“Miami is your friend’s crazy friend. It’s the person you think you could never be friends with, then all of a sudden you then you’re like ‘Oh my God, I love this person,’” laughed local filmmaker Ximena Aliaguilla.
That’s what inspired her and local comedian Lourdes Duarte to write and produce Miami XL, an “AlterLatina” web series chronicling the life of two single young Latinas living in Miami.
Before you say it, they know — it sounds a lot like Broad City.
But there’s a special element to this series, because while the X stands for Ximena and the L stands for Lourdes, the main character is actually Miami itself.
“Miami is a place where it’s like you hate it passionately and love it passionately and you live that simultaneously,” Ximena explained. “I see a personality in that.”
The series has eight episodes, each lasting between five and 10 minutes — a total of 45 minutes of footage. The show navigates through all of the low key Miami only locals know, covering everything from a getty, to a flan-making girls night in, to popping by the Ultra Music Festival (but like… not for the music just to pick up a little package).
The comedic duo met 15 years ago in homeroom at Glades Middle School. Ximena grew up in Kendall and Lourdes in Westchester.
After studying film-making at the University of Miami, Ximena moved to New York to pursue a career in film. When she came back, she realized the Miami she left was very different from the Miami she came home to.
“In high school, it was only the beach and suburbs … but by the time I went to New York it was like, ‘Oh, there’s a city life,” she explained.
While in the Big Apple, Ximena worked on screenplays and shows, but ultimately realized that rather than trying to break into what felt like an exclusive and insular film community, she could help build one here.
And for Duarte, who went to school at Florida International University and has lived in Miami for most of her life, the 305 is it.
“Well except for that one time I pretended to move to L.A.,” she laughed.
For a hot second, Duarte was struggling in Miami.
“I hated my job and a boy was being mean to me and I thought the best way to solve my problems was to move,” she said. “After three days I was like ‘what did I do?’ My heart is in Miami, I have a 305 tattoo.”
She moved back and joined an improv team at Just the Funny, an improv center on Coral Way. When she and Ximena reconnected, they knew they “wanted to do something that shows that Miami is more than South Beach, and plastic surgery and this caricature of Latinas,” Duarte said, who is Cuban herself. Ximena is Peruvian.
“Yes, we’re some of those things to an extent but that’s not all we are.”
For about a year and a half, the women wrote, shot, and edited the entire series. They filmed it in two batches. The first part was composed of three episodes which took three months to write and another three months to shoot and edit. They had help from Ximena’s brother, Alonso Aliaguilla, who owns the video production company Luminary Visuals.
It was a pretty lean operation — all of the actors were friends who volunteered and Alonoso donated his time, equipment, and talent. Even so, the duo quickly realized they need a little bit of financial help.
“Because even if I’m not going to pay my actors, I’m at least going to feed them,” Ximena said. There were also other costs, like paying locations to film onsite and buying props.
They launched a Kickstarter and within a few weeks raised $3,100 for the next five episodes, which they put together over the next seven months. The entire series premiered on Vimeo on Oct. 10 and they had a launch party complete with croquetas and pastelitos at Just The Funny improv center.
They shot scenes everywhere from Habana 305 and Los Pinares Fruteria in Little Havana to Bayfront Park in Downtown Miami. South Beach is intentionally excluded though.
“We didn’t shoot on South Beach because everyone knows that. We wanted to show a different side of the city,” explained Lourdes.
Throughout the show, definitions pop up on screen explaining phrases like “pata sucia,” “en la lucha” or “chupacabra”. (You’ll have to watch the series to learn what they mean.)
“I knew it would be difficult to make something authentically Miami for people not from Miami because of the language barrier,” Ximena said. “How how do you make something authentically Miami without using Spanglish? … We thought ‘We can’t stop and define it.’ Or, well, we could. So that’s what we did.”
And whenever scenes were shot outside, Ximena asked her colorist to make it extra crisp.
“I told my colorist if we’re in a room, subdued colors is fine, but whenever we’re outside, like if you see a palm tree, make that pop,” Ximena said. It makes it extra Miami, she explained.
“Miami’s always that other character ‘Like what’s up, I’m out here, ‘You feel crazy? I’m the reason.’”