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Film festival workshop examines diversity, inclusion in entertainment industry

Cybill Shepherd will join a panel representing different areas in the entertainment industry to discuss “Diversity and Inclusion in Entertainment” from 2-3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8 at the Corbett Center Auditorium at New Mexico State University. The panel is one of many events scheduled as part of the 2018 Las Cruces International Film Festival presented by NMSU, which runs March 7-11.


Head and shoulders of a man wearing a suit
Brian Espinosa, CEO of Optimism Entertainment and native of Santa Fe, will join a panel discussion with women from various areas of the industry about diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry at the 2018 Las Cruces International Film Festival. (Courtesy Photo)

Shepherd’s credits include actress, model, writer, producer, and author during her career of over four decades. Aside from the film industry, Shepherd has been an outspoken activist for issues such as gay rights and abortion rights. In 2009, she was honored by the Human Rights Campaign in Atlanta to accept one of two National Ally for Equality awards.

Nominated for a Golden Globe and an NAACP Image Award for her performance in “Jackie Brown,” Pam Grier was the first black woman to appear on the cover of MS. Magazine and was named as one of Ebony Magazine's 100 Most Fascinating Women of the 20th Century." Grief is profiled in “Women of Blaxploitation: How the Black Action Film Heroine Changed American Popular Culture.”

“People see me as a strong black figure, and I'm proud of that, but I'm a mix of several races: Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino. My dad was black, and my mom was Cheyenne Indian. So you look at things beyond just race, or even religion: I was raised Catholic, baptized a Methodist, and almost married a Muslim.”

Brian Espinosa, CEO of Optimism Entertainment, oversees the growth and development of the company's talent, music and sports divisions. He has worked on the management teams of many A-list stars including Academy Award, Emmy Award and Tony Award winners and nominees. Prior to co-founding Optimism Entertainment, he worked at John Crosby Management in their motion picture and TV talent department. Brian is originally from Santa Fe and is an alumnus of the University of New Mexico. At last year’s festival in Las Cruces, Brian, along with others, represented “The Tiger Hunter,” the festival’s opening night romantic film dealing with class divisions.

Anne Cofell Saunders, who has gone from a writer/producer to co-executive producer of various series, will bring her perspective to the panel discussion along with accomplished internationally known voice over actors Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial.

“Each of these individuals bring a unique perspective regarding the issues of gender, diversity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry,” said film festival executive director Ross Marks, who is also an associate professor at NMSU’s Creative Media Institute. “I expect the discussion will be meaningful, relevant and fascinating.”


Other LCIFF workshops and panels include:

Friday March 9
---Television Writing 11a.m.–12:45 p.m. Cineport 10
---"How to Get Started in Show Business." 1 p.m.–2:45 p.m. Cineport 10
---Independent Film and Film Festivals. 3–4:30 p.m. Cineport 10

Sat. March 3
---Acting for Voice-Over and Working in Anime. 10–11:30 a.m. Cineport 10.
---Inside “Breaking Bad” featuring RJ Mitte 2-3:30 p.m. Rio Grande Theatre
---A Conversation and Musical Interlude with Billy Boyd 4 p.m. Rio Grande Theatre