AS: How did you first meet him?
EC: In Mexico we’re a very tiny film community. We cannot even call it an industry. We are a small film group. I knew him and then he produced a film that I did in Ecuador titled Chronicles. He produced it with Alfonso Cuarón. It was a very realistic film, a very tough film loosely based in two or three characters that were serial killers in the Eighties. It’s essentially about this guy and this group of journalists that come from Miami to this very poor community in Ecuador. They discover that there are some children missing and, touched by that, they try to help but for the wrong reasons. In the end the film had to look very realistic. We ended up needing to recreate a lot of sets because it was not easy to shoot in that part of Ecuador. We recreated a feeling of this little town Babahoyo in a bigger city, Guayaquil. There was a lot of construction and dressing and scenic details because it was the Tropics and the Tropics are full of texture. As the producer, Guillermo saw how realistic our recreation was and he liked it a lot. And then Guillermo and Bertha Navarro, Guillermo’s producing partner, talked about the possibility of inviting me to Pan’s Labyrinth.
A lot of younger people come to me and say that there’s not really a place where you can study to be a production designer. There are some schools but there are very few in the world and it’s not easy for a vast majority of students from a lot of countries to find schools where they can learn their craft. A lot of people look for information in places like your blog or for master classes or workshops. But many of them come from countries where there’s not much cinema and it’s very hard to find anything.
In my case it was really natural. It was just non-stop working. I was always working and thinking about the next project. Soon I was doing things locally in Mexico, then I started working in Latin America but still very regionally. Then one thing led to another and then the next project opened a lot of doors. Now, some years later, I have access to better projects.
AS: Did you go to art school? How did you get into film in the first place?
EC: When I was seventeen I went to study art history in Florence, Italy. I was there for two years and when I went back home at nineteen everything had changed in my mind. But I still didn’t know if I wanted to continue in an art school, or continue studying art history. I was also thinking of going to film school because I always loved film. While I was still deciding what to do I started doing a lot of shorts for my friends who were in film school. Everyone in film school wanted to be a director or producer or cinematographer or actor but nobody wanted to do the art direction, the production design. So I found a niche that I’ve felt very comfortable in. I did a lot of shorts with different directors, many of whom have become known directors in Mexico. And that led me to work with them more and also with different