Kellvin Chavez, the Outside Insider
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because keeping secrets is hard and even harder in Hollywood, and for those weak of lip, there’ll always be Latino-Review.
By Keith Murphy
You don’t build one of the most talked about (and notorious) movie news sites without displaying some Hulk-sized balls. And Kellvin Chavez, founder of the headline-making Latino-Review, is once again about to lay his cojones out on the table.
“Between you and I, I have a humongous scoop,” he says with the unbridled glee of a 12-year-old kid who is having too much fun. “I can’t even mention it on Twitter just yet…it would be a huge thing.” A day later, the bombshell news is unveiled: spoilers detailing DC Comic’s iconic villain Lex Luthor’s role and shocking partnership with Bruce Wayne in the much talked about event movie Batman vs. Superman.
“‘Everything below is subject to change’ aka covering your ass,” fires back a poster. “I’m hoping some of this is true!” says an excited fan. “LOL…Latino-Review exclusive…” mocks another. This is all par-for-the-course in fanboy/girl land. But Latino-Review lately seems to be kicking up the most dust. When the independent, polarizing site is not dropping scoops on the latest superhero blockbuster or the next installment of the Star Wars saga, Chavez and crew are battling it out with powerful movie studios that view the media outlet as public enemy No. 1.
But there’s also something else going on here.
Chavez, a former Wall Street trader’s assistant at Deutsche Bank, grew up in Queens, New York a rabid movie fan. He started Latino-Review in 2000 to wave the flag for a minority contingent historically ignored by Tinsel Town. “Our audience is English-dominant speaking Latinos,” Chavez explains. “The Latino community loves more than just Latin films, so that’s how I defend the name of the site.”
His partner and Latino-Review’s resident star scooper, Umberto “El Mayimbe” González, is less politically correct. “We are Latin – and not the trade reporters you see in Hollywood,” he bluntly says. “We got swagger so people don’t know how to deal with that.”
Hollywood better get used to Chavez and his chest-beating clique because Latino-Review is jumping into the movie business. The site is spinning off Mayimbe Media, which will produce and distribute original micro-budgeted films. The first? The Bourne Identity-style chase thriller Breakneck, due out summer of 2014.
OZY sat down with Chavez to discuss Latino-Review’s Cinderella-come-up and why he is making a lot of people mad.
OZY: Latino-Review often times out-scoops more established film trade papers like the Hollywood Reporter and Variety, and respected film/TV sites like Ain’t It Cool News. How does a Queens guy from the banking world go from that to pissing off movie studios?
Kellvin Chavez: [Laughs] It actually started as a hobby for me. I was working as a Wall Street trader back in the ‘90s. But as I would go to work in the morning, I would read the newspapers. They would always have free tickets for movie screenings. I’ve always been a huge movie fan, but I got tired of waiting in huge lines just to get a ticket to see a free film.
So when did you get the idea to start Latino-Review?
I think it started with the first X-Men movie. My stepmother worked for a big time VP for Universal and he invited her to the X-Men premiere in New York. This was around 2000, so I asked her boss, “How do you get these invites?” And he says, “You either have to be a journalist, own a magazine or own a movie website.” So when he said movie website that was it for me. I actually went to Barnes & Noble and brought Dreamweaver For Dummies, and built a site by myself [laughs].
You weren’t playing around, huh?
I called every single publicist from each studio and got on their media list. At that time, the first Spiderman with Tobey Maguire was filming in New York. I went on one of the message boards and I found out they were shooting five blocks from my house in Queens! So I ended up sitting down on the stoop of my friend’s building while Tobey Maguire was running for the school bus in that [memorable] scene. I literally took three snapshots of him running and put them on our site. And I sent it to Harry Knowles [founder of Ain’t It Cool News] and Coming Attractions and it f*cking blew up everywhere.
That must have been a surreal moment for you.
