That's a wrap on the inaugural Film Accelerator Program. The Academy, in partnership with the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), hosted the five-week program to provide filmmakers from Latinx communities with education, resources and mentorship focused on the business of filmmaking.

"This partnership with the Academy marks another important step in ensuring that Hollywood truly represents the diversity and richness that the Latino community has to offer," said Edward James Olmos, who co-founded LALIFF. "We are honored to be able to support these talented filmmakers by offering them the right tools for the continuous growth in their careers."

Part of Aperture 2025, the Academy's ongoing commitment to inclusion, and supported by TelevisaUnivision, the Accelerator Program included workshops and masterclasses focused on navigating the entertainment industry and building the business skills required to get a film to the screen. Participants developed and pitched their projects, receiving mentoring from Academy members and a $10,000 stipend.

"Programs like this are valuable because there are many talented filmmakers like my fellow participants who need access to opportunities," Monica Moore-Suriyage, one of this year's Accelerator participants, said. "We have the skill and experience as filmmakers. What we need is opportunities to be in the room with people who are willing to work with first-time feature filmmakers."

Below, A.frame catches up with the filmmakers who have recently graduated from the Accelerator Program to discuss what they took from the experience, the importance of diverse voices in cinema, and their advice to fellow aspiring filmmakers.

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Miguel Angel Caballero

A queer Mexican-American/Chicano writer, director and producer and son of immigrant farmworkers, Caballero hopes to tell "intimate but emotionally explosive" stories about the Latinx LGBTQ+ experience. His award-winning short film, Acuitzeramo, is streaming on HBO Max.

How would you describe your experience as a participant in the Academy's Accelerator Program?

Exceptional! The attention that we were given by the Academy team has been nothing less than extraordinary. The Academy team, the speakers, and the mentors have shown a level of care, nurture, and a genuine desire for us to succeed. The connections I have made in this Accelerator program have already started altering my path as a filmmaker and placed my films in front of industry professionals who really care about my success.

Tell us what you love the most about being a storyteller.

I've come to see and understand filmmaking as a figurative alchemic exercise, but, instead of making gold, we make art. We filmmakers take varied elements, an idea, a script, a passionate producer, a limited budget, actors, a group of collaborators, a series of locations and convert them into a film. My experience has taught me that collaborations throughout filmmaking tend to thrive by always employing an empathic yet hardworking attitude. I absolutely love being in the middle of the collaboration process with the talented team assembled for each of my projects.

What keeps you motivated to continue to do the work that you do?

I firmly believe that my motivation comes not only from the work that I'm doing but from my mission to tell LGBTQ+ Latinx stories. The Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities are communities that have been continuously marginalized and often used as a punching bag by right-wing anti-immigrant politicians. The urgency to tell these well-crafted stories from our community has become more significant than ever. The motivation is to write and make films that reveal truths about my queer, Latinx, immigrant, and working-class experiences in this country, that are often rendered invisible. And to do so collaboratively and compassionately, with fierce authenticity and vulnerability.


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Lorena Durán

A Dominican-American director and cinematographer, Durán is currently developing an "other-wordly take on language barrier and the memories of immigrants." Her work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca and Palms Springs ShortFest, among others.

Share with us one lesson that you learned from a speaker and/or other participants that you will take away with you.

A great lesson I learned from Rosie Perez and Ivette Rodriguez was to be confident by walking into a pitching room like you already have the funding for your project. The same idea can be applied to so many circumstances. It means to realize that you are courageous and that shouldn't be taken for granted.

How would you describe your filmmaking style?

I think filmmaking is survival — you are working to strengthen your script, trying for your production to stay afloat, hoping it all survives in the edit, and mourning the ideas that died. And then, having the endurance to do it all again. That's my filmmaking style, the endurance one.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers?

The creative freedom you have now is the most powerful type. Embrace every moment of it and create something only you can do.


