Among the countless projects looking for support right now through crowd-funding sites, one of the most unique and genuinely relevant projects is Isabel Echeverry’s documentary “Shamama,” which documents her journey into becoming a full-time philanthropist and what that entails. Echeverry is not just a charitable woman looking to help others, as the founder and head of Kontakto, a talent representation agency focused on Latino talent, she is a respected and successful businesswoman who wants to eventually step away from the daily grind of Hollywood to make a tangible difference in the world.
But though the film she is seeking to bring to life via an Indiegogo campaign, currently underway, will document the steps she must follow to achieve her goal of dedicating most of her time to helping others and creating opportunities for people to get involve, “Shamama” will be more than just an inspirational audiovisual project. Echeverry will also use the funds to support a newly created non-profit organization called “Shamama Movement,” which will serve as place to connect those in need with people willing to give their time and help. The film will in turn become a tool to inspire people to get involve and spread the idea that, even if you are an incredibly busy individual juggling numerous responsibilities at once, you can still find time to give back.
We chatted with Isabel Echeverry about what “Shamama” represents for her, the struggle to find opportunities for Latino talent in the entertainment industry, and the people that inspire her to pursue this ambitious philanthropic dream.
Aguilar: Explain what’s a Shamama and how does this concept relate to the documentary/movement you are trying to get off the ground through crowd-funding via Indiegogo?
Isabel Echerverry: Shamama is the feminine name for Shaman but is not part of any religion. When you hear the word “Shaman” what do you think of? You think of someone that heals or that helps somebody else. Someone mentioned to me that Shamama could be someone that helps raise the consciousness of others to get out of suffering and that stayed with me. Then I thought, “This could be a good documentary,” because what I really want to do is become a full time philanthropist within a few years. I see myself becoming a full time philanthropist, so I decided to document my process in becoming that and be a “Shamama.” I felt that name was appropriate because anybody could be a Shaman or Shamama by just helping others. That’s the concept. It’s about the Shamama Movement. I hope that through my journey and my transformation I can inspire others to do the same.
Aguilar: Kontakto, your talent management company, is an important resource for Latino talent in the industry. How does it fit within your plan of becoming a full-time philanthropist?
Isabel Echerverry: As you know I’m very busy with Kontakto, representing directors, working on another feature film, and I have three kids, but no matter how busy you are you can always make time to volunteer and to go out in the field to help others. I want to take it a step further. I’m going to hire people to do sales under Kontakto and set it up so that I can remove myself. That’s what most successful business people do at some point. Ultimately you want the business to run by itself and I want Kontakto to run by itself. This process will also be part of the documentary.
I have a business plan that I’ve created to expand my business and to have a joint venture with a big company in the entertainment industry. When I go in to meet with some of these big talent representation companies my goal is to try to set up a Hispanic division within their company. That way we would be able to hire people to do everything Hispanic or Latino: Talent Management, Advertising, Representation in the General Market, and Development. It’s a really aggressive plan, but that’s part of my plan to eventually become a full time philanthropist.
Aguilar: It seems that we are busy lives we often forget that there is a whole world out there that needs our help. We need to be reminded that we can do more for others.
Isabel Echerverry: Exactly. It’s really not just about me or to say, “Look here is what I’m doing.” No, it’s really to bring awareness to different issues. We are part of the 5% wealthiest people of the world’s population. Even a person who makes $25,000 to $45,000 a year is still part of the group that can have basic necessities and even some luxuries like cell phones and cars, but the other 90% to 95% of the people in the world are living in suffering. We need to really see that and think, “We are the lucky ones! What are we going to do? Let’s do something.”
For example, what I do for my clients on a daily basis is getting them exposed, rooting for them, and getting them out there, “Look here are my directors, my editors, my actors.” I’m going to be doing the same but for charity, “Hey guys let’s go help people. Let’s go read to the blind. Let’s go help the children at St. Jude’s.” It’s about getting people out of just thinking about themselves, “What am I gonna do today? Go to the gym, go shopping, go to work.” That’s great, I’m not criticizing it, but we can elevate it by helping others.
As part of the process of making the film I’m going to sit down with global leaders. I’m going to interview Deepak Chopra this month and I want to ask him what he believes I should focus on as I undergo this transformation into a full time philanthropist and document it.
Aguilar: Why do you feel it’s important for you to talk to influential people or world leaders?
Isabel Echerverry: They’ve already accomplished being an influence. What I’ve learned is that if you want to be like somebody, you gotta model them. If you get the chance to talk to them you got to ask them, “How did you get here? How did you do this?”
And what better than to hear it from Deepak Choppra, Oprah, and other influential people. I want to figure out how we can spread that to everybody else because we are all healers in a way. That’s what I’m getting at with these interviews I’ll be doing.
Aguilar: The Indiegogo campaign is not only funding the documentary itself but also an organization created to help others, correct?
