Coronado Island Film Festival ...

From left, Art in Motion International Producer Jeronimo Bertran, Cinematographer Gabriel Beristáin, Art in Motion International Co-Executive Producer Sue Allen Villalva, Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo and Art in Motion International Director and Producer Ricardo del Rio.

What makes a film come together cohesively is the combination of people behind the scenes that create the experience for viewers. Some of them are people we don’t know so well or have never heard of, but are instrumental in the success of a movie. If you have watched “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Thor,” or other Marvel movies, “Apocalypto,” and “JoJo Rabbit,” there are two people that have held major roles in their success.

Cinematographer, Producer and Television Director Gabriel Beristáin and Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo, both originally from Mexico, have made a name for themselves in Hollywood by working hard, persevering and believing in the dream. Arts in Motion International Ricardo del Rio and Sue Allen Villalva are responsible for bringing the two gems to light and were honored at the Coronado Island Film Festival during Leonard Maltin’s celebrity tribute dinner Nov. 12 in the Crown Room at the Hotel del Coronado. Beristáin received the Cinematography Award and Rubeo the Artistry in Filmmaking. Their awards were followed by a Q&A with Maltin on stage.

Beristáin is the son of a Mexican actor and grew up around films. The movies he has worked on are too many to list but include “The Book of Life,” “Agent Carter,” “Blade II,” “Dolores Claiborne,” “The Avengers,” and other Marvel movies. His awards include: Winner of Native American Film Festival of the Southeast for Best Cinematography for “Princess Ka’iulani,” winner of the Bogota Film Festival for Best Cinematography for “Carne de tu Carne” and many nominations including Best Cinematography for the Aerosmith video “Amazing.” The film “Caravaggio” earned Beristáin a Special Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.

As a young man, Beristáin recalls loving obscure European films. While studying engineering, he discovered film studies, which changed his life’s direction. His first stop was Italy, where under the influence of Director Sergio Leone, Beristáin was advised to go to Britain and study film making. Beristáin was accepted to the National School of Film and Television where only five foreigners were allowed a year.

Beristáin’s original idea was to become a director, but he was instead encouraged to go into the camera department where he would be ensured a spot at the school. “It became a necessity,” he said of those times.

Beristáin first filmed strikes and demonstrations around Europe, and became familiar with Britain and the community around him. Soon rock music videos exploded and he started shooting them outdoors, which he said, marked the end of music videos made in studios.

Beristáin had a strong work ethic from the beginning of his career and while others took time off and breaks, he was working through lunchtime and on weekends. Four years later, he was back in Mexico hoping to work in films in his country, but unable to join the union he left for England.

The change from reel to video was just starting at this time, and he found himself part of it, embracing the new technology. One of his first big movies was “Caravaggio,” which he still talks about of fondly. To better understand Caravaggio, Beristáin did a lot of research by going to Italy and seeing as many Caravaggio paintings as he could. He studied the light in his paintings and realized Caravaggio painted early in the morning.

“What has inspired me is the journey. When I left Mexico…I could not speak English and I had to find a way to communicate in order to survive. I found the camera…that camera has given me a language, a voice,” he said.

Beristáin is currently working on a children’s movie called “Harold and the Purple Crayon” with Ice Age director Chris Wedge. Beristáin has two film companies, one in Cuba and the other in Italy. Because of his reputation, Beristáin does not worry about his next project because he’s always presented with plenty. He is also always looking for projects that he can bring to the U.S., that are stories that come from all over the world.

Although he often travels with a few key crew members, locals are hired for support in the many countries where films are made. In the case of “Black Widow,” for instance, the film was shot in Budapest, England and Norway. He believes in involving local talent in the shooting of a movie as possible.

What has made his success possible? “Working hard, dedication…and the luck factor. I believe you have opportunities in life that are presented to you, come what may, you have to be prepared to receive them,” he said.

His love for cinematography comes from his desire for telling a story. “As long as I have the necessity to tell a story and I will use whatever means I have to,” he said. Beristáin will tell a story in any capacity, maybe as a director or producer in the future, and whatever opportunity may come his way he’ll be sure to take it. “The day I don’t want to tell a story, I may as well not be here,” he said.

Villalva introduced Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo and said, “Mayes Rubeo has been such an inspiration for me. Mayes’ creations are amazing on the big screen, but down in the trenches just before the cameras start rolling, that is when her magic appears. Her talent, kindness, and drive is what compelled me to become a filmmaker - altering my life forever.” Villalva met Rubeo while on the set of the film “Fidel.”

Rubeo has worked on films that include her breakthrough “Apocalypto,” “Avatar,” “John Carter,” “The Great Wall,” “Thor: Ragnack,” and more, including “JoJo Rabbit.” She has received an Academy Award and BAFTA Award nominations for best costume design in “JoJo Rabbit,” and a Primetime Emmy Awards nomination for Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi costumes in “WandaVision.”

Rubeo credits this country for allowing her dreams to come true. “I came here with a dream. Somebody told us, you should pursue your dream…this is a place where it can happen… when you have dreams and you have imagination, it’s an explosion,” she said.

The relationship between the actors and the costume designer is crucial,” explained Rubeo. “Nothing happens until the actor puts the costume on, sees the reflection in the mirror. That’s when the magic starts, not before…this is something that will happen magically with chemistry, with ideas, with feelings, with colors, textures and lengths. The character starts in the fitting room, I don’t care what anybody says,” she said.

Rubeo also explained that the costume designer is who the actors lean on. She has worked with Taika Waititi in three films, the last one being “JoJo Rabbit,” and is someone she admires. “He’s like a rainbow, he knows so much about what is right, cool, fantastic and a spectacle for the eyes,” she said.

Rubeo moved to the U.S. in the 1980s and attended the Los Angeles Trade Tech and like Beristáin went to Italy where she worked with costume designer Enrico Sabbatini. She started her career as a costume designer for director John Hayes, and in 2006 she designed the costumes for “Apocalypto.” Rubeo has an extensive textile collection from all over the world that she has sometimes used for her creations on set.

On Saturday, Nov. 13, Beristáin and del Rio had a panel discussion, while Rubeo held a Master Lab with Villalva facilitating. During the Master Lab, Rubeo told the audience about costume budgets and how different they are for each film. For example in “JoJo Rabbit” her budget was only $10,000. Because of the financial constraint, she looked through her sister’s wardrobe and borrowed some items. Rubeo also studied the World War II era and Nazi Germany to find out the styles of the times to create her costumes, especially for the character Rosie played by Scarlett Johansson. She even designed the shoes for that character.

In one of her movies, the Swarovski family gave $100,000 worth of jewels that were used on the costumes, and in another it took 16 people to embroider an emperor’s costume in the “Great Wall.” She also spoke of the challenges she faces in designing the right costume. For example, in Wanda Vision she designed a magician’s costume for a scene was shot in black and white. Rubeo used the right materials including metals to make sure they would be noticeable in black and white. Rubeo is currently in pre-production for “Blue Beetle,” a DC Comics movie.

What motivates Rubeo is the change and how her work varies for each film. “I’m always happy to start something new, to do different things,” she said.

Rubeo owns a home in Trevi, Italy, where she resides when she is not working in Hollywood. Rubeo is, and always has been, a hard worker. “Hard work is part of it, if you don’t work hard you shouldn’t be working with costumes,” she said.

Rubeo often designs clothes for herself and enjoys doing that; in fact she was wearing one of her creations during this interview.

What keeps her going in the industry? “The opportunity to tell a story, to tell good stories, not any story…with a positive message, that is good for the world,” she said.

(2) comments

AliciaBCox

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AliciaBCox

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