Jeff Lima Production Award Aims to Boost Latino Representation in Film With $10,000 Scholarship

Jeff Lima Production Award
Courtesy of Johnny Rodríguez

When Jeff Lima, an actor of Puerto Rican descent (“Chicago Fire”), began auditioning for television and film work, he noticed something dejecting. “Early on, I can’t tell you how many of the same characters I was going out for,” says Lima, 30, of the stereotypical hardened-Latino roles he was presented with. “Back then I tried to make sense of it and wouldn’t say no to work, but it took a great deal of stepping outside the dream.”

In turn, Lima launched the Jeff Lima Production Award three years ago to bolster Latino representation in film. A $10,000 prize is given to a New York University thesis student or alum to fund a short film that advances the Latino presence on-screen.

“It’s about creating opportunity,” explains Lima, whose judging panel includes NYU faculty members. “As much as I love being in front of the camera, the hope is that this award opens doors for younger talent.”

For Lima, it’s also a way to pay for him to pay it forward. “Someone like Gina Rodriguez was the first person to take my headshot and pass it along to her agent at the time. My career really took off from there,” he explains. “In advocating for representation, there will be fewer instances of Latinx actors encountering those very superficial characters.”

The scholarship is paying off: 2019 recipient Max Walker-Silverman’s short film “Chuj Boys of Summer,” about a Guatemalan teen in Colorado, screened at this year’s SXSW after premiering at the Hamptons Intl. Film Festival.

Submissions for the 2021 scholarship are open until April 23. The winner will be announced in late May. For more info, email nl45@nyu.edu.com.