Brazilian Production Designer Juliana Guedes Shares Her Inspiring Journey to Hollywood | Hype | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Brazilian Production Designer Juliana Guedes Shares Her Inspiring Journey to Hollywood

Interviewed by:
Francesca Escarraga
Interview date:
June 2022
Follow Juliana:

Which films and Production Designers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

One of the first films I remember watching was Grease. It is until now one of my favorite films and what I loved most about it, other than the songs, was the fact it was set in the ’50s and how all the elements made me travel in time. I loved the colors of the film, the design, and the costumes, everything was so very different from my reality that I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and I could watch it multiple times later. However, one of the most absurdly creative films I have ever seen, and that amazes me, is Inception. The work of Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas in this film is brilliant, having to create not only one world, but five, and making sure they were all connected. Inception is one of the best films in history for me. In reality, I have always been very eclectic and I think there’s so much to explore in all genres.

Joe Stewart and John Shaffner are two amazing Production Designers, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with, and who I admire immensely. Both began their careers in theater and transitioned to TV, having worked on numerous shows and are among the most recognized Production Designers in TV. Joe became sort of a mentor to me after I worked with him on Miss Universe 2011 and has helped me greatly all these years. In film, Dante Ferretti is one of my greatest inspirations, as he has done so many period films, and his work is stunning and he is so meticulous in his design. Guy Hendrix Dyas is also someone I admire, and I love the diversity in his work. He’s done period films, contemporary, and fiction, but mostly what has always interested me in his work is his early background in industrial design and architecture, something I can relate to having my background in architecture as well.

The pandemic has greatly affected the entertainment industry. How did it affect your side of things?

As an international student in the US, I was allowed to work after graduating from UCLA, having been granted a work permit for one year. Unfortunately, COVID hit us and everything was shut down. Slowly, smaller productions began to resume, with all the necessary precautions, and I was able to get back on set and work on some projects. At the same time, I took advantage of the time being at home, experimented with different skills, and helped with a friend’s attempt at creating and developing a YouTube content channel. But great things happened during the pandemic: as I said before, I was accepted to the Art Directors Guild Production Design Initiative, and even though I wasn’t able to do any jobs through the ADG Production Design Initiative, I was able to attend online classes and network during the lockdown. Networking ended up being my biggest takeaway from the pandemic. Not being able to go out and see people, I joined a Facebook group, The Entertainment Industry COLLABORATORS, created by Editor Tina Imahara, that started more as a mentoring group and eventually transitioned into a networking group. It was great to connect online with people from all over the world and discuss ideas, fears, and goals, and that eventually led me to be part of great projects.

There couldn’t be a more perfect time to be a female filmmaker in the entertainment industry. What were the life lessons that you would like to share with aspiring or emerging filmmakers and/or creatives in general?

With my background, both in Architecture and Set Design/Events, I was always surrounded mostly by men. Those experiences, especially working in the Events industry, allowed me to learn how to work well with both genders, but there were many times when I felt diminished, unheard, or not valued just because I was a young woman. With my knowledge, experience, and a balance between a soft and assertive side, I was able and very fortunate to work well in a male-dominated environment without compromising a good work relationship. Despite that, I am happy to say that I never had any major problems when working with men, but one thing I would say is standing up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to be who you are, to let anyone take advantage because you are inexperienced and still learning. Mistakes are part of life and they make us who we are. But always own up to them and try to fix what went wrong. That shows a level of maturity and humility that goes a long way.

Brazilian Production Designer Juliana Guedes Shares Her Inspiring Journey to Hollywood | Hype | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
Behind the Scenes on ‘Bodies Will Tumble and Roll’

What do you think the future of filmmaking would look like? What kind of stories do you think will emerge and capture the attention of producers and executives?

I think there have been more and more stories about inclusiveness. And this is the main theme that is and will keep being in everyone’s attention. But the way these stories can and should be told not necessarily will still be in a deep and serious format. Bodies Will Tumble and Roll is a really good example of that. It shows the importance of embracing your inner Latina, your curls, your skin tone, but your community and being there for each other, in a fun and light way. Even though there is still a long way to go, I’m happy to have seen more diversity in productions with BIPOC, Asian, Indigenous, and Female cast and crew.

What’s your advice to aspiring filmmakers and Production Designers who want to break into the entertainment industry?

Keep studying, learning, and improving your skills. Watch movies, and shows, of all kinds, and all genres. Read. About design, art, architecture. Visit museums, and art fairs. Make mistakes, don’t be afraid to do things wrong. Try. Fail. Try again. Fail again. Take risks. Get out of your comfort zone. Remember that no one’s path is the same. Remember that it’s ok to take a different road. And that sometimes you have to take turns and go in different directions to get to your original final point. It took me a long time to get to where I am, a lot of changes and risks and moving to a different country, but it is worth every sacrifice and obstacle I faced. Most importantly, make movies, and create content. Collaborate with your friends and colleagues. And NETWORK. Network as much as possible. Go to events, join entertainment groups, talk to people, and put yourself out there. Follow the professionals you like and admire, and connect and interact with them. Some of them might seem unreachable, but the truth is they’re not. At least not all of them. They’ve all been in our shoes before and most of them are happy to help.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a Production Designer?

Since I grew up enjoying watching movies and transporting to different times and places, I always wanted to be able to do that to other people. Allow the audience to escape their world and for a couple of hours just sit back and immerse themselves in that story and forget about everything else. But I also want to tell stories that make an impact on people, making them think and reflect on important matters. Make changes in the world we live in. In the future, when I have a more established career, I hope to give back to young Production Designers and Art Directors and help them break into the industry as others helped me.

Do you have other upcoming projects you want to share with us?

Right now, I’m focused on finishing my MBA, I have just one more term to graduate and my next biggest goal is applying for my work visa. Once that happens, I plan to get work on bigger projects and have the experience of working in the big studios, so I can learn more about my craft and from people who have been there longer than I have.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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