On being a “Gorila”; An art & creativity model with community goals

The Interview

Alfonso and myself are seating in one of the residence open spaces, a comfortable living room inside a thatch cabin by the jungle mangrove land less than a hundred meters from Tulum’s Caribbean water seashore and a couple of kilometres from Unesco World Heritage Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, in México’s Yucatán Peninsula. His colleagues move around, participate, film and record the sound for the interview, after all it is something they do here for a living, in the form of the Gorila Films company and Gorila Residence project for artists they envisioned years ago.

This is the jungle where all Gorila brand projects happen, of which Alfonso is its founder and director and where all the team creates in. My purpose in the interview is to describe the project vision. The aim is simple, Gorila is seeking daring, talented and skilled junior and experienced professionals to come work in it

Yet not everyone, as skilled and experienced he or she might be, will make it out here. Not unless they share what is there to find and create, once they cross the high hanging bridge into this paradise jungle and the adrenaline stops rushing in their blood as they glance ahead. This is about an Indiana Jones or a Lara Croft character that have to come out victorious in all the daring scenes of their own movie, but also remain self disciplined, self driven and focused to put all her of his creativity once, and only if, they tune in with nature and share Gorila Residence and Gorila Films passion. Do you think you can do this?

Well, if you do, add to your list that it also calls for the characters to forget being solo heroes and that their victories, what gets created, actually become the victory of all in the team, and more so, that of the community the project being made serves to. Are you the one?

We are a ten minutes into the interview and it all finally comes together. Alfonso does have a unique and magical view of mother nature. He is a creative admiring creation itself and he uses his Sydney film schooling as a tool to describe his intimate view of it unravelling with us as part of it.

That is what is behind Alfonso’s commitment. Gorila Films has been walking the talk for years, having filmed outstanding footage on nature and wildlife, much which is still unedited and awaiting to be shown the Gorila way.

As Alfonso shows one of his moving clips to me, his face lights up and he starts to convey not only his vision, but his passion. He is no longer concerned with being understood or sending out the right message, he relaxes and his heart speaks out.

I have followed Gorila’s and Alfonso for several months, meaning to write this article. I have witnessed in the meantime the Residence project and all the effort they have made to keep building it. Skilled people coming and going, only the self disciplined and committed specialists stay, as is the case of Maris who is a young tall man from … Latvia, -a pro video editor and a screenplay writer among other talents –  , or with Carlos  – a production gear specialist among other skills-  from Mexico. and many other young women and men here.

This is not about a job position that happens to be in the coolest white sand Caribbean waters location in the world. It is not about enrolment either.

What is?

The footage 

Shot off a GoPro set up by abandoned prairie dogs warren, the first frames show a desert owl coming out from one of its burrows, stand still and look around slowly as in contemplating the view. The immediate feeling you get after this magical appearance is that of being there. The way frames pass, synchronised with the noticeable movement of white clouds up in a clean blue sky and the relative scale of the owl to everything else, play into this feeling, but a lot more of it came from my heart stricken by the intimacy of the sequence, of being there respectful and admiring of the grandness of this little desert owl.

A few more seconds in, several members of the owl family start showing up, walk around, look among them, nourish and feed others and basically live their lives. Yes, exactly as a family, yours and mine, would do.

There is something intriguingly humane to this sequence. It sounds bizarre to say this of owls, but it certainly describes what the footage arose in me and of what Alfonso captures and intended.

This is how he sees nature. How he worships and respects its majesty and exactly how he has edited with his team several short films that have been aired (see our projects below).

In all those clips I watched over a short period of time with him during our conversation, you get this exact same feeling of belonging, of intimacy, where people segments filmed put the emphasis on depicting humans as the respectful species, understanding, blessed and thankful species we can be and that is just a part of everything that lives in this blue planet.

So what is the deal?

Speaking with Alfonso who has been successful in having people over to join both Gorila Films crew, as well as artists staying over at Gorila Residence program, such as we just recently had in the person of National Endowment of Arts 2013 recipient blues singer and composer Carol Fran, or in developing long term fruitful collaborations, for example with renowned biologist Arturo Bayona (see projects below), you soon realise the many lessons learned that have come out of all this effort. What is Gorila films enabling others to tell and share? Why is it important? What has worked and what has not? All of these questions are now crystal clear to them.

