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Conversations with Em Michelle Gonzales

Today we’d like to introduce you to Em Michelle Gonzales.

Hi Em Michelle, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Most people call me Em, but my full name is Emily Michelle Gonzales, and I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am a filmmaker and cinematographer. I am a Local 600 camera operator for film, tv, commercials, and music videos. I love being involved in cinema. It was my dream since I was a theatre & photography geek in high school and college. I moved to Los Angeles in 2017. I’m thankful for my solid start with the NM film industry, hiking through the Pecos wilderness shooting forest fire scenes, carrying cameras up mountains, shooting music videos at White Sands, and many other experiences that I’ve since learned are not all that common. The land and people definitely shaped me as a person. I am very close with my family and my roots there. My parents and grandparents taught me the value of hardwork. I’m the first in my family to work in the film industry. I studied Art & Foreign Languages at the University of New Mexico. I jumped into the camera department as soon as I got the chance and I’ve worked my way through almost every position, learning my way up the ladder. When I was younger, I didn’t think I was smart enough to be in a technical field. What I’ve learned is that it’s all about time, effort and passion, and filmmaking seems to be this unique combination of art and tech that is so much a part of me.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have definitely been struggles. I have experienced both physical struggle and emotional struggle throughout my life in becoming a cinematographer and camera operator. Being a woman on set is absolutely exhausting sometimes. People don’t think you know what you’re doing. It takes so much more time to prove yourself. I’ve experienced an insane amount of sexism as well as harassment. It absolutely blows my mind to think about the generation of women before me and what they must have gone through. The one thing my family has taught me is endurance. My grandfather grew up in a small town in NM doing farm work. His grandmother eventually moved with him to a larger town so he could learn how to read and write. She knew that he would need those skills for a better life. My grandfather was the first in his family to graduate high school. My father and my mother were both the first in their families to graduate college. My family has taught me that no matter what struggles you face, you get the work done. I come from a family of incredibly strong women and for that, I am so grateful. They gave me the skills and attitude to endure with courage and grace.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a cinematographer and camera operator. Creating images is something I have done since I was a kid. Filmmaking can be this beautiful balance of creativity and puzzle solving, and I love that there’s always another level up. You never master it. There’s always something else to get better at. It’s this abstract thing that sometimes has an absolute rulebook and other times really doesn’t. My favorite part of cinematography is taking all the different elements of it and figuring out the best most emotional impactful way to tell the story. I guess what I’m most proud of is that I work as a DP and Camera Operator. I’ve worked on many movies and tv shows including Dolemite is My Name, NBC’S Good Girls, Wilmore, Dreamland, Insecure, Waco, Independence Day Resurgence, 12 Strong and Only the Brave, but I most recently wrapped as the B camera operator for Season 3 of Miracle Workers starring Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi. It was an incredible experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
My career brings me happiness, but my friends and family really make me happy. I love seeing them whenever I have time off, traveling whenever possible (hopefully much more in 2021), and visiting the people I love- especially my two adorable nieces. And if we’re talking about living in LA, I take any chance I can to go hiking, camping or napping on the beach.

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Image Credits:

Photos taken by: Josh Cote @cote_cam, Alex Kacha @alexandrakacha, Maria Vallarta @mariavalletta

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