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Michael Flores

A Salvadoran-American writer-director, Flores makes movies about family, fantasy, magic and miracles, in the hopes of providing audiences with the representation he never experienced himself. His debut feature film, Love Doll, will be available soon.

How would you describe your experience as a participant in the Academy's Accelerator Program?

The experience was uplifting. I've done my part for almost a decade, working on my craft, making movies with nothing. And now, the Accelerator gave me the last piece: Access. In one month with the Academy, I connected with more industry players than my entire 10 years combined.

Why is it important to have diverse voices represented in front and behind the camera?

In a thousand years, our society will be judged by our art. And in our art will be the only evidence that I existed, that my family existed, that my community existed, that my culture was here. We cannot allow people and their culture to be erased because their voice was not represented.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers?

Sometimes you may feel alone in this journey. But you’re not. We’re all waiting for you here. Come find us.


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Justin Floyd

Floyd is an Afro-Latino writer-director and LA native who wants to make movies that are entertaining, commercial and intellectual, often focused on the parent and child relationship. He is currently embarking on making his first feature film.

How would you describe your experience as a participant in the Academy's Accelerator Program?

Transcending. I find so much value in a program that gets to the essence of what makes GOOD moviemaking possible. The business side is essential and it has made me a better filmmaker.

Why is it important to have diverse voices represented in front and behind the camera?

You're going to discover that the reason movies fail is because society is always evolving and how we consume content evolves too. The majority of the world is "diverse" and that majority is filled with gold stories.

Share with us one lesson that you learned from a speaker and/or other participants that you will take away with you.

Kevin Goetz, CEO of Screen Engine, had some incredible insights into the business of filmmaking. But one lesson I learned is that the story is king. He took time from his day to get on the phone with me and share the most important aspects of pitching a feature. He first told me to get rid of and forget about all the slides I had, the pitch deck, and to just focus on telling the story in the most concise and shortest way possible.


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Gabriela Garcia Medina

A Cuban-American filmmaker, Medina hopes to make movies about her community through a lens that is brown, Cuban and female — and tell stories with humor and heart. Her award-winning short films, Little Con Lili and The 90 Day Plan, are streaming on HBO Max.

Why do you think programs like this are valuable?

Programs like these are valuable, but ONLY if the gatekeepers and people in positions of power to pay for development and greenlight projects take action to support these kinds of programs. It doesn't matter how much love or support we receive from the Academy if, at the end of the day, the studios and production companies don't take a risk on diverse filmmakers. Our problem is not lack of talent, it's lack of access. It only makes a difference when studios put their money where their mouth is and take a risk on us that real change can begin to happen. Otherwise, it's just another water bottle tour for studios to check a box that they’re being "inclusive," even if no actionable change follows. We don’t want you just to meet us, and tell us you "wanna find something for us to work together on." We want you to seriously consider us for projects, and put money behind our stories and films.

Tell us what you love the most about being a storyteller?

Being able to create worlds through stories. Also, challenging the way society views my community. Pushing the boundaries of the stories that Latines are “allowed” to tell. There is an entire universe inside each of us that doesn’t adhere to just stereotypes.

What keeps you motivated to continue to do the work that you do?

I just can't think of doing anything else.


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Monica Moore-Suriyage

Moore-Suriyage is a biracial, Blasian, first generation, Afro-Latina director and writer of horror films, who likes pretty things, scary things, and pretty scary things. The filmmaker is currently adapting the horror short La Ciguapa Siempre into a feature.

Why is it important to have diverse voices represented in front and behind the camera?

Without diversity, movies are boring. You end up with the same stories over and over again, and it's tired. Audiences are over it. Diverse voices offer something new, something we haven't seen before. And, as more of us from diverse spaces enter the room, we leave the door open for people from our communities to follow. Diversity leads to overall richness and powerful filmmaking.

What keeps you motivated to continue to do the work that you do?

