When Pixar Animation Studios released Coco last Thanksgiving break, my mother and I shared a heartwarming experience. We went to the movies like your average American family for the first time in nearly a decade. My mother moved to the United States in 1992 after meeting my father, who was visiting her town in Mexico. She was seventeen then. When asked to reflect on the last three decades in the United States, she recalls a few moments where she has felt represented in the United States media. Most representations play on negative stereotypes and depict Latino men and women as criminals and maids, respectively. A lot of the references made in Coco conveyed Mexican culture including Pedro Infante, Cantinflas, and Frida Kahlo. This representation is empowering. It made me feel proud of my ethnic background, and it made my mother feel home in a country away from home.
Tony Weaver created Weird Enough Productions, a company aimed at combating media misrepresentation by teaching literacy. Weaver equips black youth to produce media content by building a new world of stories — one that centers and creates heroes who look different. According to Weaver, stories have the ability to inspire a new generation of leaders. When heroes in media are diversified, children from marginalized backgrounds can look to television shows and movies for role models: “I dress as these heroes because they make me feel powerful… like I can create that change myself.” Positive representation helps children feel heroic, but representation is not Weaver’s end goal. Weird Enough Productions partners every piece of content released with a lesson plan that teachers can use to teach media literacy, including but limited to the following: how to combat fake news, how to identify media biases, and how to use media to create change in their communities.
One takeaway from Weaver’s time with us at Kravis Lab is that creativity peaks when you have constraints. Instead of trying to create by imagining an endless amount of resources, focus on the amount of money, time, and requirements you need to check off. It is surprising how creative you can be when you have restraints allowing you to be realistic. Additionally, focus on sustainability. As for media creation, many sustainable models do not exist. By researching animation studios and their business models, you will have a better idea of what could work for you. Lastly, find investors that believe in you as a person. A pitch deck can get you through the door, but the most successful ventures have a trusting relationship between investors and the entrepreneur.
By Luis Antonio Salazar ’20