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Meet Bryan Dimas of LatinX in Animation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bryan Dimas.

Bryan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m currently the Co-Founder and Co-Director of LatinX in Animation which is a Signature Program of the Latino Film Institute. I’m also animation production professional with over 5+ years of experience working in live-action and animation production. I currently work at Warner Bros. Animation as a Production Manager. In my spare time, I like to help produce short films and currently working on producing a live-action short film by writer and director Carlos F. Puertolas which is currently in pre-production.

I was born and raised in Houston, TX in a lower middle-class family. Both my parents are immigrants, my mom is from San Luis Potosi, Mexico and my dad is from San Salvador. My dad was an illegal immigrant who left El Salvador due to the civil war that ravaged his home country, and luckily he was able to become a US Citizen in the early 90s. The current situation in the US for immigrants has changed dramatically, and that is a topic that is very important to me and something I sympathize with strongly. My dad grew up in a very poor family but was able to work his way up with the help of mentorship and scholarships to study and was set to attend law school in San Salvador when the war broke out. Coming to the US was very different for him, and he had to reset as there weren’t many opportunities for work for him. Instead of studying law and becoming a lawyer as he intended back in El Salvador, he had to work blue collar jobs in the oil/gas industry in the Port of Houston – which has done for 30+ years. I remember vividly as a young kid attending classes with my dad just so he could improve his English and receive his GED.

My mom on the other hand worked multiple jobs growing up, on top of having to primarily take care of my only brother who has developmental and physical disabilities. She’s very inspiring because she’s one of the strongest and most fearless people that I know. She honestly can do everything and has done everything from working as a preschool teacher, being my soccer coach, working at a bookstore, and as a community organizer. And my younger brother struggled with his developmental and physical disabilities, was something that weighed on me from an early age. It was difficult and stressful for my parents to have to worry about my brother’s health and mental development growing up, and it forced me to grow up a little faster. I pushed myself harder in school growing up to not only make my parents proud, but long term knowing I wanted to help my brother as best as I could. My brother however is the biggest wrestling and sports nerd, we talk often and much of our conversations revolve around the current wrestling storylines and the latest sports scores.

To kind of sum up my childhood, my parents made me focus on two things – school and soccer. My parents pushed me to do very well in school, and nothing less than an “A” was acceptable. And my parents were very supportive of me playing soccer as I played at the highest competitive soccer level in Houston. At the age of 11, my soccer team won the Texas State Championship, and in my teens we regularly played against the top soccer teams in Texas and the country. I’m very lucky and grateful to have attended DeBakey High School in Houston, which is one of the top public high schools in Houston. It was a challenging educational environment and also such a diverse community of students that it really helped shape my perspective on education and community from there on. It was a little bit of a culture shock for me going from Houston and DeBakey HS to the University of Notre Dame, where Latinx students make up around 10% of the student body.

As for movies, I was obsessed with going to the movie theatre as a kid and teenager, I think in one year in 2005 I saw close to 100 movies just between going to the movies and Blockbuster. Looking back it was very funny because my dream job as a teenager was to work at my local Blockbuster – since I already spent so much time there anyway.

As I just mentioned, I attended the University of Notre Dame where I was accepted through the QuestBridge Scholarship Program which is designed to help match 1st generation and lower middle-class families to some of the top colleges in the US. QuestBridge and Notre Dame honestly changed my life and I honestly don’t think I would be on the path I am on today without their support. At Notre Dame, it was a great environment for me as initially, I was an engineering student, but after a year, I ended up double majoring in Electrical Engineering and Film, Television and Theatre. Notre Dame had a really cool program that allowed me to double major in a science and arts & letters in a 5-year program and I took advantage. Through Notre Dame, I ended up learning about filmmaking and animation and gave me my first exposure to Hollywood.

After graduating from Notre Dame, I was briefly a high school teacher in Atlanta, where I spent the time to prepare for my move to LA. And when I arrived in LA in 2015, I used the connections I made at Notre Dame to eventually land a job at DreamWorks Animation where I spent a little over four years. I worked on amazing projects in TV and film, and various parts of the pipeline. My time at DreamWorks Animation was also where I met my friend Magdiela Hermida Duhamel, who pitched me the idea of LatinX in Animation, and I knew that I wanted to be part of this movement that has now blossomed into such a wonderful community and organization.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It hasn’t always been a smooth road to be completely honest. I think for 1st generation children of immigrants it’s a struggle to balance two cultures. This American culture where we are trying to fit in, and your parent’s culture – which in my case was very Latino. But I am grateful for those struggles and learning to balance the best of both worlds.

