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They say time heals everything and in the case of award-winning author Alisa Valdes-Rodríguez, her 2011 holiday season will be much more pleasant than 2010. A year after going through a very public battle for the film rights of the popular THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB, Valdes-Rodriguez announced this week on her blog that Encanto Productions, the company headed up by  Ann Lopez (George Lopez’s ex-wife), did not renew the novel’s rights.

Alisa Valdes-Rodríguez

As Valdes-Rodríguez writes:

Two weeks ago, the option expired. The production company had the choice to buy the rights forever, for next to nothing. To my great surprise, considering the bad blood among all the people involved, they did not. I’d half expected to get a check at midnight, just to put me “in my place” for objecting to what they’d done to my work. But they did not.

They gave me back the rights.

This was huge.

People close to me know that I had all but given up on ever seeing the rights again. But now, here I am, in full possession of them again, and much better prepared to move forward.

Happily, the story is still in great demand for the big and small screen. I’m fielding calls from big names on it. This time, I’m taking my time. This time, I’m doing all the homework that needs to be done before moving forward with anyone.

This time, we’ll be doing this my way, and it will be beautiful, and it will succeed.

I am grateful for the hardships and conflicts of the past year. I would never have learned so much without them. I am also grateful to the production company for doing the right thing and giving me my book back. It was a grand and gorgeous gesture, and one that won’t be forgotten. I suspect this year hasn’t been hard just for me, but also for the head of that company, who has gone through hell for her own reasons. I wish her well, and sincerely hope for blessings and happiness to come to her.

Things are moving quickly. I’ll keep you all updated. We’ve been waiting a long time for this to happen. Eight long years. But this time, it will.

Watch.

xo Alisa Valdes

 

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While covering the social media saga of author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, several of our readers had emailed us to see if we could find more information about famed Hollywood attorney Marty Singer, who was hired by Encanto Productions’ Ann Lopez to ensure that Valdes-Rodriguez cease from posting her opinions and thoughts on social media about the TV adaptation of her book, THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB.

According to its website, Singer’s firm, Lavely & Singer, is “one of the world’s premier talent-side entertainment litigation firms.” The profile on its website continues with this quote:

First, we represent clients against the tabloids and other media and internet outlets in disputes which arise prior to, as well as after, the publication of articles which defame the clients or invade their privacy. We also police the manner in which the names and likenesses of our clients are commercially exploited throughout the world. Second, we represent clients in the resolution and litigation of a broad range of entertainment industry disputes including copyright and other intellectual property disputes, contract breaches, and business torts.

It is clear that Brooklyn native Singer, nicknamed “The Mad Dog,” knows his stuff and understands that in the entertainment business, you got to be tough. His actions in representing Ann Lopez resulted in a rather detailed retraction and correction by Valdes-Rodriguez regarding her social media fight with Lopez. Occasionally, Valdes-Rodriguez has tweeted and posted some updates about her situation, but it is no longer as detailed or frequent, when compared to the period between December 23, 2010 until January 6, 2011.

Singer’s web page also includes a section called RAGING BULLS, where the following excerpts and quotes a 2000 Los Angeles Magazine article are included:

  • “What these lawyers possess is the proven ability to go all the way, to a jury trial if necessary, and play by whatever rules are laid down to save their client’s freedom or fortune in a civil or criminal matter. On the other hand, when one of them makes a phone call or sends a demand letter, arguments are often settled quickly … and quietly.”
  • “I’ll make one call to a publicist to check out a tip,” growls New York Post Page Six editor Richard Johnson, “and pretty soon I get a hand-delivered letter from Singer threatening all sorts of disasters and financial damages.”
  • “Marty is a heavy hitter, but he’s reasonable,” claims [National Enquirer Editor Steve] Coz in a careful tone. “He’s one of the few that ‘gets it’–his clients need the press every bit as much as the press needs his clients.”

As with any lawyer, Singer has his web critics, and some of his letters have been publicly shared online. Here are some of those links.

