We had the good fortune of connecting with Carlo Mendoza and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Carlo, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I was 9 years old when I fell in love with photography. This was the beginning of my artistic exploration as a kid. I enjoyed watching TV and going to the movie houses. I then joined the theater group in grade school and through this, I got the chance to audition for a magazine children’s show called 5 and Up in the Philippines. I had no experience being an on-cam talent but somehow, I was chosen to be one of the TV show’s hosts or reporters, as we were referred to. it was through this amazing experience that I started to learn about telling stories and communicating through media. as I developed my interest in sharing stories, I found myself gravitating to making movies. So, in high school, I already knew that I wanted to make movies, that I wanted to tell stories not just because it can entertain people but because of it’s power to inspire people, to change one’s perspective, to make people understand oneself and others, to bridge the gap between cultures and its power to change lives.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The journey from being a movie fan to being a cinematographer was definitely not an easy one. It was filled with uncertainties and rejections but I never stopped persevering. And along the way, I met so many people who helped and guided me to where I am now. Starting out is never easy, well at least, for most of us. I applied in workshops that rejected me twice or thrice but I kept applying until finally I was able to get in. I believe that if you really are passionate about something, you wouldn’t stop until you get that thing. There were times that I was disheartened but I had to believe in myself.

What I love most about cinematography is the collaborative process I have with my directors. I love spending time with my directors talking about the story and the characters and finding ways to visually communicate the characters’ journeys and emotions. I love exploring new things and taking risks in my work and I try not to succumb to generic ways of telling the story.

I choose the stories I make and the directors I work with. it is very important that I find a connection to the story or to the character regardless of how small that connection is. I have to believe that I can contribute to bringing the story to the best way the audience can connect with. I make sure that I always have my director’s back so I have to believe in my director’s vision. I never put my own interests over the film. Everything I do when I’m working on a project is what best serves the story and my director’s vision and never my own personal agenda. But in every film I make, I share a part of who I am.


Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Los Angeles is really one of the best cities to visit. The sun is gorgeous at sunrise and sunset. I have only been here for almost 5 years so I am still discovering and uncovering the city. It never ceases to surprise me. Venice Beach is always fun to visit. Little Tokyo in Downtown LA is nice for some really good authentic Japanese ramen, My favorite bar in LA is Lost Property Bar near Hollywood and Vine. It’s a small bar that has a great selection of whiskey and martinis. They also have this sizzling cookie a la mode that is to die for. Tacos are big in LA too but my favorite one is a taco truck at the corner of Western and Sunset, near my first apartment back when I was in AFI. The Griffith Observatory is definitely something not to miss – you can hike around the area and hangout at the park as well. Since this is LA, you have to watch a movie in either one of the biggest theaters like The Chinese Theaters (TCL) and Arclight Hollywood, which has probably the best projection and not to mention the best popcorn and some good draft beer but unfortunately it has closed down due to Covid. There are some vintage movie theaters to go to like the Vista theater and Los Feliz theater which are very charming and have some really nice Art Deco design. The Weltern in K-town is a nice place to watch some concerts, as well as the Hollywood Bowl. Silverlake is also a good area for restos, bars and coffee like Intelligentsia coffee. Of course, you also have a lot of vegan or vegetarian options in LA. there are a lot of options for burgers and hotdogs like Johnny’s or Umami or Pink’s. There are some museums you can also visit in LA like The Broad Museum, LACMA and The Getty Museum in Sherman Oaks. I also recently discovered this park at the Pacific Promenade in Playa Vista where you can get a cup of coffee and hangout there.

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?
My producers in the show 5 and Up (Ate Grace, Ate Teret, Ate Pol, Ate Inky, Ate Lengo) acted as directors, writers, editors for the show. They inspired me with their dedication in their work and their amazing talent. I was 11 or 12 years old during that time and I just wanted to someday do what they were doing.

My mentor, one of the first few female cinematographers in the Philippines, Lee Briones who took me as her apprentice for 2 and 1/2 years. I attended all her shoots, meetings, tech scouts, color grading etc. She showed me how the industry worked, taught me about camera and lighting and most importantly, taught me to keep my integrity at work and to always fight for my crew’s rights.

The Ateneo de Manila University where I studied for 16 years from preparatory school until undergrad. Early on in my formative years, this institution and my teachers there instilled in us to strive for magis, to go beyond what is expected of us and most importantly, to be a person for others.

The Asian Film Academy in Busan, South Korea and our mentors there: Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Iranian filmmaker Mohesen Mahkmalbaf, Japanese cinematographer Toyomichi Kurita, British cinematographer Mark Carey, BSC and Korean director PARK Ki-yong. This workshop for 24 aspiring Asian filmmakers and these mentors change my view of cinema. They taught me how powerful film is in shaping the lives of people, changing their perspectives, understanding oneself and others, inspiring people to see and have a deeper understanding of the human condition. It was through this workshop that made me understand how I should use cinema as a catalyst for change. I realized that this could be my way of being a person for others.

The American Film Institute (AFI) raised my level of understanding of story and gave me a whole new approach in making films. AFI taught me the importance of really understanding the story and the character’s journey before anything else so I would know what technical and creative decisions I need to make. I learned to approach cinematography in a methodological and scientific way and not just creative. AFI gave me a whole new arsenal of skills that I can use in my work. It also opened up new doors and so many possibilities outside of my home country. At AFI, I got exposed to so many talented filmmakers who have inspired me and humbled me in so many ways.

Most importantly, my parents, Dr. Jaime Mendoza and Mrs. Roseanna Canlas Mendoza who have always been supportive of everything I dreamed of. They wanted me to be a doctor like my dad but they didn’t force me to take medicine. They never told me not to pursue film. They allowed me to become who I am today. They taught me to give back, to show kindness to people and to have compassion for others. My parents guided me to have empathy for people which I believe is one of the most important things to have as a human being and as a storyteller.

Website: http://carlomen.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dcarlomen/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlo-mendoza-41b37669/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dcarlomen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carlomen

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