LATINAS EN L.A. makes its Online Debut!

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Many people went into the making of these webisodes, and the characters have been rolling around in my head for a long time. Originally I conceived of the idea in 2004 when I was working for AZTECA. As a producer-editor-director (or what some people in “The Biz” call “preditor” — I noticed that this particular television network had very flimsy local programming. All of its major soaps and content came from Mexico.

I thought to myself that a good pitch for them would be a show that featured a starlet that they had on the channel, who was starring in an “American Idol Recap-Type Show”, in which she’d come out and sing before the recap. Usually some ostentatious number choreographed and designed by herself and her drag queen acolytes… Given the fact that the program was fourth-rate, she gave her all, and was actually quite talented.

I thought of Latinas En L.A. as a show designed around her, that would feature her talents. So the character of “Nina” originally was a singer trying to make it in Los Angeles… After writing down the concept and story outlines for the show, I approached the young starlet, and asked her if she’d be interested. Immediately, she loved the idea.

But when I went to the station heads, I realized that the content was coming from Mexico, and locally they were only producing cheap gameshows and cheesy people beating each other up onstage talk shows because that’s exactly how the network heads in Mexico wanted it.

So, I went back home and put it back in the file drawer I keep with several screenplays and television shows that I’ve got cookin’. I realize that writing, and getting one’s work produced is not an overnight process. I pay attention to my creative impulses, follow through on them, and when suddenly the stars align, I pull them back out and say, “Okay, now the time is right to make this project”.

Sasha Ramos showed up in my life ’cause my little brother, Danny. (I say little, but Danny’s 35, and a big monster of a guy right out of Where The Wild Things Are.) Sasha had just finished up a featured role in the movie “SEX DRIVE”, and was headed to Hollywood after having shot that in Florida… She showed up, we went to the premiere of her movie, and I instantly liked what I saw.

Personally, we clicked, and I knew I had a Nina. She was the right balance of forceful and tender, and I knew I could work with her long-term. As long as it would take to create a whole series. Originally, this series was all about Nina, and as the webisodes will show, she is the hostess, if you will, of the web series… But as time went on, because of several life situations beyond our control (i.e. this horrible economic time we’re all having now), Sasha had to go back to Florida for a while, and I had to regroup.

How would I tell the story without Sasha, who had been so great? Although she promised she’d return, I wanted to shoot a series and now, I only had one two-part web story in the can. These came together by bringing along two young male actors I know, and the beautiful and talented Ana Asensio.

I had worked with Ana though NALIP (National Association of Latino Independent Producers), as an actor in a Sundance-style project they do yearly (this time in New Mexico), where we performed scenes from the screenplays of young filmmakers. We were both in a film by Hugo Perez, who was wonderful to work with, and is now a great friend… Ana was a delight. She played my sister, whom I was madly in love with. I know, it’s messed up: Perez’s brilliant comedic mind on display there.

Ana was going to be in town for another NALIP Conference in L.A., and I asked. Immediately she liked the character and so the first few webisodes happened. Thanks to those first pioneers who wanted to do some acting on a little webisode show that said something about the state of Latinas and their loves in Los Angeles.

The next angel to the production came not as a Latina who wanted to perform in it, but rather in British actor/associate producer Emrhys Cooper. I mentioned the project, and not only was he interested, but also procured the locations where I shot the next two multi-part webisodes. So, everyone pitches in — and I’m amazed at how freely everyone steps forth to make creative things happen!

I’ve realized one thing: Actors always want to Act, and there is such rare opportunity, if you give them one, against odds or inconveniences, they’ll make it happen. Of course, the silent deal I have with my actors — (being an actor myself, this is what I would want) — is that they trust that when the project moves forward, I’ll come and get ’em for that.

I knew Susan, originally from the Bally’s gym I used to go to here in Hollywood. She’d agreed to work on my puppet series, LosTiteres.TV, and donated generously of her talents to it. She always claimed to love my writing, and I really felt like I owed her a role that would enable her to work with other actors.

Plus, Susan is brilliantly talented, and during the shoot, I marveled at how accurately she would inflect the lines that I’d had in my noggin. It’s as if I were up there doing the lines myself. I couldn’t help but giggle to myself when line after line, she would utter with exactly the inflection I would have chosen. Synchronicity is always wonderful.

Karla Menjivar was a student of my solo performance class at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood. She is pretty and passionate, and even back in the AZTECA days, I knew I’d put her in this. She actually auditioned for me there when I was thinking of putting together some kind of reading for it. After I saw what she could do, I knew she’d be a great for a part.

I like to work with actors by asking them what roles the want to play, and generally knowing their sensibilities. Then it’s easy to write for them. Although Emrhys Cooper told me that he wanted to change some lines in order to put in some British-isms, he also made remaks to me to the tune of: “It sounds like me talking” … Bingo.

The shoot is so bare bones, and fast and difficult, I usually make sure I drill my actors before showing up to the set to REALLY know their lines. Things rolled along on every one of these for that reason. Everyone was amazed about the vast amount of pages we shot in a day.

I should say that I’m very proud of all of my actors. They are all dear friends who have helped this vision come true. Also, the music of my New World School of the Arts buddies, Eliah Levy (who oftentimes plays live at the 3rd Street Promenade and worldwide venues), and New York based composer, Onel Mulet. Without them, there’d be no life behind the Latinas!

Erik Anderson has kept the cuts brisk, and the show moving along at a great pace with his editing. I had to give that up in the hands of someone who I really believed wouldn’t mess it up. Luckily, my instincts were right. Erik not only edited an award winning short I performed in called “DEMPTION”, he is also editing a follow up short film by the same director I’m in, called “HITMAN”.

Enjoy “Latinas En L.A.”! … I’m continuing to meet young Latina actresses who want to play a role in the series. It has changed, and developed itself over time. Originally following one character, but then my having to veer off from that and create these self-contained episodes where a young actress or two are featured — seems to want to be the formula that it wants.

It’s like the old “Twilight Zone” episodes, every one of the Latinas episodes is self-contained, but takes place in the same world. All the characters are in L.A., and it’s fun for me to discover who might know who as I write it. I imagine, as in the real Los Angeles — through one friend or another — everybody knows everybody.

Now we’re searching for SPONSORS to help the production pay for itself…

Help us out, Latino people!?

Hugs from Hollywood,
Felix Pire