Today we’d like to introduce you to Carlo Tonda.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Filmmaking was never in my plans. A few years ago, I immigrated from Guatemala to study aerospace engineering. It was what everybody expected of me: a stable and financially safe career in STEM. However, I came to realize that skill and passion are not interchangeable. During that time, to counter an unfulfilling vocation, I watched tons of movies and TV, my life-long hobby. Yet, I never thought that I could make them. For me, films were grand monuments, that only a privileged few were allowed to create.
It wasn’t until Campus Movie Fest (CMF), a week-long film festival, rolled into my university that I envisioned it as my career. Those seven days of shooting my first short film were intoxicating; I loved every second of the process. By the time CMF was over, I had made up my mind. Next thing I knew, I was dropping out of school, waving goodbye to my friends and packing my bags. For the second time in my life, I left everything and everyone I knew to pursue my American dream.
My first year in Los Angeles was unforgiving. From graveyard shifts in a sketchy motel to editing hip-hop gossip news videos, I worked any job whose hours allowed me to attend film school and help out on sets. Being an outsider, both in this industry and in the US, proved to be a bigger obstacle than I anticipated. To this day, just thinking about the American immigration process sends shivers up my spine.
Nevertheless, I found awesome collaborators and mentors throughout the way who encouraged me to keep going. I’d like to think that I keep a part of every person I meet. All those pieces combined to make the person I am today. I’m my parent’s hard-work mentality, my best friend’s hustler attitude, my sister’s optimism, and my colleagues’ drive. My effort to honor them has brought me to where I am. The more I keep going on this journey, the more remarkable people become a part of me. I live for their stories filled with new perspectives and different worlds.
Gradually, I’ve started working in bigger and more ambitious productions, some of them of my own making. I’ve been part of countless music videos, web-series, short films, feature films, and TV shows; I can’t wait to add more to the list. There is much to learn and many challenges to beat, and to that, I say, “Bring it on!”
Please tell us about your art.
We make art to both represent and treat our own humanity. Galleries, stages and movie theaters are sanctuaries where we are allowed to feel. In them, we are free to react when something touches us. Personally, I’m in debt to films. Watching them has helped me through tough times and making them is the most exhilarant part of my life.
Some people say, “the TV is not a good babysitter.” I beg to differ. I was raised by two working parents, in a country where kids are warned to stay inside. After school, TV was my only companion. Through it, I saw the wonders of this world and other worlds. It opened my imagination and challenged my perspective on issues I had never heard of. Every story placed me in someone else’s shoes, and I saw myself in all of them.
As a filmmaker, I want others to have this introspective discovery with my content. I think of my productions as a discussion with the viewer. I focus on themes that are loaded with a moral question that I’m personally struggling with. I leave it to the audience to fill in the right answer if any. As frightening as it is, the complicated questions in life lack simple answers. There are more gray areas in human righteousness than black and white ones. I’ve found a genre to be a great refugee to explore these ideas. By personifying and materializing them into fantasy characters in surreal environments, we bring our defenses down, opening up to new themes and starting a discussion.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
Don’t play by the rules. Every project, no matter the budget, has its challenges; but we didn’t go into the arts to play it safe. As long as you’re not harming anyone (or anything), go for it! Shoot a feature in your friend’s apartment, borrow an RV from the random guy you met on the bus, flash mob the blue line with your crew to get that sweet-sweet shot across Los Angeles (add a Steadicam for extra difficulty). I’ve done all of these things. We may not have money, but we are definitely creative. When you’re faced with a problem, trust that you’ll figure it out. When you feel passionate about a project, there is no favor too big to ask nor challenge too great to overcome. Of course, life gets in the way. You’ll grind for long and hard hours, see your loved ones less and less, and work odd jobs just to pay rent. However, you’ll also meet the most amazing and creative people in those lengthy days, you’ll show your family and friends something you’re proud of (something you made!); and you’ll go to whatever job with a smile on your face, thinking about the crazy idea you’ll pull off next.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
The best place to check out my work is my website: carlotonda.com and my Instagram page: @carlotondafilm. Feel free to reach out through any of them for future projects and collaborations.
- Website: carlotonda.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carlotondafilm/
- Other: aguantafilm.com
Helena Cortazar, Emerson Lee, Davide Picci, John Gutierrez