What makes a film cohesive is the combination of people behind the scenes who create the experience for viewers. Some of them are people we don’t know very well or have never heard of, but who make a movie a success. If you’ve watched “Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Thor” or other Marvel movies, “Apocalypto” and “JoJo Rabbit”, there are two people who have played a major role in their success.
Cinematographer, producer and television director Gabriel Beristáin and costume designer Mayes Rubeo, both from Mexico, have made their names 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 spotlighting the two gems and were honored at the Coronado Island Film Festival during Leonard Maltin’s Celebrity Tribute Dinner on November 12 in the hotel’s Crown Room del Coronado. Beristáin received the cinematography prize and Rubeo the art of cinema. Their awards were followed by a question-and-answer session with Maltin on stage.
Beristáin is the son of a Mexican actor and grew up around cinema. The films he has worked on are too numerous to list, but include “The Book of Life”, “Agent Carter”, “Blade II”, “Dolores Claiborne”, “The Avengers” and other Marvel films. Its prizes include: winner of the Native American Film Festival of the Southeast for best photography for “Princess Ka’iulani”, winner of the Bogota Film Festival for best photography for “Carne de tu Carne” and numerous nominations including best photograph for the Aerosmith video “Incredible.” The film “Caravaggio” won Beristáin a Special Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
As a young man, Beristáin remembers having loved obscure European films. During his engineering studies, he discovered film studies, which changed the direction of his life. His first stop was Italy, where under the influence of director Sergio Leone, Beristáin was advised to go to Britain and study filmmaking. Beristáin was accepted to the National School of Cinema and Television where only five foreigners were allowed per year.
Beristáin’s original idea was to become a director, but instead he was encouraged to enter the camera department where he would be guaranteed a place in school. “It has become a necessity,” he said of that time.
Beristáin first filmed strikes and protests across Europe and got to know Britain and the community around it. Soon rock music videos exploded and he started shooting them outdoors, which he said marked the end of studio-made clips.
Beristáin had a strong work ethic from the start of his career and while others took time off and breaks he worked at lunchtime and on weekends. Four years later, he returned to Mexico hoping to work in films in his country, but failed to join the union he left for England.
The shift from reel to video was only just beginning at that point, and he found himself a part of it, embracing new technology. One of his first great films was “Caravaggio”, which he still speaks fondly of. 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 that Caravaggio painted early in the morning.
“What inspired me was the trip. When I left Mexico… I didn’t speak English and had to find a way to communicate to survive. I found the camera… this camera gave me a language, a voice, ”he said.
Beristáin is currently working on a children’s film called “Harold and the Purple Crayon” with Ice Age director Chris Wedge. Beristáin owns two film companies, one in Cuba and the other in Italy. Due to his reputation, Beristáin is not worried about his next project as he is always presented with a lot. He’s also always on the lookout for projects that he can bring to the United States, that is, stories that come from all over the world.
Although he often travels with a few key members of the crew, locals are hired to support him in the many countries where the films are made. In the case of “Black Widow”, for example, the film was shot in Budapest, England and Norway. He believes that it is possible to involve local talent in the making of a film.
What made its success possible? “Hard work, dedication… and the luck factor. I believe that you have opportunities in life presented to you, whatever happens you have to be prepared to receive them, ”he said.
His love for cinematography comes from his desire to tell a story. “As long as I have the need to tell a story and I will use whatever means I have,” he said. Beristáin will tell a story in any capacity, maybe as a director or producer in the future, and whatever opportunity comes his way, he’s sure to grab it. “The day I don’t want to tell a story, I might as well not be there,” he said.
Villalva introduced costume designer Mayes Rubeo and said, “Mayes Rubeo has been such an inspiration to me. Mayes’ creations look amazing on the big screen, but in the trenches just before the cameras start rolling, that’s when his magic appears. His talent, his kindness and his drive are what pushed me to become a filmmaker, which changed my life forever. Villalva met Rubeo on the set of the movie “Fidel”.
Rubeo has worked on films that include his breakthrough “Apocalypto”, “Avatar”, “John Carter”, “The Great Wall”, “Thor: Ragack” and more, including “JoJo Rabbit”. She received Oscar and BAFTA nominations for Best Costume Design in “JoJo Rabbit” and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Fantasy / Science Fiction Costume in “WandaVision”.
Rubeo thanks this country for making its dreams come true. “I came here with a dream. Someone told us you should chase your dream… this is a place where it can happen… when you have dreams and you have imagination it’s a blast, ”she said .
The relationship between the actors and the costume designer is crucial, ”explained Rubeo. “Nothing happens until the actor puts on the costume, sees the reflection in the mirror. That’s when the magic begins, not before… it’s something that will happen as per magic with chemistry, ideas, feelings, colors, textures and lengths. The character starts in the dressing room, I don’t care what anyone says, “she said.
Rubeo also explained that the costume designer is the one the actors rely on. She’s worked with Taika Waititi in three films, the last being “JoJo Rabbit”, and she’s someone she admires. “He’s like a rainbow, he knows so much about what’s fair, cool, fantastic and a sight to behold,” she said.
Rubeo moved to the United States in the 1980s and attended Los Angeles Trade Tech and, like Beristáin, went to Italy where she worked with costume designer Enrico Sabbatini. She began her career as a costume designer for director John Hayes, and in 2006 she designed the costumes for “Apocalypto”. Rubeo has an extensive collection of textiles from all over the world that she has occasionally used for her designs on set.
On Saturday 13 November, Beristáin and del Rio had a round table, while Rubeo organized a Master Lab with Villalva as facilitator. During the Master Lab, Rubeo explained to the audience the costume budgets and how different they are for each movie. For example, in “JoJo Rabbit” his budget was only $ 10,000. Due to financial stress, she rummaged through her sister’s wardrobe and borrowed a few items. Rubeo also studied the era of WWII and Nazi Germany to discover styles of the era to create her costumes, particularly for the character of Rosie played by Scarlett Johansson. She even designed the shoes for this character.
In one of his films, the Swarovski family donated $ 100,000 worth of jewelry that was used on the costumes, and in another it took 16 people to embroider an emperor costume in the “Great Wall” . She also spoke about the challenges she faces in designing the right costume. For example, in Wanda Vision, she designed a magician costume for a scene shot in black and white. Rubeo used the right materials, including metals, to ensure they would be visible in black and white. Rubeo is currently in pre-production for “Blue Beetle”, a DC Comics film.
What drives Rubeo is change and the way his 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 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 it; indeed, she wore one of her creations during this interview.
What drives her to continue in the industry? “The opportunity to tell a story, to tell good stories, not just any story… with a positive message is good for the world,” she said.