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. Now, let’s catch up with two stellar filmmakers from opposite parts of the country. Victoria Leandra’s work has been published by big media brands, and thanks to the mentorship, she’s working on dominating the film industry. Janira Hernandez persevered through this year’s actor’s strike, and now she’s always cooking up fresh ideas for new documentaries.

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Victoria Leandra

The Puerto Rican filmmaker and award-winning journalist has manifested all her dreams into existence. Her short film “Boricua” is based on her own journey to the United States. The protagonist intends to maintain her Puerto Rican identity even while others label her a ‘Latina.’ Since Leandra’s mentorship, she’s been able to envision a clear path into Hollywood. This is all while continuing to tell global stories in countries like Morocco, Portugal, Mexico, and Peru. 

Leandra speaks highly of her time in the mitú x Walmart Filmmaker Mentorship Program, which gave her her first writer and director credits. “The Walmart [program] allowed me the opportunity to learn how to write my first script,” she said, as well as guiding her through directing her first 30+ people production. 

As a multihyphenate, Leandra has the determination and confidence to go far in the industry. That’s right, she’s taking her experience to the big leagues. “I’m looking at Hollywood now, I’m looking at big production studios,” said Leandra, “and that is not a mentality I used to have.”

In addition, she sees herself hosting a travel program on a major streaming platform and writing a best-selling book in the future. With “Boricua” being her first scripted production, she hopes to continue experimenting with stories her community can deeply resonate with and feel represented by. Leandra says that visual storytelling reaffirms the value and contributions Latinos have given the world. 

A seat at the table for a Caribbean woman like her allows her to peel back the superficial—and, at times, stereotypical—layer of her community. As more young Latino filmmakers come up, she advises them to keep working, even when no one is watching.

“I’ve had opportunities that have come to me three years after I initially planted the seeds,” said Leandra. “So, you need to understand that there are harvesting seasons, and there are seasons to plant the seeds.”

After her mentorship with mitú and Walmart, Leandra recalls being told by people within the industry that she has what it takes to succeed. “Just hearing those words confirm[s] that I’m on the right path, and that’s what growing as a filmmaker did,” she said. “For me, it confirmed that journalism is my base, but it’s not the top of what I can do and what I can be.”

Janira Hernandez

Born to a mother with a green thumb and a father in construction, Janira Hernandez says her artistic vision comes from them. Growing up in Ontario, California, the Mexican-American loved to draw and make up stories. Eventually, she grew up to earn her B.A. in fine art and transitioned into the film world, getting industry experience as a post-production coordinator. 

Hernandez’s short film “Burbujas” premiered last year, celebrating a piece of her family’s story. While working on it during the mitú x Walmart Filmmaker Mentorship Program, she focused on writing and directing. The mentorship gave her new storytelling skills, and the creator kit she was gifted by the program has been extremely useful for new film projects. “This program has made me into a better writer and director, and I really enjoyed getting to know the fellows,” she said, reflecting on that time. “We left the program with more connections and a new community.”

Today, she is working on an experimental docu-style short about tamales. She has also landed a production coordinating gig on a feature documentary directed by Terence Nance.

“As far as my films, I always have a ton of film ideas that bubble up and live in my notes app to expand later,” Hernandez explains. “So inevitably, I’m simultaneously working on two short  documentaries and a feature, all in production phases.”

While documentaries may be filmed to follow the action at the moment, much of the storytelling comes to life during the editing process. For her short documentary about tamales, she crafted a story using her off-the-cuff footage. Experimentation is freeing for Hernandez, but she has learned that it also helps to plan. Her first documentary is based on her father. In preparation, she created an outline and mood board and kept sound and music notes in mind.  

Hernandez is excited to witness all the breaking of stereotypes in cinema one day. So, for anyone interested in being part of that process, she advises them to start creating films as early as possible. Visual stories about the Latino community are unfortunately rare but when we see them, they’re a glance into different perspectives. She dreams of continuing to build and work with her communities in the Inland Empire and LA, and she plans on using past experiences to inspire new projects.

“I also just love documenting and fictionalizing life’s nuances, and that means showing everyone my essence and perspective as a first-generation Mexican-American,” said Hernandez. “I want to do this in a way that feels raw but also brings joy and expansion into our lives because it’s filled with such complexity, depth, and beauty.”

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