TV Eye

Reel change in Santa Barbara

Procuder/director Aida Barrera (l) and actor Mike Gomez
Procuder/director Aida Barrera (l) and actor Mike Gomez (Photo By Manuel R. Garcia)

It didn't have the high glamour of the Oscars or the casual chic of the Independent Spirit Awards, but the annual National Association of Latino Independent Producers Gala Awards Ceremony last weekend and especially the post-post-gala celebration surely rivaled any Oscar party if with nothing more than pure enthusiasm. Once the band packed up, pumped-up conference goers stormed the conference hotel bar at Santa Barbara's Doubletree Hotel to continue the party. A guitar appeared and was passed between players who accompanied partygoers singing Mexican love songs and rock & roll classics as the bewildered (but patient) staff wondered when (or if) the assembled would call it quits.

The gala was the centerpiece of a three-day conference, which brought together filmmakers and industry insiders to discuss, among other things, Latino representation in TV and film, in front of and behind the camera.

This was the fifth NALIP conference, a milestone in the development of a group that was little more than a loosely organized interest group with a handful of industry professionals when it first assembled in 1998. This year's conference (Reel Change: Framing the Future) received organizational support from industry powerhouses Time Warner Cable and HBO. As HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht stated in his keynote speech, HBO's support of NALIP is not only philanthropic but a necessary business move. As the fastest growing ethnic minority group in the nation, Latinos and Latino filmmakers are poised to define and interpret popular culture. Since conventional approaches still struggle to tap into this market, networks like HBO are looking to Latino filmmakers to provide content and leadership.

Texas was well-represented at this year's NALIP conference. Texas native and Austin-based producer-director Aida Barrera was one of several individuals recognized at the gala. She received a Pioneer Achievement in Producing Award for her groundbreaking work, including the PBS children's series Carrascolendas, the first educational bilingual television series produced at the present-day KLRU studios. Presenting Barrera her award was Austin-based documentary filmmaker Hector Galán (Frontline, Accordion Dreams). Galán's tribute reel with rare clips from Carrascolendas was a delight.

San Antonio native Jesse Borrego (currently appearing in 24) accepted an Outstanding Achievement in Producing Award for Salma Hayek for her drive to get Frida produced (Hayek was on location). Note for 24 fans: I had no luck begging Borrego for a hint at his character Gael's future on the show.

In addition to the gala, panels, keynotes, video slams, and plenaries filled the tightly scheduled, three-day conference, to be discussed in future "TV Eye"s.

As always, stay tuned.


At Long Last –

After a long – excruciatingly long – hiatus, The Sopranos returns for its fifth season on Sunday. In one of the most anticipated seasons of the series, fans eagerly await the aftermath of some major events, including Carmela and Tony's separation (masterfully played by Edie Falco and James Gandolfini) and new challenges in Tony's business family. Guest stars for the season include Polly Bergen, Tim Daly, Patti D'Arbanville, Robert Loggia, Joe Santos, David Strathairn, Frankie Valli, and Frank Vincent. Actor and past Sopranos director Steve Buscemi (who directed the award-winning "Pine Barrens" episode) joins the cast as Tony's cousin Tony Blundetto. Directors new to the series include Peter Bogdanovich (who has also appeared in the series), Mike Figgis, and Rodrigo Garcia.

The fifth season of The Sopranos premieres Sunday, March 7, at 8pm, on HBO.

On Sundance: Bob Odenkirk hosts Midnight Snack, a new showcase of cult and fringe films. Midnight Snack launches Friday at 11pm.

A new reality: A Wiccan, a vampire, a voodoo priestess, and a modern primitive walk into a house. Such is the foundation of the new reality series Mad Mad House. Ten ordinary people take up residence in a house run by "Alts" (the aforementioned Wiccan, vampire, and others). The person who shows the most interest and tolerance of their hosts' lifestyle walks away with a $100,000 prize. Mad Mad House premieres Thursday at 8pm on Sci-Fi.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Wayne Friedman, reality TV, FanLib, Variety, ABC, Fred Kaplan, interactive TV

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