Hollywood’s absurdity is laid bare in Edwin Porres Jr.’s first-ever feature film.
The UCLA Extension alumnus along with his wife and alumna, Jaime Porres, wrote and produced “Hóllyweird,” an independent feature film detailing the struggles of Latinos in Hollywood with a satirical twist. Now streaming for free on Roku and Tubi, the feature – which Edwin directed – tells the story of Steve Fernandez, a down-on-his-luck Latino actor whose dream role is snapped up by an enigmatic new actor in town. Based on his own history navigating Tinseltown as a Latino actor and filmmaker, Edwin said “Hóllyweird” is his way of criticizing Hollywood’s diversity problem.
“(This has) always been my dream,” Edwin said. “I believe in Latino inclusivity and showing different dimensions of the Latino culture. I just had a passion for wanting to inform people.”
In the midst of the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the director said the lack of discussion around Latino inclusivity in entertainment emboldened him to take his idea for “Hóllyweird” and rework it to focus on the Latino community. He also said the 2019 USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report on Latinos – which found that 61.9% of Latino characters depicted as participating in illegal activity in a sample of 1,200 films were gang members or drug dealers – compelled him to subvert such tropes.
“(‘Hóllyweird’) brings awareness to the lack of Latino participation and the diversity of movements that (have) happened,” Edwin said. “I feel we and other minorities have been left out (but) I try to find humor in the kind of stereotypes that they want Latinos to play.”
For actor Douglas Spain – who portrays the main character Steve – “Hóllyweird” stood out because it dives into the adversities Latino actors like himself face in the film industry. He said Hollywood’s flawed perception of Latino culture erases the diversity of cultures within Latin America as a whole. But on the other hand, the actor said independent filmmakers are often more open to deviating from overused stereotypes.
“Edwin is more authentic in terms of telling our story, our struggles, that aren’t necessarily about crossing borders but that are so much more rich and textured and cultured,” Spain said. “And in indie film, that’s where we get those opportunities.”
After years of writing and less than a month of filming in 2016, “Hóllyweird” was finally completed in March of 2020, Porres said. From the time he began writing the script to the day he submitted his completed film to the distributor, he also met his wife and collaborative partner, Jaime, and the pair had two kids. Working full-time as a teacher while producing a film while pregnant was challenging, Jamie said, but she had fun making the feature regardless.
“This is something (Edwin) really wanted to do,” Jaime said. “I wanted to support him and keep going with it. There’s a point where you can’t turn around – you have to plow through.”
While he wrote the majority of the script himself, Edwin said Jamie handled much of the post-production work, including the advertising for the film. And throughout the eventful production process, he also juggled two jobs – both of them working 20 hour days, he said.
As an independent filmmaker, Edwin said his experience from community college film courses and making short films in the past prepared him to take on such a big project. When assembling his crew, he said he reached out to Eduardo Barraza, a cinematographer who collaborated with him on previous short films. The storyline piqued his interest, Barraza said, and he worked with the director to visually emphasize the film’s themes.
“We (used) long shots a lot to make the main character look small against the landscape of LA and Hollywood to show that he’s in a world bigger than himself,” Barraza said. “We wanted it to feel gritty and grainy to contrast the typical Hollywood glamour that everyone expects when they come to make it in Hollywood.”
Although Jaime and Edwin are busy working and raising their two daughters, Jaime said they are hoping to continue working on future films together. Edwin also aims to continue telling stories about the Latino experience and said he has begun working on a script set in Guatemala.
“I am positive about the future of Latino inclusivity and getting away from these stereotypes that we’re used to seeing for Latinos,” Edwin said. “People have been more vocal about it. If we demand it, it’ll change.”
This content was originally published here.