Broken English Prods.: Aiming to Fix the Latinx Imbalance on Screen and Behind the Scenes
If there’s been one constant about Latino representation in Hollywood, it’s been the abysmal representation that has barely shifted in decades.
Despite some gains in recent years, a 2019 study from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative revealed that underrepresentation and stereotypical roles for U.S.-based Latinx talent are, sadly, still the norm.
Enter Broken English Prods., a fledgling Latinx production company, which hopes to “change the narrative,” in the words of its CEO Christopher Acebo. The new shingle joins Lionsgate’s Pantelion and other companies in addressing the paucity of Latinx films.
Broken English forms part of new entertainment finance company Grandave Capital (GC), launched by film financier Stanley Preschutti in June, which has boarded projects as a third-party equity investor but has also plowed considerable funding to its new Latinx production arm.
“It’s important that we build a relationship with the global film community so that we start to expand not just how we see Latinos in the U.S. but also how we’re influenced by a much larger community that shares an ethnicity and culture,” Acebo asserts, who adds that they are also looking into collaborating with producers from Mexico, Chile and Spain, among others. GC sales arm Grandave Intl. picked up world sales rights to Chilean drama “My Tender Matador” in Venice, which will be presented at AFM.
“We’re hoping to make movies that happen to have Latinx characters in them and that are more global-oriented,” concurs Jolene Rodriguez, president, Broken English Prods. But personally, she is aiming for more female-centric films in all genres. The former Screen Gems executive is tapping her experience in building the Sony division’s urban label to assemble Broken English’s slate. She’s casting a wide net for talent in front of and behind the camera, tapping the help of not just agencies but social media and other resources such as Latinxdirectors.com.
Rodriguez joined Broken English on day 2 of shooting of the shingle’s first film, boxing drama “7th & Union,” just as the Covid-19 pandemic grew worse. Ever-changing health and safety protocols were followed and raised the budget more than expected, she recalls. “Health protocols are a line item in a budget from now on,” she says.
Being cast in “7th & Union” was “a gift,” says its star Omar Chaparro, who was in despair when the pandemic broke. “The future was uncertain; I grew more anxious, more despondent and started gaining weight,” he remembers. Getting the lead part motivated him to train in boxing for two hours daily for four months prior to the shoot, says Chaparro, who has a black belt in Shotokan-ryu, the most popular style of Japanese Karate.
In the film, Chaparro plays a Mexican ex-boxer who forms an unlikely bond with a retired African-American fighter to win a match that could very well save his life and that of his wife (Edy Ganem) and child.
Based on Bernardo Cubria’s screenplay, “Like It Used to Be” pivots on four female buddies who embark on a road trip across Mexico when one of them receives life-changing news.
Asked how the company chose its name, Acebo cites Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending the cracks in broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with precious metals. He says: “Our name encompasses the idea that something that seems broken at first glance holds the potential to become something more beautiful, more equitable.”