ where the chance exists to make all those dreams come true!

Here’s the story of an inspiring individual who’s working at making her dream come true, in the Real World!

Growing up in the ultra-conservative, suburban community of Torrance, California, Cheryl Quintana Leader did not have much of a chance to explore her cultural heritage. Her mother, a native of Mexico, abided by her non-Latino husband’s wishes by keeping her family’s stories silent.

But six years after winning the first-ever Hispanic Film Project, a screenwriting competition sponsored by MCA/Universal and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, with her first-ever screenplay, Quintana Leader is making up for lost time.  And for her, and the growing cadre of Latina filmmakers playing the Hollywood game, the sky’s the limit.

Quintana Leader’s meteoric rise in one of the most difficult industries to crack began when she was working in a variety of film industry-related positions, mostly in the publicity area, when a woman asked her if she was going to enter the Hispanic screenwriting contest.  The only problem, according to Quintana Leader, was that she did not consider herself Hispanic.

“With my blue eyes and light skin, no one ever asked me about my ethnicity,” she says.  “The competition asked for Hispanic American experiences, and I felt that I did not have one.”

She responded by first questioning her mother:  Why didn’t you speak Spanish to us?  Where do we come from”  “My mother was hiding a lot of things, covering up her whole background because of my father,” she says.

She discovered that her father and mother were never married, and that her mother was descended from the Aztecs.  “My mother’s life paralleled that of an Aztec myth, the Goddess of the Fourth Sun, the only woman from the Aztec calendar stone, chosen because she was beautiful, not because she was capable.”

That was the basis for her writing a screenplay in four days, resulting in the short film which she produced and directed entitled, “Tanto Tiempo,” the story of a young Hispanic American girl who manages to bring her mother’s Mexican heritage into both their lives.

The film won a handful of national awards, including a CINE Golden Eagle and induction into the film archives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Packaged with another short film, the movie became an hour-long television program titled the “Hispanic Heritage Project: An American Experience,” which ran nationwide in 1995.

After her success with “Tanto Tiempo,” Quintana Leader founded INDIVISION in 1993, a production company dedicated to producing quality, entertaining, and enriching stories with positive multicultural images.  So far, she’s been successful in producing short documentaries and educational telenovelas for a number of non-profit and corporate clients, including the Mexican America Legal Defense and Educational Fund, GTE, March of Dimes, United Way, and the Los Angeles, Unified School District.

“I was lucky in finding my true passion,” she says.  “And now, I really am able to concentrate on hearts and eyes through my films; the feelings and visions of the people, and of women’s place in the world.  To see something you never get to see and having the heart to accept it.”

Now, while continuing to expand her behind-the-scenes experiences at Sony Pictures, she is pitching a project that is near to her heart, a television series entitles, “Young Heart Diaries.”  An anthology of thoughts and feelings about being Hispanic, female and young, the series follows eight girls between 12 and 14 years old who gather for a Saturday afternoon Latina Literature Club, sharing their unique life stories through a collage of visual imagery, spoken word, music video, animation, and live dramatic re-enactments.

“It’s almost like I’m doing this for my mother,” says Quintana Leader.  “She would have been a different person with a more supportive environment.  If I can make a difference, it’s going to be through these images.  The timing is right for a project like this.  There are so many things open to young women these days.  They are the generation that moves and shakes things.”