Cinematographer Guillermo Garza is key part to film Paraiso Perdido’s success
Mexican-born cinematographer Guillermo Garza has always been “obsessed” with making films. His childhood passion has turned into his lifetime career.
He has worked on projects that have been internationally recognized. He was the cinematographer on the Mexican Academy Award in 2010 for Best Documentary Feature, Flores Para el Soldad. He achieved similar success in 2014 when the commercial campaign he worked on Native/Time Out Magazine Mexico won the Cannes Bronze Lion award.
Success continued for Garza this year with the film Paraiso Perdido. The feature follows three friends who decide to take a trip aboard a sailboat. During the trip they discover a deserted island paradise in the middle of the Caribbean and decide to explore it. What appeared to be one of the best weekends of their lives becomes a tireless struggle for survival when they discover the great secret that lurks there. The film has been making its way across various film festivals.
“It’s a very simple storyline and the characters are well defined,” said Garza. “It’s a bit of a tribute to all the suspense movies that the director and I loved growing up.”
Despite being an amazing experience for Garza, the film was a learning opportunity with its fair share of challenges to overcome. The film was shot on a small sailboat on open water to have a real feeling for viewers, but fitting a film crew on a small boat in the middle of the ocean is not easy. They also shot in a remote part of Cozumel Island.
“We once had to shoot for a whole day waist deep in a lagoon inhabited by hundreds of alligators,” said Garza. “Quite a few would swim close to us to see what we were up to. we were lucky to have a team of biologists and wild life experts to keep us from being eaten alive while shooting.”
The circumstances allowed Garza to appreciate even the things he couldn’t control, like tropical storms, the tide, and blood thirsty mosquitos.
“Even though you try to plan for every possible event in advance there are some things you can’t control, and that showed me the importance of having a good communication with the director and cast in order to push through the natural complications of this kind of shoot and being able to tell the story in the best possible way,” he said.
Garza worked alongside a talented cast and crew for the film, such as the actress Ana Claudia Talancon, and the director Humberto Hinojosa.
“The design of the cinematography by Guillermo Garza was a fundamental part in the success of the movie,” said Hinojosa. “Conditions were harsh because we shot in open water during sailing. This required a highly prepared and experienced cinematographer and Guillermo proved to be perfect for the job. During the preparation stages, Guillermo and I scouted the island looking for the locations that would give life to the story. Guillermo had the technical skills to determine which location and which hour of the day should be shot for achieving the best light atmosphere for the film while giving it a sense of continuity and without compromising style,” said Hinojosa.
“As director and writer it was very important for me to generate the concept of isolation that I had in mind for Paraiso Perdido, in order to build the dramatic tension inside the characters, Guillermo advised for using a narrative style of long creeping shots to generate tension and the result was very effective, with the skilled compositions he created, he made an atmosphere of suspense in these inhospitable geographies while allowing me to work with confidence and on schedule while giving the actors an realistic atmosphere to create their performances,” Hinojosa continued.
Garza is not just successful in film. His achievements and versatility extend to television as well with the program Morir en Martes for the network TeleHit. The show is about the young Karla Quintana, who has been brutally murdered within a renowned school of architecture. Teachers, friends and staff from the school are all possible suspects and hold many secrets related to the disappearance. A rookie detective and his mentor are assigned to the case and have a responsibility to solve his murder with is much more twisted than anything they saw before.
“It was a very fun project to work on because it was the very first TV drama series to be shot in Monterrey Mexico and the crew was mainly made up of students. so there was a great atmosphere and a very young and talented crew,” said Garza.
Garza was asked to be on the project when the director of the first season, Bernardo X Serna, reached out to him knowing that Garza’s talents would help give the show an extremely cinematic look.
“I had to make a very low budget production with a very young and inexperienced crew look as good as possible,” said Garza. “I tailored a prosumer camera and lighting package and tested and pushed it to its maximum performance, delivering a cinematic visual quality to the project.”
It was the energy on the set that made this a truly great working experience for Garza. He made great friends, and a lot of his camera crew from the show went on to become established cinematographers with the help of his coaching. They remain friends to this day.
“I learned that you have to trust the people you work with to do their best and you have to expect that from them so they always push through the limitations and generate a great work,” he said.