I was very ecstatic to hear about a new television comedy show that’s currently in production called WASSUP en LA? This show is a Latino bilingual and multicultural family comedy sitcom created by two independent filmmakers, Carlos de la Vega and Rudolpho Zalez, who are working hard to introduce this show to the general audience on a major television network but they need help to complete funding for the pilot episode. Carlos and Rudulpho looked to Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that allows members to donate money for various media projects and innovative products.
These very passionate filmmakers launched their funding campaign on July 30 but they still need about $45,000 to help complete their pilot episode and counterbalance the costs for sets, studio space, cast and crew. The deadline for this campaign is September 8th, 2012 so you still have time to donate and receive various rewards depending on how much money you give to help keep their dream project going.
I had an opportunity to interview Carlos about his dream sitcom but first let me give a brief synopsis on what WASSUP en LA? is all about.
WASSUP en LA? follows the lives of the Díaz family, a Cuban-American family from Miami that uproot their lives to move to Los Angeles and support their son’s dream of becoming an actor. The show ensemble includes veteran Telenovela Super Stars Gerardo Riverón and Nelida Ponce as the Grandparents, Ladrón Que Roba A Ladrón and CSI: Miami star Oscar Torre as the father of the family.
Q. This is a very passionate project for you and you have many inspirations to draw from but did you still feel that it was difficult to develop an idea for this show and putting together the first script?
Yes! Putting a project together is always a challenge and brings new surprises every time. LOL! We were inspired by shows such as I Love Lucy, Que Pasa U.S.A., The Cosby’s, etc. and drew ideas from these shows that we grew up watching. The challenge then is to make it your own, make it fresh, hilarious, and not repeat what has been done.
Q. You put together a great cast for this show. I assume that character chemistry is a very important element in order to make this show a success?
Exactly. We spent almost 2 years in the casting process finding actors that had the right chemistry amongst each other. Jean Paul San Pedro (who plays lead role of Manolito Diaz) had it the roughest. I recall we had him come in for four or five callbacks to test the chemistry between his best friends (Judd and Allen), his sister (Teresita), his girlfriend, and his Mom (Rosa Maria). Equally important for us, being a show about a Cuban-American family, is authenticity. Rudolpho Zalez always jokes around saying “Only Al Pacino can get away with playing a Cuban”. We saw MANY talented actors and actresses, but it wasn’t believable when we integrated them with the rest of the family.
Q. With a large population of Latinos of various generations living in the United States I assume that you had to do very extensive research in order to produce a show to reach the entire Latino audience despite their cultural and national origins. Do you also hope to capture the non-Latino audience as well?
One of the beauties of our Latino culture is that we share the same language but every Latin country has its own particularities in expression, food and customs. At times, I believe it hurts Latinos living in the United States because it divides us. On our end, research is a never ending, constant job on how the show can bridge and connect with Latinos from different national origins. It’s one of our goals with WASSUP EN LA? to unite all Latinos of various generations living in the U.S as well as capture non-Latino audience. If you look closely at the cast, outside of the Diaz Family, everyone else is of a different origin. African-American, Indian, Israeli, Mexican. We purposely set out to create not only a show with a Latino family, but a multicultural show. In an essence, Wassup en LA? is a microcosm of the ethnic diversity that exist in Los Angeles.
Q. Do you feel that it’s still a challenge to produce network shows that are centered around Latino culture or is now the opportunistic time?
I believe we’re on the cusp. With FOX launching Mundo Fox last week to cater to bilingual Hispanic Americans and El Rey Network (also catering to second generation Hispanic Americans) scheduled to launch within a year or two, the time is almost here. I saw a statistic from the U.S. census where Latinos in the U.S. are responsible for 1 Trillion in buying power. 1 TRILLION! That’s a lot of money. And it’s a fact that advertisers and networks cannot ignore. We keep growing, so that number will just keep going up.
Q.From a general television perspective, you see nothing but reality shows dominating the airwaves. Do you feel that it’s time to return to healthy and well scripted family sitcoms?
YES!!! And we miss watching those type of shows. Growing up, my brothers and I spent our Friday evening watching TGIF on ABC (Family Matters, Full House, Step by Step, Hanging with Mr. Cooper) and our summers watching reruns of I Love Lucy and The Jeffersons. The lack of good, wholesome, well scripted shows on TV that revolves around family was one of the main reasons we decide to do WASSUP en LA? We’ve been blessed to have creativity and live in the mecca of the Film/TV Industry where instead of being part of the problem, we decided to do something about it and be part of the solution.
Q. Finally, what advice would you like to offer to young Latino filmmakers and television producers who have ideas but don’t know where to begin?
My advice is to take action! Write, shoot, and edit small webisodes. Post it on YouTube where people can see it. The only way to learn and grow as a filmmaker is to go out and do it. A great example is the Pichy Boys. Two, young Latinos from Miami who started doing funny skits and posted on YouTube. 3 years later, they now have over 17 million hits on their YouTube channel and their own segment on a local TV station in Miami. The Film and TV Industry is rough. Young filmmakers have to realize there is no such thing as overnight success and you have to tough it out and be in it for the long haul if you want to be successful. I constantly have to remind myself to remain positive and joyful; to keep persevering and trust in God. If I do this, it’ll all work out in the end.
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