Understanding as a candidate first if this challenge is for you, is crucial. Do you have this dialogue with nature as described? Is it your passion? and if it is, how shall you use your talents for it to happen? Do you see nature like this? Do you breathe, talk and dream of it? Are you amazed of every dawn? Do you have sunsets for dinner? Do you care for the powerful stories of the people living in these communities that are waiting to be told? What about renewable clean energy, recycling, reducing, reutilising and permaculture? Are you committed to creating compelling video and participate in other forms of art that can communicate this? You have a place here and should contact us.

For you, we could for example place the question of how would a video professional like yourself and the origin of life and a secluded pond north of Mexico, have in common. Would you fancy having to do with it? This sort of projects happen at Gorila.

It may also happen that if you were to come and work here, party (because Gorila does celebrate achievements often), work hard, but get lost soon and need constant assistance or being told what to do next and how to do it? Are you expecting a corporate job but in a paradise setting? If these are so, forget it and be happy. We are looking for skilled, talented, daring autonomous professionals that can communicate their astonishment of our wonderful Earth planet and that can commit to putting their talent to the well-being of others in the community.

Pushing the envelope

There is one other intention for Gorila to articulate their vision clearly. They want to grow and foster and they want to remain here, committed and successful in their describing our magical jungle or hosting and telling about the Residence artists’ projects performed out here. So the issue at risk is not that you realise once working with us, that this is not for you, but rather that you will leave and we will stay and will have to do the job.

Being frank and honest is also a factor for our success, yours and ours.

Alfonso describes the Residence project as “setting the first antenna of its type so it starts transmitting their creative model to the world”, as he envisions more locations to come and dreams of a network of them.

We seek, he explains, for example video editors, but we ask them not to come here and just edit, you know! We want them to do things differently, to think out of the box and to be passionately creative about it, as they are part of a collective goal and creative idea. But above all, we want to put his or her talent and ours as a group to serve the common good, to be useful and of service for others in our community.

We look for people who are concerned with coming generations. With our children.

We hope to grow in the spiritual dimension. This is how we see Nature. Ours is a project with a very big soul. We hope that your path and work here will add to this place and to you and better our world as it broadcasts it message of caring. We will in turn obtain the needed abundance by reciprocity. There is plenty of abundance in the Universe.

We look for dreams and of being proactive to make them happen. We seek to make your dream, the dream of others in the team, so we can all drive swiftly to make it real, together.

In sum, we seek to be enlightened as you will, profoundly inspired by our vision, projects and shared dreams. We bring forward change to your life. Change in the form of coming to live and talk nature, as it changed Alfonso’s career and lifestyle.  And we propose to you to care for the community.

It is in all this we seek to push the envelope for, because we do not believe there is one that can contain our creativity nor our passion. Actually, we want to do away with envelopes and help the veils drop of our fellow passengers in this amazing planet spaceship. Let them be in awe so they connect their essence with what gives us life.

Gorila Residence

Gorila Residence is a brick, mortar, tree trunks and thatch place, for real. But it is also a surreal space to foster creativity for all of those creative talents like you, to come live here and join in as residents, and that have realised there are one too many walls out there in the city, there is a lot of stress taking up your time, shaping your mood and limiting your creativity. Also, a likely outcome is that professional and quality of life improvement alternatives in your city are skim due to the overwhelming and non forgiving fight to land  “The Job”. We do not mind about “competitiveness”; we are all for that one!

Our goal at Gorila Residence is to continue being a space where collaboration between internationally recognised artists and our creative staff happens in the best and most connected, free-flowing way, to tackle with art, the community social and environmental projects that need us. It is as a result of this unique and very specific creative process and the artists expression itself that, by recording, we also get 100% original and innovative audiovisual work to produce and share.  We want  “To create, to grow and to share”.

Why Tulum? Why not. It’s paradise. Think nature, Caribbean waters, white sand beaches, tropical jungle and a rhythm of its own. It is also indeed a power place; Ideas grow strong here, they are open and collaborative, much more often than seldom they are out-of-the-box thinking and are inspired by a different less constrained and relaxed way of life. We are a group of creative people working in harmony and for the common good of our community. We left behind our old habits and even some of the things we had learned that were of no use here. We came to live a different experience and harvest new soul-filling rewards and abundance as a result of giving. This has been a life changing experience for me and the team, without overstating it at all.

By the way, Tulum is just a two hours drive from Cancun, which happens to be an international airlines hub from all over the world with price competitive options to fly in. It is thus very adequate for the Residence to be here. The fact that we get international community to visit year round, helps us broadcast our creative model, like an antenna.

