Latino filmmakers are some of the most important storytellers working in Hollywood today. And Anthony Ramos is among the actors who bring those stories to life.

There’s a reason why the last five of the 10 Best Director Oscars went to Latinos. We are one of the first cultures to get into moviemaking, and the stories we tell throughout Latin America continue to resonate with audiences everywhere.

Thanks to a new contest sponsored by McDonald’s, Spotlight Dorado, up-and-coming Latino directors have a new resource to connect and create. This year’s contest, the second one thus far, is already a highly-anticipated competition because three finalists will each get $75,000 to make the short film of their dreams.

Joined by last year’s winner, Jesús Celaya, we talked to “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” actor Anthony Ramos about his support for Spotlight Dorado and his role in the upcoming prequel.

Anthony, I wanted to ask you how you approached the new “Transformers” and what interested you in the first place. 

Anthony Ramos: I mean, I’ve been a fan. I’ve been a fan of the franchise forever, so being a part of that movie was a dream. I used to have Beast Wars toys, and I would wait every weekend to watch Beast Wars, you know, faithfully. So [it’s] not only being a part of Transformers, but now we introduced the Beast Wars. That was like a crazy double whammy. And then the movie being set in Brooklyn, and then going to Peru and doing it with one of my good friends, Dominique Fishback, who’s also from Brooklyn.

And [in terms of] how I prepared…really just life. I was just going through life and hoping that you get there. Nothing can really prepare you to talk to a tennis ball. I don’t know. You can’t prepare. You use your imagination being a kid. I prepared in that way, I guess, like singing in the shower and doing skits alone in the room whenever I felt like it.

For people who already know the franchise, would you say it’s more like the original or the more recent entries, like “Bumblebee”?

Anthony Ramos: Well, it’s coming after “Bumblebee” now, right? “Bumblebee” was in ’87; I think we’re in ’94. So I think that there’s that element of heart that “Bumblebee” had. We adopted [that] and then the crazy, massive VFX that we [saw] in all the other “Transformers,” the Michael Bay joints. And I think Stephen Caple Jr. captured all of those things. I’m excited, man. I’m really excited for people to see this; it almost feels like something new. It feels like we are starting the franchise from the beginning. And it feels like the producers feel that way, too.

Anthony Ramos and Jesús Celaya at Spotlight Dorado

We often hear a lot about representation, but it’s always vague. It’s not just about making sure we’re seen on screen, but how we’re portrayed. What does that representation look like for you, and how has Spotlight Dorado encouraged it?

Jesús Celaya: You know, I’m an up and comer. I wasn’t in these conversations before. I mean, it’s wild. I’ve seen interviews like this. I’ve seen a few interviews like this with Anthony here, and now I’m sitting with him. So I’m living proof of that door opening and there actually being something on the other side. And only places like Spotlight Dorado are that door.

We had a few of them go away over time, but this one is opening, and it’s pretty big. It’s beautiful to see what happened in season one, working out the kinks and figuring out a way. And you can sense that this next one’s going to be even bigger.

You have people like Anthony Ramos who are signing on and giving their time and effort to this. And you’re really seeing the community get together behind it now. And that’s the exciting thing, is just that sense and that feeling, man. It used to keep me going when I was working with no light at the end of the tunnel. But it definitely is there. Even a blind man can get home sometimes.

Anthony Ramos: I think it’s dope. First of all, it’s free to apply. And the deadline’s April 21st, if anybody’s wondering. They’re not just like, here’s a little small check, go with God. They’re like, “Nah, we’re gonna give you $75,000.” That’s not nothing. 75 Gs to shoot a short film? I’m like; somebody give me 75 Gs to shoot a short film. Spotlight Dorado, what’s up? Like, it’s amazing. It’s amazing. Jesús had the opportunity to make his movie, and hopefully the way [he wanted] it as well. I think what they’re doing is incredible. 

Spotlight Dorado ad from McDonald’s

Do you have any plans to expand the film you submitted, “Lucha Noir,” into a feature film or anything like that?

JC: Absolutely, man, the reactions to it were great, and immediately those conversations started happening. We’re talking to everyone we can about getting it as a television series. That is my view of it. There are different types of stories and masks, and I like using that visual as something that can expand a whole bigger world and a bigger idea. There are a lot of metaphors behind why people would cover their faces. What’s that old saying? It’s like, “Give a man a mask, and he’ll tell you the truth.” I think we can explore stuff like that by just using that visual and getting into some human stories.

What do you hope to see happen with the future of this contest?

JC: I just want to see it grow. And I want to see as many people like me get their shot and even walk away with a film. Three finalists get that 75K to make a piece they walk away with. And it’s there with you forever, so you get to use that for your career in any way you want.

That would be beautiful to see more people coming and more people submitting. And it would be amazing to fulfill what I see Anthony doing here, and when I do get established, I could give back, too. Because honestly, seeing you taking the time to come out here and support a guy like me like I physically cannot say no to something like that now for the rest of my life because this is how it happened for me.

Anthony Ramos: That means a lot, bro, for real. I hope that you know it sparks collaborations, too. Collaborations with mentors and mentees, people who won the contest, and people who didn’t win. It is just growth. [Spotlight Dorado] is championing growth within the Latino community, especially by giving people opportunities.

Here’s a garden; here’s soil; plant your seed right there. [And] plant another one, plant another one. And hopefully, over time, it grows. It’s right here in the same garden. We aren’t gotta outsource. You can work within the program to get movies greenlit, and an artist signed. That’s how it starts, you know? So hopefully, this is the beginning of a much bigger thing.

Courtesy of McDonald’s