Javiera Balmaceda Pascal, Pedro Pascal’s older sister, has been an integral part of major production companies, including Claro Video and Amazon Prime Video. She also played key roles in the making of the successful biographical series Maradona: Sueño Bendito and other titles aimed at Hispanic audiences, such as El Presidente and La Jauría. And she was involved in the production of Argentina 1985, a film nominated in the Best Foreign Film category for the 2023 Academy Awards.
Glamour Mexico and Latin America had the pleasure of talking to Javiera Balmaceda Pascal about all the challenges and advances she has experienced as a woman in the entertainment industry. Read the translated conversation, below.
Glamour: What has it been like for you to enter the world of entertainment?
Javiera Balmaceda Pascal: I think that as a Chilean woman, the daughter of exiles, and with the privilege of having university educated parents, I have always had access to an excellent education. I was even able to attend the best university in the United States. I always had a backup when faced with lack of employment or opportunities. I cannot ignore the benefits I have had, which has helped me to keep going despite the difficulties. I started my career in the 1990s, and at that time, I was often the only woman at certain meetings. I fought for my place, and the most beautiful thing for me is that I now see a remarkable change. At Amazon, I feel solid support, and my team is balanced between men and women. I believe the leadership of Jennifer Salke, the head of the studio, has contributed to this. In addition, my boss, James Farrell, has driven a gender balance in the regions we manage at the production house. There have been many changes that we have all fought for, and the organization has been very supportive in this regard. While there are still challenges, I recognize that I had the advantage of having a place to turn to if I didn’t like a situation.
It’s important to understand that not everyone has the same facilities. It hasn’t been easy; in my day, I sometimes tolerated macho attitudes. What I appreciate about the younger generations, the millennials and Generation Z, is that they are pushing me to recognize attitudes I had when I was younger that supported this system. I was trying to survive rather than fight it. There’s a series I love called Hacks which talks really well about everything we women had to overcome to get to where we are. It also shows the things we used to tolerate and allow, and how change didn’t come so fast. I like the current discourse and embrace it.
What was the process of reaching your goals, dreams, and finding yourself where you are today?
I turned 50 this year, and to be honest, I wasn’t very excited about it. In fact, I arranged a trip from Los Angeles to London that day, just so I could say I didn’t have a birthday because I was on a plane. During that flight I had time to reflect on this question.
I don’t think in my life I have many regrets. The struggles and changes I have faced, everything has contributed to form the person I am today. I studied economics in college and worked at JP Morgan, which gave me an incredible learning foundation. Then I started from scratch at Locomotion, a Japanese animation channel, where I learned about channel operation. Then I got married and had children, which led me to stop working for a couple of years. Then I resumed my career at Claro Video, where I had more experience than some of my colleagues.
I feel that my past and present align in a positive way, which allows me to lead a team with dedication and effort. We are all moving forward together. My goal is to share this with people and be an example of perseverance and hard work.
What has been your most challenging project so far?
My biggest challenge has been starting LOL Mexico, hosted by Eugenio Derbez. It was a total challenge, you know? In my first year at Amazon, Netflix already had more than 30 stand-ups all over Latin America. I wondered what we could do in the comedy field. I felt the pressure to create other types of programs to enter the region. However, I was offered this project, which is the original Japanese version. I knew that Japanese formats were successful in Latin America, so I fought with other leaders in the company to take it forward.
A colleague knew Eugenio, introduced him to the idea, and he loved it. Now we are about to record the sixth season. It has been an incredibly successful program and format. It’s not only done in Mexico, but also in Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Japan, India, Australia, Canada, and many other places. It has been an amazing experience to see how far we have come. It was a great challenge, as we had to fight to be allowed to do it.
We’ve seen Argentina 1985 come on very strong at the awards this year. Have you considered producing a similar film in your own country?
I would love to, and I’m open to proposals! I had a relationship with Axel Kuchovákyi before joining Amazon. I had the opportunity to hear his idea for Argentina 1985 and see Ricardo Darín and Santiago Mitre presenting a film that was political but also very personal. It was a wonderful experience. I think what we are looking for are those subtleties and a new perspective in the way we tell our stories. That’s the amazing thing about the entertainment world, to be able to capture all of this through a camera.
Would you ever like to be in front of the cameras?
No, I’ve always been behind, and I feel very comfortable in that role. If they put me in front of one, I get very nervous. I really admire actors who have that emotional intelligence and the ability to portray other characters in a way that transcends their own emotions. I don’t know how they do it with all those people watching them; it’s impressive. Whether it’s television, film, or theater, I admire them immensely.
What would be your ideal cast for a project in Latin America?
I think it depends on each particular project. We have one coming out called Putas Redes Sociales (“Social Network Whores”), a comedy headed by Paulina Gaitan. I fought for her to star in the series, because I know her and we already worked together in El Presidente and Los Guardianes.
She is a fantastic actress, and I think she will surprise everyone in this new role in a comedy series. What I like most about my job is to show the world the talent that all Latinos have. We shouldn’t be pigeonholed into roles of “sexy bombshell,” “drug dealer,” or “immigrant in search of the American dream.” There’s so much more we have to offer!
How do you help combat the stereotype they have in the US about Latinos?
I think that by doing stories that represent everyday life in Latin America, we are showing the wealth of talent and diverse characters we have in the region. One of the series I am very proud of is La Cabeza de Joaquín Murrieta. In my opinion, it is a tribute to the splendor of 1930s and 1920s cinema in Mexico, a time when a lot of wonderful westerns were produced. With this series, we want to highlight the richness and talent both behind and in front of the camera in our region.
What has been the participation of Latinas in the entertainment industry?
We are involved in several projects led by women, and one that fills me with pride is Fin del Amor, based on the book by Tamara Tenenbaum and with Keke Hall-Warrensen as showrunner. In addition, our protagonist is Lali Esposito. I think looking for these opportunities is important, as these stories can resonate with other girls, but they also transcend genres and are for everyone.
We work day by day to offer more opportunities to female directors. In fact, Alejandra Márquez Bella directed a film for Amazon Studios in the United States starring Michael Peña, which was shot in Mexico and is called A Million Miles Away.
Recently, in Australia, we launched a series called Class 07, which is about a reunion after 20 years of graduating from high school, but with an apocalyptic twist. What’s interesting is that all the characters are women; there are no men in the series. I think it’s remarkable that a platform like Amazon Prime Video, which reaches all parts of the world, is producing content of this magnitude that highlights female voices. While it may be considered a risk, more than half of the population is female, and it’s time for stories to reflect this diversity in a natural way. I am sure many people, including myself, appreciate and applaud these efforts. Seeing our experiences represented on screen is valuable and meaningful.
How has the entertainment industry evolved since your arrival? What changes have you observed in that regard?
I’m no longer the only woman at meetings. It’s unfortunate that they used to be mostly male dominated, but today we see a remarkable change in the industry. Studios like Jennifer Salke’s and leaders like Dana Walden at Disney are spearheading important roles. In the big leagues, we’re seeing more and more women taking on leadership roles, and that’s something I find really impressive.
This story was originally published on Glamour Mexico and Latin America.