Director of Photography (DP) Pedro Gomez Millan is one of the most favorite DP of Director Salome Mulugeta. Pedro's creative eye and passion for visual storytelling has made him one of the most sought after, new DP’s in the industry. His role as DP is essentially, a creative force which helps shape what’s on screen and is just as influential as the film director. Together the director and DP create a unique visual language.
As DP of the indie film “Woven” directed by Salome Mulugeta and Nagwa Ibrahim, his powerful imagery—about an Ethiopian New York immigrant family facing lifes’ toughest challenges—has been bringing cheering audiences to their feet around the film festival circles. “Woven,” which took 15 years to finance and complete, has catapulted filmmaker, Salome Mulugeta’s creative career to an all time high and helped him, as a DP, bring his own look into the issues that immigrants face.
Mulugeta has also worked with DP Gomez on several high profile commercials including work for Ethiopian Airlinesand Coca-Cola Africa. It was the experience of working for Coca-Cola, for the director, that helped her solidify their continued collaborative working relationship, shares Salome:
“There are many attributes, as a creative, that make working with him [Pedro Gomez Millan] so enjoyable. To begin, he is a a very focused man and once you begin trying to explain, your vision, he researches anything that he might not immediately understand. He is such a gentle soul which makes working with him such a fun and productive experience. He understands how to help me, as a director, get my vision from the page to the screen. He is utterly collaborative and he is brilliant with color.
For example, while working on the Coca-Cola commercial, their team allowed us to come up with our own creative ideas. It was exciting! The client wanted us to be creative and as a DP [Pedro] was totally game. In the commercial when you see me dancing with the group of brightly dressed kids, again, this was the result of us (being given creative freedom by the client) collaborating in a very spontaneous way. And that very commercial for Coke (Coca-Cola Africa) was a hit and well received all over Africa. That’s just one example of why working with DP Pedro Gomez Millan is a joy which ends with exceptional product, project-after-project.”
Millan is now in pre-production on a two projects: an untitled action Netflix series to be shot in Mexico City with director Manolo Caro and “ADDIS ABEKA” to be directed by Salome Mulugeta, who also serves as executive producer and produced by Stephanie Allain and Mel Jones to be shot, in Ethiopia, this fall.
Here is excerpt from chat with Pedro Gomez Millan
Q: What do you love about being a D.P.?
Pedro Gomez Millan: When I was in High School and had to make a decision on what to study in college, I was completely overwhelmed because I was interested in every single subject, from physics to literature to genetics to political science. I had the hardest time choosing what to do. I ended up studying philosophy and communication and later on did an MFA in Film. I realized that working in film gives me the chance of studying all those other topics I couldn't do before. I'm fascinated about life and filmmaking gives me the chance of learning something new about it in every project I do.
Q: A DP’s life requires travel and keeping up with everything that’s happening fast in the tech side of making movies. Yes?
PGM: Being a DP is a very particular lifestyle and personally I think is the best job in the world. I'm mesmerized by images and love to watch beauty in all it's manifestations. Whenever I'm making a film I think about one word: epiphany. I work towards creating a mood and an environment for an epiphany to happen to a character or somewhere in the story. I love being able to create images and tell stories that eventually could help my community to make a better life. Basically my work is to create imaginary able to generate epiphanies in people that watches it. I know, pretty ambitious!
Q: Describe the D.P. and Director relationship?
PGM: It's the most intense and closest relationship I've experienced in my working life. It feels a lot like dating, you meet, you decide to like each other and give it a shot, you get to know each other under pressure and stressful times and then you finally break up. Maybe you liked each other so much that you decide to come back and do it again.
Q: Do you work closely with directors or do you act like “church” and “state?”
PGM: I've really had very close relationships with most of my directors and we've became good friends. I've directed before and I'm very aware of all the trust the director puts on a DP's shoulder when they decide to work together. And I can say that the feeling is mutual. I also think on Director and DP relationship like two blind people crossing together 5th Avenue right when it becomes green light. It's all about trust and knowing that the other person is gonna be there for you and that he or she won't throw you under the bus. Director and script are the most important things for me when I choose a new project.
Q I first saw your incredible work in “Woven” at the LAFF (2016) where I met Salome Mulugeta. What an incredible person and what a journey to get the film from an idea to the big screen: 15 years is no joke!
PGM: I got connected to the script because it's a story about immigrants. I was born and raised in Mexico City and at the time I just finished film school and had been living in the U.S. for 4 years. So I'm an immigrant living in New York and felt like this script was made for me to shoot it. I didn't know a lot of Ethiopian culture but I could personally relate to the soul and core of the story. I felt like it was a story that people in New York would appreciate and I was very excited to visually contribute to tell the story as a DP.
Q: Describe your choices in making “Woven” look so good. Why did you use what you used?
PGM: I decided to shoot the movie mostly on the Angenieux Optimo 15-40mm. We shot on locations on tight apartments in New York and I wanted to feel the space as much as possible so I tried to use wide lenses whenever I could to avoid shooting faces against walls all the time.
I shot [the character] Elenie with her family mostly handheld, we wanted to give a sense of urgency to Elenie's motivation in the story. It was very important to the directors to point out the rich culture of Elenie's family who comes from Ethiopia. We decided to visually tell that part of the story with warmer tones, opposite to Logan's which has a cooler vibe. Also we wanted both worlds (Elenie's home vs Logan's home) to feel very different. Whenever we shot at Logan's house the camera stayed locked off on the tripod more like a witness and definitely less active than the camera at Elenie's who's restless after the loss of her brother.
I was very lucky to shoot this film on the Alexa which was my first choice. We had no money and I had to pull many favors to get a decent camera and G&E package (and anything I could get my hands on) to make this movie. Guy Jaconelli from Video Evolution gave us an unbeatable deal on a Alexa package.
Q: What’s next from your lips?
PGM: I am working with Salome, again, with the next feature film in Ethiopia. Really hope our schedules work out! I'm about to shoot the first season of a new series for Netflix. It's a 5 months commitment and is my first experience shooting television. I'm pretty excited!
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