Growing up, Arianna Lemus was a big fan of early 2000s sitcoms on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. She enjoyed watching actresses like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus and wanted to be an actress like them. Lemus envisioned herself as an actress in films and television shows, but she could not pursue her ambitions due to her parent’s divorce and her responsibilities as the oldest sibling.
Now, in 2023, Lemus is releasing her first short film, “Red Flags,” written and produced by her and her production company, MiraLA, and presented at Lemus’ own film festival.
MiraLA Short Film Festival was held in Santa Monica on Sunday, February 26, in collaboration with Famecast and Fliqs Media.
“Red Flags” has been a passion project for Lemus since she started acting in 2015 at the Baron Brown Acting Studios, a drama school in Santa Monica. The film revolves around a young girl named Emily, who is experiencing her first betrayal because she ignored the red flags.
“I just wanted this coming-out story, and I think it is such a representation of who I am and who I used to be,” Arianna Lemus said.
ARIANNA LEMUS, 26, SAN FERNANDO, ACTRESS, SHE/HER, CHICANA/ MEXICAN-AMERICAN
Writing, Producing and Acting
Besides writing and producing, Lemus played a role in the short film as the second lead, Andrea. She has received other roles during her two years at the Baron Brown Acting Studios, including roles in TV shows like “Rip and Burn: Chapter 2,” “Simple Lives,” “Buzzfeed’s first web series,” and “Unfortunatly Ashly.”
She finished writing the “Red Flags” screenplay in 2019, but Lemus couldn’t continue with the short film due to the pandemic. She couldn’t find an editor or submit it to other festivals, so she held it off until 2022. Lemus’ friend Carlo Nicdao, a Filipino-American writer, helped write the story and edit the final project.
Once “Red Flags” was finished, Lemus started filming the short film in October 2022, with Nicado and Alex Fernandez helping film the project. Originally, Lemus wanted to present the short film to people close to her until Nicdao gave her the idea to make her own festival.
“The original plan was just to screen it for family, friends, and close friends in the industry,” Lemus said. “And then my friend Carlo Nicdao gave me the idea that we should have our own film festival.”
After receiving the idea of creating her own film festival, Lemus went to her talent manager, Sylvia Hernandez, to help organize the event. Hernandez has been the head talent manager at her own talent management firm, Fliqs Media, since August 2022 and has been managing Lemus since 2021. She let Lemus to take over her office space in Santa Monica while also getting people within the industry to watch the film, along with several food and drink sponsors.
“I’m giving her the platform where we created our own little film festival at my office space in Santa Monica,” Sylvia Hernandez said. “Contributing that and helping plan and execute a wonderful display of [Arianna’s] work .”
With a festival on the horizon, Hernandez sought sponsors for the event. She asked Rex Wong, the owner of Famecast, to join Fliqs Media as a sponsor. After securing the sponsorship, it was time to find other filmmakers who shared Lemus’ drive for equality among filmmakers.
Paloma Nozicka is a Mexican-American actor, writer, and director with roles in “Chicago Med,” “The Red Line,” and “Empire.” She first heard about Lemus’ film festival when her friend Gabriela Mayorga, a festival producer, emailed her about the event and asked if she would submit her short film.
“I think [the film festival] is great, and we need more specific festivals,” Paloma Nozicka said.“ I think it’s great that she [Arianna Lemus] wants to promote stories by women of color, and there should be festivals dedicated to that.”
Nozicka will make her directorial debut with her short film, “Each Lovely Thing.” The film centers around two sisters setting up a party at their house while arguing about something unknown until it is revealed by the end. Nozicka said she started writing the short film in 2016 and didn’t finish until 2020, with filming beginning in 2022.
“It was really important for me that everyone that I hired to work on the story was emotionally involved in it,” Nozicka said. “This story, I think, was really important because the story they were working on had a similar love for it and sensitivity to it. It was a wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to direct again.”
With many other women of color screening their short films at the festival, Lemus added some small business vendors to the event. She says she is trying to create “as much of a Hollywood experience” as possible by having food, vendors, local artists, and a photo booth. Lemus states the event will have a unique cocktail drink for each of the seven films, with all the proceeds going to the directors.
“And that’s just a token of my appreciation for being a part of my first film festival,” Lemus said.
Lemus believes her drive and determination to create her own film festival comes from her heritage and family, stating that her grandfather is her main inspiration and asserting that it’s her turn to create her legacy with her work.
“I think when it comes to me,” Lemus said, “I truly want to leave a legacy.”