Trevor Hogg chats with Miguel Garzón Martínez about making thoughtful movies…
“My family has a background in construction and in business, but never in film or any form of art,” states Miguel Garzón Martínez . “However, I have learned recently that construction is a kind of art and that you need to think like a businessman to finish a film.” At an early age the native of Colombia became aware of cinema. “I remember the first movie I ever saw was The Lion King  with my mom and that I had nightmares for several weeks after watching Jurassic Park . If I had to mention two movies that left a strong impression in me, I would have to say that Pixar’s Up  and Christopher Nolan’s Inception  inspired me to pursue a career in filmmaking.” Garzón recalls, “I bought a DSLR camera over five years ago and discovered the pleasures of still photography. The camera also records video so I slowly started to experiment with it and my passion soon grew to the point that it wasn’t just a hobby. I decided I needed to dedicate my entire life to make films.” The big screen ambition led the aspiring cinematic talent to America. “The amazing thing about the New York Film Academy is that it is extremely hands-on. Being able to produce and direct a project is something that you can only learn by doing it several times. The best thing about the school is that it gave me all the tools and enough experience to be able to successfully complete these projects, and to find my own voice as a director and artist.”
“I always try to combine my two passions: telling stories and asking compelling questions,” remarks Miguel Garzón Martínez who has a degree in Philosophy. “For me a film is more interesting if it raises or addresses a question and I feel that is reflected in my work. For example, Breaking Point  asks a moral question: ‘Can someone stop evil without becoming evil in the process?’ This question was inspired by the thoughts of Immanuel Kant. In a similar way, the core question of Knot  can be phrased like this: ‘Is our essence determined by our roots or can we decide who we become?’ This question fascinates me because I had to ask myself that question before moving to Los Angeles to make films: ‘Will the fact that my family doesn’t has a strong artistic background determine who I am?’ For me, the answer both in the Short and in my personal life is that through hard work people can breakthrough the conditions that try to determine them.” Garzón notes, “The biggest lesson for me was the importance of the blocking and the role of the actors during it. As a director you should have the movie in your head. However, for most inexperienced directors that means telling the actors where to stand, what to do and when to feel the beats of the scene. I have learned that this process is a true creative collaboration and it’s not just me telling them what to do.”
“Breaking Point was inspired by Kant’s moral philosophy,” explains Miguel Garzón Martínez. “He claims that the only way to be good is when the maxim that guides your actions can become a universal law. I was always fascinated by this concept and I wondered how it would work in a raw and extreme situation where your life is in danger. My answer in the short is that it wouldn’t work and it is a principle too idealistic to be applied to human beings. James [Daniel Jimenez] is a good cop, a good husband and a good person but he breaks the law because he is afraid and doesn’t see any other way out. Knot was a different experience, since I didn’t write it. For me, the challenge as director was to find the inspiration in someone else’s material. As I said before, there is also a question behind this short film that I found compelling. On top of that I also had the opportunity of directing a fight sequence which is one of my dreams. I can’t wait to have the chance of doing it again in the future. I found that extremely inspiring.”
“The main discussions happen with the Director of the Photography, the 1st Assistant Director and the talent,” states Miguel Garzón Martínez . “Everybody has suggestions to make the picture better and it is important to listen to what your creative team has to say because you never know where a genius idea can come from. Discussions usually deal with where to put the camera, where are the actors going to be positioned and what is the best order to get all the shots.” Casting the two short films was not an easy matter. “The audition process is a tricky one and it changes radically depending on the character. Sometimes you have an incredibly specific image of how the character should look like, which creates the amazing experience of finding that person during an audition. That happened to me with the character of Daniel in Breaking Point played by Brian Ceponis. On other occasions you don’t know what you were looking for until you find the right person at the audition. However, as a general rule it’s always important to find actors that are passionate about the project; you’d be surprised how many people walk into auditions without knowing what the film is about.” A significant challenge involved the settings of Breaking Point and Knot. “Finding a location that works for the story and the production can afford, requires not only hard work but also luck. Some of the locations were found just driving around and asking small businesses to let us shoot there. Others were recommended by friends that previously shot there.”
“Breaking Point explores the theme of how people change to adapt to the circumstances and to survive,” reveals Miguel Garzón Martínez . “The idea of putting a character in a situation where he needs to compromise his convictions to get out of it is fascinating. Knot deals with the theme of that your roots can’t determine who you are. At the beginning, the father is convinced that his daughter is destined to follow his footsteps; however, she shows him with courage and hard work that she is a completely different human being with other ambitions.” Assisting the imagery are the musical score and sound design. “For Breaking Point we wanted a raw and electronic score. We wanted it to sound dirty and synthetic. I was lucky to work with musician Andrea Licht on that score; she lives in Colombia so all of our communication was through email and phone. Knot required a score with a complete different approach in order to emphasize the idea of family and the struggle of Anna to chase her true passion against her father wishes. Scott Gilman was definitely the right person for this job. The work on the sound design of Knot focused mainly on the fight sequence. This experience showed me that it is impossible to craft a realistic fight without the right sounds.”
“The biggest challenge as a director was to balance my creative vision with the compromises we inevitably have to make every day as filmmakers,” remarks Miguel Garzón Martínez . “There is never enough budget or time to pull off everything that we want. I am meticulous in pre-production and always personally storyboard every scene. For that reason, it can be frustrating when things change on set and we can’t get everything that I originally wanted. However these kinds of restrictions also taught me to think on my feet and to make fast decisions to solve problems.” The filmmaker enjoys being surprised by the material. “I had high expectations for the fight sequence of Knot; when I saw it edited with the music and sound design, I was surprised because the result was amazing. I was also surprised with the realism of the muzzle flash of the guns in Breaking Point. We couldn’t do the practical effect on the set so that was added using CGI.” Garzón will be making his feature length debut. “The Broken Legacy  is a philosophical exploration of our dreams, our ambitions, but also of friendship and love. This is the pitch of the film: while voluntarily testing a new drug at a research facility, a lost screenwriter recruits the help of an egotistical philosopher in order to attract the girl of his dreams. We are currently starting submissions to film festivals so hopefully a lot of people will get the chance of seeing it soon.”
Many thanks to Miguel Garzón Martínez for taking the time for this interview.
To learn more visit the official Facebook page for Miguel Garzón Martínez .
Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.