As a child, choosing your path in life often comes from a film or television program. It is the greatest exposure to different jobs we have in the modern world. However, many are inspired by the characters in the film, not what is going on behind the scenes. This was not the case for Guillermo Garza.
As a child growing up in Monterrey Mexico, Garza had an obsession with his mother’s video camera. He loved holding it, looking through it, and eventually filming scenes with his brother and sister. Many children’s interests change as they grow, but not for Garza. Now, he is a successful cinematographer, living his childhood dream.
Garza’s inspiration came from many classic films. As a child, he would stay up late recreating scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail with his GI-Joe figurines. In his teens, he watched a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Star Wars original films.
“That’s where I figured out that making movies was an actual job you could have,” he said. “Ever since I was a teenager all I could think of ever being was a cinematographer. That is what I have always said when people asked what I wanted to do.”
His instincts have proven to be right, and Garza has achieved a lot in his career. Flores Para el Soldado, his first film out of film school, went on to win the Mexican Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
“An important moment in my career was straight of school. I was invited to shoot the documentary Flores Para el Soldado,” said Garza. “It was a very personal and difficult project with a very low budget. We were quite inexperienced, but we gave it our best and focused on the story.”
Later on, he was the cinematographer for the commercial campaign Native/Time Out Magazine Mexico, which won the Cannes Bronze Lion award.
“The job of the cinematographer is a very complex one, because no two jobs are alike,” described Garza. “I have to take what is on the director’s mind and the screenplay’s pages, and then use the camera, lights, time and space to create the visual experience of the film,”
Success continued for Garza with the films Camino a Marte and Paraiso Perdido. Andres Almeida is an actor, composer, and production designer who worked with Garza on both projects. Almeida describes both experiences as amazing.
“Guillermo’s unique sensibility and understanding of light, as well as his construction of the scene through image, make him one of the best cinematographers working in Mexican cinema right now. The easiness with which he moves through the set with the camera and with actors themselves make him a great partner and enjoyable person to work with. He is both dedicated and passionate in his work and a true professional in all senses,” said Almeida.
Garza’s Mexican heritage is important to him, and he is an admirer of his fellow Mexican cinematographers that, as he says, continue to raise the standards of what is expected of a cinematographer and the cinematic experience.
By chance, Garza had the opportunity to connect with Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro. He was buying some books at a bookstore in Madrid where Garza was buying textbooks for film school. Garza says the experience changed his life.
“I approached him and told him how much I admired his work as a director, and that I was in film school hoping to one day be a cinematographer. I told him how one day I wanted to be able to work and create films as good as his,” said Garza. “He was really nice and said that we could have a coffee after he paid for his books. We sat down for thirty minutes and he gave me some great advice and a point of reference of what to expect from a career in film. He gave me his email and told me that I was welcome to come by his set for the film he was going to shoot in Madrid. Six months later he started shooting and I went to the set. He introduced me to his cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, who let me stick around the set for a few weeks. That was the first time in my life that I was on a real film set.”
The film was Pan´s Labyrinth, and Guillermo Navarro went on to win an Oscar for his achievement in cinematography for his work on the film. For Garza, having this opportunity is a highlight in both his career and his life. He took the most of a chance meeting, and it allowed him to learn from one of the pros. Now, he is considered a pro himself.
“The way I approach challenges in my job is to be adaptable and flexible and to really be able to trust in my experience, my taste, and my crew,” he said.
Garza will be shooting the film Bayoneta in the new year. It is a project he is very excited for. It´s about a Mexican boxer during a dark time in his life, he is coaching a new Finnish boxer while running away from his past.
“I love that every job has its unique set of challenges and puzzles to solve. I love that even though we try very hard to plan and control outcomes in this job there is also room for unpredictability, and that those unpredictable or unplanned moments sometimes are the best, the most real, and beautiful,” he concluded.