Filmmaker Fanny Véliz: Nobody needs to ‘give you the green light’

When she decided to pursue an acting career in Hollywood, Fanny Véliz found plenty of work. But she was frustrated by the narrow range of characters she was called on to play. “I was cast as the maid, the illegal, or a criminal,” says Véliz. “Most of my colleagues were, too.” She thought about a professor at the University of Colorado who had advised her that if she wanted to see stories like her own, she would have to produce them herself. “It’s not just about getting actors work, it’s about how other people perceive our culture,” says Véliz, who grew up in Venezuela. “If you’ve never met anyone who is Latino, and your only reference is on film, that’s all you know.”

So Véliz started writing and directing her own films. And after about five years, she began winning awards and became a fixture on the festival circuit. “But I couldn’t get a feature film greenlit to save my life,” she says. “I was told no one was going to make a film with a Latino as a main lead.” Véliz turned to Kickstarter to fund her feature film Homebound, which cost far less than the typical Hollywood production. “Tech has allowed filmmakers like myself to make films for a lot less money,” says Véliz says. “Cameras are a lot less expensive, and so is the editing software.” When she couldn’t find a distributor, she turned once again to technology—using Tugg, which lets moviegoers request a film for their local theater. Fans from New York, Los Angeles, and other places all over North and South America were requesting the film.

My advice is to find what you are committed to changing in the world, something bigger than yourself. I wake up everyday and ask, ‘What can I do today to transform the way people of color are portrayed in the media?’ That is my fuel.

Véliz realized that nobody was helping other independent filmmakers, especially Latinos, navigate the process of making and distributing their own films. When calls started pouring in asking for advice, she and her partner Nelson Grande realized that “this is a business.” In 2016 the pair launched Avenida Productions, a production and consulting company for independent filmmakers, from their kitchen table in North Hollywood. Within a month they had moved into their own space at Los Angeles’s WeWork La Brea. “Our whole philosophy is you don’t need anyone to give you the green light,” Véliz says. “You can be your own green light.”

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