Eva Longoria put Hollywood on notice during her Kering Women in Motion talk at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.
The “Desperate Housewives” alum, who was joined by University of Southern California Annenberg professor and researcher Dr. Stacy L. Smith, is making her feature directorial debut with “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.
As a female director, a first-time director and a Latina director, Longoria said she “felt the weight of my community” and “the weight of every female director” when production started on “Flamin’ Hot.”
“We don’t get a lot of bites at the apple,” Longoria said about Latina directors. “My movie wasn’t low budget by any means — it wasn’t $100 million, but it wasn’t $2 million. When was the last Latina-directed studio film? It was like 20 years ago. We can’t get a movie every 20 years.”
Longoria continued, “The problem is if this movie fails, people go, ‘Oh Latino stories don’t work … female directors really don’t cut it.’ We don’t get a lot of at-bats. A white male can direct a $200 million film, fail and get another one. That’s the problem. I get one at-bat, one chance, work twice as hard, twice as fast, twice as cheap,” Longoria said.
With “Flamin’ Hot,” Longoria was adamant on making an inspirational story about Latinos with characters who resembled her own family, from her father to her uncles. The story looks at how corporate America underestimates the Hispanic community. The same can be said for Hollywood studios, Longoria observed.
“Twenty-eight percent of ticket buyers at the box office are Latino,” she said. “Your film will not succeed if you don’t have the Latino audience. Do you know how many Latinos showed up for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’? Do you know how many Latinos bought a ticket for ‘Fast and the Furious’? We over-index at moviegoing, so why shouldn’t there be content for us if we are the ticket buyers?”
Even with the strides that have been made with Latino inclusion in Hollywood, Longoria says that not only is there a long way to go, but, statistically, the industry is moving backward.
“We’re still underrepresented in front of the camera, we’re still underrepresented behind the camera, we’re still not tapping into the females of the Latino community,” Longoria said. “We were at 7% in TV and film, now we’re at 5%, so the myth that Hollywood is so progressive is a myth when you look at the data.”