Where did you grow up?
My parents were born and raised in Guatemala and decided to move to LA due to the civil war in Guatemala at the time. I was born in Hollywood and was raised in the San Fernando Valley. I still have my parents nearby which was a very necessary safety net for me as I began my journey in this industry.
What are your responsibilities or roles in your department? I work primarily as a Cinematographer. My role as a Cinematographer is multifaceted as it has creative, technical, design, and managerial elements that shift for each project. My main focus is to create strong imagery, in collaboration with a director, that speaks to any specific individual project. My job really is to build on a Director's vision to create some level of a visual language that is unique in some way and executable from a time & financial perspective. Often this means building a language that follows a narrative, connecting different shots by using cinematography elements or color, and leading a team of amazing technicians that help us create the images we are after. This role keeps the gears turning in my mind as there are so many different ways to approach each project and ultimately so many new things to learn. It's like an endless education and there is nothing else I'd rather be doing.
How did you begin working in the industry?
I began working in this industry as a PA right before I got into college. I had no contacts at all and had never really made a film before, so putting my foot in the door as a PA helped me understand what filmmaking was and the responsibilities of each role. I've worked as a PA, a camera assistant, a grip, and many other roles. I have a deep appreciation for all of these roles and I'm happy to have done all this as It has made me a stronger filmmaker and Cinematographer in every way.
What made you want to work in your department?
On my first sets I noticed that the Cinematographers opinion was very important to the other filmmakers on set. Since I already had a fascination with cameras, it felt natural for me to want to learn how to do this role someday. Also, in college I was obsessed with image creation with still photography and so I knew I could translate a lot of those skills I was building directly to the Cinematographer's role on set. The photography was a stepping stone that taught me the technical aspects while also forcing me to think creatively.
Are there any films that inspired you to start working in television and film?
The films that inspired me to seek a career in film were actually the big epic films of the early 2000s. Watching films like Peter Jackson's King Kong and The Lord of the Rings series which had strong story elements combined with an insane technical pioneering, made me wonder how in the hell anybody could create films like this. It was that initial question of "how?" that made me more curious to dive into cinema as a whole. Later on I gained a lot of inspiration from French New Wave filmmaking and a lot of the cinematography components in that style stick with me to this day.
What has been your favorite project to work on?
My favorite project to work on so far was a tiny budget music video for the artist Anabel Englund titled "Float." We had so many amazing collaborators on that shoot and it felt like the beginning of a small filmmaker family which I still work with on the regular. Even though it was so low budget we were able to achieve some beautiful visuals and it's a project I still showcase. We also shot on 16mm film which I am deeply and forever in love with.
What advice would you give someone?
My advice would be to work on any project you can when you're first starting out. The "big" jobs will show you the scope of what a project could be and even the "bad" jobs will teach you something useful for your life. Once you have a bit of experience, I'd recommend doing some of your own projects which will really accelerate your skills and understanding as a filmmaker.
I also advise to just be a nice person on set. There are a lot of great filmmakers out there but you can set yourself apart by just being present and pleasant.
What are you working on these days?
These days I'm working on a lot of commercial pieces for various brands. Just wrapped up a small project for Rauw Alejandro, a promotional piece for the Ben Franklin Museum, and some pharmaceutical projects with a good director friend of mine.