Yes, Singer is the real deal when it comes to a lawyer who will fight for a client. Which leads us to this question: What about the countless of social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook who shared their unfiltered opinions about Valdes-Rodriguez and Lopez? We saw tweets that used profanity to insult Lopez, Encanto and NBC from social media accounts who expressed their anger and passion about the story. Will Singer go after them as well? And if so, what recourse does he have to tell other social media accounts to stop their expression of opinion and free speech? We are in interesting times, when news and opinion flows as quick as a WIFI connection. Will printed hard copy legal letters still have its effect?

As you know, we declared Valdes-Rodriguez a “social media winner,” which is quite different from saying that she won her battle with Lopez. Valdes-Rodriguez was savvy and understood that if her message got out in social media, it would take a life of its own. We also believe that Lopez could have used social media to answer the allegations instead of doing business the old-fashioned Hollywood way. Sure, Singer has very likely won the legal war, but the little mini-battles that happened in the social media space were all won by Valdes-Rodriguez.

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For the last few weeks, we have received several comments from our readers about the ongoing social media saga of Latina author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. One of the major issues some of our readers kept mentioning was that the story would never gain traction with the national press. Tonight, however, The New York Daily News, one of  Top 200 websites in the United States and one of the world’s top 700 sites, published a piece by Latina playwright Dolores Prida entitled “Hollywood goes bananas for stereotypes.”

 

 

In the piece, Prida recounts the many times movie and TV producers approached her to see if they could option her works. As she says: “[I] even received money for rights, but nothing ever came of it because I was unwilling to change characters and plot to fit a pre-determined idea of what Latinas are supposed to be.”

Prida then goes on to specifically use Valdes-Rodriguez’s recent battle with Ann Lopez’s Encanto Productions about the TV script adaptation of The Dirty Girls Social Club. It is pretty clear from Prida’s comments that she fully supports Valdes-Rodriguez. Here is how she closes the piece:

 

The blogosphere and social media has been abuzz in the last few days with another case of the disappearing real Latina character.

Alisa Valdés-Rodríguez, author of the 2003 best-selling novel “The Dirty Girls Social Club,” translated into some 10 languages, fulminated in her blog about the changes made to her characters and story for a television series pilot script.

Valdés-Rodríguez says she dislikes the script “because it is woven through with stereotypes and because it erased every single one of my African-diaspora characters, erased my Cuban-Jewish character, erased my only Dominican character, erased my main Puerto Rican character and erased my only lesbian character for no justifiable reason, changing them all into stereotypical characters more in keeping with persistent Hollywood cliches.”

The twist here is that the draft Valdés-Rodríguez read was written by three Latinas. Through their production company, they presented it to a major television network which shall remain unnamed, since this small-screen gran escándalo is now in the hands of lawyers and getting more convoluted by the day.

The unfathomable aspect of all this is that production companies or studios buy the rights to a property because of the success it has achieved as is, and then proceed to change the plot and characters into something unrecognizable.

Why not just commission scripts from scratch to fit their marketing vision? We writers would love to make some real money, and since the only other Hollywood Latina character is the ever-present Mexican nanny or undocumented maid, we should seriously consider channeling Carmen Miranda under the cover of pseudonyms.

After all, she was a lot more fun and had more talent, maturity and integrity than the bunch of tight-assed, sex-crazed, twentysomething generic Latina characters producers seem to prefer.

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After issuing a lengthy statement and public apology about her recent legal struggle regarding the TV script adaptation of The Dirty Girls Social Club, award-winning Latina author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez has been active today on her Twitter stream. Here is a timeline of what she tweeted last night:

She started a series of tweets with the following post, where she offers the best of wishes to Ann Lopez’s Encanto Productions, the company which owns the option to adapt the Dirty Girls script for television. In the tweet, Valdes-Rodriguez makes reference to her other books, especially her latest book, Three Kings.

Valdes-Rodriguez then tweeted the following and says, “To save my sanity, I am letting it go. Mourning.”

What follows is a reply to one Twitter profile who reacted to the news. Valdes-Rodriguez’s clear: legal fees are expensive and Lopez’s lawyer, high-powered attorney Marty Singer.

Valdes-Rodriguez then tweets about money, hinting that Singer’s efforts have been effective, even though she makes no direct reference to him.

Valdes-Rodriguez closes her series of tweets with one that explains her emotional ordeal.