It was crazy. It got to the point where Latino-Review was taking more time of me than my regular job. At the end of the day, I wanted to get laid off [laughs]. I was making more money there than I was at Wall Street.
Latino-Review has received some interesting reactions from the fanboys and more established media machines over the years. Some of the more disturbing comments I’ve come across are people questioning the site’s credentials because of the Latino name. How do you react to that?
That’s one thing that will never end…racism. Sometimes you get, “What does a Latino site know about mainstream movies?” And I would also hear, “Latino-Review…what’s so Latin about it? Not much.”
You are really philosophical about all this.
You can’t let it bother you. I remember when we broke the news that Heath Ledger was being cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight. There was one studio publicist who said, “Why are they breaking it? Who the f*ck is Latino-Review?” All you can say is, “Wow.”
Speaking of scoops, there is one individual on the Latino-Review team that seems to produce some of the biggest exclusives in the business. Can you talk about your first meeting with Umberto “El Mayimbe” González and what he has meant to the success of the site?
I met him because he used to write scoops for Ain’t It Cool News. He ended up seeing our Spiderman pictures and found out that I was a Latino guy from Queens. So El Mayimbe says, “Wait a minute…we are both from Queens and we are both Latino?!” He started writing some stuff for the site and we’ve been friends ever since. El Mayimbe is important to the site because a lot of the scoops he’s gotten are a big reason for our success.
You once said in an interview that you have cultivated a Hollywood Latino network of PAs, insiders and talent executives that feed you scoops. What’s the craziest source you’ve gotten information from?
There was one scoop we actually received from a janitor. Most of the time people give us scoops because they like the site or because they are Latino and they want to help a Latino site. And you have to sort of just trust them. Now it’s coming to the point where I’m getting a lot of stuff that I have to triple check before I post it up because there are certain trolls who try to send you fake stuff. And when you put it up they end up going to these message boards and start talking mad trash like, “Oh my God…I sent them some fake information and they fell for it!”
One of the scoops that put Latino-Review on the map was El Mayimbe’s script review of Batman Begins that got you guys in hot water with the movie studios. Was there ever a time you thought Latino-Review was going to get shut down?
[Laughs] The list is long and distinguished, dude. I was getting phone calls from London when we posted the Batman Begins script. I remember there was a source that sent me the first image of the Destroyer from the first Thor movie from inside the movie set. I posted it and Marvel went ape shit like, “We demand that you tell us who your source is!” It was so bad that they sent one of my writers a letter stating that if we give up the source they would give us set visits.
That’s the Marvel letter that was posted online, right?
Right…we ended up giving that letter to the Hollywood Reporter and they ran a story about it. There is that lack of respect with the studios, but Marvel knew they were in the wrong. But it’s not just the studios. Sometimes we have to deal with the fans.
That’s when sh*t gets real…those fans can be deadly passionate.
Yes! These Star Wars fans came to me via email and said, “Yo, these guys are talking bad about you because they say you are lying about this actor auditioning for the movie.” But our scoop ended up being true. Zac Efron did go in for a Star Wars meeting.
But it seems like you are already looking beyond Latino-Review. Can you speak on your involvement in El Mayimbe’s micro budget startup El Mayimbe Media Company?
I’m going to be the associate-producer for El Mayimbe’s first film Breakneck. I always ask myself, “What do you want to do for the next 10-15 years?” I want Latino-Review to live on, but my goal is to be a film producer. So Mayimbe, who came from a screenwriting background and is a director, also wants to pursue other projects. I’m just helping him out with whatever I can. Mayimbe wants to present some great storytelling.
At the end of the day, I want to be the Latin Jerry Bruckheimer.
- Keith Murphy, Keith “Murph” Murphy spars with brazen hip-hop moguls, Hollywood rebels, revered thespians, redemption-seeking pugilists and more. His work has appeared in VIBE, The New York Post, Billboard magazine, Essence and The Root. He’s a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox News, VH1 and A&E Biography.Contact Keith Murphy