The ninth Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, which kicks off Oct. 21 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, will feature films from Spain, the Caribbean, the U.S., and Latin America. The fest's many seminars and workshops will include a panel discussion sponsored by SAGIndie that will advise Latino performers on creating their own casting opportunities. LAIFF has more than tripled in size since its debut in 1997. Last year it attracted 15,000 attendees, who viewed more than 140 features, documentaries, and shorts. Spearheaded by Executive Director and Programmer Marlene L. Dermer, who co-founded the festival with actor Edward James Olmos and the late Cuban producer George Hernandez, the festival aims to showcase the work of Latino artists in front of and behind the camera.
"We like to think that we have a little bit of everything for everyone," said Dermer, who asked SAGIndie to return for a second year because of the success of last year's panel on casting. This year, SAGIndie's "Diversity Casting in Independent Film" panel will teach Latino performers strategies for getting cast in English- and Spanish-language productions. "I feel that all actors, not only the people in my culture, really hunger for good parts and developed characters they can sink their teeth into, not just superficial stereotypes of whatever it is that we're supposed to be," said Dermer. The panel, which is open to the general public, will consist of two or three well-known Latino actors and Screen Actors Guild representatives.
SAGIndie Director Paul Bales said the panel will discuss the importance of filmmakers and actors of color taking the initiative to tell their own stories rather than waiting for Hollywood to give them opportunities. "I don't think Hollywood is going to tell their story as well as they can," said Bales. "I just think it's important for them to get their voices out there. Really the main message is: Take control of your destinies, and tell your stories yourselves."
The panel will also discuss how aspiring Latino filmmakers can use SAG Low Budget Agreements to produce their own independent films. Bales said there has been an influx of actor-filmmakers entering the agreements. Bales added that attendees will also have the opportunity to network with fellow actors and filmmakers, learn more about SAG contracts, and better understand how to take control of their careers.
Dermer encourages actors of all races to take advantage of the free events and mixers at the festival and to remember the ultimate goal of creating diversity in Hollywood so eventually race will not play a factor in casting at all. "We call ourselves Latino because that's kind of how we came about," said Dermer. "If it was up to me, I would call the festival 'Global Film Works.' I think that Latino or not, there is something here for you."
The festival runs Oct. 21–30 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The "Diversity Casting" panel is Sun., Oct. 23, 3:30–5:30 p.m., at The Filmmaker's Café, 1638 N. Las Palmas Ave. For more information, visit www.latinofilm.org.