La Ruta SG 5.png

A University of Southern California Thesis Film


A Guatemalan woman undertakes the journey to the U.S. border to seek asylum with her daughter, but first they must try and survive Mexico's infamous Route of Death.


Mexico’s Route of Death is as perilous as it is risky. It is a journey no one should ever have to endure, alone.  Lucia is a desperate mother fleeing from her Guatemala homeland, determined keep her young daughter safe. A new life is promising and she risks embarking on an uncertain journey across Mexico’s rugged Route of Death.


Lucia must be resourceful to survive the expedition, in hopes of finding sanctuary in America. While traveling, she meets Matias, an offhanded father, making the trek with his son, Nicolas. Lucia and Matias are two different parents on  one  courageous journey to freedom.


They will work together through challenges, and endure the rising tides of hopelessness, to make it safely to the border, but when the harsh realities of LA RUTA push them to a breaking point, their survival instincts kick in, forcing them to make unimaginable choices.


Together, they will sacrifice everything they hold close to their hearts, in order to reach the United States.

  • Instagram Social Icon


Migrants traversing through Mexico often suffer indignities such as kidnap, rape and extortion from gangs, cartel members and police. Why would they willfully subject themselves to such horrors? Is it because they seek a better job in the states? Sadly there is a long standing belief that migrants come to America to seek better work conditions.  While this judgement is part true, the choice to face the dangers upon The Route of Death has far more justifications for their livelihood then just a job. 

With La Ruta, I want to peel back the curtain and peek into the window of a family that has made the hard decision to uproot their life to make the dangerous trek north. Through hours of researching true stories and documentaries on the migrant exodus, I have created a narrative around the dangerous they face on La Ruta De La Muerte (The Route of Death).  In showing this journey, it is my hope that it will make the audience feel compelled to act. I want this to be an intimate portrayal of a universal experience in today's globalized society, with a crude closeness depicting this migrant family’s journey. I hope this narration helps provide a deeper understanding of the importance of family. While this allegory is meant to be personal, political, and universal, I want the overall arch to reflect the human condition that will in turn make us reflect. I want to tell this story now because it is time to change the way people perceive the migrant exodus.  It is also time to stop calling these displaced people migrants, but what they really are, refugees. 

                                                                                           -    Star Victoria

Guatemala, the second most populated country in Central America has a long history of devastating violence, political instability and poverty that has led to a mass exodus of its people starting from the late 1970’s. Sixty percent of the nation lives in destitution and the expanding criminal activity along with the political turmoil demonstrate a society where violence, rape, murder, and extortion overwhelm numerous people lives.  These people face issues that are too ridiculous for us to comprehend. They are so helpless and desperate to escape these horrifying conditions that they willfully travel 2,653 miles on foot or by whatever means necessary into Mexico’s extremely dangerous terrain to try and reach the U.S. border. 

Cindy Cowan

Esai Morales



Carla Hool

CARLA HOOL began her career as a casting director on the film MAN ON FIRE for director Tony Scott. Since then she has been responsible for casting such notable films as, MISS BALA, ICEBOX, COCO, LOS INFILTRADOS, SERGIO, THE 33, A BETTER LIFE, BLESS ME ULTIMA, DESPICABLE ME 2, CHE, VANTAGE POINT, INNOCENT VOICES, NACHO LIBRE, APOCALYPTO, SIN NOMBRE, the soon to be released RAMBO: LAST BLOOD and 2HEARTS among many others. She also cast NARCOS and NARCOS MEXICO for Netflix, LOS ESPOOKYS for HBO, SELENA for Netflix, GENTEFIED for Netflix, EAST LOS HIGH for Hulu, THE BRIDGE SEASON 2 for FX, and EASTBOUND & DOWN SEASON 2 for HBO. She has collaborated with Directors Tony Scott, Chris Weitz, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Catherine Hardwike, Lee Unkrich, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Jose Padilha, Guillermo Navarro, Carl Franklin, Jody Hill, David Gordon Green, Luis Mandoki, Jared Hess, Pete Travis, Richard Shepard, Emilio Maillé, Lance Hool, Carlos Cuarón and Mel Gibson. Carla is widely considered to be one of the most knowledgeable internationally focused casting directors in the film and television industry. Carla has been nominated and won the prestigious Artios Award for Best Casting for the animated feature film COCO. 


