How did you start your career as a Production Designer? What inspired you to work in the entertainment industry?
Being a production designer never crossed my mind until I was in my early twenties, even though I was hypnotized by films and TV shows and I wondered how amazing it would be to create these worlds I saw on the screen. I only knew I wanted to do something [where] I could explore my creativity and design beautiful things. Architecture and interior design fascinated me (I used to spend hours watching one of my friend’s mom designing her projects, dreaming about doing that one day), but after graduating from Architecture school and working for a couple of years, I was a little frustrated with the “real world” and decided to pursue set design, and went to work in the events industry.
Eventually, I found out there was a career that combined architecture, art, and design with film and TV, and I realized that’s what I wanted to do! The idea of being involved in making films and TV shows and creating all the visual elements that help tell the story was just a dream.
Can you tell us a bit more about your new film project, Bodies Will Tumble and Roll? How did you get involved?
Networking is a huge part of being in this industry and thriving in it. I am fortunate to have worked on great projects with amazing professionals, who not only became friends but great supporters of my craft. I was recommended to Eli Vasquez, Bodies Will Tumble and Roll director, by AJ Young, the Cinematographer from a documentary I designed (where I was also hired by a director/producer I previously worked with on The Pill, by Louise Brix Andersen). Eli and I had a few online meetings, I read the script and having liked my ideas and what I envisioned for the story, Eli offered me the role of Production Designer.
Bodies Will Tumble and Roll is a comedy/thriller short film about a dysfunctional black and brown cheer squad whose coach goes missing after a retreat in the woods and to save her from serial killers they must learn how to become a team. The purpose behind the story is to show the struggles BIPOC people deal with all the time, and that to change that, they have to embrace differences and come together as a community.
How did film festivals, filmmaking competitions, fellowships, internships, etc. play a role in your career?
Most of the films I have been part of [have] had social themes, and the majority of them were selected by numerous film festivals. Festivals are a great way to spread the importance of these stories and to reach as many people out there, but also to be able to see the work of other filmmakers, who inspire me all the time. In 2020, I was one of the candidates selected for the Art Directors Guild Production Design Initiative, a program designed to provide mentorship, supervision, and on-the-job training to future Production Designers and Art Directors, with a possibility of joining the Guild once the program is completed.
Can you walk us through the process of preparing for your role as a Production Designer in the film?
After my initial conversations with Eli, I re-read the script and we began having more detailed conversations so I could understand his vision and how he wanted to tell the story. Once my Art Director, Sofia Ribeiro, got onboard, we both went through the script again and made a script breakdown, and created a list of all [the] necessary props and every necessary element, as well as notes for every scene, so we wouldn’t miss anything. Once locations were locked, we went on a tech scout, a month before our shoot, to see the space where the story unfolds, and to check even more details so I would have a more clear understanding of what I had to design.
Eli had a very clear vision of every scene of the story, and all shots he wanted to do and that made my work a lot easier because I knew exactly what we were going to see on camera and what I had to prepare beforehand. It was also very helpful talking to our Director of Photography, Rebeca Durán, and our Gaffer, Marci Garcia, because photography and lighting walk hand in hand with the design of the film, and all three of us were able to align our ideas and how we wanted the film to look, according to our director’s vision. Going through setting up a timeline with our Assistant Director, Andrew Han, was essential to create a shooting schedule that allowed our departments enough time to get everything ready without compromising the limited time we had on locations.
My biggest takeaway from this project was the importance of planning and communication with all the team. You cannot take anyone’s role for granted and it is imperative to prepare as much as possible during pre-production. A film is like a puzzle; you can’t miss any piece of it if you want to complete it.
How does production design contribute to the overall impact of the story?
“Production Design is the gold dust that allows the audience to escape into the magical world of a film.” It is the job of a Production Designer to create the style and look of a film through sets, props, location choices, and costumes, allowing viewers to dive into an alternate reality. As a kid, I was fascinated by how the environment where the story unfolded could make me escape my reality and its ability to transport me to a different time or space. All visual elements that we see in a film make a huge difference in the storytelling. A prop an actor is holding, and the background where they’re standing, all help make the story more feasible and allow the audience to immerse in the world we create. Without the visual elements, viewers would have to rely pretty much only on what characters are saying and acting to be able to understand the story.
Were there circumstances in which you had to make difficult artistic choices? If so, how did you compromise and make it work?
Compromising is part of life and in the professional world is not any different, especially when you work on small-budget projects. On Bodies, I was fortunate that the director, cinematographer and I were on the same page regarding the look of the film, so I was able to keep what I envisioned for it. But there are always adjustments to be done and that is part of working in a team. Having said that, I had to make compromises in other projects I’ve worked on, and you have to be prepared for that, but I believe the key is always to try to meet in the middle, so all sides are happy with the final result.
What was the collaboration process like with your film crew?
As mentioned before, after my initial one-on-one meetings with Eli, we had a big production meeting with all the crew. We discussed the numerous details of the project. From the beginning of pre-production and planning to the physical production, every person in our crew and cast was there to make the best out of this film, and we were all in sync and happy to be there. The most important part of it was our communication and how, even when there were some hiccups, things were dealt with in the best way and with so much positivity, which made the entire project fun and easy.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.