There is no handbook to guide you on how to be successful. Different strokes for different folks. What’s good for the goose, isn’t always good for the gander. While the cliches about how one’s pathway to success doesn’t always work for everyone are nearly infinite, they all tell the same truth. They also encourage you to find your own way instead of mimicking what has already been done. Be a risk taker! Well, at least that’s what I get from them. Alfonso Cuaron and I may just think along those same lines, having carved his own path to success in the world of film. As well as taking a few risks along the way, setting a standard through his vision for his films to become top-tier.
Who is Alfonso Cuaron, though? Well, he’s someone that has directed a couple of the generation’s impactful films. His most recent work, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the most successful of Alfonso’s films, Gravity, have elevated him into an elite class of film directors. His journey to get there was quite different than many of his contemporaries, but movies were his first love.
His passion for movies stems from growing up in a household where his mother was an avid movie goer. Her love for movies was inherited by Alfonso and carried out in his pursuit to become a movie director. Alfonso was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico, where he would also go on to film school. Alfonso attended National Autonomous University of Mexico, but he wasn’t allowed to finish school however. In fact, Alfonso was kicked out of film school for violating a rule, that being his participation in a film that was done in English. While the punishment seemed to be a bit overboard, Alfonso wouldn’t let that setback be the end of him chasing his dream.
Alfonso continued to search for avenues to use the skills he had, and worked in television for a while. After years of working in television, he was given the opportunity to direct his first film. The 1992 film entitled Solo Con Tu Pareja, was released in English and Spanish. The English version was called Love in the Time of Hysteria, was a great way for him to get his feet wet as a director, and showcase his humorous side. The film also gave Alfonso a chance to work and co-write with his brother, Carlos. The film had a great deal of success in Mexico.
Alfonso would go on to later work on English films, and switched up the genres a bit to show his versatility. He also enjoyed better success here, and worked on one of the generation’s blockbuster Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. This was another opportunity to delve into a different genre. Not only was this going to be his first time working on a kids film, but he hadn’t even read the book before working on the movie. How crazy is that?
Just last year, he was generating Academy Awards buzz for his work on the Sci-Fi hit, “Gravity”. This film starred two of Hollywood’s most decorated actors; George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. The movie was one of 2013’s best films as evident by having held the number one spot two weeks in a row. Gravity also received several Academy awards, including Alfonso’s for Best Director.
“Gravity” was a different caliber than anything Alfonso had done before. It was just a different feel, and to have a chance to team up with his son as a father-son directing and screenwriting duo? That made for what was an incredibly special movie, and experience for all that were involved. And then of course you factor in the opportunity to work with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock on the same project.
Gravity was a 3-D space suspense film that was inevitably going to be great. From the cast, to the storyline, to the special effects and cinematography, there was all the components for a award-winning picture. It also gave Alfonso the smash hit that makes his resume one of the more respected in the film industry today. Not only has he proven that he can work in multiple genres, in English or Spanish, but he can do so with the best of them. While Alfonso’s uniqueness to take on the challenge of different genres puts him in a class all his own, some people question his untraditional path. As Alfonso told The New York Times, “A director I respect once told me: ‘You’re too much like a pendulum. You have to find your center.’ But I just do what I feel is the right thing at the time. I don’t think it’s a flaw.” He continued, “But, on the other hand, almost all the directors I admire do have a constant or common thread in their work.”
These days, Alfonso is back to working in the television department, and doing pretty well. Alfonso directed the pilot for NBC’s debut drama series, Believe. The show is a suspense filled story of a 10-year-old born with special telekinetic powers among others, struggling to control them as they continue to increase. Again, something rather different for him.
Sometimes the road less traveled is the most rewarding. After being dismissed from school and refusing to choose a niche, Alfonso Cuaron has found a way to become mentioned in the class with today’s greats. All of which was done while collaborating with his brother and son along the way, sharing the the limelight.
– Blake Holmes