The Director of Photography is said to be the soul mechanic of a film. Taking the vision of the story and forming a picture, they are the chief leader in curating beauty. But does anyone fall into this position? Famous cinematographer Roger Deakins once said, “Someone said to me, early on in film school… if you can photograph the human face you can photograph anything, because that is the most difficult and most interesting thing to photograph.” Beatriz Delgado Mena is a DOP based in London, who has glided her way through crews across the world, landing her commercials for esteemed brands. I wanted to discuss her route to holding up the lens, and how she felt women are perceived as cinematographers in this merciless industry.
It's a challenge to find a gap in the market for your film career, which often leads most starters on a bizarre initial route. From an early age, Beatriz was fond of becoming an actress, "I’m gonna be like Tom Cruise (laughs) he started as an actor, and then he jumped into production. Well, I will start the opposite. That was the plan fifteen years ago, I finished my degree, and then I went to Madrid. I did the last year in the Netherlands, doing a theory-based film course." It was Darren Aronofsky and Michel Gondry who initially caught her eye in films, but she says she never focused on a favourite, "The more I’ve been working you see how many people build the creative input on a project, so my idea that it’s just one vision changed."
Having studied Journalism as a way to get into film in her small town in Spain, she could see the building blocks for a director forming, "I was terrified with the equipment but at the same time, loving it. When you study in film school, you see the roles, but I didn’t. When I came to the UK I was pretty much let’s try, let’s do this. " Being a light hearted and experimental individual, she didn't reflect on any major negative comments about being a female in the industry. She told me, "I think I was looked at more in the corporate world. The audience was more middle class and people don’t acknowledge you as the film maker."
Flicking through her narrative and commercial work over the last eight years, I was intrigued to highlight what special projects stood out for her through the camera. She said the last few years were important to expand her skills, "Sometimes you doubt yourself and it's nice to see the rushes and know it's actually better than your previous work." In May she worked for Adidas on a campaign, filming on a super 16 camera, with an awesome team. However she reminisces on her time working on "Losing Grace" commenting, "The whole process was outstanding, growing a unique story in Spain. It's hard to mention one project and not the other. Every single one has taught me something, and placed me in a whole new situation."
Being a huge fan of Miriam Margolyes, and understanding her outspoken nature and directness towards crew, I questioned Beatriz about being so close to the BAFTA award winner. She said, "Miriam worked for free as an actress on "Wings" because she loved the project so much. And the actress Virginia McKennaas really enjoyed it. Miriam was hilarious (laughs) such a strong personality. She loved eating (laughs) and was very straight to the point."
But what was the future looking like for female DOPs. Was there more opportunities for women to get behind the camera in the next ten years? She answered me by saying, "I think there was a race to find alot of jobs, I was approached by companies in recent years asking for a female DOP. I have felt the benefit of that effort by productions and even junior directors, to push for the gender diversity in film. For a while I was sceptical. Maybe I am getting these jobs because I'm a female? Maybe my work is irreverent. But lately there are alot of male DP's within London doing amazing things. So my opinion has changed again."
Focusing on narrative drama, Beatriz is exploring more music video's. She tells me, "Sometimes it's harder to define short films. I am comfortable doing narrative drama, but I want to reach out into more music videos and commercials as well." As always, the inspiring cinematographer tells me about some recommendations for our readers, talking about Cannes Film Festival she says,"Julia Ducournau's new drama "Titane" looks incredible. I saw the trailer and from the editing, camera and lighting... it looks great."
I can't wait to see this dedicated and honest creative spin her take on camera in the years to come as filming takes a new presence in London once more!