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When we started blogging about the controversy surrounding Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, we were interested in how social media can be used to share messages, whether you agree with them or not. Throughout the course of the last three weeks, we have written several posts and have gotten many comments regarding this situation. Outlets like MediaBistro, LatinHeat.com and Racialicious used our blog posts as material for their articles.  The majority of comments from readers of this blog were positive and favorable to Valdes-Rodriguez, while others were less than favorable. As is our policy, we allowed readers to post their unfiltered comments and we responded to them, as we do with any reader who comments on our site.

One of the criticisms coming from readers about Valdes-Rodriguez’s style, tweets, and posts (saying rather passionately that they were personal attacks on Encanto Productions, Ann Lopez, Luisa Leschin, Lynette Ramirez, NBC, and CAA) claimed this blog had no relevant impact on Hollywood, that social media was overhyped, and that we were just a cheerleader for Valdes-Rodriguez. We take issue with that for the following reasons:

  1. We are the only blog right now that has documented the entire story, including visual images of what was posted and tweeted by Valdes-Rodriguez. If we were favoring Valdes-Rodriguez, why would we post comments that were critical of her as well as some of her more controversial posts and tweets?
  2. We also contacted other principals in this story via email and Facebook asking for comment, but no one ever responded. Nonetheless, we did additional research about Lopez, Leschin, and Ramirez to provide a better picture of the story. We tried to tell a complete picture, and it was our intention to do so. Why are we at fault as a blogger when the only person who wanted to talk with us was Valdes-Rodriguez? If you want to read newspapers, read the NY Times or other publications like that. We are just a blog. We will have opinions here, but we also try to present our reasons for why we have those opinions. We think it works, and so do most of our readers, whom we love.
  3. From the very beginning, we always said that we thought that Valdes-Rodriguez was savvy for understanding the power of social media and how it can help her communicate her message. Putting aside the way she communicated it (and that is an issue that riles some people, just read some comments on our previous post about this story), the fact remains: social media is an effective way right now to communicate an unfiltered message to thousands in a network. And if you share that message with the right social media influencers (yes, Hollywood, those bloggers who have a solid base of readers and can generate buzz in social media), the reach of that message can be amplified. There is no doubt in our mind that NBC asked Valdes-Rodriguez to delete her blogs, posts, comments, and tweets because they realized that there were hints at a possible social media Latino backlash against the network. That is our opinion and belief, and we can’t prove it, but we think that in this sense, Valdes-Rodriguez earned a social media victory in this story. For those who say she stained her reputation, we say that there will always be detractors and no one will ever get 100% support on anything.
  4. We still seriously question why Lopez, Encanto, Leschin, Ramirez, NBC, or CAA never even dipped into the social media waters to try and quell the issue. We are convinced that if they did and if they presented it in a respectful way, this story would have gone away. But they underestimated the power of social media because, and this is an opinion many other social media practitioners share, they still think of social media as an extension of traditional media and not as a another new, organic form of media. Social media is not old media. It is not traditional PR and pushing the message in a one-way stream. Social media is formative, it moves quickly, and it has the ability to form active tribes that, when brought together, can deliver a message from the ground up. This was a lost opportunity for the other players in this story. Valdes-Rodriguez took a social media gamble, and we believe that her objective—to have more say in what this TV pilot script might become and be more accurate to her original work—was achieved. Did it cause her damage? Yes. Did it burn bridges? Yes. Will time heal it if a year from now the show is actually produced and she is gaining success from her books? Possibly.

Nonetheless, we are not the only blog or source on the Internet who is claiming a social media victory. Tonight, TheRoot.com, one of the top websites that covers news from a variety of black perspectives (here is their Alexa traffic rating) posted a slideshow of Twitter’s Winners and Losers. The slideshow lists those celebrities on Twitter who have used social media effectively and those who have been burned by it. It mentions people like Chris Brown, TerryMcMillan, Tiger Woods, and Bill Cosby, who all use social media to share their message to their base, some better than others.

On slide 24, The Root added Valdes-Rodriguez and declared her a “winner” in her use of social media. Here is what they said on their post: “When the author of The Dirty Girls Social Club optioned the rights to her novel to Encanto Productions, she had no idea they would remove the diversity of the characters and replace them with trite stereotypes. So she took to Twitter to broadcast her message — gaining national attention for her plight.”

