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Filmmaker Spotlight: Interview with Daniel Gomes of Abstraction

This week's Filmmaker Spotlight is on Daniel Gomes of the short film, Abstraction. Get to know Gomes' work, learn about his latest project, inspirations and catch a few tips for filmmakers just starting out.

Name/Position:  Daniel Gomes/ Writer/Director/Producer
Film: Abstraction

Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it. 

Abstraction is a short film about a tormented fashion photographer’s last chance to recapture his career, his muse and his mind. I’m drawn to stories about dark, obsessive characters who dwell in the far recess of their own minds. As far as the limited budget was concerned, it seemed suitable to tell the story of an artist; the inherent reclusiveness of the character justified the limited location, allowing me to turn a production weakness into an asset. The pre-production stage, including raising funds, lasted about a year. I spent a lot of time storyboarding and on location blocking out scenes with imaginary actors. The film was shot over four days and post-production took a further year, spent finding the right post team to help complete the film at a level that surpassed the budget. The idea behind making the short film was to create a piece that looked and felt like a feature, and I believe we achieved that goal.

Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?

There are too many people to thank, but if you see the film, they are all listed in the credits. Of course I must thank Tomas Yoo, my executive producer, who donated the lion’s share of the budget. Without him I might still be standing hat in hand. I’d like to thank my director of photography, Alejandro Lalinde, a key collaborator with whom I’ve worked on every project since. Alejandro has a natural talent for being able to tell a story with camera movement and lighting. We see eye to eye and still challenge each other to get the best possible shot. I also must thank my good friend Ben Cope, one of the most talented fashion photographers, artists and Jack-Of-All-Trades. Ben created the photos featured in the film and lent a hand everywhere possible during production. Last but not least, Vitaliy Zavadskyy who scored the film, is my secret weapon, with an aptitude for exploring subtext through sound.

How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?

Having grown up the small town of Watford in the U.K., knowing that my work will be screening in such a historic venue does have its milestone significance. I’m very proud that Abstraction will exist as a part of the NewFilmmakers LA screening series. I’m looking forward to watching it with an audience there and to see the other films that will play on the night.

What inspires you?

This seems like a straightforward enough question, but I do find it tough to answer. I don’t tend to find specific moments of inspiration with my work. For me, I know what it is I’m aiming to achieve, so I make sure I sit in the chair and some days the work comes easily and some days I have to distract myself by watching a movie, listening to a Q&A or heading out to do something completely unrelated to film until I’m ready to go again. I do however find myself creatively motivated when I see my heroes succeed-- that seems to ignite a healthy competitiveness that pushes me forward.

Who are your influences and who do you admire?

There are many filmmakers I find influential, each for their own reasons. Ridley Scott’s ability to create worlds with such detail and texture has always amazed me; he treats the world as a character affecting the story. Christopher Nolan’s sophisticated storytelling really sets the bar and his balance between art and commerce is something to aim for.  Sam Mendes’ focus on the internal conflicts of his characters always moves me. His use of blocking and framing drive the subtext of his stories with such an invisible hand. I admire these great artists and aspire to bring those particular elements to my work wherever possible.

What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?

I’m still learning and have a lot to learn, though I do make it a rule when self-assessing to compare to my heroes rather than my peers. If I don’t think a project would be worthy of showing to a filmmaker I respect, then I either find a way to make it better or move on. Having an objective filter to measure by helps me advance my craft. I also think it’s very important to get work finished, get it out there and always be working on the next project. Momentum seems to be key.

If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?

I want to work with anyone who is truly dedicated to his or her craft and take it seriously while remembering it’s a pleasure to make films. In particular, I’m really looking to work with actors who can embody the subtext, make choices that impress me and sustain a performance throughout a project.

What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?

Having to learn patience with my career progression is a pretty tough task, one I wouldn’t say I’ve fully overcome yet or that I ever will. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to waiting and trying to find catalysts to move forward before I have to find patience. Not advancing quickly can be frustrating, but I’ve learnt to channel that energy into fueling my productivity to attack the root of the problem directly.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?

Once piece of advice that comes to mind is actually from Clint Eastwood, I asked him what brought out the best performances during his career as an actor and how he tried to emulate those performances with his actors as a director. He told me that although there’s no magic direction you can give, tail slating really helps, as there’s nothing worse for an actor than emotionally preparing for a scene and having sticks loudly cracked in front of your face, followed by someone yelling “ACTION”. I used this method for some of the more intimate scenes in Abstraction and found it worked well. Also, always take Fountain is a pretty good rule.

What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?

Find a filter, make sure the project you’re working on adheres to that standard, find a way to make it to the best of your ability and then show everyone you can.

Where can we expect to see you next?

If you come to the NewFimmakers LA screening on Dec 15th I’ll see you there. I’m currently working on my feature screenplay; I hope to get the project into pre-production during 2013.

Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.

About the Author

Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
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