As a nonbinary Latinx journalist and documentary filmmaker who has made their career in community-driven media, Kristal Sotomayor recognizes the need for dedicated media spaces that portray the genuine experience of queer and Latinx subjects.
To meet this need, Sotomayor drew on their identity and skills to create Sotomayor Productions, a production company specializing in investigative journalism and documentary projects that humanize and uplift underrepresented communities.
Sotomayor values partnering directly with groups in these communities and releasing English and Spanish-language media to make projects inclusive for their audiences.
In 2022, they aimed to expand accessibility on the company’s platforms while remaining sustainable with support from the Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange, a program led by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund to mentor media entrepreneurs on ways to generate revenue and create sustainable business models. PMFE entrepreneurs received grant funding along with revenue, marketing, and operations training from the Zebras Unite Co-Op and Black and Brown Founders.
We spoke with Sotomayor as part of a series of conversations with PMFE entrepreneurs checking in on the progress they’ve made within their organizations using the skills and connections they gained during the program.
This conversation has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Kiara Santos contributed reporting.
Tell us a bit about the project(s) you worked on as part of PMFE.
Sotomayor Productions is queer BIPOC-owned and operated media production organization that works at the intersection of investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking to advance the portrayals of Latinx communities.
What problem were you trying to solve initially, and why was solving the problem strategically important for your organization?
The business aims to build sustainable forms of equitable news and information reporting through long-term journalistic projects. We seek to solve the problem of extractive news and journalism that parachutes into marginalized communities for a sensationalized, stereotypical story. To counter this exploitative practice, we will work on reporting projects that build connections, transparency, and equity through years of thoughtful collaboration and relationship building to tell stories that best help communities to thrive.
What were your biggest takeaways from the Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange? What did you gain from the formal programming and coaching? What did you learn from your fellow founders?
This program has made me understand how to hone in on my organization and how to move forward with my work. I’ve also begun to understand what I can bring of value to the media ecosystem as I specialize in my work — from the services I plan to offer to better understanding how unique the community connection to the Latinx community is. People see my work as specializing in Latinx community storytelling. This is helping me understand how to build a long-term business strategy.
Also, being able to hear about everyone’s work and how they operate has helped me hone my skills. It’s great to talk to folks and hear about how we think of “clients” when our overall audiences will be our community, and they can’t necessarily afford to fund us but they need to have access to our work. This has helped me understand what a client could look like for my business as well as ideas for seeking funding early on the development of a project to begin making income while also supporting our target audience sooner.
How has this work impacted the community you serve?
Sotomayor Productions covers an intersection of topics including immigration, LGBTQIA+ rights, indigeneity, and Latinidad. We aim to reach young Latinx audiences by diversifying information delivery systems using bilingual multimedia projects such as long-form films, informational videos, website databases and articles. In particular, we strive to ensure that our work is accessible for people with Disabilities through the use of ASL interpretation, audio and image descriptions, and closed captions.
Were there any unexpected plans or challenges that you had to overcome during the program? What did you learn from it?
The most challenging thing during this program was finding a work-life balance to ensure I was able to complete the curriculum and work. For many participants, our PMFE businesses are actually our second or third job. Balancing the challenges and responsibilities of life was difficult.
How did the program contribute to your sense of power and/or self-efficacy in creating change in Philadelphia’s media ecosystem?
The program gave me confidence in my business, ideas, and work practice. It helped reinforce the importance of my work. It helped fuel my fire and passion.
What’s next? How are you planning to continue this work?
To continue the work, we will be launching the Sotomayor Productions company brand alongside the upcoming festival premiere of our forthcoming works.