Battling a field filled by predominantly white actors, USC alumnus Edwin Porres Jr. hopes to draw attention to stereotypes and the lack of diversity in Hollywood with his microbudget comedy film, “Hóllyweird.”
The film focuses on a man named Steve, a Latinx actor who struggles with the competition of Hollywood. When newcomer Alejandro “steals” the part of Steve’s dreams by pretending to be of Latinx heritage like Steve, Steve learns to embrace his Latinidad by confronting Latinx stereotypes and the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
“For me, this film was an opportunity to inform people of this problem and do it in a fun and entertaining way,” Porres said. “I relate to [Steve] because I started out as an actor, and I also face the whole concept of ‘being Latino enough.’ So that’s why I wanted to bring it out, to have the conversation in people’s minds.”
Research by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative revealed that 61.9% of Latinx characters portrayed in film are involved in illegal activities, such as organized crime and drug-related activities. Growing up and seeing the way Latinx peoples are underrepresented and grossly stereotyped in film and TV, Porres said he hopes to change the narrative through his work. Porres also referenced how the percentage of parts played by Latinx in film is significantly less than the portion of the population they compose.
“If we’re portrayed like cardboard characters, if we’re dehumanized on screen,” Porres said. “This can lead to things like racism or discrimination, and even aggression towards minorities.”
Porres began tinkering with a script back in 2015, amid the #OscarsSoWhite movement, which called attention to the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards. The movement has since expanded as a call for greater inclusion of marginalized groups in all aspects of the film industry. By summer 2016, Porres had finished the script and begun the pre-production process, cast auditions and picked filming locations with his wife, Jaime Porres.
The movie was a long process to produce, Porres said, particularly while working on a microbudget and balancing other careers. Porres was also an overnight counselor and medical historian, while his wife was balancing a fourth grade teaching job.
“At our level, I think at any level, it’s so difficult with limited resources to complete a movie,” Porres said. “The movie is going to take up your time, take up your money, take up your life. So, choose a movie that you really believe in. For me, I believe in having Latino inclusivity and bringing up the issue of lack of Latino diversity … And for me, what kept me going was the comedy.”
Jaime, who helped with the writing, production and post-production of “Hóllyweird,” said the message of the film was central to her own life growing up.
“I grew up here in [Los Angeles] and I grew up with a lot of diverse friends and I always thought it was strange that movies and TV didn’t reflect that,” Jaime said. “Everybody was white in the shows I would watch and the movies and so I kind of wanted to help address that.”
The process was long for Jaime and Edwin, particularly because they were both raising their children and working other jobs. In addition, Edwin said it was a side project for many people helping on the film, so it took several years to complete.
Eduardo Barraza, USC alumnus and cinematographer of “Hóllyweird,” worked closely with Porres as the cinematographer, especially during the production process. Barraza also said he has experienced firsthand the film industry’s lack of roles for people of Latin American descent during his time as a cinematographer.
Barraza was intrigued by the subject matter, particular how it touches on the stereotyping and lack of opportunities for minorities in Hollywood. “I was sort of interested in the idea of how people get pigeonholed into certain roles and certain stereotypes,” Barraza said.
As the cinematographer, Barraza brought the script that Edwin and Jaime created to life. His role involved using visual concepts and themes that emphasize the story itself and help the audience connect with the characters and message.
“I think if people liked the film, things are accomplished,” Barraza said. “If people can connect in any way to the story and to the characters, then that in itself makes the film successful.”
The movie, finished right before the pandemic, has been released on a multitude of streaming platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, VUDU and Roku. Now, Porres has been busy with social media promotion and the closed captioning necessary for it to be released to the Latin American market just last month.
Porres and his wife have also created their own production company which they started in 2016, One Life Pictures. The goal is to continue producing new films like “Hóllyweird” to draw attention to the lack of diversity and create new roles for Latinx people in the film industry, Porres said.
“I want to keep making Latino-centered movies and sharing different perspectives of the Latino culture,” Porres said. “We’re working on a script right now to be shot in Guatemala … This is really what I want to do, and I hope we get on even more platforms.”
Porres said he also hopes to increase viewership of “‘Hóllyweird” to continue drawing awareness and educating the public about the lack of diversity in the film industry.
“For me, I want to bring light about the lack of Latino inclusivity and [allow the audience to] walk away from the movie entertained and be conscious of [the issue],” Porres said.