I stay motivated by the stories I still have to tell. It can be easy to burn out as a filmmaker because we hear "no" a lot. But I have so many ideas and stories buzzing around in my head that I just have to make or I'll die (or so it feels like). So, that need to create keeps me moving forward. I also have an amazing team and friends who help me along when I'm feeling discouraged or distracted. I've been very fortunate in my career so far, and it's because of the stories I have chosen to tell. Black women in the horror genre are still a force in progress. My calling to speak from this perspective and the response to it from people who see my films definitely inspires me to keep going.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers?

I would advise young filmmakers to make as many projects as possible. There will always be a reason not to — not enough money, not enough time, no one to work with — but you have to find solutions and create as much as you can in the beginning. It's how you improve, it's how you figure out your unique style, and it's how you meet collaborators to work on your next project. Filmmaking is an expensive medium, so you have to be smart with your money. I drove for Postmates and Instacart to raise money for films. My best friend and I drove all over LA selling empanadas we made to raise money for our films. There is always a way to do it, but it's a lot of hard work. And, every time, you'll see your projects grow. A better camera, a better location, better crew. And you'll get better as a filmmaker every time too.


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Gabriela Ortega

Born in the Dominican Republic, Ortega is a writer, director and actor of highly-stylized yet grounded films, that are honest and full of contradictions. Her short film, Huella, was an official selection of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is currently being turned into a feature film.

How would you describe your experience as a participant in the Academy's Accelerator Program?

This experience was unique and I felt truly inspired by the end of it, not just by the Academy's staff but by the filmmakers I shared this experience with. It was wonderful to demystify the Academy at this stage of my career, to know that my voice is wanted and has a place here, and to be able to share space with some of the most exciting filmmakers in my community.

What keeps you motivated to continue to do the work that you do?

I truly just love telling stories, I find motivation in how lucky I am to be able to call myself an artist. I never want to take this path for granted and I hope to keep curious and constantly creating.

Do you remember the first time you felt seen or represented on the big screen?

I loved watching Like Water for Chocolate, it's one of my favorite films ever. It just felt epic and it didn't try to fit a box. I loved the book and watching the movie gave me a sense of hope for Spanish-language movies worldwide.


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Kase Peña

A trans woman of color and the child of Dominican parents, Peña is a New York City-born filmmaker who is currently working on two features: Trans Los Angeles, an anthology of four short stories with trans leads, and the slice-of-life family drama Dominicana.

Why do you think programs like this are valuable?

Because programs such as these can potentially have career-altering upturns for filmmakers from underserved/marginalized communities that otherwise would never stand a chance against this hugely competitive field we have chosen to be a part of. Most filmmakers who are people of color from my generation, we are the first ones in our families to be in this industry. As such, even from the beginning, we are at a disadvantage and have far too much to learn. There is a business side to this industry that most of us do not learn until after we've left film school — which only focuses on teaching us the creative aspects of filmmaking, mainly writing and directing.

Tell us what you love the most about being a storyteller?

For me, it's the responsibility that comes with it. I am extremely careful about the types of stories I tell, how I tell them, who gets to be the lead in my films, and the images I put out onto the world, most especially as a member of various marginalized communities. If you watch my films, you'll see that the lead character is someone who has not been typically given an opportunity to be the lead in a motion picture. I tell people that I make films about the women, people of color, and trans folks who are the background talent in other people's movies. That woman who crosses the street in the background and who may be credited as WOMAN #1, that's the person who gets to play the lead in my film.

Do you remember the first time you felt seen or represented on the big screen?

Yes, I do remember the first time I felt seen on the big screen. This was about five years ago, when I raised my own money, and then, used that money to write and direct a short film called ¿Familia?, which went on to win a Best Short Film Award and a Best Actor Award at the DTLA Film Festival.


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Tamara Shogaolu

Shogaolu is an Afro-Latina artist, director, writer, and creative technologist who hopes to make socially-grounded films with global reach. She is the founder and creative director of Ado Ato Pictures, a creative studio specializing in storytelling through film, animation and new immersive technologies.

Tell us what you love the most about being a storyteller?

