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DP Juan Pablo Ojeda: What Mexican cinema needs Finding their identity

By: María Eugenia Mansilla
For Juan Pablo Ojeda, the search was worth it. Studies of architecture, waiter and bartender and trotamundo, were some of the activities Pablo did before finding his destination as a DP.
A search that had its difficulties, but also had a fun side. "I come from a family dedicated to construction; that, influenced my decision to study architecture, but I didn't like it. So I opted to sell everything I had at the time, and go abroad to get to know the world."
In New York and Toronto, apart from working in restaurants and bars, Juan Pablo explored the possibility of studying film, because he has always been passionate about the seventh art. But, it was in Barcelona, at the Centre de Estudios Cinematogràfics de Catalunya (CECC) where Ojeda started his current story. "I worked to pay for the film studies, although I also counted on the support of my family in Barcelona. It was difficult because I didn't know anyone, but it was an experience of high-growth in all aspects."
A great opportunity
Even while being a student of the CECC, and thanks to his family’s friendly relationship with the director of the film "Voces Inocentes", the Mexican Luis Mandoki, Juan Pablo had the opportunity to participate as an apprentice in that movie. "I did not think twice, and although I had to pay for everything, plane ticket and lodging, I went to work for free in the film". But fortune would soon be complete, because shortly after working on the film, the production hired him as second camera assistant and covered all his expenses. "It was my first great experience, a great school that also left me with some great friends," remembered Juan Pablo Ojeda.
Where you always clear about wanting to be a DP?
-No. I wanted to be a director. But at school everyone forgot about operating the camera, illumination, so I did the work. Then I realized that was what I liked.
How was the experience of returning to work in Mexico?
-For 3 years I moved between Spain and Mexico. Did projects there and here as a camera operator and camera assistant. Then with the crisis in Spain, opportunities were reduced and I dedicated myself to work in Mexico. And for five years, I have been focused in the direction of photography.
Making good decisions
In being questioned about his perception about the medium of the national film and television production, Ojeda thinks a little, and with braveness indicates that there is a lack of project heads that make decisions for the product, that invest in important things, in the creation of the product, and so time is not lost, energy and often money in things that do not support the story.
In this regard, Juan Pablo confesses he is a great admirer of Argentine cinema, since he considers that it has achieved an identity. "Without great pretensions – he says - they have a formula, they tell their stories well, from every point of view. We have everything to achieve it: excellent directors, photographers, creative, screenwriters, staff; "but I think we need a consistency in the quality of the product, also having our own identity."
What do you think of the work of the Mexican DPs?
-It is very good. I've seen Mexican films in which I leave thinking that the best thing was the photography. There is definitely a lot of talent.
What do you think is your main challenge as DP?
-That my work satisfies the visual proposal that the director brings in his mind. Be a real tool to tell the story. For this, I like being in communication with the director, planning the work, to know that I look for ways to propose things with knowledge.
Which do you prefer to work in, advertizing or cinema?
-The work in publicity gives you many levels. It has a very distinctive dynamic, very helpful to build character. Also, helping me pay the bills. Filmmaking has other charms, you have more time, you can plan more, you engage more with people, etc.
When the interview took place, Juan Pablo Ojeda was photographing the pilot of a new Mexican series directed by one of the directors with whom he normally works with, Henry Bedwel.
EFD was there supporting with lighting, cameras, trucks, equipment supplies and HMI. "This time we were dealing with the cameras: Alexa and Amira," says Ojeda.
Is there any shot that you consider a challenge?
-Yes. When you have to recreate daylight, when we are actually filming at night. It is a challenge to make daylight look realistic.
Juan Pablo Ojeda took his time in deciding where he would devote his life, professionally speaking, because he knew that his happiness was from within. It has been a path of climbing, to go discovering and growing in knowledge, experience and in succession, as he says, to consolidate as DP.