Women are now becoming empowered in Hollywood, a momentum that needs to be maintained, not slackened, not on hiatus – don’t back down! The illustration of a poster girl is Monica Esmeralda Leon the Next Generation for 2019. Leon, originally from Mexico established the first Latina owned film studio in Chicago and the Midwest whose films Adios Vaya Con Dios and Arise From Darkness can now be found on Red Box through Lions Gate Films.
Leon is an immigrant from the tough streets of Chicago and persevered through thick and thin leaving her mark on cinema, the founder of a entirely new method of filmmaking called ‘La Raza,’ an urban crusade which utilizes ones talents regardless of background or film familiarity - Hold the fort, we do have an honorable mention; her comrade the handsome writer & actor Zachary Laoutides evenly getting our nod for the Next Gen nomination of Hollywood’s Rising Stars to look out for in 2019.
Back from London, Rome and Los Angeles, Leon’s new film Black Ruby about two jazz musicians falling in love with a Black-Hispanic escort snagged over 20 nominations with 5 wins including Best Picture, Best Writer, Best Soundtrack and Best Actor. Celebrity UK and Essex TV Magazine handed the film four stars with the Los Angeles Film Forum Awards applauding Laoutides’ performance calling him ‘the best natural independent actor of 2018 and a master at subtlety.’ Laoutides walked away with the LAFFA Independent Spirit Award.
Longtime Hollywood exec Eric Doctorow who has worked with Paramount, Fox, MGM and Miramax picked up Black Ruby to be released in early 2019 through his company Random Media in partnership with The Orchard and Sony Pictures.
We caught up with the curvaceous stunning Leon – Did you ever imagine that you would be in this position - being young, Latina and making film history in just a few years?
I really don’t look at titles, but I do appreciate the recognition. I feel that this can open the doors to women of my background who are seeking the same career or any career. Being a woman and a minority I believe this is a hard business, but I don’t look at myself as what the title is giving me. The label can’t become more important then the message.
Black Ruby premiered and opened in Europe. Why did you choose the European film markets first?
We didn’t really intend to target Europe; the movie style did by default – our team is a mix of everything so we have undeniable foreign touches to our film. We also used British musician Liam Williams to score our film again - We put the film out there and that’s where it landed first.
Your other films can now be found everywhere, even on Redbox. How does it feel to get distribution with Random Media whose movie library shares alongside The Orchard and Sony Pictures?
To me it’s always a surprise; when you make a film you don’t know where you’ll land. When you have doubts – and yes we all have them – then you see this happen it shows you that you’re doing something right. Every time we’ve made a film we went a step above our previous.
You and Zachary Laoutides founded the La Raza Filmmaking movement, how is it to leave your mark on cinema, a style you personally created?
You don’t need a degree or people putting restrictions on you; we opened the door to anyone that has passion and talent for filmmaking. La Raza represented how we started, it represents so many people that never had exposure to film and they were able to showcase their talents and stories.
We turned our attention over to Zachary Laoutides cruising into the room for a last question before their departure from Los Angeles - how does it feel to walk out of LAFFA as Best Actor and being called the best natural independent actor in 2018?
I appreciate the nod, Monica and I worked hard since we decided to give this a go. It’s extremely hard work and a balancing act. It’s a lot of different hats you need to wear, one day you need to bring your business game, the other day you need to clear your head and get back into the mind of your characters in your story – as well as making sure you’re physically prepared to play whom you’re inventing. It’s as serious as you want to take it -
I take it as serious as to where the story takes me.
Follow Monica Esmeralda Leon: www.instagram.com/monicaesmeraldaleon