Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Does my voice matter? Yes, it does

Kena Desai

The film industry has historically preferred a specific voice and audience. A white one. 

Walk into any theater and the chance of that protagonist being white is high. In fact, a 2017 research paper done by the University of Southern California noted that 70.8% of Hollywood characters are white. Meanwhile, characters of every other ethnicity fell below 15%. Percentages that have not changed since 2007. 

Here in Austin, there are plenty of students and faculty working to transform the status quo of the industry. Despite the challenges they face with limited resources and exposure, the UT film community is taking great strides towards more inclusivity.

One of the programs offered under the Moody College of Communication is Latino Media Arts and Studies, which focuses on providing a nurturing environment to Latino and Latina filmmakers.

Miguel Alvarez is an assistant professor in the department of radio-television-film and affiliated faculty of the Latino Media Arts and Studies program. 

“When I was younger, I never thought that any story that I would want to do or any film that I would want to make mattered because I didn’t have any representation on TV,” Alvarez said.  

However, the lack of representation remains a current problem. Because students don’t see their stories as desirable within the film scene, many do not feel comfortable enough to share their personal experiences in their industry work. 

Marlon Rubio Smith is a radio-television-film senior who has worked diligently to diversify the stories the RTF community creates.

“One of the groups that I was part of in high school, the (English as a second language) student community, I started to analyze, I had never really seen them on screen,” Smith said. “Despite knowing that my experience was valid, amongst the Latin American community, I was super nervous and I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do.” 

Under the radio–television–film program, a student can choose to pursue a Latino media arts and studies minor, where they can take classes like Filmmaking to Decolonize.

“The whole point of that class was exactly that to give back the lens to marginalize and underrepresented communities that have been relegated historically in media and let them tell their own stories,” Smith said. 

These classes are designed specifically to help empower rising minority filmmakers by providing them an inclusive environment that covers a range of issues regarding representation. Though it will not even begin to erase the suppression that minority stories have experienced, it is a giant step in the right direction to creating an industry that welcomes underrepresented voices. 

That specific class will not be offered this semester. However, others will be offered in its place as part of the radio-television-film social justice filmmaking track.

“The idea always was to do the classes once every couple of years, and we’ll hop off so that we would have a different class. So somebody could take Filmmaking to Decolonize, and then they could take Advanced Social Justice Filmmaking, one semester after another if they were interested in doing that,” Alvarez, who helped in developing that track of studies, said. 

The commitment by students and faculty to have their voices heard despite the obstacles is admirable, to say the least. Through the help of professors, programs and fellow student filmmakers, more people will be able to see themselves on screen. 

Bernal is an English junior from Dallas, Texas.

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