You can’t change tires on the freeway. That’s producer Jeff Valdez’s description of the systemic issues that have kept Latinx talent in the entertainment industry at minuscule levels, despite the growth of the U.S.-born Hispanic population and its influence on popular culture.
Valdez, a comedian turned producer (“Comedy Compadres,” “The Brothers Garcia”) turned entrepreneur, has launched a production venture, New Cadence, designed to bring promising Latinx creative talent to the forefront.
Before New Cadence hit the content marketplace to shop its wares, however, Valdez and his partners commissioned a study of the creative community’s “supply chain” — examining everything from the age and ethnicity of studio film directors and TV showrunners to the representation of Latinx talent agents at the major agencies. The results were disheartening, but not surprising. In most areas, Latinx talent represented less than 1% of those employed in Hollywood.
Valdez and partner Sol Trujillo — former CEO of US West, Australia’s Telstra and France’s Orange S.A. — have made the rounds in recent months in meetings with top corporate leaders, from Verizon to Viacom, presenting their findings to make the business case for embracing Latinx culture as an essential part of mainstream U.S. pop culture.
“What we are doing is not political — we’re not saying you should do this because it’s the right thing,” Valdez says in the latest episode of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast. “We’re having conversations about economics. When you look at the economics of this market, you can’t continue to ignore it.”
But to meaningfully change the dynamic of Latinx employment in Hollywood is “mathematically impossible” at the rate that traditional Hollywood is opening its doors. New Cadence aims to scout for untapped sources of talent on both sides of the camera who are ready to spark with a little guidance from seasoned pros. Valdez’s other partners in New Cadence include Univision and Fox Deportes alum Vincent Cordero and Bruce Barshop, an investor who heads Barshop Ventures.
“We propose to go outside of the traditional system,” Valdez says. “Job one for us it to educate the marketplace and cut deals.”