Laura Vallejo is an actress, dancer and singer. known for American Horror Story (2019) Mayan's M.C. ( 2018) American Crime Story (2016), Bright (2017) and The Ranch (2016). Laura likes to to find beauty and joy in every moment, It's the only way to stay sane and motivated.


Miguel Izaguirre immigrated to America from Tegucigalpa, Honduras in search of a better life. Miguel followed the path to Los Angeles, where he got his start by snagging a recurring role on Showtime's Emmy award-winning dramedy Shameless, which stars William H. Macy and Emma Rossum, Miguel also starred in HBO's True Detective and Showtime's Ray Donovan. He's even had a chance to flex his comedy muscle with spots on NBC's Trial & Error, Community, Netflix's Love, and Disjointed.

Catch Miguel's most recent work on Netflix's groundbreaking original series Orange Is The New Black alongside Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, and Uzo Aduba, and then tune in to Amazon's hit series Goliath where Miguel plays Flaco, the right-hand man of a drug kingpin, opposite Billy Bob Thorton. 


Lydia Martinez was born in Tucson, AZ. Lydia Has two brothers and one sister. In April 2018 she entered Next Star Productions Arizona Regional Showcase. She then went on to Los Angeles in August 2018 to perform in their National Showcase were she took 1st runner up in acting for age group. Lydia's first acting job was for ABC's "What Would You Do" season 14. Lydia played the Mexican Child in the Episode- Misplaced Child filmed in El Paso, Texas. In June 2019 Lydia was a lead actress as Carmen in the U.S.C School of Cinematic Arts short film La Ruta- director Star Victoria. July 2019 Lydia filmed 2 episodes for TRU TV on Laff Mobb's Laff Tracks season 2. October 2019 Lydia did voice over for a new series on Netflix, the show is -Untitled- at the moment. 


Maxim Alexander started out as a child model and has progressed into a budding career as an actor. 


Director of Photography

Becky Baihui Chen is a MFA USC student and an LA-based cinematographer originally from Guangzhou, China. Becky has shot internationally in Germany and Berlin. Her international journey to filmmaking has inspired a unique vision. Cinematography is where she found her passion for filmmaking as she worked on numerous projects at USC in the past few years, including narrative shorts, music videos, commercials, and documentaries.  


Mario Andrew Fierro was born on November 27, 1992 in Veracruz, Mexico. He is currently an Editing Fellow at the AFI Conservatory '20. Fierro graduated from the University of Denver in 2015 with a BA in Film Studies/Production. He recently served as a screening committee member for the 2018 Mountainfilm Festival and has gone on tour twice with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall.

Production Designer

 Jack Walterman, a USC SCA MFA Student focuses his energy on writing, producing, and directing stories about characters overcoming personal fears and allowing more room for love in their lives. His coming-of-age short film Move in Day premiered, and was well received by audiences, at Midsummer Scream--the World's largest Halloween and Horror convention--in August 2019. Walterman recently concluded a Development Internship at the Flynn Picture Company.  Walterman is currently in development for his USC Thesis Project--a home-invasion horror short film titled Here to Stay.

Line Producer

Cathy Trope is a writer-producer who graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in English.   Cathy has worked on the Screen Actors Guild Awards, as a celebrity personal assistant and worked in a variety of roles in film and television.  In 2019, in addition to working as the Line Producer on La Ruta, she produced a sizzle reel for a 1980s crime drama called ECSTASY OUTLAWS and worked as a researcher on the Clint Eastwood drama RICHARD JEWELL.  She is currently putting the finishing touches on her feature script SMOKE RUN, which was a semifinalist in Fade In's First Ten Pages screenplay competition.


