A tortilladora presses on the importance of Latine resilience at USC

“Tortillas” Film is the first ever production in collaboration with LatiFam with a majority Latine crew.

Crew gets together on set to discuss logistics while filming

“Quiet on set!” would echo through the decorated home from head to toe with props, cast and crew in the house turnt set got into place.

This wasn’t just any set.

Oscar had never seen anything like this in his eight years of working in film, “People were speaking Spanish. I felt comfortable and at home and seen.” Oscar Ramos is a USC School of Cinematic Arts grad and the Director of Photography for a new project spearheaded by a majority Latine crew.

“Tortillas” film is the first production in collaboration with the Latinx Film and Media Association (LatiFam) and is led by Latine writers, producers and directors; a rarity in media.

It all began with a memory.

Scriptwriter Brandy Hernandez could see a younger self, helping make tortillas with her grandma in Mexico. She remembered not pressing hard enough on the tortilla maker and getting frustrated at the tiny, misshapen tortillas she produced. Despite not being perfect, her late grandpa loved them.

Photo of dough and actors making tortillas.

“I like telling stories about real people and real experiences…I always unintentionally add elements of my culture into my scripts,” said Brandy.

And, that main focus of cultura is something that was not only seen on screen with an all-Latine cast but also off-screen with filmmakers coming together as a familia to make this memory come to life. Brandy mentioned the importance of representation on screen, emphasizing how seeing yourself in story plots can inspire and make people who often feel invisible, feel seen.

The magic of this film, however, was behind the screen, “It’s the people off screen that have the power”.

Hector Martinez, a senior Film and TV production major and producer of “Tortillas” has intersecting identities that are often underrepresented in media, being Latino and Gay, he says he often doesn’t see himself in tv or film, on or off screen. That was the main reason Hector wanted to join the project, “We’re opening the doors for other Latine productions to happen after this.”

Hector added, “It’s nice knowing there’s a community here.”

photo of set

Communidad is something director Martha Rodriguez also craved. As a second-year Masters of Fine Arts candidate for Film and TV production, she is the only Latina in her cohort of 60. She’s one of five other Latine candidates. She joined “Tortillas” to meet more Latine people and create a community.

And what better way to connect than with a story about food?

Oscar highlighted how food is a major part of being Latine, “cooking and eating are really ingrained in our culture and it’s how we build memories and connections.”

“Tortillas” follows a story of a young girl faced with loss. But, despite experiencing this loss, the memory of making tortillas becomes an inspiration to heal and celebrate the time spent with loved ones. Food being the thing that ties generations together.

After fundraising tirelessly for months on Trousdale and overcoming obstacles in finding a place to film, the cast and the crew got together on February 11, 12, and 13 to make this project come to life.

Martha recalls one of the most exciting moments was having a child on set; it was also a great challenge in keeping her attention and keeping the film on track. Oscar, on the other hand, felt at home when the cast was speaking in Spanish, taken aback because this was not a common occurrence in filmmaking .

Overall, the sense familia the crew built was the biggest and most important takeaway.

Photo of Hector and Martha celebrating Martha's birthday with a cookie.

Hector surprised Martha with a birthday celebration on set. And, at the end of Sunday’s production, the crew sat together to watch the Super Bowl and bond surrounded by props from Latine culture like an altar and tortilla powder. This was also a space for mentorship; as Martha mentioned, “[we were like a] family that comes together and not only tries to make things like we’re on the same page trying to get this work done, but we’re there having fun learning new things.”

As the production came to an end, the lights on set dimmed, and the house was put back into its regular state, the project marked a special point for these filmmakers: the beginning of a connection to cultura and communidad that will hopefully inspire future Latine filmmakers.

“Tortillas” will be shown at the LatiFam Film Festival in April.