Last year's Latino Books Into Movies judges included producers, directors, screenwriters and marketing professionals, among them film producer/director José Luis Valenzuela, actresses Evelina Fernández and Bel Hernandez, and documentary producers Paul Espinosa and Danny Haro.
"I think this recognition is important for Latino writers, given the historical disadvantage we have in Hollywood," says Fernández who works with the Latino Theater Company in Los Angeles. "Latino writers are writing important and vibrant stories that need to be told. Latino films adapted for books are too few and far between. It is very important to recognize them and in doing so, create work for Latino actors in Hollywood."
Marcos Gonzalez, an awards judge and private equity investor who started a fund supporting independent films, agrees. "There's a wealth of books being produced by Latinas and Latinos. There are a good number of books out there that people should know about," he says. "This is a contest that helps the process."
Josefina Lopez, 42, who won a 2010 award for her first novel, Hungry Woman in Paris, says although she hasn't garnered offers from movie studios, the awards make an important statement.
"Latinos are a huge percentage of our population, but we are invisible in film and television. We do not exist," says the author and screenwriter who also penned the screenplay for Real Women Have Curves, a film starring Ugly Betty's America Ferrera. "I really hope this award helps other writers. This initiative can help get the books to a couple of more producers."
You may also like: The Harvest, a documentary produced by Eva Longoria.