Yeah, maybe James Franco is a bit of an odd dude, but seeing him take heaps of verbal abuse like a true champ at Comedy Central’s recent celebrity roast definitely earned the guy a few points. And if you’re a little confused by his four MFAs and his doctoral candidate status in the Department of English at Yale, well, at least someone in Hollywood’s intellectually curious, right? Plus the guy makes all sorts of weird movies, and it turns out that one of his most frequent collaborators for these weird movies is a Mexican-born director of photography named Pedro Gómez Millán. So give it up to Mr. Squint for giving Latin American filmmakers their shot on the global stage.
In fact, just last week, Gómez Millán found himself in the picturesque city of Guanajuato to promote the Guanajuato International Film Festival’s opening night screening of Black Dog, Red Dog. The film is Franco’s latest omnibus project, which brought together a diverse cast of directors from across the world to adapt the works of American poet Stephen Dobyns. Gómez Millán served as director of photography on a number of the shorts (including James Franco’s contribution) and even had the opportunity to direct part of the film himself. So of course, we took advantage of Gómez Millán’s presence at the festival to chat with the Mexico City native about his work.
“In the U.S., especially when you’re dealing with low budgets, you have to film very quickly… in Mexico, the directors take their time…”
Reflecting on the differences between the industries in Mexico and the U.S., Gómez commented, “I think in the U.S., especially when you’re dealing with low budgets, you have to film very quickly. Fortunately, here in Mexico, the directors take their time and there are more shoot days. You’d think it’d be the other way around in the United States, but it’s not, and you have to adapt to their modes of production.”
But that hasn’t stopped Gómez Millán from setting up shop in New York, where has shot a number of documentaries, features, and commercials. His experience working with Franco goes back to the 2010 short Herbert White, and it was during the shoot for 2012’s The Color of Time that Franco proposed the idea for Black Dog, Red Dog. “It’s an honor to be working with such successful people,” he confided, “being there with them, directing and shooting – it’s an honor, and I’m very proud.”
And his adventures with James Franco don’t stop there. Gómez Millán was actually only in Guanajuato briefly, an escape he afforded himself despite rigorous prep work on Franco’s next feature, Master Class, which is being filmed in Toronto. Speaking to his extended working relationship with Franco, Gómez concluded, “I love working with him. He’s a very inspiring person with very positive energy. And he’s very grateful, too.”
We’re grateful to Franco too. Not only did he take a bet on Gómez Millán early in the cinematographer’s career, but Black Dog, Red Dog also features first-time Colombian director Adriana Cepeda Espinosa at the helm of one of the shorts. He may be an easy target for wisecracks, but in today’s Hollywood, risk-takers like Franco are few and far between.