Summer blockbusters may be reeling in the big bucks, but it’s Latinos who have proven their power at the box office.
The recent Latino-fueled success of films like “Fast & Furious 6” -- which owes almost a third of its earnings to Hispanics -- has piqued Hollywood’s interest in this rapidly growing audience, and they’re not alone. After more than a decade of tracking down movie scoops for the entertainment fansite Latino-Review.com, Umberto “El Mayimbe” González, 39, has launched Mayimbe Media to serve Latino moviegoers by producing, acquiring, and distributing original Latino-themed content.
The Dominican-American founder and chairman of the startup plans to kick-off the film project by producing “Breakneck,” a “Bourne in the barrio” action thriller set in New York City. Ahead of the movie’s launch at Comic Con, González spoke to The Huffington Post about the inspiration and mission behind Mayimbe Media and “Breakneck.”
HuffPo: Why did you decide to create Mayimbe Media? Where did the idea to produce, acquire, and distribute original content come from?
Umberto: We [Latino-Review.com] are a fan based site and we see that Latinos are seeing movies like "The Fast & The Furious," "Mama," and "The Purge." We like horror, we like genre thrillers. We don’t necessarily need another biopic about a dead Salsa singer or a dead labor leader. We want to go to the movies on weekends after a tough week of work and escape our lives and see cinema.
A lot of Latinos end up giving away their movies to [production] companies for no minimum guarantee because it’s the only option they have and that’s where I saw the opportunity. It doesn’t have to be the only option they have. I have an acquisition background, [so by] having my finger on the pulse and having relationships with agencies I can not only create content to monetize but also buy content to distribute as well. My inspiration is Harvey Weinstein (co-founder of Miramax), he started with one movie and he built his library one movie at a time
HP: I know that one of your mantras in this project is, “If our images aren’t defined by us, they will be defined for us.” So how will Mayimbe Media “define” or portray Latinos?
Umberto: That’s a good question. Heroic for sure -- that’s number one -- not stereotypical, real positive portrayals of Latinos. When was the last time you saw a Latino actor in a non-Latino movie be the hero, the guy who saves the day, the guy who gets the girl, the guy who stops the bad guys? You don’t really see that, what you see is the Latino helping the hero out with his journey, driving him where he needs to be.
HP: I know that in the past you’ve differentiated between Latinos in the English-language market and those in the Spanish-language market. In fact, you’ve said that Latino-themed movies in English shouldn’t be marketed on Spanish-language television at all. Can you elaborate?
Umberto: Basically first, second, and third generation of English-dominant Latinos avoid Univision and Telemundo like the plague because it’s not our culture. The studios think ‘oh let’s put an ad for "Fast & The Furious" on Univision during Don Francisco [but] that’s a waste of money. I don’t know any young person who is English dominant and grew up liking Hip-Hop, Rock-n-Roll that watches Univision or Telemundo. They’re watching English-language programming.
HP: Mayimbe Media’s first film will be the action thriller “Breakneck,” which you’ve described as ‘Bourne in the barrio.’ Can you tell us more about the film?
Umberto: It’s about a bodega clerk who has to go on the run from the cops and a military contractor in New York City. His friend -- think Edward Snowden -- works for a private military contractor and witnessed video evidence of the murder of a journalist that was about to expose his company. So the guy leaves with the incriminating information on the USB drive and gives it to his friend who is our hero being pursued by this very ruthless private military contractor.
I just wanted to see an action movie in the barrio, and not one of those Latin gang movies that you see take place in these neighborhoods. I wanted to make a spy movie in the barrio with a Latino hero... So basically [we’re] looking at the Black Ops in this country and combining it with a Latin element, making a cultural film at first that turns into an action movie.
HP: Production for “Breakneck” will be begin in August, but you're planning to introduce the film at Latino-Review’s "Kings of Con" event at Comic Con in San Diego (July 18-21). Why did you choose to do it at Comic Con?
Umberto: I’m not trying to make movies just for Latinos, but for the masses as well...Comic Con is the biggest pop culture event in the country and we’re taking a Latino film over to Comic Con to launch. It’s never been done before. We’re going to be the first. So we’re not making some cultural movie that’s shown in Universities, we’re making something that contains popular culture and is accessible to all audiences, not only Latinos... The strategy for Mayimbe Media is the same that we’ve done on Latino-Review, keep our perspective uniquely Latin but our appeal widely universal. That’s the sweet spot.
Check out the concept sizzle reel for "Breakneck" above and more information on funding and production on the movie's Indiegogo profile.