‘A White Male Can Direct’ a $200 Million Flop and ‘Get Another One.’ I Can’t.

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.

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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.” Speaking with Variety chief correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister, Longoria noted that Hollywood does not play fair when it comes to films directed by women flopping versus male directors. There can be no margin of error for a director like Longoria, as one flop could cost her another directorial gig, she says.

“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.”

“You really carry the generational traumas with you into the making of the film,” Longoria said. “For me, it fueled me. I was determined.”

Dr. Smith — founder of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which this past week unveiled the The Inclusion List with the Adobe Foundation — praised Longoria for “walking the walk,” having worked closely with the actor-producer-director on the Inclusion Initiative, which provides research on diversity and inclusion in entertainment.

“This was a collaborative effort to reward folks that are doing well on-screen when it comes to representation across multiple categories: gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ as well as people with disabilities and over the age of 65,” Smith said, explaining the Inclusion List. “Are we showing the stories that aren’t told? And then who is working behind the camera?”

“The metric in which you measure success is important,” Longoria added. She said that studios or networks will pat themselves on the back, saying, “We’ve doubled the amount of women behind the camera!” But Longoria says, “They’ve gone from one to two. And you’re like, ‘Okay, technically, you did, but you still only hired two women.’ So, how you measure success is really important. And inclusion being that metric is so awesome because you can applaud the people who are doing it right.”

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 motivational and hopeful story looks at how corporate America underestimates the Hispanic community. The same can be said for Hollywood studios, Longoria observed.

“28% 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? If we are the viewers? … For me, I take great pride in throwing around that buying-power weight. If you don’t speak to us, we may not buy that movie ticket.”

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.”

“The illusion is that Hollywood is progressive,” she added. “The reality is that we’re still far behind in equal representation.”

Watch Longoria and Dr. Smith’s full Kering Women In Motion talk here:

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