McDonald’s USA Awards Emerging Latino Filmmakers $225,000 to Produce Their Short Films & Help Boost Industry Representation

Three People Sitting in Producer Chair with Confetti

August 18, 2022

The Spotlight Dorado short film finalists will also receive mentorship from industry leaders including Latina actress, director, producer, and representation advocate Stephanie Beatriz

(CHICAGO - AUG. 18, 2022) McDonald’s USA is proud to announce the top three finalists of its Spotlight Dorado short film contest, who will each be awarded a $75,000 production budget to bring their stories to life, getting them closer to making their cinematic dreams come true.

McDonald’s Spotlight Dorado, a multi-year platform created to uplift and amplify Latino voices across different industries, kicked off in April with an open call for all U.S.-based Latino writers, directors and producers to submit their screenplays. Finalists were announced at a celebratory event in LA where acclaimed actress, director, producer, and representation advocate Stephanie Beatriz surprised them with the news, positioning them in the running of being named the grand-prize winner.

“It’s been a long journey for Latino representation on and off-screen, but the creativity, passion and top-notch quality of the three finalist short film narratives fill me with hope for the future,” said Stephanie Beatriz, best known for her role as 'Mirabel' in Disney’s Academy Award-winning film, Encanto. “While there’s still work to be done, programs like McDonald’s Spotlight Dorado are essential to support talented creatives and give them the tools they need to bring their stories to life.”

The three finalists were selected by a panel of industry leaders based on criteria across all aspects of filmmaking, including originality, direction, writing, cinematography, and production value, to name a few. Bringing the program full circle, the finalists will also get access to mentorship from renowned leaders in film including Stephanie Beatriz, Director Carlos López Estrada, Showrunner Ilana Peña, Actress Danay Garcia and Writer/Director Nancy C. Mejía.


Meet the Spotlight Dorado finalists and their short film synopsis:

Jazmin Aguilar

Kid Ugly

Jazmin Aguilar is a writer and director from South Gate, CA. Her short film The Letter played at numerous Academy Award/BAFTA qualifying festivals and was eventually licensed by HBO in 2020. Aguilar has been recognized as Best Director at the Young Entertainer Awards, and the Official Latino Film Festival. She was also a recipient of NALIP’s Emerging Creator Scholarship.

Kid Ugly Synopsis: Set during America’s Old West, Kid Ugly bridges European-style Spaghetti Westerns with contemporary Shonen anime in an adventure-filled plot centered around a young bandit called Lazlo. With both his resilience and naivety, Lazlo seeks to teach a lesson to the town outlaw, Bottle Tooth Guapo.

Jesus Celaya

Lucha Noir

Jesus Celaya is a Mexican American writer and director who grew up between Washington State and the border state Sonora, Mexico. Celaya studied film at the Brooks Institute in L.A. Since then, he has won various awards, including a Latinx Fellowship at the 2020 Screenwriters and Directors Labs.

Lucha Noir Synopsis: As the name implies, Lucha Noir is a noir piece driven by classic American comics and Mexico’s lucha libre wrestling culture. A luchador and an otherworldly villain duel it out in an epic battle inspired by classic Luchador films, while exploring the dichotomy between good and evil.

Lorena Russi

A History of Sitting in Waiting Rooms (Or Whatever Longer Title you Prefer)

Lorena Russi is a queer professional soccer player turned comedian, filmmaker, and educator. Originally from Queens, she recently wrote and performed in HBO’s PAUSE with Sam Jay. In the past, she has been a writer for Spotify and PBS, in addition to writing and producing for the digital team at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” on CBS.

A History of Sitting in Waiting Rooms (Or Whatever Longer Title you Prefer) Synopsis: A semiautobiographical coming-of-age comedy follows a butch Latina’s self-discovery journey alongside her Colombian immigrant parents and best friend, a civil war ghost. A History of Sitting in Waiting Rooms explores the meaning behind the waiting rooms the protagonist is forced to sit in, including the closet she eventually comes out of.

What’s next for the Spotlight Dorado finalists?

The finalist short films will debut in November on Fans will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite short film and help determine the grand-prize winner. The winner will be given a year-long opportunity to work with McDonald’s USA in 2023 on future creative initiatives and campaigns and will receive industry-standard creative software subscription services.

“McDonald’s USA is honored to provide a platform that allows talented filmmakers to portray the diverse, and often untold, Latino experiences in the U.S.,” said Elizabeth Campbell, Senior Director of Cultural Engagement, McDonald’s USA. “Our finalists, Jazmin, Jesus and Lorena, have a bright future ahead of them and we can’t wait for the world to watch their short films.” 

Spotlight Dorado is part of McDonald’s long-standing commitment to feeding and fostering the Hispanic community through programs that fuel Latino pride and representation.

For more information about Spotlight Dorado, visit


About McDonald’s USA

McDonald's has always been committed to the communities it serves, and the people that make up those communities. Every day the brand takes steps to achieve a more equitable and inclusive future for our employees, Franchisees, suppliers, customers, and the communities we serve and foster.

McDonald’s USA, LLC, serves a variety of menu options made with quality ingredients to nearly 25 million customers every day. Ninety-five percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by businessmen and women. Our global aspiration is that no matter where you are in the world, when you interact with McDonald’s — through the app, in a restaurant, by watching a commercial, working in an office setting or as a crew member — Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are as evident and familiar as the Golden Arches. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @McDonalds and Facebook.

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