Abby Overstreet is a student producer at the University of Southern California. She was born in China and adopted before the age two. Abby moved to LA to study neuroscience at USC. She discovered her interest in storytelling after she assisted on a production in freshman year.  Since then Abby has worked on various projects as producer.  Abby strives to combine her interests of storytelling and social justice/awareness, into her productions, which is why “La Ruta” is so meaningful to her. She currently holds a production internship with Rekon Production, and  previously held positions at Heyday Films and Esperanza Productions.   


Samuel Skeen is a film and documentary producer from Newport, RI. His work has appeared at major film festivals like SXSW, and in publications such as WIRED and GQ Magazine.  Samuel currently attends the University of Southern California obtaining his MFA in producing at the School of Cinematic Arts.



WRITER/Story by

Star Victoria graduated Cum Laude from Georgia State University. She was awarded the prestigious Mary Pickford scholarship to attend USC to obtain her MFA in Film  and Television Production. Star is currently a Director mentee in the Ryan Murphy Half Initiative Director Program where she shadowed veteran director Loni Peristere on an episode of Fox’s Scream Queens. Star is also an invaluable 1st Assistant Director for many productions including a USC thesis film Lalo's House, which won silver in the Student Academy awards in 2018. Star is also a Director Mentee of  Mike Listo, Robert Townsend & John Singleton.

Writer / Story By

Roberto Saieh was born and raised in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia, which is known for three things: being the hometown of both Shakira and Sofia Vergara, and being pretty proud of those first two things.

Roberto has placed second and third in the PAGE Awards with his feature Magdalena and his short Shine, respectively. He also wrote the short ASIA A about a recent paraplegic coming to terms with his spinal cord injury, which was a semi-finalist for the Student Academy Awards and won the Jury Prize in the African-American category of the Director’s Guild of America Student Awards. Roberto has an MFA in Screenwriting from the John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television of the University of Southern California.


Associate Producer

Laurie J. Gardiner, a Texas native and Oakwood University Alum, received her MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is a Writer, Director and Musician who creates musically driven dramas for Film and Television and has a strong desire to transform the hearts of many through the intersection of film and music. 


In 2019, Gardiner placed as a semifinalist in the Academy Nicholl Fellowships for Screenwriters competition with her feature screenplay "Onset". She recently supported Executives on various scale projects at NBCUniversal and the Walt Disney Studios and has worked on numerous student and independent films. Select films have gone on to screen at prestigious film festivals such as the LA Film Festival, New Orleans Festival and the Oscar Qualifying Cleveland Film Festival and Pan African-Film Festival. 

Associate Producer

Cristian Pagan is a Puerto Rican filmmaker from Chicago. He recently graduated with a BA in Theater from the University of Southern California. He prides himself on developing rich, provocative, nuanced narratives that challenge the normative displays of marginalized communities. Cristian has won various awards for his activism and leadership which include: three-time recipient of the Christine Marie Ofiesh Scholarship In Performing Arts, the Gilman International Scholarship, the American Legion Award for Military Excellence.  He has worked for companies such as the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, HBO and Lionsgate.

1st Assistant Director

Shannon Godly is a filmmaker and artist currently in her final semester as a Film & TV Production major at the University of Southern California. She is also a graduate of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York and holds an Associate of Arts degree in Photography from Los Angeles City College. She currently works as a freelance 1st Assistant Director, often on short films and music videos, and she’s looking forward to finishing her degree to pursue 1st AD work full-time. Shannon lives in Echo Park, Los Angeles with her husband, Luis, and her dog, Bernie.

Go Pro Operator

Samuel Evans is an actor living in Los Angeles CA.  Originally from Decatur, Alabama, Samuel moved to Los Angeles, CA in 2017.  He discovered his passion for acting and stunts through martial arts, and holds a black belt in Tang Soo Do.  As an actor, Samuel has had roles in both film and television.  He is best known for his role as Jaywon in the award winning short film, RESET(2015), and has appeared in TVOne’s Fatal Attraction, Amazon’s Music & Murder, and CMT’s Still the King.  Samuel is a student at Pasadena City College, and studies acting at Howard Fine Studios and Groundlings in Los Angeles, CA.


Oscar Nominated

John Singleton



Richard Holland




Oscar Nominated

Matt Chesse



  • imdb
  • Twitter
  • Instagram