Last year, we introduced you to eight incredible Latino filmmakers on the rise in Season 1 of the mitú x Walmart Filmmaker Mentorship Program. These visionaries teamed up with mitú and Walmart to write, prep, direct, and edit one-minute short films over the course of six weeks. In the year since their short films premiered in Los Angeles, our star filmmakers have grown substantially in their careers.

As we kick off Season 2 of the mentorship program, we’ve got some catching up to do with our Season 1 filmmakers. Today, you’ll hear from Mexican-American filmmakers Miranda Montenegro and Mariah Barrera. Montenegro, a filmmaker based in Los Angeles, is racking up an outstanding resume working as an associate producer while completing her master’s degree at USC. Barrera is an award-winning creative attending Columbia University who has had her films premiere at prestigious festivals.

Miranda Montenegro

Since her short film “Queso Bueno” premiered one year ago, Miranda Montenegro has been wrapping up her time at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She will earn her Master’s degree in film and TV production this spring. Montenegro is doing this while juggling various projects, including the festival circuit. She’s embracing being a multi-hyphenate, taking on impressive associate producing, directing, and writing roles. 

The advice she absorbed during her mentorship has shifted her mindset when it comes to her blossoming career. “I loved working with our mentors, Mike Tenango, Urwa Zubair, Linda Ajeti and Opal Skoein, who helped me develop and work on my project from inception to post-production. Their advice was invaluable,” said Montenegro.

Something the Mexican-American filmmaker always keeps in mind is Hollywood’s wide gap in diverse storytelling. Montenegro continues hustling so her community can see media that reflects their lives. Working on big-budget and small indie projects, she knows an interesting and emotionally resonant story and casting are crucial to a successful project.

“I love what Viola Davis said a few months back regarding the importance of representation,” said Montenegro. “To paraphrase, seeing yourself reflected on the small and big screens is important. It makes your imagination and dreams more tangible. The Latino community undoubtedly needs to see their dreams, but most importantly, themselves manifested and cemented in the media.”

She wants Latinos with an inkling to pick up a camera to know their stories are important and need to be heard. Using social media to your advantage by promoting your work is also recommended. Montenegro encourages filmmakers not to shy away from letting people know what they’re up to professionally. It could lead to incredible opportunities.

Her life-changing mentorship gave her the advice and equipment to create dazzling projects. Montenegro hopes to collaborate one day with storytellers like Eva Longoria, Gloria Calderón Kellett, Shonda Rhimes, and Greta Gerwig. She also envisions herself writing, directing, and producing authentic Latino TV shows and feature films in the near future. Growing up in the Imperial Valley and having family on both sides of the border gave her a special creative eye. 

“I want to be in a position to tell stories that resonate with the type of people in my family and that I grew up with,” said Montenegro.

Mariah Barrera

Raised in the small town of Saginaw, Michigan, Mariah Barrera’s love for writing and filmmaking was nurtured by her parents. While her childhood and adolescence took place in harsh circumstances, art was an outlet where she was allowed to be herself. She has received over 30 awards for her work, but everything she does is to inspire and encourage others in her family or community.

“When you come from communities like mine, where our upbringing makes a career in the arts so foreign, the thing that pushes you and motivates you to move forward when the going gets tough is the responsibility to show others that it is possible,” said Barrera. 

After premiering “Pelito”—the short film she created in the mitú x Walmart Filmmaker Mentorship Program—Barrera has grown her career. She finished and premiered her short documentary, “Still Here,” at the Urbanworld Film Festival and several other festivals across the country. 

“Still Here” is about her father and her uncle’s experiences with incarceration and brotherhood. Themes of social justice and equity are the signature of her filmmaking vision. She calls upon her family’s experience in the urban Midwest. She’s also launching the creative agency KNOWBARRIERS with her two siblings to uplift underrepresented viewpoints and voices.

Film is pivotal to making Latino experience, stories, voices, and more accessible to the rest of the world. Barrera believes in what she calls “radical representation: taking ownership and humanizing every experience in our community.” 

“Often as a community, we can be hyper-fixated on ‘positive’ stories of ‘excellence,’ but I like to push back; where does that urge come from, and who does it serve?” she proposes.

“Throughout the program, I learned so much about the craft of filmmaking from amazing professionals who advocated for my personal story and voice every step of the way,” said Barrera. “Sometimes all we need are people to say we hear you, we see you, and we want to help you. It plants a seed in us that is meant to flourish.”

Barrera’s ambitious spirit should come as no surprise. Her first documentary was made with a budget of $0, a broken tripod, and a cast and crew composed of her family. Her biggest piece of advice to new Latino filmmakers is to start where you are with what you have, even if it means you have to be resourceful. “This doesn’t only apply to your physical resources but also your creative ones,” she said. “Lean into your personal stories and experiences. No one can tell your own story better than you – it’s yours.”

Her first trip to Los Angeles was to participate in the mitú x Walmart Filmmaker Mentorship Program. Seeing the “fiction-like place” she would hear about in movies or TV shows was exciting. 

Barrera’s involvement led to her work with young actors. They taught her how to find connections to convey the experiences she wrote for them. But the most memorable part was further understanding who she is as a director. She hopes to continue refining that voice while creating socially relevant stories, along with her debut feature film.

Make sure to stay tuned to mitú’s socials for updates on Season 2 of the mitú x Walmart Filmmaker Mentorship Program!