Written By Josie Gulliksen
October 24, 2023 at 7:57 PM

L-R Phil Lord, Brenda Moe Coral Gables Cinema Executive Director and Jennifer Castellanos founder of Miami Film Lab. Photo courtesy Coral Gables Art Cinema.

Jennifer Castellanos has experienced nearly everything the Miami film industry has to offer, and more. She has worked for the Miami and Brazilian Film Festivals, as well as major studio productions filmed in Miami. Inspired by her involvement in Miami’s film scene, Castellanos founded Miami Film Lab and launched the Filmcraft Series at Coral Gables Art Cinema.

Miami Film Lab aims to support the local Miami filmmakers and those who have made a successful transition into the industry. Castellanos explains, “We want to raise awareness about the amazing local talent and established filmmakers from Miami.”

The idea for the Filmcraft Series was conceived by Castellanos in early 2023. She approached Brenda Moe, the executive director and programming director at Coral Gables Art Cinema, who gladly offered the venue. Since then, Miami Film Lab and Coral Gables Cinema have been partners.

The Filmcraft Series, held on Saturday mornings at Coral Gables Cinema, began on October 7th with a captivating talk by Miami native and Academy Award winner, Phil Lord. Lord entertained the audience with stories about his career and creative partnership with Christopher Miller. He discussed his notable projects, such as “The Lego Movie,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” and the Academy Award-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” in 2018.

Moderator Isabel Custer, director, writer and Miami Film Lab board member and Phil Lord in front a packed house at Coral Gables Art Cinema. The Oct 7 talk kicked off the Miami Film Lab Filmcraft Series.

As he spoke, Lord constantly ran his fingers through his hair and snickered, which only served to pull the audience further into his world. He talked about he and Miller’s dinner with Academy Award-winning Director Guillermo del Toro and their shared view on the “importance of animation and that it’s a medium that needs to be respected,” Lord said.

Filming at a mental hospital, getting pulled over while listening to “Speed Racer”, and making “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” while simultaneously working on sitcoms; these were some of the many gems Lord shared with his captive audience that morning.

Next in the series, Director Victoria Collado and Actor Ruben Rabasa will discuss “Intergenerational Directing and Acting” on Oct. 28. Collado, formerly Assistant Director of John Leguizamo’s Broadway show “Latin History for Morons,” and Rabasa, an actor with a long list of television and film appearances, met while working on the immersive play “The Amparo Experience” in Miami.

Victoria Collado and Ruben Rabasa who will be speaking on “Intergenerational Directing & Acting” at the Oct. 28 Filmcraft Series. The two met while working on the immersive play “The Amparo Experience” which led to Rabasa’s one-man show “Rubenology” presented at GableStage and soon to be a documentary. Photo courtesy Victoria Collado.

Collado expressed her admiration for Rabasa, recalling his roles on the Hispanic variety show “Sabado Gigante” and the Nickelodeon series “Taina.” The opportunity to work together arose when Rabasa was brought in to replace another actor in “The Amparo Experience.” Collado noted that Rabasa quickly became the main attraction and their relationship grew during the eight months of working on the show.

This led Collado and Garcia to develop the one-person show “Rubenology” with Rabasa, which started on YouTube and later became a play at GableStage. Currently, they are working on a documentary about Rabasa.

On Oct. 28, “expect the unexpected between the two of us. Making each other laugh and the mutual respect we have for one another and really seeing what an intergenerational friendship looks like,” said Collado.

Danny Davila, Miami native who became one of the youngest production designers in the industry, speaks on “Building a Career in Production Design” on Nov. 4 at Coral Gables Art Cinema as part of Miami Film Lab’s Filmcraft Series. Photo courtesy Portrait Club 2022.

Then, on Nov. 4, Miami native Danny Davila will take us through his journey to building a career in production design during the Filmcraft Series. Davila’s filmmaking journey began at Miami Senior High School while working on a documentary about the Volvo Ocean Race in Miami. He later worked on the USA Network’s “Burn Notice” for all seven seasons before making his mark in production design on another USA Network show, “Complications.” Davila became a production designer at just 29 years old, an achievement typically taking around 20 years in the industry.

His recent work includes the Comedy Central feature film “Office Race” as associate producer and production designer, as well as the Apple TV series “Bad Monkey” based on the book by Carl Hiaasen. The story is set in South Florida.

Davila, like many others, had to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia when the Miami film industry lost its incentives. During his talk, Davila will discuss production design and the challenge of balancing success in Miami while transplanting his career to Atlanta. He also aims to show support for filmmaking in Miami and keeping the industry alive in the city.

South Beach Shark Club Crew: L-R Robert Requejo Ramos, Pedro Gomez and Dan Arriola with their South Beach Shark Club minivan which they drove around Miami promoting their award-winning Miami Film Festival documentary “South Beach Shark Club.” Photo courtesy Dan Arriola of The Happy Customer Channel.

On Nov. 25, there will be a talk by Robert Requejo Ramos and Pedro Gomez, a local filmmaking team, focusing on “Marketing Your VOD Release.” Gomez and Ramos have made their mark as Miami filmmakers, with their film “South Beach Shark Club” screened at the 2022 Miami Film Festival and earning them a Documentary Achievement Award.

Gomez and Ramos connected with Castellanos at the Miami Film Festival, where they learned about Miami Film Lab. This led to further communication through texts and a phone conversation.

“A couple of years ago I saw some of Jennifer’s information on Instagram about creating a Miami playlist of films. I was instantly attracted to that, it seemed interesting and very inclusive,” said Ramos. “I then heard about what she had done in the past and then Pedro and I met her by chance at the Miami Film Festival.”

Gomez and Ramos worked out of Made at the Citadel, a creative hub in Little River. Unfortunately, their office was burglarized, resulting in a loss of about $10,000 worth of equipment. The pandemic added to their hardships, as they had no workspace and had to work on their film from home.

They will discuss their grassroots marketing efforts, including transforming their car into a shark and driving it around Wynwood. Ramos mentioned taking matters into their own hands, stating that it’s what modern-day filmmakers do. Gomez emphasized their obsession with thriving on creative projects, such as painting walls in Wynwood to create buzz around their film. These efforts helped them gain attention on Instagram, including reposts from DJs, celebrities, and even a woman from WWE. These endeavors helped keep costs down in both production and distribution, enabling them to make a deal that worked for them.

Expect their talk to be entertaining with a few surprises planned. The two also have a connection to speakers Lord and Davila. They worked on a local production with Lord and while students at Miami Dade College’s Film Program, Davila was on the panel that approved their Senior Thesis Project which was the shark film.

WHAT: Miami Film Lab Filmcraft Series

WHERE: Coral Gables Art Cinema,  260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

WHEN: Oct. 28, Nov. 4 and 25, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

COST: $25, available at

INFORMATION: (786) 472-2249 or is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at 

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