Focus on Filmmakers: Gonzaga Manso


My name is Gonzaga, I’m a director + photographer. I’m mainly focused on advertising artistic work.
My work speaks about what I feel, what I dream, what surrounds me. About that argument I had with a taxi driver, about the girl I met last summer, about getting lost + finding myself, about my dog + his little fixations. Telling stories + crafting characters is a passion, but also a necessity. I believe in hard work, planning + attention to detail. We break our backs building sets + shaping light to get THAT atmosphere, THAT color. We have so much fun doing it.
I’ve had the pleasure to work for clients like Pepsi, Movistar, Sony + TBWA. Some of these works have been awarded at important international festivals, others haven’t. As a director of photography I have worked along such prestigious Spanish directors as Javier Fesser, Borja Cobeaga + Julio Medem.
I also give courses + lectures on light + photography. I’ve given conferences in Lima, Buenos Aires, Venecia, Madrid, Panamá, Bogotá, Santiago de Chile…

Film Critics, agents + investors
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What training did you undertake to become a filmmaker?
I had no official training, I am self taught + my school has been trial + error. I started to be interested in photography when I was 16, + used my house lamps for lighting. I just kept on working on it by myself.

Where do you get your inspiration for your projects? 
All of my projects come both from personal experiences + a necessity to express myself. For instance, Eden Hostel was inspired originally from my feeling of not belonging when I was a teenager, + an e-mail a former girlfriend of mine wrote to me on that matter. From there, the story developed into what you see now in the film.

How do you go about financing your projects?
When it comes to my personal photographs, we finance them ourselves, because photography is thankfully cheaper than filmmaking. As for shooting short films, there’s a combination of regional+ state funding, private investors (mainly ourselves + of course the help of cast + our friends in camera, lighting + props rental houses who help us out by giving us good deals. Otherwise, it would be financially impossible for us to shoot the stories we want, in the way that we want. We also rely on awards to recover part of the investment.

How do you cast your films?
Sometimes I write a character with a specific actor in mind, but most times we look for actors that fit our characters in agencies, films we like, theatre + also auditions. I usually try to avoid having very recognizable faces, because I think that it sometimes works against you, making the audience see the famous actor who is acting in a shortfilm, instead of the character he or she portrays.


What cameras do you use, + why?
Nowadays there’s a lot of great cameras out there which can give great results. I have my favourites, but I believe that if you have a good art director + a great cinematographer, you can get awesome images with pretty much any camera. I am more picky about the lenses, which sometimes are even more crucial than the camera itself. My last shortfilm, “Fortune-teller”, which is currently in post-production, was shot with a RED Dragon, with Zeiss Superspeed Uncoated lenses + Hawk Anamorphic lenses. We also used a Phantom Flex high-speed camera.

What size crew do you have on your sets, + what roles are the most invaluable?
We always try to keep crews as small as possible, not just for budgetary reasons but also because it is easier to work. However, we always end up having more people than expected because we always end up realizing we need more people to achieve what we want. That’s fine. I’ve rarely felt like there was someone who could be spared. All roles are invaluable, because every last member of the crew is there for a reason + is contributing to the film. Of course the heads of department are crucial,+ having a good first AD is vital in order to maintain order on set.


How did you go about setting the soundtrack for your film?
Music is something I always put a special effort on. I usually rely on Rafa Arnau, a great musician, to compose the music. I always give him references + moods of what I hear in my head when I picture each scene. For Eden Hostel I knew the mood I wanted, + then Rafa gave me great suggestions + we recorded specifically for the film.

How do you split your time for pre-production, production + post production + which is the most important for you?
Each stage is very important to me. Normally I write + re-write until I’m 100% satisfied with the script, + only then we start pre-producing. I like to prepare everything as much as we can, so when time + money allows it, we have a long pre-production so that everything is tied up when it comes to shooting. Shooting is where every minute costs a small fortune so, if pre-production is done correctly, you can get the most out of your time. For Eden Hostel, we shot for four days. Four long days, I must say. Post-production is again very important +, when I have no specific deadlines, I like to spend as much time as I need to finish the film properly.


What’s the best piece of filmmaking advice you’ve been given?
The advice was in spanish + is quite hard to translate, but it would be something like: “Being in a hurry is momentary, shitty films last forever.” This means that, when you’re shooting, you often find yourself in a position where you don’t have enough time to do things properly + a lot of people put pressure on you so that you finish that shot, scene etc… But if you just finish it for the sake of the schedule + you’re not happy with it, you’re probably going to regret it for the rest of your life.

What other filmmakers do you most admire?
I really like Jean Pierre Jeunet, Michel Gondry…

How important are film festivals + competitions to you?
Film festivals + competitions are great because you get your film to be seen by a lot of different people. That’s what we like most about them. When I make a film, I ultimately want to tell a story, + the bigger the audience the better. It is also a great way of getting to know very interesting people who share our passion for films. It is also really nice to get awards, of course, because it means that people not only watched your film, but liked it too, which is also our goal.

What advice would you pass on to burgeoning film makers?
Be honest with yourself + tell stories that truly excite you.

What are your future plans?
Like I said, we are editing my new short-film, “Fortune-teller”, so right now my future plans is to finish it + get it out there. After that, we’ll continue working in my personal photographs, advertising etc… At some point I would love to make a feature film, so I’m also working in that direction.