Empowerment Series: Jolene Rodriguez, President, Broken English Productions – A Powerful and Influential Latina in Entertainment Shares her Superpower with AW
The shortage of Latino representation is a hot topic that is not going away anytime soon. In 2019, a Forbes article disclosed that less than 5% of speaking roles for top-grossing movies in the US were given out to Latinos. The numbers for us, behind the cameras were just as gloomy. The following year, CNN reported more disappointing news. The needle is barely moving for Latinos in Hollywood trying to get a piece of the pie. If you are Latina and a woman working in the entertainment industry, there are added challenges to face, soon as you walk in the door. Despite the lag, now more than ever, we are seeing women in the roles of director, producer, and writer in the various sectors of the entertainment world.
One of these women is Jolene Rodriguez, a Mexican American dynamo who has been recognized by the Imagen Foundation as one of the most Powerful and Influential Latinos in Entertainment.
Success did not come overnight for the powerhouse. She climbed the ladder, learning the business while doing the grunt work. Jolene paid her dues as an intern for a couple of years then worked another 4 years behind a desk at Sony Entertainment. A decade of hard work won her spots overseeing films such as Think Like a Man Too, Pride and Prejudice, About Last Night, When the Bough Breaks, and The Perfect Guy. The Development Executive’s career with Screen Gems culminated in 2020 when she left to become the President of Broken English Productions.
Jolene’s stellar career did not have an easy start. Passion was the navigation system during a daily three-hour commute on the freeway from Orange County to Los Angeles. She was a new mom and wife of a soldier. Her powerful energy was transmitted when she hopped on our call for this interview. The engaging and genuine personality was uplifting, it brought my day to a new high. It’s an honor to have been given the opportunity to speak to Jolene about her career track. I’m sure readers will be inspired, embracing the nuggets of wisdom she shared with AW.
Some people see a fast track to greatness but there’s work behind every accomplishment. We hold the script to the narrative we want to share, as we strive to accomplish objectives. It takes an immense amount of drive, persistence, and love for what you do to arrive at this level of achievement. As a writer, creativity doesn’t always flow, neither does the energy necessary to meet personal expectations. It is often tough to get to a single milestone but I’m learning true success comes with time and dedication. We have to show up, be consistent, and never give up on what we believe is possible.
Did you always know, you were destined for greatness, or was there a defining moment in your life when it all just clicked? Can’t say there was a specific moment that I waited for or it just happened. I’ve always been a hustler. I believe in creating opportunities for myself. When I first applied for an intern job at Sony, I was 25, older than the applicants in the room with me. I was going up against film students from USC and Chapman. The uncertainty of whether or not I had a real chance, did not stop me from pursuing what I wanted most – to do feature films. I won the internship, even after the assignment ended, I kept showing up as long as my badge still worked. One day a manager at Screen Gems, asked me “Why do you keep showing up? Your internship is done.” Eventually, they gave me a desk to continue my work at the film studio. I never gave up on my goal.
I believe in creating time, taking a risk on myself. My superpower is that I am a Latina and a woman, I make things happen.
We all have days that leave us exhausted from knocking on doors, disappointing outcomes, or fear of failing while chasing our dream. What do you do to get past the doubts and grab the win? The feeling of defeat is something we all have in common. We work hard but there are always highs and lows to combat. Not getting what you want, leads to frustration. My hustle and passionate nature for what I want to do helps me make it through the challenging moments. However, it is critical to take care of yourself. Mental health is important because the business can be depressing. Having support is key, surrounding yourself with a team or girl tribe who lifts you up when you are down. They are also on the sidelines cheering you on when good things come. Lastly, practice self-care on an ongoing basis. There are different ways to decompress, I enjoy a good spa day but you should do something that makes you feel good.
During tough times, remember there is an opportunity in everything. Actively seek out to learn, understand, and solve an issue. Don’t wait for things to fall in your lap or resolve themselves. Ask yourself the questions that help elevate your game. What do I have that no one else has? What is the problem but most important – what is the solution? I always choose happiness, each day I wake up. Gratitude takes the focus away from what you don’t have, allowing space to be thankful for the good things in your life.
I read an article summarizing the panel at “A Latino Media Festival.” In it, you were outspoken when discussing the issues of our community not showing up for Latino-focused movies. You made a frank and powerful statement. Women are generally perceived, more harshly than men when they are too direct or honest. Have you always been so confident with your convictions? Did you ever find your head-on approach to help or hurt at any time during your career? I am confident and truthful, never angry but yes, passionate. Men can sometimes be intimidated by confidence but my wit adds some humor to my style. Of course, there can be instances when the tone is misinterpreted but it’s important to stay true to ourselves.
Women can be their toughest critics. Incessantly working to package life in a neat little box. We fall in competition with others, as we try to meet society’s expectations. The mounting pressures of having a career, relationship, and caring for a home without dropping the ball are daunting. The task of filling the big shoes is unfair but we are getting better at sharing our flaws. What advice can you give women who are doing it all? I know it can be difficult, not everyone has the access to resources. A good support system is necessary – find your tribe! I was lucky to have my family and husband helping me throughout this journey.
You were at Screen Gems for 10 years with incredible success. What is next for you at Broken English Productions? In the near future, we hope to begin filming a new project in Puerto Rico, Diario: Mujer y Cafe. Actress, Roselyn Sanchez is making her debut as Director and wrote the film. My goal is to help promote a creative, fun, filmmaker-friendly environment where people feel part of a team. I want to involve more women in the process and give them a chance in front and behind the camera.
I end interviews with a mantra, quote, advice, or empowering message to encourage women who may be struggling. For women in careers that make them unhappy or feel stagnant, and stuck in life. Are you able to provide some words to help or uplift? Every day you rise, choose happiness to start your day on the right foot. Seek to empower yourself and others. Don’t complain or live in the problems, instead, be solution-based. Find a way to resolve, instead of focusing on the issues. It is vital to take action, don’t wait for life to happen to you. Create those opportunities that get you closer to what you want for yourself. Your time is your time and you get to dictate what you want and need. Whether you are 40 or 50, you are never too old to make things happen! Go for it!
We are conditioned by our self-limiting beliefs. These stem from things told to us during childhood or from experiences with people we encounter throughout our adult lives. It is difficult to let go of negative thinking, it becomes so ingrained that it starts to look like the truth. I know all too well from my own life, how damaging it is to believe that you can’t do something. During the beginning of the AW journey, I received plenty of rejection letters. Creatives, entrepreneurs, and dreamers can appreciate the challenges faced when someone else does not see your vision. If I had given up, AW would not have come to fruition.
We cannot allow skepticism, problems, or insecurities to become bigger than the goal. It’s essential to find a support network. These are people that hold you up and you can lean on when it’s all too much. Above all else, find your superpower to use during moments of doubt, fear, and discouragement. Be fearless, carve out a space to build your own holy grail, and never give up.
I am grateful to Jolene for being so generous with her time and sharing this inspiring story to encourage AW readers. These are the stories that create motivation and help other women pursue their own dreams.
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