By Dave Bragdon
Brooklyn is no stranger to television. One of the most hyped and talked about shows of this year, Lena Dunham’s Girls, takes place in our beloved borough. However, the show has fallen under scrutiny for being a homogeneous and white representation of an extremely pluralistic area. In episode four, the characters spend time in Bushwick, a predominately Latino neighborhood, but you would never know that from the faces on screen.
Unfortunately, this is not an exception. Mass media has a serious problem when it comes to the depiction of Latinos. They are frequently nowhere to be found in the stories we enjoy in film and on television — and when they are, they’re often negative stereotypes. With that in mind, Yamin Segal and Julia Ahumada Grob took things into their own hands and created East WillyB, a web series that focuses on Latino life in a rapidly changing Bushwick. “East WillyB tells the story of Puerto Rican sports bar owner Willy Jr. as he fights to keep his bar alive in the face of the gentrification of his neighborhood,” says co-creator Julia Ahumada Grob, who also acts in the series.
The pilot season deals with important issues like gentrification, cultural identity, and small business ownership, but it does so with a lighthearted silliness. “It goes beyond being a Latino story, although it is predominately a Latino production. But I think people in other communities can relate to this series on so many other levels”, says Flaco Navaja, who stars in the series as Willy Jr. It was shot on location in Bushwick and South Williamsburg. The cast and crew did it all on their own, with the help of friends and family.
With most of the pilot season completed, the creators headed to LA to look for funding, but they were told they were too early. Not one to take no for an answer, they decided to release it online – in its entirety, on their own. “Latinos are a huge population that is consuming, interacting with, and I think are going to become leaders in, New Media. And we wanted to help be a part of that movement”, says Grob.
It was only natural then that they would take to Kickstarter, the crowdfunding darling, to help fund their first full season. They are looking to shoot and release 91 minutes of original content, which they plan to start releasing in September 2012. Their funding goal is $50,000, and they have already broken $15,000, but time is running out. They’re offering many great incentives, including a walk on role, so go check out their pitch video and help support a much-needed series born in Bushwick.
While you’re at it, check out our Kickstarter page, where we highlight projects from the area we love.