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Up Close with Andrea Figueroa Chavez



Movie Marker Magazine got up close with multi-lingual Hollywood production designer, Andrea Figueroa Chavez to chat about her project, ‘Abrazo.’ 

Thank you for chatting with us today. We are excited to learn more about ‘Abrazo, but first, we understand you grew up in Mexico. Can you tell us about life growing up? 

My childhood in Mexico is something that I treasure with all my heart. Growing up in Mexico, is growing in nature, connected to our cultural roots. The sense of family is so strong that it helped me to understand the value of everything that surrounds me. Mexican culture has taught me that everything has a meaning, a why, and a story behind it. Mexico has its personality and I love treating sets as if they were a country. A culture is developed in them, and a story unfolds within its space. 

How important to you is being able to speak in multiple languages and how does that translate in your career? 

The more languages I speak, the more I understand different cultures. Once I get a glimpse of that cultural understanding, I translated it into the universal one, which is Art. I work with a lot of international directors, even though the script is in English, I like to adapt the director’s culture. If I understand the language, the deeper I will get to understand the meaning of symbolisms in their culture. I have carried a special love towards English because, the more universal something is, the more people’s hearts and minds will be transformed.  English is one of the most universal languages, just like art. 

Was it always your dream to work in the entertainment industry? 

Since I was a little girl, doing art felt like an embrace. I used to direct plays or movies with my cousins at every birthday party, in which I made from scratch the scenography out of any material found at home. 

My journey was quite interesting. One day when I was studying Art History in Florence, I saw this group of people running passionately with a camera to catch the sunset behind the most beautiful architectural building in the world. In that moment I connected the dots of where my mission was inclining to. The world of cinema had all of the arts that I’m madly in love with. Cinema is one of the most powerful arts that impacts society. If I want to make a change in this world, let it be done through the most powerful form of Art.

Tell us about your movie, ‘Abrazo’. 

‘Abrazo’ is about an illegal pregnant woman who arrives thirsty and about to faint at the premises of a supremacist mother who is looking desperate for her daughter. It is a drama film from Paola Baldion Fischer known for “Lady of Guadalupe ” and Juan Pablo Raba known for “Narcos” Mexico.  

What was your role on set? 

I was the Production Designer of this heartwarming story and that was challenging. Working with Paola, a director who knew what she wanted, gave me the opportunity to bring my own ideas to put hidden metaphoric messages. A whole tiki style house was transformed into a supremacist family home. I did research on what type of guns this old lady would have at her place. The one hanging on her wall was an engraved pistol used in World War II and the one that she used throughout the film was a Hunting Rifle with scope to strengthen the way she sees illegal immigrants as animals. It was my first time working with replica guns. Juan Pablo Raba, the Assistant Director, worked on the Narcos series by Netflix, and he helped the actress Kathleen O’Grady to get used to holding the gun properly. The production was done at the end of January. In three weeks, we were able to bring to life the space in which this supremacist learned to leave behind her standards and beliefs to allow herself to be helped by an illegal immigrant in her most merciful moment. We filmed in the desert, in Yucca Valley. 

Spill the tea, any behind the scenes stories? 

Shooting in the desert could be tough but fun at the same time. My art assistant, Erika Glasser, and I went for a prop scouting expedition and we ended up buying some clothes for ourselves at the massive thrift shops they have at the Yucca Valley. Out of sixty props/set design items, only seven of them were bought on Amazon, the rest were in store shopping, mainly at Goodwill and thrift shops. I’m really focusing on making sustainable sets. I look for second hand items that are eco-friendly and also that adds personality to it. You can tell the difference on screen when items are bought brand new, they lack detail and essence.  If I can help the environment and I can also make my work outstanding, I’ll do it every time. 

What type of genre of film or TV show are you drawn to traditionally? 

I typically love stories that matter and that can change someone’s day and state of mind. I love stories that give me room to talk about the character through putting a metaphor in an object. I’m into projects that will challenge me to create and decor the unusual like fantasy, vintage, surreal and heavily culturally driven. The last four projects that I have worked on in the past four months have been about specific cultures. Thankfully I had the ability to speak different languages as I mentioned before, it helped me a lot.  From a supremacist American household to the underworld for the Mexican Death, all the way to a Brazilian antique house in LA and a Danish/ Norwegian Christmas cabinet I have traveled a lot from set to set. It is fulfilling when I can travel around the world without leaving LA. I just have to build the place!

What’s coming up next for you? 

Even Though I love being part of cultural stories, what really excites me as well is the creation of worlds that only exist in our imagination. After wrapping up a Mexican story about Santiago, a young Mariachi boy, who is about to sing at a restaurant, but he hasn’t sung since his brother, Miguel, also a Mariachi singer, died recently. Directed by Gabriel Chavarria, known for Selena, the series, East Los High, and Freedom Writers. I’ll be working on “Sunrise Boulevard” produced by Roy Shellef, the CEO of Right Direction Studios. Roy and I have been working together for a year now on surreal stories that go beyond our subconscious. Our next project working together is a short film about a mental institution for artists that instead of helping them retrieve their creativity, takes it away. I’m thrilled to paint, create a massive canvas with an explosion of color to contrast the dismal, lugubrious and gloomy institution that I will also create. 

How can people find you?

Thank you so much. People can follow me on Instagram or check out my projects on IMDb.

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