Chicago native Carmen Marron was working as a guidance counselor in Phoenix when she decided to make a film addressing the experience of Latino teenagers. "Go For It," the dance drama that she wrote, directed and produced herself, was released earlier this year by Pantelion Films, a division of Lionsgate. It comes out on DVD Sept. 27. We caught up with Marron by phone from her home in L.A. to talk about her film projects and the state of Latino film.
Why did you feel that it was important to set "Go For It" in Chicago?
I wrote about inner city living of young adults and what it was like ... you know, I grew up in Logan Square, and I wanted to keep that feeling. I always felt, also, like Chicago was a great representation of most of the country. This Midwest, big town but sometimes a small town, family feel.
As a Latino filmmaker, what are some of the important themes of identity that emerge in your work?
Definitely the identity was a huge theme for the lead, Aimee Garcia, [who] was my lead actress ... the theme was finding your own identity as a kid growing up in the U.S. and in Chicago, but also hanging on to your culture and adapting them both. Not forsaking one for the other but just finding that blend that makes you who you are, makes you so unique as a Latina. Which is what I went through, growing up, and what I see a lot of kids go through.
How do you think Latinos are represented in film right now?
Latinos are definitely grossly underrepresented. I mean, it's a given and everyone talks about it, with the ratio of how big of a population that we are. The majority of films that you see, the Latinos that are in them are either gardeners, housewives, cooks, drivers, valet employees that park your cars. Or they're gangbangers. You watch these big blockbuster films and you see how that's how we're represented. ...Right now there's Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez – you could probably count on one hand how many Latino leading ladies there are. It really is low.
What are the things that are holding it back in Hollywood?
You have to support the films because it's nothing personal. In the end it's all about money. It truly is. It's about business. The only way we're going to see change is if films that are with Latino cast members as leads, when they open up on weekends, people go and watch them and they hit great numbers.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor.