Like we didn't already know this happens all the time?

©2000 My Internship
May 26, 2000

The Hispanic community remains a large, untapped market within the entertainment industry as both a consumer group and a talent pool, according to a study released Wednesday by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

The few roles available to Hispanic actors are mostly as criminals or domestic servants, according to the 1,200 Latino SAG members who responded to the study, conducted last year by the Claremont, Calif.-based Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI).

About two-thirds of the respondents of "Still Missing: Latinos In and Out of Hollywood" said they "had been rejected for a role because they did not fit a Latino stereotype."

About 70 percent of those surveyed said casting directors perpetuate stereotypes, 61 percent said writers held stereotypes, 59 percent reported producers did, and 54 percent said directors did as well.

"Twenty five years ago I started out in Chicago and I was being forced to audition for street thugs and gang leaders. It’s frustrating that things haven’t changed that much." said Ray Bradford, director of equal employment opportunities for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, an organization that represents actors and other professional performers and broadcasters in TV, radio and new media.

The lack of diversity in the entertainment field has become a volatile issue in recent years, with African-American leaders calling the 1998’s network television schedules a black out.

Historically, Hispanics have been the most underrepresented of all the minority groups in Hollywood. Latinos, who make up 11.5 percent of the population, according to the latest Census reports, are cast in only 3.5 percent of all SAG film and TV jobs.

"There is definitely a problem, that’s a given. We have many Latino members across the United States who are not being employed," Bradford said.

The lack of Latinos on the small and big screens also creates image problems. "With increased employment, viewers will be able to see themselves and when you don’t, there’s a disconnection," Bradford said.

There is a need for diversity education among top executives, some say. Many in the industry don’t realize Hispanics spend $500 million on films each year.

"From the responses, Hollywood executives continue to assume that Latino-themed projects and roles do not play well," said TRPI President Dr. Harry P. Pachon. "This study reveals that the lack of understanding of this audience are profound and broad-based."

In 1998, Latinos spent $73.27 per family per year on admissions to movies, theater, opera and ballet, compared with $49.19 per family for African Americans and $97.36 for non-Hispanic whites, according to the report.

"It just doesn’t make business sense to not tap into that market," Bradford said. "To tap into it, you have to employ Hispanics."

One film director interviewed said the reason there are so few Hispanic-themed movies is that previous films have not been financially successful.

"Economic power in Hollywood is critical. That’s the way things change in Hollywood," the director said.

But Bradford said minorities would support films to which they can relate, if they are given the chance. "We just hope the industry doesn’t wait another 20 years to start employing the entire spectrum of Americans," he said.

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