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‘Desierto’ Producer Alfonso Cuaron on His Bold Space Experiment ‘Gravity’ – Awards Season Flashback

Plus, additional thoughts from Jonás Cuarón on helping to craft the film's script.

[Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with Spectrum. Catch up on this year’s Awards Season contenders and the latest films On Demand. Today’s pick is “Desierto.”]

Like Sandra Bullock’s character in “Gravity,” writer-director Alfonso Cuaron is resilient, never one to back down to a challenge that others may deem impossible.

Following his beloved apocalyptic thriller “Children of Men,” Cuaron decided that for his next project, he wanted to go to space. The problem was, to get him there new technology would have to be invented. Instead of throwing in the towel, Cuaron and his team worked tirelessly for four-and-a-half years to make Cuaron’s dreams a reality.

The result has been hailed by critics as the best space-set film since Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and is now up for a whopping 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Just this weekend he won the Directors Guild of America’s prestigious Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film prize.

“Alfonso is relentless in the pursuit of his vision,” “Gravity” producer David Heyman told Indiewire. “He is demanding and rigorous and pushes everybody, everything to the limit and in so doing makes everybody, everything better. It is a privilege to work with a director who not only has talent but also has ambition for his art. He is fearless, or at least that’s the impression he gives.

“The process of making ‘Gravity’ was filled with adversity – we struggled to figure out the methodology to tell the story in the way that Alfonso wanted to, to create the illusion of zero G with long shots and nowhere to hide! Yet Alfonso never wavered. His enthusiasm, his passion were palpable and you believed him that we would find the answers and we all knew that working with him, we would be part of something extraordinary.

“We had completed the film. Alfonso looked at it one more time. ‘Oh sheeet’, he said, ‘we need to turn the Explorer upside down’. In an environment with no up or down, he realized that the audience’s first image of a spacecraft should not be conventional, the right way up. He was, of course, right. It took another six weeks, because of the VFX, but the film was better for it.

“He has a deep understanding of every aspect of the filmmaking process. He was a first AD, he knows cameras, lenses and lights, writing, editing, he has an incredible knowledge of music and so much more. And what he doesn’t know at the beginning of preproduction, he knows by the time we start production.

“One of the amazing things about Alfonso is that while he has a very clear vision of the film he wants to make—the draft of the script that I first read is very much the film that he made, visually, thematically and in terms of story beats—he is a great collaborator and relishes collaboration. Watching him work with Sandra and George, to refine their characters and bring them to life, in the script and on the screen was thrilling. He has the confidence to embrace the best ideas of others and to shape them to serve his purpose, his vision.”

4 Year Journey:

No Plan:

Pitching the Film:


Script to Screen:


Alfonso Cuaron, by Daniel Bergeron

Alfonso Cuaron

Daniel Bergeron

This feature was originally published on December 8, 2013.

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