Eva Longoria drew Hollywood attention with her talk Kering Women in Motion at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.
The Desperate Housewives graduate, who was led by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, professor and researcher at the University of Southern California Annenberg, is making her feature film debut as a director “Flamin’ Hot” an inspirational story about a Frito-Lay janitor who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The film won an audience award at the SXSW Film Festival.
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As a female director, debut director, and Latina director, Longoria said she felt “the weight of my community” and “the weight of every director” as production of “Flamin’ Hot” began. In conversation with diversity Longoria’s chief correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister noted that Hollywood is not fair when it comes to films where women fail over those of male directors. For a director like Longoria, there shouldn’t be any room for error because a flop could cost her another directing job, she says.
“We don’t get a lot of bites on the apple,” Longoria said of Latina directors. “My film wasn’t low-budget by any means—it wasn’t $100 million, but it wasn’t $2 million either. When was the last studio film directed by Latina? It was like 20 years ago. We can’t get a movie every 20 years.”
Longoria continued, “The problem is, when this movie fails, people go, ‘Oh, Latino stories don’t work… Female directors really suck.’ We don’t get many attacks. A white man can direct a $200 million film, fail and get another. That’s the problem. I get a hit, a chance, work twice as hard, twice as fast, twice as cheap.”
“They really carry the generational trauma into the making of the film,” Longoria said. “For me, it drove me. I was determined.”
dr Smith – Founder of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which introduced the last week The inclusion list with the Adobe Foundation — praised Longoria for “leading the way” and working closely with the actor, producer and director on the Inclusion Initiative, which conducts research on diversity and inclusion in entertainment.
“This was a collaborative effort to reward people who do well on screen when it comes to representation across multiple categories: gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities and over 65,” Smith said inclusion list. “Are we showing the stories that aren’t being told? And who then works behind the camera?”
“The metric you use to measure success is important,” Longoria added. She said studios or broadcasters would pat themselves on the back and say, “We’ve doubled the number of women behind the camera!” But Longoria says, “They’ve gone from one to two. And you’re like, “Okay, technically you did, but you still only hired two women.” So how you measure success is really important. And inclusion as a metric is so great because you can applaud the people who are doing it right.”
With Flamin’ Hot, Longoria was keen to write an inspirational story about Latinos with characters that resembled her own family, from father to uncles. The motivational and hopeful story explores how American businesses underestimate the Hispanic community. The same applies to Hollywood studios, Longoria noted.
“28% of box office ticket buyers are Latino,” she said. “Your film won’t do well if you don’t have the Latino audience. Do you know how many Latinos turned up on Crazy Rich Asians? Do you know how many Latinos bought tickets to Fast and the Furious? We overestimate going to the cinema, so why shouldn’t there be content for us when we are the ticket buyers? Are we the spectators? … As far as I’m concerned, I’m very proud to throw this purchasing power weight on the scales. If you don’t talk to us, we may not buy the movie ticket.”
Despite the progress made in integrating Latinos into Hollywood, Longoria says not only is there still a long way to go, but statistically the industry is also in regression.
“We’re still underrepresented on camera, we’re still underrepresented behind the camera, we’re still not tapping into the women of the Latino community,” Longoria said. “In TV and film we were at 7%, now we’re at 5%, so the myth that Hollywood is so advanced is a myth if you look at the data.”
“The illusion is that Hollywood is progressive,” she added. “The reality is that we are still far behind on parity representation.”
Watch Longoria and Dr. Smith with Kering Women In Motion to:
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