We had the good fortune of connecting with Christian Meza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christian, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
This is going to sound weird, but the formation of my company was actually entirely by accident. Many years ago in a dark, sleepless, mysterious world some would call “high school”, I found myself hunting down opportunities for creative community service options for my International Baccalaureate diploma program; some referred to it as “AP on steroids” which I would say wasn’t far from the truth. One such opportunity was by producing some fun, exciting, informational video services for the University of Arizona for an introductory astronomy lecture series. Two weeks of teaching myself scriptwriting, basic videography, collecting clean audio, working with controlled lighting, video editing, and even how to narrate like a voice actor, I had finally created my first video under the title “Christian Meza Astronomy”, which, at the time, I thought was an embarrassing disaster. After submitting the video and literally quoting Robert Oppenheimer’s “Now I have become death” quote whilst looking at the “sent” notification, I slipped it under the rug and completely forgot about it. To my surprise, I had received an email a week later from one of the instructors claiming that it was the greatest thing they saw that month and urgently wanted more. In addition, I hadn’t anticipated that they would also be cutting me a check to the name of “Christian Meza Media” which would ultimately reside as the name of my continued production endeavors. And while I could no longer count it as community service work, I followed it passionately yet feverously as it would become the start of my new film and photography production career.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Perhaps the one thing I have been telling myself the most recently is that I am so done with subtlety. There is something so amazing about the esoteric yet seemingly mundane conversations among my fellow cinematographers about the way that blues play in outdoor shadows, the shape of anamorphic light flares that intentionally come into the lens, and how historic and cultural cinematic developments have propagated different filmic styles that we dream of harnessing one day. Okay, but what am I really trying to say? Well, it’s a bold, outstanding, and openly-nerdy declaration that I am passionate about capturing an image. I love the way I look at an icy arboreal landscape, a lone woman standing amongst an open street, or the aggressive stance of a silent Italian supercar, and can express my vision cinematographically and with a distinct flavor of color and calculated isometrics. But in doing so, I have a bad habit of overdoing it sometimes. I know very well that this little web series will only need to be uploaded in 1080p High Definition, but the brow-sharpening and defiant nature within me knows that my vision can’t be created by a simple means to an end; I am vividly engrossed with a desire to create the best image I possibly can. But technology, good camera angles, and some fancy effects doesn’t make a good filmmaker, but rather you must learn how realistic emotions are engendered and how to step in the rhythm of people and their interactions. It makes me hungry to try new things and continue to expand in my knowledge of telling stories to seamlessly illuminate my ideas to an audience. So don’t be surprised to see me renting out an Arri Alexa Mini for a short film that may not catch huge attention, but that I know will perfectly capture a sensation and vision I long for. I find that the most excitement from this line of work is actually from working with people who have little to no film experience. I love sharing visions with others that they may not have seen before, whether we are producing a commercial for a business, or creating a spectacular film for a couple’s wedding, or just getting a promotional shoot with a local business that might not usually get this much attention from budget constraints. I find pride in rejuvenating people’s expectations and boosting their self-realized passions that make them who they are, and sometimes a little video can make the biggest difference. Creating business with my passion for the photographic and filmic arts wasn’t at all easy, especially considering that I am entirely self-taught. I had made the decision to curtail my scientific career to pursue an artistic vocation, and that always assumes high risk for financial stability and security. But that being said, that was my only challenge, because I had discovered that it became much easier to wake up every morning to work or learn more about these arts; I had discovered that I was doing what I was meant to be doing. I could feel the entire duration of every second that passed while in my artistic state, which ultimately led me to realize that I am genuinely passionate about what I do. There was never any threat of competing with others within my industry, or trying to score a continuously larger profit, I just wanted to make something, and then wake up and do the same thing over again. My story isn’t a story of success, or failure for that matter. My story is a tale of walking ambitiously through the brush, away from the traditional path and allowing myself to make my own discoveries. And in my journeys, I aim to hold close the euphoria of my newfound passions, to adopt exotic concepts, and to never fear the unknown terrains ahead of you. Okay, but what am I really trying to say? Do that one thing that makes you smile, because it will be greatest thing you ever do for yourself.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Visiting Tucson, Arizona means you have to do three things: get sunburnt, get attacked by the famous jumping cholla cactus, and eat the greatest Mexican food of your entire life. You can be driving one moment in this city and discover that ten minutes later that the view from your car’s window is almost completely changed. This city’s 227 square miles of land area house suburban lifestyles, purely untouched natural vistas, a lively but not overwhelming urban scene, and even mountainous terrain that can elevate you up 6,500 feet in a simple hour drive. Simply put, we have it all. The best way to get quickly acclimated to the Sonoran Desert is with a blisteringly early morning hike into Sabino Canyon, a famous recreation area that gives you a fast introduction into the desert terrain and the quickly changing climate in the hot Arizona sun. Even in one of the driest places in North America, this desert is packed full of wildlife and even a flowing waterfall and natural pools at the end of this hike. Nothing satisfies a post-hike appetite like hot, freshly-made, authentic Mexican food. And what a better place than the birthplace of the chimichanga: the El Charro Café. It is the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson and brings to life traditional flavors of the early 1900’s to your plate with an authentic provenance that is a true staple of Southern Arizona tradition. Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water too. During the day you will witness some of the brightest light you will ever see as the Arizona sun is a wealth of luminosity virtually all year around, but during the evening sunset hours, you will witness some of the most dazzling colors your eyes will ever see. When the sun catches along the horizon among the amphitheater of mountains, the skies ignite into a roaring flame of reds, tangerines, golds, purples, and even pinks. These western sunsets invigorate the cones of your eyes, producing a dazzling spectrum of colors unlike anywhere in this country. And when the sun sets lower, the roaring flames are extinguished by a deep, royal blue sea of one of the clearest night skies in all of North America. For years, Arizona has actively partnered up around the state to reduce light pollution from city lights and unnecessary illumination around our cities. And as a result of our hard efforts, we have been blessed with skies that lure astronomers even overseas to bask in the free, spectacular night sky. You will see colonies and hives of stars you have never seen before. This view of the heavens doesn’t come without opportunity, and many observatories haven taken advantage of the night skies to better understand the universe. To dodge the hot day, I would always love to visit the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium at the University of Arizona to learn more about where we are in the universe and how our local skies have such an important part in astronomy. Like our love of Mexican food, our love of the astronomical sciences is a large part of our culture. But learning about space is rather exhausting and you will need a good drink to take in the fact that Pluto is three billion miles away from us. It’s time to hit the historic 4th Avenue just north of downtown. This is where the nightlife shines even brighter than those stars you were looking at, and one could simply point at one of the many bars and restaurants and find that every little building on this avenue is a locally-owned businesses forming the very raw elements of culture within this city. I would suggest the Sky Bar where you can grab a neat whiskey and look through a Dobsonian telescope to count how many moons of Jupiter you can see. To enjoy yourself in this city, you need only breathe slower, take lighter steps when you walk, and be at ease with the relaxed lifestyle. It means visiting the International Wildlife Museum, Biosphere 2, Tohono Chul Park, Pima Air and Space Museum, Old Tucson, and perhaps my favorite of all, Kitt Peak observatory. This city is understandable, relatable, and never overwhelming. As a final touch, I would love to spend the last of the week wearing something quite nice for a full day of tasting the grapes at the southern vineyards of Sonoita, touring the historic fields and indulging the richest flavors of nature. But wine can augment an appetite for fine Italian dining, and the sun sets along the northern crest of the Catalina mountains above the Vivace Restaurant for some fine dining; one of my top favorite bistros in this part of the state. And when those skies have once again become extinguished with that blue ocean of stars, it’s a top-down cruise in the city, catching the last of the city lights and the cool, refreshing Sonoran Desert air that guides us to sleep for the start of the city to wake up and do it all over again the next week.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Like many retro eighties classic nostalgia films, I have a tremendous recollection of my continued development through my high school years, except in my case it was more through the scope of a spiky-haired, heavy-metal-inspired drummer with an unusual love of classical music. And amongst dozens of exceptional others who had actively or passively contributed to my story, one particular individual stands out that had instigated a monumental turning point in who I was and who I would be from then on. There was something so easy about waking up at 5:45 a.m. every morning for school, even as most other students (and even the desert sun) would still be deep in slumber for hours. It was the warm beckoning light that radiated out from the K Building double doors which housed the music and performing arts, welcoming other morning risers that shared the same early routine I did. And above all, it was the sense of belonging, as if coming down the stairs to your family watching cartoons in the living room early Saturday morning. We all were inspired by the devotion and artistic gallantry of the school’s director of bands: Darrell Prochaska. But despite his title, “P” was in no way a director of any band, high and mighty to command a sea of unknown faces the conform to the typical standard of a concert or marching band; he was in no way macroscopic. What I had discovered was that he instead was friend who listened, a mentor that gave individual attention each member of our ensemble, understood each of our individual strengths and weaknesses, and in many cases, knew of our histories that got us into those seats every morning. He always had time for you; it didn’t matter if you needed him during his short lunch breaks or late into the night after rehearsal when everyone else had gone home. It was no surprise that we all would spend as much time as possible in that band room as he created an atmosphere of understanding, positivity, and selflessness that – I promise you – no one had ever seen before. There were some days after school in that band room that I would have hours of hilarious, emotional, and philosophical conversations with him that I could never have with my closest friends. I remember one day in particular I found myself sat on the riser, quiet, depressed, and worn from feeling like I had no sense of direction in my life and that I had become incapable of being who I was truly meant to be. Mr. Prochaska had walked up to me, tranquil, direct, aware, and simply asked “do you like tacos?” To this day people don’t believe this part, but I had never had a taco before in those sixteen years. I had told him that I didn’t know, and he told me to wait there. He had returned twenty-five minutes later with a gigantic box of tacos and proceeded to guide me through my thoughts while we absolutely slayed that box of crunchy tacos. He understood every word I spoke. When he talked to me, I held no defenses, and I had for once understood what a hundred others couldn’t show me. He helped me realize that finding happiness in what I do everyday was what my life was truly about, and in it, discover my value as an honest man, dedicated to making the world better, and showing compassion to a waking world. It was only a few short weeks later that he had peacefully passed away in his sleep, which had ultimately devastated a long legacy of students, friends and family who were adored by him, just like I was. I still feel the everlasting flame he ignited in me that day, and it burns feverously as I wake up every morning, with the warm beckoning light of a new day, and feeling that same sense of belonging I had known from him. It is because of him I find myself smiling for no reason, confidently living the life I dreamed of, and walking with definite pep in my step, usually with my left foot on the downbeat.
SPECIAL THANKS to Tommy Dominick, Idania Santana, Edith Sosa Lane & Jamon De’Nard, Juan Espinoza with BudCuts and ’81 Barbers, and Hunter “EH Alberts” in Tombstone for their photographic likeness. And to Giuliana Fusco for her amazing photography and everlasting inspiration.