Andrés Gallegos, a Master of Fine Arts graduate in Cinema last year, was recently a major contender for the American Society of Cinematographers’ Student Heritage Awards. His thesis project Shoe Shiner was one of 13 nominees from 10 universities around the country.
Born in Chile, Gallegos first discovered his passion for films while living in Santiago, where he earned an undergraduate degree in audio-visual communications at University for the Arts, Sciences and Communication. Since then, he has shot more than 20 shorts and six features as a director of photography. At age 22, he won Best Cinematography at the Fesancor (Santiago Short Film) Festival for Axion. Gallegos has also directed and shot numerous documentaries for San Francisco State’s Veteran Documentary Corps project.
How did you get the idea for your film?
For me, this film is very personal. It was born from one of the most precious memories I had from listening to my grandfather telling me passages of his life. The script is based on his childhood, and it portrays one of his adventures as a shoe shiner in Talca, my hometown. This story has always resonated with me and, during the evolution of my creative process as a filmmaker, I have been able to identify its narrative qualities and cinematic potential. Wanting to bring it to a film form was a very natural decision for me.
Also, the fact that the script is based on a real story, is a reflection of my commitment to certain narratives that I feel close to, that we can observe in my home country on a daily basis. In Chile, the greatest manifestation of segregation is rooted in class division. We live in such a dynamic society that everything is articulated in a way that the less privileged classes have a lack of access to basic rights like quality education, working opportunities and health, thereby, directly affecting their human condition.
Can you mention any faculty mentors who were instrumental to helping you with your film?
Well, one of the things that has stood out for me in my training as a filmmaker has been all the theoretical and historical emphasis that I have received in the M.F.A. Cinema program. The film department maintains a foundation based on critical thinking, led by Professors Randy Rutsky and Aaron Kerner. In addition, the intense emphasis it has on screenwriting and the development of characters, has allowed me to understand the narrative structures in depth, and to approximate my visual creative from the relation to the dramatic and psychological arcs of the characters.
The classes on film creation and creative process, led by Professors Scott Boswell and Johnny Symons, were key in the development of my M.F.A. They were so articulated in all of the stages of the making of a film that it felt like a smooth process.
Another important class for me was Experimental Documentary, taught by Greta Snider; this class allowed me to cross certain lines in relation to film form. I was able to learn different ways of representing reality.
In addition, I had the opportunity to be part of the cinematography master classes by Vilmos Sigmond, and that had a huge impact on me.
Another key class in the development of my career was Oil Painting, with Lisa Solomon, from the Art Department. Having the possibility of incorporating a painting class in my master’s program was very important to me — this training was revealing for me, not in terms of the knowledge itself, but in terms of learning how to see color and light.
What is your advice for students who are looking to submit their work to competitions?
I believe that being honest and transparent with your audience is fundamental when it comes to establishing a discourse in any type of artistic creation. The point is to make someone feel identified with the piece, one that has great value and responsibility. Also, from a more practical perspective, I always advise that the more you deepen into creative themes, and the planning in pre-production, the better the result of the film will be.
Distribution is vital in filmmaking; the main objective of a film is to show it to an audience. Personally, that is one of my favorite moments of the whole process of making the film. My advice will be to consider the distribution stage as a crucial element of any film creation. Development, writing, funding, pre-production, production, post-production and distribution — they are all equally important.
How do you finance your projects? Any long-term goals?
My first short film was financed from my personal savings. However, I made the decision from then onward that my next projects are going to be financed by institutions, grants or investors. Making movies can be a bit expensive, so I usually look for funding in institutions that support independent films or institutions that support specific kinds of narrative content.
I wish to keep working as a cinematographer for fiction and nonfiction films. I also hope to continue to develop my personal projects. As a cinematographer, I am in the development stage of some fiction films and documentaries. As a director, I am in the funding stage of a documentary film project.
If I win this award, I will keep it safe, as a precious memory. But most importantly, I would feel super motivated and encouraged to continue with my work as a cinematographer.
— Ufuoma Umusu
- Filmmaker Gallegos Vies for National Cinematography Award, San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 2018
- VDC Filmmaker Andrés Gallegos Earns Spot in Prestigious Film Festival, Veteran Doc Blog, September 24, 2018
- Andrés Gallegos
- American Society of Cinematographers
- Veteran Documentary Corps
- School of Cinema
Photo: Andrés Gallegos (holding camera) directs Patricio Jara Marabolí in a scene from Gallegos’ Master of Fine Arts thesis film, Shoe Shiner. Photo courtesy of Andrés Gallegos.