I come from a long line of great storytellers. My grandmother, or Goyita as I called her, always encouraged me to make up stories, she would listen attentively to every detail, and laughed at all of my jokes. As a child growing up in Central America, I was fortunate enough to go to her house every day after school. I'll never forget watching TV with her in the afternoons. She loved watching Chuck Norris, Tres Patines, and Walter Mercado breaking down the zodiac.

I really loved animals, but wasn't allowed to have pets. So, I would always win animals like chickens or rabbits at the school fair, which my mom would send off to a farm somewhere. But somehow my grandma managed to train a pigeon to come to her balcony every day. We named her Luna (I couldn't say pluma — the word for feather in Spanish — as a kid, and said Luna instead). Goyita and I would sit and feed Luna together, and make up stories of Luna's adventures. Every time I write a script or teleport into a world I build, I feel like I am back on that balcony with my grandmother. Storytelling allows me to connect the past and the present, to imagine alternate futures, worlds and realities, to offer audiences a new way of seeing, of feeling.

Why is it important to have diverse voices represented in front and behind the camera?

Years ago, as a student at a top film school, I was told by a writing professor that a studio would never green light a film about a little Black girl. The professor asked me to change my script to incorporate white leads or else I would fail the class. This experience lit a fire in me. I refused to believe that stories about people like me didn't matter. Time passed, but I persevered and was eventually able to write the script I wanted. And, ultimately, I placed as a semifinalist in the Academy Nicholl competition. Since then, I've gone on to make more meaningful work that has been recognized in the U.S. and Internationally. Writing the version of the script I wanted opened many doors for me, and I shudder at the thought of giving into that silencing force. I wonder how many stories have disappeared because of this type of systemic silencing and erasure. I am tired of having to prove that we matter. Diverse voices in front of and behind the camera make most of the world feel heard and seen. The world is diverse, so why shouldn’t the way we make them reflect that?

What advice would you give to young filmmakers?

I would say to continue to challenge yourself with new things and concepts. It’s also important to have fun throughout the entire process. As others have said, just start making things and experimenting a lot. When it comes to good filmmaking, there are many nuances that can only be learned through trial and error. You might fail as you do, but this will teach you a lot. That is how you can grow.


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Maite Zubiaurre

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Zubiaurre is a filmmaker, visual artist and professor in the Humanities with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. She hopes to make films that "follow the shining path of sheer humanity transformed into art," and is currently co-producing the documentary, Jovita y Valentín: A Story of Grief and Action.

How would you describe your experience as a participant in the Academy's Accelerator Program?

I am by no means exaggerating when I say that it was a life-changing one for me. As somebody who has initiated her filmic career quite recently, the program has offered me the chance to gain a sufficiently complete and nuanced overview of what making films entails. As a creative, I focus on creating (my apologies for stating the obvious). But it has become clear to me after the completion of the program how important it is to have sufficient knowledge of the other pieces of the highly complex industry puzzle. Yes, we create, but we will be doing our job (making films, producing content) so much better if we know about all the other aspects that make the 'dream machine' possible, the business aspect of it, research, distribution, filmic crafts, you name it.

Tell us what you love the most about being a storyteller?

A writer once said (I can't remember his or her name) that 'God created humans so that they could tell him stories.' Who knows if God exists, but, if she does, then I would like her very much, just because of her passion for stories. I like listening to stories as much as I like telling or 'inventing' them. I like listening to them even more, in fact, and most importantly, I am humbly aware that every story has been told already, and that it is our privilege (and our duty) to retell them, so that we don't forget, so that we touch hearts, so that we ignite compassion, and keep empathy alive. Stories are and have always been powerful empathy machines, and that is why they are indispensable, the propellers and keepers of humanity.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers?

​Film from your heart and your conviction. Film with an unshakable sense of responsibility. You are a storyteller, storytelling saves lives. The enemy of storytelling is careless frivolity. Take your job seriously, it is sacred.

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