Events being planned by new Chicago chapter of indie producers group to expand Latinos in film

A dozen Latino filmmakers have set out to make Chicago a better place for their fellow Latinos to make movies.

Juan J. Lopez and his colleagues have launched the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP).

Founded in 1999 and boasting chapters in 11 cities, NALIP is dedicated to supporting Latinos working throughout the film industry.

Lopez said NALIP will be a huge benefit to the Latino community, having an organization specifically geared to promoting the advancement of their films with a networking organization that stretches across the country.

“One of the biggest benefits will be making people aware of where the growth is within the industry, as well as getting the films we are making known and out there.”

A Northwestern University alum who is director of project management at the Bank of Montreal, Lopez approached national NALIP executive director Kathryn Galan after seeing her on a financing panel at the 2004 Chicago Latino Film Festival.

“I found it odd that there wasn’t a Chicago chapter, since we have such a vibrant independent film community, and we also have a fairly heavy Latino population,” Lopez said.

Lopez began working with NALIP to find and contact local members of the national group and start building the infrastructure for a Chicago chapter. Since February, NALIP Chicago has been meeting to map out its future

Core members of include Juan Frausto, who is now in preproduction on the vampires-in-the-hood comedy “Get Pony”; his sister, actress Rosa Frausto; “Para Matar a un Asesino/To Kill a Killer, writer-director Ricardo Islas and producer Diana Romero; “Bloom” writer-producer Rosie Vargas Goldberg; “Buscando a Leti/In Search of Leti” writer-director Dalia Tapia; plus Erica Rangel, Jesus Martinez, Caroline Gaete and Esau Melendez.

The Chicago chapter is operating as a collective until officer elections next year.

“We are developing an 18-month schedule to increase membership and get our name out there,” Vargas Goldberg said. “But before we start focusing on membership we have to make sure we have all our programs together so we have something to offer them.”

NALIP Chicago is still hammering out details of their agenda. They plan to provide networking and educational programs, along with a monthly screening series of Chicago Latino films, to begin with an outdoor exhibition in July.

Tentative plans include a fundraiser and expo in August, a Mexican Independence Day screening, and monthly workshops starting in October on law, financing, writing and distribution.

“Everyone is busy building their own careers and making their own films,” Lopez said. “They will start to make time for this when they recognize what the advantages are for them.”

Lopez is in preproduction on his first directing effort, the feature documentary “Love, Religion and Freedom.”

“My reason for getting into film was to develop my own skills to work on this documentary,” he said. “Love, Religion, and Freedom” will follow the experiences of several Cuban families who fled that country for the U.S.

For a lot of the people I’m interviewing, their reasons for leaving had a lot to do with religious and political freedom,” said Lopez, who is Cuban. “My documentary covers how the decision was made to leave, and how the decision was executed, up to the point that they set foot in the U.S.”

He starts shooting June 22 and plans to be in production for at least a year.

Lopez is also DP for Charles Larimer’s Civil War doc “Love and Valor,” based on Larimer’s own book. And Lopez produced Thomas Lisa’s music video “Greater Than Us,” which premiered at the Midwest Independent Film Festival June 7.

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