How it all started

Alfonso looks back on his story and tells why is it so important for you, the skilled professional or rookie that wants to come over to Gorila:

“Back when I was fresh out of Sydney Film school and back in Mexico, several months into my film projects, I started noticing that the way the [film] industry worked was not what I wanted. It was not going to suit my view nor my projects and dreams. The model worked fine for them, for movies and for the individuals that grow in it. But the same way it is organised and specialised, even its multiple workers unions in Mexico, were not going to make it easy for me or others to produce their creative ideas other than movies, and see them become a reality.  It would not work for projects that had a social objective, as mine,  either. It certainly would not work either for biologists, anthropologists, sociologists, artists and other skilled professionals outside the film industry and with whom I had woven a fruitful relationship filming nature and wildlife or rural communities together over time.

So I decided to give myself a chance, by building the chance itself!

I had a vision and a problem. I had to come up with a different way to make it happen and become free to do what I loved most. I had to jump into the void!

I moved my film production business in Monterrey, N.L. to Tulum. I sold everything including my truck and came to the Mexican Caribbean. I gave myself the opportunity to create independently. To indeed do what I loved most.

That is how the Gorila Residence project started.

Going back, how it actually happened was the result of several events that connected led my way here.  Early on in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, I formed my company and was interested in Nature as theme, so I started filming. That took me to work in rural communities and learn about how they lived, how much they needed to be helped and how easy it was to make a difference in their lives. So I started working for NGO’s in education, women, and conservancy. I invested many years. It was tough. I was not doing for the money. Down the road I became a spokesperson for NGO’s and I realised that this was not what I originally wanted.

In 2006 I spent holidays in Tulum. The minute I arrived to the beach and looked to the sea, I knew that something was going to happen for me there. In 2011 I came across the renewable energy global project Finding Infinity  and suggested Tulum as a location for its use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind. It was then that I sold everything in Monterrey including my truck and jumped. We did Finding Infinity Episode 2 and also worked on their visual image, while also getting to know what was available for film production in the one. By mid July I also knew there were no Mexican film production houses involved in nature films nor did they share my vision. So I started the Residence project and sent out a call for CVs. We got 400 in one day! So we started hiring and working in projects.

Of course we learned a lot in the process. We soon discovered this was, and still is, not for everyone out there.

So here is what I believe you need to bear in mind as you think about joining Gorila Residence or Film production house:

What Gorila is offering to you is the chance I offered and built for myself a couple of years ago. A chance to become someone, to become known by making happen your own idea with us and to be able to put your talent for the service of others in our community.

This is no small deal. But it does require that you have a dream, a project, and are willing if not anxious to … jump and give yourself a chance. And while you are at it, ask yourself is ¿How can my dreams, projects and skills bring value to me and to Gorila by joining talents? ¿What can I bring with me that will grow myself and Gorila when we make it happen?

This is it.”

We undergo projects for which we see a match 

Sounds straightforward, but it is not.

It is in making the match that we see our extra value.

We not only match those projects where we can leverage our creativity, both in film services or in creative services – our broad two lines portfolio -, but also in the way these happen.

For example we may act as a bridge between business people and scientists, as we did for a well-known entrepreneur’s foundation in Mexico, that needed to account for US$100,000 donations used for our native “Aguila Real” eagle conservancy effort. So we set off to the field and documented built infrastructure, community training testimonials and the like, with the scientists in charge, and got back a video report that ended up in further funds allocated.

Or we can device  models to make all parts win while leveraging their core value. This is what has happened out of the many years collaboration with biologist Arturo Bayona. We wanted to continue filming nature but could not organise expeditions nor did we know where and what to look for in the field. But biologists and other scholars did, in nearby Carillo Puerto University (in Carillo Puerto city, Quintana Roo), where Bayona teaches. Se we asked Bayona to gather a group of proactive students, and set off to train them into the art of video making and imaginative, fresh documentary narrative. We created a Media Kit including camera, lenses and lighting and lent it to the university.

The result was outstanding. We were very well received and other career students got involved. So we got clips ranging from styrofoam reuse up to a local fruit beer process that has been patented already. And we also started getting samples for Bayona’s biology students field trips, who of course knew where to look and what to look for in the field. These will be made into a series.

Here is a list of some of our filmed projects, together with others we seek to film shortly.