As well for 1st-generation Latino trying to make it in Hollywood, I can say that this industry isn’t built for letting in fresh voices, perspectives, and new opportunities for 1st generation college graduates and professionals. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, and they have all been very well discussed and documented. But speaking from my perspective, it is almost an insurmountable hill to overcome for a 1st generation college graduate. As I mentioned before my parents were lower middle-class family, so college was a little bit difficult even though I had a pretty good scholarship. But my scholarship didn’t cover a lot of things like travel, books, or in general having money in my bank account for extra things. My parents were able to give me a small allowance of $100/month but I also had a part-time job to help cover everything else. So after graduating college, I had a good amount of student loans and debt.

Before moving to LA, I made the conscious decision of saving enough money to survive out here for a few months because I knew that nothing was guaranteed in landing a job. What stressed my parents out even more was that I had also graduated with an engineering degree so for my mother – she really didn’t understand why I was going into that entertainment industry at all. But I was obsessed with working on movies and TV, and I knew I wanted to be part of it all.

I can say that working in the Animation industry is that it’s not very lucrative starting off if you’re working in production – which is where I have made my career and enjoy working. Animation Production is the intersection of technology, art, business, and everything else in between and it can be very exciting. But the pay is abysmal. Here I am, a college graduate with two degrees, super excited to work in the animation, but it took me four months to finally get a job offer, and I was making less than $14/hour as a PA. Yeah, I had some cool perks, like free lunch but it was a struggle. I had to work on side projects on weekends, picking up opportunities as a freelance PA on commercial shoots and more just to help make ends meet.

I’m at a place in my career now that I have a healthy work-life balance and don’t have to worry too much about money, but I will say that it is a stressful situation to be in – where you’re constantly working on monthly rent, student loan payments, and more. I felt this sense of shame because I knew this was my dream and I was working very hard, but I didn’t want to ask my parents for help. It’s hard for 1st generation children of immigrants because we don’t want to feel like failures in front of our parents who sacrificed a lot to give us this opportunity. And more often than not, that pressure gets to a lot of people here, and after a few years of being in LA and trying to make it, they end up leaving.

LatinX in Animation – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
So LatinX in Animation is a Signature Program of the Latino Film Institute, our mission is to empower diversity in animation from Page to Post. That is we’re trying to help push for diversity and inclusion in all facets of the animation industry, from writers, directors, producers, to artistic roles and technology roles.

As the Co-Founder and Co-Director my role alongside Magdiela Hermida Duhamel is to lead the program with the guidance of Latino Film Institute by managing and executive our mission, strategy, and yearly goals and objectives. We have done this successfully by having a focused and strategic vision, planning successful events and Q&A’s, and launching educational programs and workshops, and by collaborating with studios and organizations who have connected and support us. We have strong relationships with studios, companies, and organizations who have all responded to this call to advance diversity and representation for Latinos and underrepresented groups.

I think what I am most proud of LXiA, is just the general enthusiasm and response from the animation community overall. Again this organization started as a small group of about 60 people, and it has now grown into an organization with over 1600 members in less than two years. That is absolutely incredible when you think about it.

What our success comes down to really is, Magdiela Duhamel saw that there was this void and need for the empowerment of Latinos in the animation industry. There are animation organizations and Latino/Hispanic organizations that all do amazing work and have great programs and missions, but somehow Latinos IN animation were being overlooked. A lot of the time, Latino Directors and Writers in Animation are not included in studies when the general conversation of diversity comes up.

The issue that we saw is that companies were starving for Latinx centered content but they weren’t taking the extra step. Their perspective was very focused on replicating the success of Coco, which is very specifically a Mexican story, but you have so many other Central and Latin American countries with such rich history and stories. On projects that featured a Latino character, it felt like they were hitting a checkbox and it was inauthentic. And it starts from the very beginning in the writer’s room – where there is usually a lack of people of color in those rooms. It’s been improving over the years, but there’s a long way to go.

At LatinX in Animation, all we’re trying to do is push for accountability and for opportunities for talented Latinx talent to be given the opportunity to tell OUR stories. Because we DO exist, and there is no excuse for not giving us those chances.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me personally success just really depends on the goals you set for yourself. You can have short term goals and long term goals, but for me as long as you set those realistic short term goals and continue to meet them one by one then that is success.

Success in the entertainment industry should also not be competitive, yeah sometimes those opportunities are scarce but we should all be pushing and supporting each other because it is freaking hard to move up! And it’s a marathon and not a race, you have to pay your dues, you have to take your time and you have to LEARN.

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