We were surprised to see that the phrase “gaining national attention” linked back to our blog and the post: Valdes-Rodriguez Keeps Tweeting and Posting. We don’t claim to be a national outlet, a Hollywood website, or an entertainment insider, but contrary to what some readers who have criticized this blog think, we have a very loyal reader base and a solid rating that keeps gaining new readers every day. Our main blog passions here are Franky Benítez, social media, and#LatinoLit (and last time we checked Valdes-Rodriguez is a Latina author).

We appreciate all our readers and welcome any comments from them. We also do not edit those comments nor do we delete unless there is severe language and profanity. Our philosophy is to share, share, and share more with others. If our readers wanted more about this story, we were going to oblige them (even though this is only a part-time venture and we do this mostly late at night).

The Valdes-Rodriguez story reflects what is good about social media and also what is bad about it. But there is no question in our mind: if you use social media to share your message and if that message is shared in the right network, it will get communicated. Will it get “national attention?” Maybe not at the level that traditional media people might think, but it WILL get attention. And the only way to combat that one form of attention is to use social media to divert it to your form of attention.

Most people who know social media understand that you have to stay about the fray and be respectful. No matter what you think of this blog, we hope that at least you can acknowledge that we do respect all opinions here.

And yes, we would still welcome any comments from any of the other players in this story. There will always be an open invitation. That is what social media is all about, providing forums for people to share their opinions and thoughts.

Thank you to everyone who had visited this site in the last three weeks.

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Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

The latest news on the social media saga of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez has resulted in a new blog she published today on her official blog, where she states that she wants to retract and correct some errors that she had communicated on her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

She lists two major errors where she acknowledges that producer Ann Lopez does have a college degree (Lopez graduated from SMU) and that the character of Sara from The Dirty Girls Social Club was “not technically being raped; rather, she is resisting and then reluctantly submitting to sex with her husband, who tells her she should have expected such demands when she married “a hot-blooded Cuban.”

Valdes-Rodriguez continues with the following statement from the blog:

My objections to the draft pilot adaptation of my book were not intended and should not be construed as personal attacks upon the persons of Ann Lopez, Lynnette Ramirez and Luisa Leschin. I optioned the rights to my novel to Encanto Enterprises because I was impressed by these three women’s collected track record in Hollywood and I trusted them to adapt my work respectfully and with me as a consultant on all major changes.

She closes her blog with the following:

In light of this, I have removed from my blog, Facebook and Twitter account any statement that might be construed as defamatory toward Ann Lopez, Lynnette Ramirez and Luisa Leschin.

A current search of her Facebook Profile confirms her actions, since the statement posted yesterday is no longer publicly available. The same goes for her Twitter Profile.

We did manage to see one tweet that had appeared on January 5 around 11pm EST, but is no longer on Valdes’ Twitter stream:

Although Valdes-Rodriguez’s tweets have been deleted from her stream, this does not include any retweets that others shared with their respective streams, nor has there been any request to this blog to remove examples of what Valdes-Rodriguez shared with her network from December 23 until December 31. For examples of what she shared, you can visit these posts on our site:

Valdes-Rodriguez has had a rather tumultuous few weeks, having been very vocal and public about her dissatisfaction and alleged claims that the TV script adaptation of The Dirty Girls Social Club was “racist and sexist.” Several comments on our blog have brought up her previous web history of similar incidents where she has utilized the Internet to stir controversy. In the meantime, Valdes, in her interview with Latina.com, confirmed that she lost her Creative Arts Agency agent and fired her literary agent. She also hinted at the fact that lawyers are talking.

 

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Encanto Productions, one of the players mentioned in the social media saga of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and her allegations that the TV script adaptation of The Dirty Girls Social Club is “racist and sexist,” made its first comments about the story today. The company claims that the leaked script Valdes-Rodriguez received was a “draft.”

Their comments appear on LatinHeat.com, a news and entertainment website, in the following post: The Dirty Girls Social Media Wars. Here is what the article, reported by Bel Hernandez, included:

…Encanto did confirm that the script Valdes-Rodriguez got a hold off was a draft. The script has not yet been ordered to pilot and stated that Valdes-Rodriguez is fully aware of this fact. As to Valdes-Rodriguez’s allegation that Lopez had “promised” to give her final approval of the scripts, well that is a rarity in Hollywood. In this particular case, Encanto stated no deal was ever established and Valdes-Rodriguez willingly signed off to no creative consultation.