A sample of our projects 

We have filmed outstanding footage obtained under innovative association models with scientists and academic centres. Since we are also in the Caribbean we may say we have a whole treasure cove full of marvels. That is also the reason we have not shown all of them still. It needs to be matched with equally compelling and intelligent scripts and powerful video post production that has our Gorila Films seal, our way to see life in our planet.

These are some projects where you could put your skills in to get them out of the treasure vault:

Videos

  • Pez León
    This non native fish species is eating up others and altering reef equilibrium. With the help of artists Celeste Byers and Aaron Glaswow, we are producing street art, video clips and a viral campaign to increase this fish consumption in our local diet.
  • Monarca butterfly
    Mexico is a haven for these marvellous and colourful butterflies that come from
  • La Estansuela, N.L. frogs
  • Turtles hatching off the coast of Oaxaca
  • Dessert owls social life.
  • Flamingo world
  • Going back to where life began
    About the oldest oxygen producing bacteria found in a pond in Cuatro Ciénagas, part of a conservancy effort run by ProNatura Foundation. NASA has been studying it.
    Cuatro Ciénegas intro clip
  • Diving with Tiburon Toro
    (Bull Shark) off the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, 
  • Melipona bee
    The stingless native Maya bee in Quintana Roo,
  • Tech projects at Carillo Puerto University.
    Gelamito sugarless gelatine made out of Caimito fruit (abundant but not eaten much as a fruit) and a process developed to dissolve and reuse styrofoam to produce enamels, plastic molds and paint and reduce littering and its long lasting impact. Pitahaya fruit beer developed in Quintana Roo. Also all of these exemplify a Gorila model to give a media kit and train local schools and universities to make their own videos!

TV Series

  • Renewable energies
    An initial bid and work to get a renewable energies TV series up and running that takes place in rural communities.

Shorts/Films

  • Cuba Independent short film festival A co-cuban production effort for the animation short “No country for Old Men”.

Art/Culture

  • Residence artists from all over the world show their work or even paint their work in our cities urban spaces, making it an international mecca for contemporary Art loving visitors. We are seeking for example to have artist Vexta.

Other video projects you could watch from Gorila:

You will also be able to  also have a look at our finished projects listed in our webpage due in November, or visit our Facebook page.

Looking ahead

Gorila “G-cubed” proposal for you the customer is a Win-Win-Win (In Spanish Ganar-Ganar-Ganar) option of local sourcing of skilled resources in video pre and post- production living off the area and working for Gorila, for your global projects to be performed in our region, meant for your foundations, companies and even whole country efforts (for example we are working in establishing a new Residence in Cuba with Swedish government support).

So for example, if a customer organisation is seeking to do a film about the Nauyaca poisonous snake present in our region, we would not only source the right guide, or biologist, but rather that plus their second camera operator.

Our house seal

Perhaps one of the most important pieces in bringing our vision of life in our planet, in a way where people recognise us by just seeing our work. Alfonso explains, drawing on a piece of paper what we had just watched in a clip. He draws the beach and turtles hatching in Oaxaca Pacific coastline. This is Earth he points out. And then he points to the void above: the sky. “For us this is the cosmos, not simply a sky”. So we want to emphasise the idea of the turtle grandness by contrasting the real world footage of his habitat, with a well done, totally believable but slightly surreal Cosmos backdrop above where the sky would be. In this cosmos canvas we would have graphics, and animations that make use of a recurrent symbolism in the form of sacred geometry references. The whole clip will feature soft experimental music.

We believe that executing this with taste, will communicate and enhanced grandness for turtles or the species at hand, but will also speak to an audience that understands the symbolism as we do, and wants to start or to continue seeing the planet we live in, everything that is and has been there for us to respect and simply admire, but that not all of us want to see or realise. This spaceship of which mankind is the captain in the deck as it moves thousands of kilometres every second across space.

Epilogue

We are transmitting. We are “on air”. Let us all start talking about a world we all know exists but miss seeing. We do!

Do you want a better future? Come and make your part happen!

And, by the way, do bear in mind that this is not only about this planet; but the Cosmos we are a loving part of. This might just explain why we are in fact in the land of the Maya. They are still known for their all-encompassing Cosmo-vision.

For additional info please contact:  Alfonso Garrido,  Managing Director, via email: alfonso@gorilafilms.com

Creative Commons License
On being a “Gorila”; An Art & creativity model with community goals by Juan Ayza M is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at juan.ayza@gmail.com.

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