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From Page to Screen

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Image courtesy of Brandon Garza.

Brandon Garza, producer and director of photography for the recent film Before the Fall is an Academy of Art University alumnus, whose career is skyrocketing in the film industry. Garza received his B.F.A. from the School of Motion Pictures & Television, with a focus on screenwriting. However, Garza said that he made sure to take a wide variety of courses to give himself “a well-rounded understanding of filmmaking.”

Garza learned a lot from his experiences while attending the Academy that would affect his current career path. “My experience at the Academy of Art University was amazing,” said Garza. “I’ll never forget my experience with screenwriting [instructor] James Dalessandro. He pushed me to write one of my best scripts, and opened my eyes to the importance of character and storytelling.”

He kept this in mind when producing his first feature-length film, Before the Fall, in making sure that story and character were always a part of the team’s creative decisions. “The camera movements, editing choices, music, sound design and more are all connected to tell the story we wanted to tell with the characters we wanted to present,” said Garza. 

For Garza, screenwriting was a starting point and that’s where he learned to write engaging stories and interesting characters before taking the next step forward. “I wanted to take those stories from page to screen,” Garza explained. “This move taught me a wide range of video production skills that eventually allowed me to work on my first feature-length film as director of photography.”

Before the Fall is a modern day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, following a seemingly arrogant lawyer Ben Bennett (similar to the Elizabeth Bennett of the classic novel by Jane Austen). All of Austen’s original characters are reinvented and placed into modern-day society and brought to the screen. Beautifully shot in Abingdon, Virginia, the original love story blossoms into a more contemporary take on sexuality and how it is socially received. There’s a gorgeous outdoor atmosphere, taking advantage of the landscape along with the story. The film made its world premiere as an official selection of the Reeling Film Festival in Chicago and was an official selection of Out at the Movies in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

In addition to making choices that adhere to characters and story in his writing, Garza also stresses to all creative types that it’s important to find the right story to tell in the first place. He also took advantage of the subject matter in Before the Fall and thought it would be the right story to tell in Southwest Virginia specifically. “The film was written and directed by my friend, Byrum Geisler, and we shot the film in our beautiful home state of Virginia,” he shared. “Making a feature-length film back home was a wonderful experience. We were able to showcase the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains, use some local actors, and show local landmarks.”

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Academy of Art University alumnus Brandon Garza. Photo courtesy of Brandon Garza.

Washington House, the production company that produced Before the Fall, is run by Garza along with Geisler, Alex Bice and Wes Ross. It was founded back in 2012 and all of the team members hope to produce more films in the future following the attention of Before the Fall. “Seeing an audience react to my creative choices drives me to make another film,” said Garza.