Forging the Path for Latinos
in the Film Industry
A TRUE AMERICA
On the move in Culver City’s fertile entertainment industry, Cheryl
Quintana Leader rises up with a new crop of writers, directors, and
producers whose point of view reflects an America lush with diverse
hues. As destiny would have it, on my journey to discover what’s right
with the Westside, I was introduced to this rare energy source at t a
public speaking engagement for Multicultural Americans of Southern
California. With piercing
blue eyes, and the high cheek bones of an ancient Aztec goddess,
Quintana Leader moved the audience with the screening of her
award-winning short film, “Tanto
Tiempo” (So Much Time).
A NEW BREED
As one of two women writers ever chosen for Universal’s Hispanic Film
Project, Quintana Leader opted to also direct and produce her film, a
semi-autobiographical story of a young woman who comes to terms with her
Mexican ancestry. Quintana
Leader defines herself as “a new breed, an evolving American.
A woman born of the Phoenix in Arizona whose ashes rise from a
long line of Mexicans (a mixture, in my case, of Spaniard, German and
Aztec), Russians, Germans, Poles and French.
My mother is a second-generation American by way of Texas and
Sinaloa, Mexico; and my father is also a second-generation American by
way of Boston and Eastern Europe.”
PASSIONATE OF SPIRIT
Quintana Leader believes that “we in the United States are very
fortunate to represent so many diverse cultures. My only quest, as a determined agent of change,” she
proclaims, “is to continue to impact our society with positive images
which accurately reflect the richness of America’s diversity and what
we look like today on our television programs and in our movie theaters.
Creating projects which are inclusive of all is surely one way of
healing a nation. I believe
we’re all painfully aware that the current exclusion of diverse
talent, both in front of and behind the camera, creates a gross
imbalance. When the majority of images we see, emulate, revere and, for
the most part, emotionally connect with, are those whose skin is always
a lighter shade of overwhelming misrepresentation.”
WOMAN WITH A CAUSE
Quintana Leader has screened her film at over 100 festivals,
universities, colleges, corporate entities and private community
screenings for the past six years with the message of remaining proud of
one’s American heritage regardless of its origins.
“Tanto Tiempo,” has
garnered five national awards and was inducted into New York’s Museum
of Modern Art’s Xicano Retrospective.
A relative “contemporary pioneer,” Quintana Leader marked new
territory by having her film televised throughout the country during
Hispanic Heritage Month hosted by Edward James Olmos and sponsored by
AT&T and Kodak. It was
the very first time that films written, directed and produced by
Americans with Latino heritages were able to share their personal
WITH CLEAR INSIGHT
“Because of my mother’s past in a world that defined her as a
“dirty Mexican,” which unfortunately still resonates in our society
today, and her inability to positively embrace her heritage, my main
focus has been to work on projects that positively embrace her heritage,
my main focus has been to work on projects that positively reflect
Americans with a Latino heritage,” Quintana Leader says.
Instead of waiting for others to green-light her projects, she
created her own company, INDIVISION
Productions, primarily to produce educational videos in English and
Spanish. With clear
insight, she connected corporations who wanted (or were mandated by the
government) to finance projects for Latino consumers with non-profit
organizations that sought to educate.
In three years, Quintana Leader produced over fifteen projects
via United Way, GTE, March of Dimes, ARCO, LEARN, LAUSD’s Parent
Community Services, UCLA Women’s Sports, and the Escalante Program, to
name a few. “Although
I’m a newcomer to the business,” she reflects, “which comes with
its own set of interesting biases, both from the Latino community and
those in the entertainment industry – as I’m not fluent in Spanish,
nor do I come from ‘the neighborhood’ – I clearly saw a need that
other Americans with Latino heritages had yet to tap.
For me, what I do is very rewarding and in perfect combination
for resourcing my talents and abilities in combination with directly
THE SKY’S THE LIMIT
In addition to her educational pursuits, Quintana Leader has also
created projects for the commercial industry. She was asked to write “Young Heart Diaries,” a pilot
exploring the Latino heritage of young girls (12-14) for ABC
Children’s Programming. However,
after the Disney buyout, the project was back out on the market.
“Now,” she notes, “the current is moving in the Latino
direction once more, and both the networks
and studios are being held responsible for lacking the presence of
Americans with Latino heritages within their programming and
proverbial ‘small window’ is being offered to open at Sony, CBS,
Showtime, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros., where I’m pitching a sitcom,
a min-series, and a Movie of the Week, among others.
It’s my destiny to be an active part of the Class of 2000 ad
whatever,” she proclaims. “In
the near future, we’ll witness striking headlines from Daily
Variety claiming, ‘Latino TV Ratings Highest Ever!,’ and The Hollywood Reporter’s ‘Latino Boxoffice Soars!’
In a perfect country, I would be just as excited to celebrate the
personal and commercial success of my projects regardless of their
Latino essence. However,
until we’re able to see America as it is, in equal balance of all
those representing America (and that included positive women’s
portrayals), the definitive labeling will continue to separate us all.
I’m a big believer that there’s enough success to go around
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN
In addition to her creative endeavors, Quintana Leader also pursues
opportunities to enhance her leadership abilities.
This year she was one of 50 women chosen from the state to the
prestigious Leadership California program on behalf of a generous
scholarship provided by The Gas Company. Prior to this, she was a scholarship candidate at the Center
for Creative Leadership in San Diego.
Currently, she serves on the Advisory Council for CINE in
Washington, D.C. and is Chair of HOPE-PAC’s (Hispanas Organized for
Political Equality-Political Action Committee) 2000 Fundraising
Reception assisting Latinas running for political office.
Having been the only one in her family to graduate from high
school (South Torrance High) and college (UCLA, English/Women’s
Studies, gymnastics team athlete and Chi Omega sorority member),
Quintana Leader looks upon life as a “plethora of choices.”
“You can choose to wait or make things happen.
Personally, I’m an active supporter of the latter,” she says
always in search of ‘the
doing,’ and in most cases, I’m the first to have done it.
A new breed? Sure,
why not? Inclusivity,
that’s my vision. Although
I’m usually met with tremendous resistance, as is the human response
toward any implementation of change, I continue to forge ahead with the
blood of a revolutionary coursing through my veins!
If change equals growth and growth equals becoming evolved, then
I’m all for it!”
Guadalupe Romo is a Santa Monica freelance writer.
To reach INDIVISION Productions, call (310) 390-6200.