We had the good fortune of connecting with Adriana Ledesma and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Adriana, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
We all watch movies, and even though it seems something obvious, most of the people that are not involved in the film industry are not aware of the incredible amount of work that has to be done by different departments to make a film, and the unbelievable amount of collaboration that a film requires and depends on.
It is very easy for people to discredit a film and criticize it without knowing, simply because they did not like the plot, the theme or even an actor, and although story itself is one of the most important elements for a movie to succeed, there are plenty of other areas that you could look up to before tearing apart someone else’s work, so one of my goals in life is to educate people to see beyond what they can see, so that they can go deeper and can admire everything that is behind making movies.
Producing, accounting, locations, casting, script supervising, assistant directing, camera, lighting & electrical, grip, sound, art, construction, costume & wardrobe, hair & make-up, special effects, stunts, visual effects, editing, music… all the communication that happens between all of these departments to ensure the same goal is met, is something to praise.
People need to realize that everything they’re watching on screen has a purpose, and it was defined the way it was, by the head departments and the director, for a very specific reason. There’s a lot of psychology behind a film, a character, a location, a piece of wardrobe or a music choice, and it is everything combined, which results on an interesting impact in the audience.
All three phases of production require an insane amount of effort, but speaking specifically of production, which is the moment you are actually on set making things happen, one thing I found very interesting and that not many people know about, is the way we are always “cheating” to achieve a certain look or a certain shot; whether it is creating day for night lighting, cheating actors eyeline for specific reasons, moving objects around to make things look as we want the audience to look at them and not how they actually look in reality, placing camera in a way that it will trick you into thinking something completely else is going on, etc.. I find that skill very spectacular, because most of the times you wouldn’t imagine the things we do and the creativity that’s behind it, to achieve the shot.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear how did you get to where you are today professionally? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What you are most proud of or excited about?
In my country, it is often frowned upon or highly judged for you to want to work or make a living from the arts. There is very little support, especially from the government, which makes it difficult for this to be seen as a career. Hearing that someone wants to be a dancer or a painter or an actor, is immediately thought of as a hobby and it is well known it is a path in which you are going to struggle no matter what.
Something that I’m very proud of is, despite all that, having had the courage to leave the stable job I had in marketing and sales department, with a great salary, to venture to leave my country, my previous career and leave my family behind, to chase what I realized made me tremendously happy.
Of course it hasn’t been easy, but that’s the beauty of it. Every challenge you face makes you stronger, and that’s something I love about this career. Perseverance has been key to my success, and also patience. It is very important for you to always keep in mind your main goal, but you also have to know you need to climb step by step to get where you truly want to be.
When I first started, I wasn’t even close to know how to make films or how a set worked, that’s the main reason I decided to study a Master in Film and Media Production, to get a sense of all phases of production. After I graduated, I didn’t know anyone, so I realized the first step for me was to put myself out there. It is hard at the beginning when you have no experience whatsoever, so I started volunteering myself just to be able to be on set. I started helping out friends of friends, I went to camera rental houses to learn how to build a camera, to practice with the equipment; I reached out to Directors and DP’s so that they could teach me everything they knew and I started working on a few different positions on independent film sets. After a while, I reached out to the Academy’s acting department to offer my services as a Director so I could direct the acting student projects and I started gaining experience and getting used to how different departments functioned and all the equipment as well, the set flow, and everything I needed to know as a filmmaker. I did various projects for an extremely low budget to keep practicing and, things started moving forward. As they always say, “one job gives you the other”, and nowadays I’ve been fortunate enough that every job I get is because of recommendations. I’ve built a great network, which in this business is very important, because even though you always tend to work with the same group of people over and over again, it is them who very often recommend you to knew gigs, and so that’s how you keep growing.
What sets you apart from others? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? What do you want the world to know about you or your story?
I define myself as a person who never gives up. Very dedicated in what I do, always professional no matter what is it that I’m doing, with a great work ethic and with a very strong vision to always move forward while facing any adversity.
There’s a quality I have that has been all my life a curse and a blessing at the same time.
I’m a perfectionist, always looking out for the smallest details, and I’m permanently committed to the fullest.
I’ve been criticized very often for this, but it is giving 100% in everything I do, that has made me stand out on several occasions in this highly competitive industry and in life.
I guess what I’ve learned from that in this career, is that you have to choose your battles wisely and establish a balance so that you can move forward efficiently, especially in this industry, where time is money, literally. I’ve learned that you should never take things personal and that you should never overthink things around. Just go for it.
Having had the opportunity of being in big and small sets, making student or independent films, working either on music videos, commercials, short films or feature films, it all has enrich my experience in countless ways. Practice makes perfect, so if I have to give an advice to others, that would be to find the way to be on set as much as you can. Shot and learn. There’s something indescribable of being on set that will undoubtedly improve your skills every time.
What I’d love for people to take from me is to be fearless in the pursuit of what sets their soul on fire. There’s a quote I love (I can’t remember the author) and I’d love if people could embrace it, which is: “Dream big, but also take small steps towards the achievement of your dreams. Take a leap of faith and unleash your potentials. Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality; rather upgrade your conviction to match your destiny”.
Sounds very cliché when people say “work hard to make your dreams come true”, but it is true. If you do so and never stop pursuing them, you will absolutely get there.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The reason why so many studios settled in LA is because of the great weather for filming and all the different nature backgrounds that California has to offer.
I’m a nature lover, so there’s no doubt I would take my friends to experience a few adventurous activities. There’s a lot of beautiful places to go hiking, I’d go pedal boating, I’d go camping around the area, biking to the beach, renting a cabin and skiing in Big Bear. That’s the beauty of living in LA, that no further than 2 hours away you have either beach, snow, mountains, desert, just name it. View is marvelous plus you do a little exercise while having fun, so I can’t think of anything better to do.
There’s also numerous Museums or places with a lot of history for you to admire and learn from, so I wouldn’t skip a few of these. And something that you can’t miss, is take the opportunity to visit Disneyland. That’s always a must for me. It literally is the happiest place on earth, so I wouldn’t miss it for anything. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
For sure. First of all, my family. Most of who I am today has been defined by where I came from, so I’d definitely like to thank them (my 2 brothers, my mom and my dad). It is what they sowed in me, the education they gave me, the challenges we faced, the incredible experiences we lived together, the hard times, the good times, the joyful moments, the love, support and encouragement they’ve always given to me, to always pursue what I want, what fulfills me and what makes me happy, that has given me the strength, confidence and everything I need to succeed.
Second of all, I would like to give huge credit to my husband. Ever since we met, he has imprinted in me his passion for his craft, his distinctive way of looking at things and his ambition in life. His support and his trust towards me, the way he has never let me fall or lose track, the way he inspires me to keep going, his fantastic sense of humor and his phenomenal and unique way of being the best partner I could’ve ask for, it all has taken me this far.
And thirdly but not lastly, to my wonderful baby. His liveliness, his strength, his curiosity and his way of exploring and being amazed by the world around him, is something extremely inspiring. He’s simply the biggest engine that I could’ve ask for, pushing me to keep pursuing my dreams.
Manuel Velásquez, Sophia Lee, Diego Medellín, Carolina Rodríguez, Luvia Córdoba, Julio García, Adriana Ledesma.