Jorge Alfredo Alfaro, Los Angeles-based Film and TV producer really knows what it's like to make your way as a filmmaker in today's America. Here's what he has to say about it.
Jorge Alfredo Alfaro, is a Los Angeles-based Film and TV producer and executive. After working in Private & Investment Banking for Merrill Lynch, Jorge moved to the film industry to work in acquisitions and distribution at the Mexican company Cinépolis. He graduated from Columbia University’s MFA in Creative Producing program with a prior education in Economics and Finance. After his Masters, he worked at companies such as Wild Bunch, Magnolia Pictures, Salma Hayek’s Ventanarosa, Eugenio Derbez’s 3Pas Studios and most recently at El Estudio a pan-regional production company operating out of Los Angeles, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Madrid, serving as Director of Creative Affairs overseeing their entire Feature Film pipeline. He currently holds the position of Director of Development and Production, Motion Picture Group at Lionsgate. Born in Mexico City, he has a passion for powerful, character-driven narratives and classical storytelling.
After all his experience inside the most challenging atmosphere of the U.S he tells us about hoy to navigate social tensions while trying to fulfill the American dream under an era of cultural polarization and unfair prejudice against the Hispanic and Latin community as a whole. Spoiler alert! It's not easy, but it's also not impossible, according to Alfaro.
Alfaro has had a pretty impressive career so far, producing many high-profile shows and films. That list includes LOL, Amazon's most-viewed show in 2018 featuring Eugenio Derbez, which Alfaro executive produced. But that doesn't mean he's had it easy. Quite the contrary: there are many challenges that any immigrant in general, and prospective filmmakers in particular, must face in order to succeed.
So, if you (or someone you know) find yourself in a similar position, you might want to read on.
The Latinx community of filmmakers in America
Many Latinx aspiring filmmakers probably wonder what to expect when they get to America and most are in the dark about what kind of people they might encounter. Fortunately, Latinx are definitely not alone. According to Alfaro, there's a well-established community of Latinos and Latinas ready to welcome fellow newcomers. "The latinx community in the US is extremely big, and it has very much grown in the film industry," he told us. "There has always been a lot of us up here, but ever since the success of "the 3 amigos" (Cuarón, Del Toro and Iñárritu), the community has become bigger, along with the need in Hollywood to become more diverse and inclusive."
With studios and production companies increasingly looking to diversify the representation on their films, it's not a bad time to be a Latinx in Hollywood—despite the rampant xenophobia and racism currently plaguing the country. "But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of diversity, and we have to support and help each other [in the meantime]."
As for a specific organization you might want to look into if you're on this boat, Alfaro recommends the National Association of Latinx Independent Producers (NALIP). "[NALIP] is doing a great job, having a summit every year with talks, panels, mixers and conferences that are latinx-oriented and meant to help latinos in the industry."
One of Alfaro's award-winning short films.
The key elements to pursuing a career in film production
There's no way around: pursuing such a competitive career in America is extremely challenging, regardless of where you come from. As Alfaro puts it, "To pursue a career in film or TV production you must truly be a natural problem solver." It's all about figuring out the best path for any given scenario or difficulty both in and out of a particular project—and to combine creativity with business-prone mentality at all times. Unlike other roles in the industry, as a producer, "It is important to have a balance in both the creative side and business/administrative side of any project."
But perhaps the single most essential thing about succeeding as a producer is also the most fundamental factor about succeeding at any dream in any industry. In Alfaro's own words,
"One of the most important and key elements in pursuing a career in production, actually in film and TV or entertainment overall, is to be patient and don't be afraid of rejection. You'll face a huge amount of rejections until that golden opportunity is finally presented to you. Especially in a city as competitive as LA, it's important to keep a cold mind, your feet on the ground, your head up all the time and always keep pushing—never giving up on your goals."
The challenges of the American dream in the film industry
As for the challenges you are likely to face, Alfaro also sheds a light. "This city is extremely competitive and the whole getting a job at a production company or studio is based in only one certain type of experience: Talent and Literary Agencies. Such as WME, UTA, CAA, etc. If they don't see that in your CV, you most likely won't get any job over here."
That may sound disheartening to some folks, but it's important to understand what you should and shouldn't expect. And here's where it gets even more difficult for immigrants, unfortunately:
"the hard part is getting into an agency, especially for foreigners, as they don't sponsor visas for anyone. So if you come very late in life and don't hold a green card, most likely you won't get in."
That doesn't mean it's impossible, though. Just bear the challenge in mind. Now, if you do in fact get in, "you have to start from the bottom, in the mailroom and then make your way up." The way to overcome that, according to Alfaro, is just "hustling and hustling, looking everywhere, not giving up and not taking any rejection personal."
Once you're out there, Alfaro tells us, it's also important to have your own projects, rather than simply waiting around for someone else to give you a job. Meet people, network, and find like-minded artists to build something of your own. That's the best way to make it over there.
Another award-winning short film produced by Jorge A. Alfaro
Advice for young artists
When asked about what advice he'd give young Latinx creatives pursuing a similar career, he spoke about resilience and persistence. "what I would tell young creatives pursuing a career in film or TV is to never give up," he said. "Always keep in mind why you started. Know the type of projects that you want to be involved in… It's very important to know your strengths and weaknesses as well. We all have flaws and it takes a smart person to acknowledge that." But in the end, Jorge said, the most important thing is to find the right people, make the right connections, and assemble the best team for the specific project you're working on." Surround yourself with people that share your enthusiasm, positivity, taste and energy."
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