ADG Perspective

November-December 2023

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8 8 P E R S P E C T I V E | N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 3 Flamin' Hot isn't really a story about spicy Cheetos, because as the movie's director Eva Longoria would say: "Nobody wants to hear that story!" Rather, Eva often expressed that Flamin' Hot was the story of Richard MontaƱez, the Frito-Lay janitor who channeled his Mexican American heritage and upbringing to turn the snack industry on its head. This was a story of how we, as Latinos, persevere and succeed in spite of any obstacles faced within our society and communities. For producer DeVon Franklin, Flamin' Hot was a project seven years in the making. DeVon had met Richard and his wife, Judy MontaƱez (played by Jesse Garcia and Annie Gonzalez) in 2017, and asked Richard to tell him his life story. Richard described how he started as a janitor working for Frito-Lay at a factory in Rancho Cucamonga, and how he came up with the idea of making a spicy product that they could not only be marketed to his community in Southern California, but also would save jobs at the factory during a recession. When given the opportunity to make his product, it led to the success of what is now known as Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Searchlight Pictures rallied behind Richard's story and supported Eva in her feature film directorial debut. My Production Design partner Cabot McMullen met Eva as a director when working on the HBO pilot The Gordita Chronicles, a story about an immigrant family in the Dominican Republic who leave everything they know and love to start a new life in 1980s America. There were many similarities to the challenges faced by the characters in Flamin' Hot, with much of it being set in the same period. Cabot understood what this project meant not only to Eva, but to a community wanting their story to be told. I happened to meet Eva through the interview process. It was there that I was able to express how this script hit home. My initial reading of Flamin' Hot related to almost every aspect of my upbringing, the relationships I developed early in my life, and the community I grew up in. From the start, I felt a deep connection to the project. My immediate rapport with Eva allowed us to match creatively and reveal our similar views on how certain aspects of the film connected us through A u t h e n t i c i t y , O u r N o r t h S t a r . F L A M I N ' H O T B Y B R A N D O N M E N D E Z , P R O D U C T I O N D E S I G N E R A

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