When you’re born with talent and have the discipline and dedication to explore that gift, you are able to create wonderful things and achieve unbelievable dreams. That’s the case of Francisco Cabrera, an 18-year-old who immigrated from Venezuela a few years ago and learned English through movies, and now has already had his work featured at an international film festival.

Francisco was chosen from hundreds of submissions nationwide by acclaimed film and TV producer, director and actor Mark Duplass, and 2015 Oscar winner John Legend to be mentored by them before they – and more importantly their work – are showcased in front of the global community at the Toronto International Film Festival thanks to The AXE Collective, a creative mentorship program developed by men’s fragrance brand AXE, and designed to give aspiring creators resources and platforms to showcase their talents.

“Mark Duplass has been one of my idols for years, and now to be able to be mentored by him has changed my life,” Cabrera said during the film festival. “While talking to him, it was the first time I understood that I should focus on my strengths and continue to make films that capture and challenge the audience. And with John Legend, well, my father and I have always listened to his music together. I was very intrigued by how he works with directors to tell stories with music.”

Cabrera was born in 1998 in Valencia, Venezuela, the year that president Hugo Chavez took power. He remembers his parents setting out to protest during the day, and while they were gone he watched images of violent clashes on TV, which is where he drew inspiration for his short film “ Revolving Child ,” about domestic gun violence. 

“Growing up in Venezuela for 11 years, all my actions and thinking was shaped by my childhood,” Francisco added. “In the film there is a scene showing violence on the television, I saw that in Venezuela, and I remember it clearly. But my family in Venezuela and here too supported me during Revolving Child. 58 people, families and friends, donated almost three thousand dollars in 17 days to create this film. The love that I have for my Venezuelan family is like no other.”

When Cabrera and his family immigrated to United States, they settled in Pembroke Pines, Florida. The young filmmaker says he did not have many friends at first because of the language barrier, but he was able to watch English-language movies all day long because his brother worked in a local movie theater during the day, and that helped him get used to the language. He’s definitely come very far, and thanks to the mentorship provided by Mark Duplass and John Legend along with AXE, he’s ready to tackle bigger projects.

I feel ready to work on a feature film,” Cabrera gushed. As for advice to his fellow Latinos with a passion for filmmaking, Cabrera keeps it real. “When coming up with new ideas put a 30 minute timer on and force yourself to come up with ideas,” he said. “Most of them will be bad, but there might be a not so bad one, you can improve. Also, use social media, do not undermine the power of social media, I have met half of my crew because I followed them on twitter and we DM’d each other. As a Latino, stay true to yourself and your identity. When trying to fit in it's very easy to become just like the masses, make sure to stand out.”