The article does a very good job detailing the events that occurred over the holiday weekend and also adds some additional information about Ana Lopez and writer Luisa Leschin, saying that they are “well known and respected in Hollywood” and that they “worked up their way up the Hollywood ranks.”

Hernandez closes with an interesting observation about social media, and we think that this is the central issue about the entire story and why we even began to get interested in it:

Social media is most certainly instant, but in most cases not as objective as say the New York Times might have been. In a matter of 10 days the Dirty Girls Social Media wars were “instantly” waged by Alisa-Rodriguez and just as “instantly” came to an end. What the collateral damage is yet to be seen, but one thing is sure, you will read about it in the social media outlets — instantly.

The Valley of Creative Differences
LatinHeat also published commentary by Nancy de Los Santos Reza called The Dirty Girls Social Club and The Valley of Creative Differences where de Los Santos Reza criticizes the public statements made in social media. One excerpt of the commentary states:

There’s an opportunity in this situation for a “teachable moment.” On any project, if you’re the writer or the producer, don’t take umbrage against someone with a different opinion. Argue, discuss, offer suggestions – do everything to get your point across. But do it in a professional manner in the privacy of a meeting, telephone call, or email. Focus on the project. Gender, religion, age, economic status – and anything else that defines a person – is not fodder for criticism. And do not break confidences shared in a professional setting.

Valdes-Rodriguez on Latina.com
In the meantime, Valdes-Rodriguez talked with Lee Hernandez from Latina.com about the recent events. The website says that Valdes-Rodriguez feels that Lopez “intentionally misled her” about the plans for the book. The entire interview can be read here: Interview with Latina.com. The website also reported that “We also reached out to Ann Lopez for comment, but her rep responded, ‘She has been advised not to comment on this.'” Valdes-Rodriguez also said that she didn’t realize that the contract she signed with Encanto did not obligate the production company to make her a consultant on the show.

Here are some excerpts of the what Valdes-Rodriguez said:

  • “For me, it’s not even an ego issue. I wouldn’t care if they changed story lines at all and made it more modern—that’s fine, and I understand you have to do that when you adapt a book. But changing every single character to be, you know, not a good role model … I went out of my way to write a book that I hoped would show positive role models of educated, professional Latinas for everybody in the country to see that we exist, and it has been very depressing for me.”
  • “[Ann Lopez] doesn’t have any production credits other than having been thrown onto things her husband did at the last minute. She has no formal education. Her entire Hollywood experience is related to being around George Lopez, which is fine, but his demographic audience is different than mine. I think she’s cynical—they’ve been discouraged over the kinds of battles they’ve had to wage in Hollywood over the years. They’re so cynical that they didn’t believe that what I’d written would get past the gatekeepers. They took the title literally, and it’s not literal—its figurative and it’s ironic.”

As for possible legal action between the parties, Valdes-Rodriguez said, “I’m not sure. She’s got a lawyer, and I’ve got a lawyer. At this stage, our lawyers are exchanging letters.” She also confirmed that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) stopped representing her, an action she called “clearly retaliatory” and that her lawyer would be ask for damages from Lopez, who is also represented by CAA. She also said this about her now former literary agent: “Although I did lose my literary agent because she accidentally sent me an e-mail for someone else about me, about all of this—that was very insulting.”

The social media updates continue from Valdes-Rodriguez, as she states on her public Facebook page tonight when referring to Lopez: “People cry, ‘but you’re both Latina,’ and I answer, ‘Yes. She is anti-Castro; I am a socialist. The Cuban Revolution

LATEST UPDATE January 5, 2011: This afternoon, Valdes-Rodriguez tweeted the following at 3:22 EST pm:

She followed with these successive tweets, a few minutes later:

  • “On contract Ann Lopez concocted for me with CAA, my lawyer says “Boy did CAA f— you.” Not what i meant when i prayed to get laid.”
  • “Wished to be a successful writer. Happened. At a cost. Price? Spending more time fighting bull—- than actually writing. For now. Sigh.”

It looks like this story won’t go away yet.

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