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The Alfonso Cuáron Trajectory: Go to Film School, Get Expelled, Win an Oscar

Alfonso Cuaron BAFTABAFTA LA recently sat down with director Alfonso Cuarón for their Behind Closed Doors series, in which he answered questions surrounding everything from his childhood love of classic cinema to the motivation behind the choices he made on Gravity. It’s a rare look into not only an Academy Award-winning director’s life, but into a career that is marked with great boldness, mastery — and an expulsion from film school. Listen to Cuarón  share about his childhood discovery of films, turbulent years in film school, and his current approach to filmmaking after the jump.

Alfonso Cuarón’s career is definitely one to strive for. Though Gravity helped earn him his Oscar, his other films also have his distinct visual style all over them, like A Little Princess, Y Tu Mamá También, and Children of Menthanks in part to his frequent collaborator, DP Chivo Lubezki.

The encouraging thing about Cuarón’s career, especially the technological acrobatics act that Gravity was, is that he never graduated from the film school he attended in Mexico City – in fact, we was expelled before he could. Actually, one of the best anecdotes from the video below starts with Cuarón  explaining his feelings toward film school.


Look, I think film schools are fantastic. I love films schools in the sense that you create a community. I started working with Emmanuel Lubezki in film school — and he was expelled as well — I think that the new generation, in many ways, they don’t need film school.

He goes on to explain that because this new generation of filmmakers have access to relatively cheap, accessible tools, have seen countless BTS featurettes, and because, quite simply, filmmaking is a hell of a lot easier than it used to be, film school isn’t as integral to the act of filmmaking (or even having a career doing it) as it was in the past. Though, he does say, and I agree, film school helps build a community of filmmakers around you — film school might just help you find your own Chivo! You never know.

Check out Cuarón’s BAFTA discussion below. He has a lot more to talk about other than film school, like working through films that are big “miscalculations”, the infertility metaphor in Children of Men, and how Gravity, to this day, still hasn’t been greenlit. So carve out about an hour to watch it, and enjoy.

Obviously there is more to a successful career in film, including Cuarón’s, than what the title of this article claims. However, knowing that this year’s Academy Award-winning director didn’t receive a complete formal education in film reminds us that it’s hard work, creative vision, and a little know-how that will help you make films — things that you don’t necessarily have to go to school for (unless you want to).

Which part of Cuarón’s discussion stuck out to you most? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[via BAFTA LAFilmmaker IQ]

COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • I believe you use everything you know. There are a million different ways to achieve your success. We each have our own path and our own story. Hard work, a good attitude, and some luck will help get us there. Good luck to everyone and keep supporting each other.

  • Enjoyed the interview very much. A lot to be learned! Thanks for posting!

  • Alfonso rocks. Very informative. I just wish interview guy knew how close to position his mic. Most annoying the sputtering spitting plosive distortion. .

  • “we was expelled” – good one V.

  • I totally agree with the point about film school building a community around you to develop connections. As a self taught DP my only resource to meet people to shoot has been Craigslist and Mandy, and I’m in NYC. And I’m sure everyone knows how fantastic those resources are…

    • Yeah…it’s a huge problem. But even in school the odds of you finding
      geniuses to collaborate with aren’t much better than craigslist. And
      even when you do find a director they don’t work enough. I know a
      DP who waited over 12 years before he got a job from his director.

    • One of the biggest problems I faced was the egos. This happens in the recording school side of things as well.
      Everyone wants to be the rock star, if you have something special to offer, it’s not seen as an asset for a better final product, it’s seen as a tool for them to further their career.. and no one will genuinely collaborate with the soul purpose of a better final product as the priority these days it seems. It is a very, very expensive competition.

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