Isabel Echerverry: Yes, the good thing about the documentary and the campaign is that is not just about funding a documentary and learning about something, which most of documentaries are about. It’s not only about studying something, or showing you how something works, or giving you information on an issue. The difference with this documentary is that funds that go into Indiegogo also go into helping others. “Shamama” will not only be a documentary but we are also registering it as a non-profit organization. These funds will also help others. It’s not just to fund the documentary because while we film the documentary we are helping others. It’s killing two birds with one stone.
Aguilar: The movement or the non-profit organization will live on after the film is completed and released.
Isabel Echerverry: Yes, and I plan for that to be my full-time job, to run this organization called The Shamama Movement. It’s going to live on. We are creating a movement and we are going to use the film to inspire others to join us. We want to use the power of film through this documentary so others can get inspire and get up and do something – or simply join us. One of the most important things about the Shamama Movement is that we are creating a hub.
We did some shooting in Time Square and we asked people there, “Do you volunteer?” Some of the answers would be, “Yes, I did it two years ago.” Then we would ask, “Why don’t you do it anymore?” And the answers we would be, “Because I don’t have time,” or “It’s too inconvenient.” The process of going online and finding out what’s close to you might discourage some people, so the movement will be a hub of information. We are going to tell people, for example, “You live in Queens, NY? Here is where you can go and help.” We are going to make it easy for everybody. I would like to have something like a “Love Center” in every city, like a hub. There is interest already in cities like Oklahoma City, Miami, and New York, where there is people that want to get involved with “Shamama” and help. Creating these centers of information in every city across the U.S. is one of the main goals so that way we can create opportunities for people to help others.
Aguilar: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face during this process of dedicating your life to helping others but also establishing a business model that will continue to help Latino talent in the industry?
Isabel Echerverry: The biggest challenge is expanding the business first, because it’s exactly what the National Hispanic Coalition tries to do, which is urging companies to look more into Hispanic talent and most those companies don’t have a Hispanic division. A lot of them are not open or interested in having a Hispanic division, which is a big challenge in the process of expanding the company to eventually be able to dedicate myself full-time to Shamama. Sometimes they don’t understand the Hispanic market, and they should let a Hispanic business person do it, so that’s the biggest challenge.
Aguilar: At what stage of production is “Shamama” right now?
Isabel Echerverry: So far we’ve shot four full day of production. The next step is to see the Indiegogo campaign through. I have hope that we will reach our goal of $100, 000. I’m also very thankful to have Fanny Veliz as project manager. She has worked in other successful campaigns before.
Aguilar: Fanny, in your opinion what makes this campaign special and why did you decide to take part in it?
Fanny Veliz: The reason I wanted to support Isabel in this project is because to have a successful businesswoman look at her life and decide that there is something more to it and that is giving to others is inspiring. To have an influential Latina really take a stand for giving and generosity makes it even more important. Who wouldn’t want to help her? It’s different because I’ve been involved with many projects but with this one I really feel like it’s a movement. It’s really going to have a positive impact. It’s not about Isabel and just making her movie, it’s really about having a conversation with people about how we can all make a difference no matter what. I’m really excited to be a part of it.
Aguilar: This is definitely a big transition for Isabel and a very ambitious philanthropic project.
Fanny Veliz: Yes, her idea is, “I’m not 100% sure how I can be of help to the world, but I’m willing to go through it and be an example to others and inspire others.” She will have to be very vulnerable and share her whole life so that this project can get made. It’s not just about the film, but how the film is going to capture this journey and it’s going to take for her to get to that level. That’s why we need people’s support because it’s a big project.
Aguilar: Isabel, why do you think film is the best medium to spread your message and why did you decide that crowd-funding was the best way to get it done?
Isabel Echerverry: For me is extraordinary how film can really move people. That’s why we go to the movies and that’s why there are so many films being produced right this moment. Moving images are very powerful. Being in the business I see films everyday, and I think we can accomplish a lot through the power of film beyond just entertainment.
I never though I was going to do a crowd-funding campaign. It’s interesting to me to go through this process because although this funding model has been around for a few years it’s still a very new tool that I think people should really take advantage of. It creates a community of people believing in each other. When anybody I know has a campaign going to fund a film, without any hesitation I go and I donate. I think it’s so great because we all get an opportunity to help each other. In a sense it’s another example of what this documentary is about, which is helping others.
Aguilar: Can you tell me about some of the perks offered to those who support the project, and specifically about the “Shamama card”?
Isabel Echerverry: There a great perks for those who donate from the opportunity to become an executive producer, passes to the film’s premiere, really cool shirts and tote bags, an something we call a “Shamama” card. A Shamama card is card with affirmations. A lot of organizations help people who need a meal, and that’s great. Thankfully in places like Skid Row there are always tons of people helping and passing out meals, and that helps, but it’s really about the one-on-one time and handing them this card so they can think good things about themselves. Affirmations like, “I’m a good person,” I love myself,” “I’m successful,” “I deserve the best.” I hope that shows them how to love themselves and that they can change how they think about themselves. It’s helped me through difficult times because you have to change the way you feel and think about yourself in order to be successful, to be happy, to be healthy. It’s more than just giving them meals, it’s about reshaping their consciousness so they can get out of suffering. It’s about trying to lift them up.