PATRICIA CRUZ JAMANDRE
Hometown: Houston, TX
Years lived in the city: 4
Occupation: Production Designer, Art Director, Installation Artist
Company: Freelancer (self)
I've known Patricia Cruz Jamandre since she first moved here from the Philippines during elementary school. I was her first friend in America and after high school, I didn't see her for eight years. After I moved to NYC we reunited in Brooklyn's Bushwick area where she hosted her 25th birthday party. It was crazy to see someone grow so much from her childhood days and being in Patricia's artsy and well-decorated home made me realize just how far both of us had come from those silly days in Houston.
Patricia graduated from The School of Visual Arts and immediately became a freelancer after graduation, working for herself and on different commercial shoots. While in school, Patricia was mentored by the Oscar-winning Production Designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein and Oscar nominee Wynn Thomas. In a single week she can be on three different shoots at a time and is busy blueprinting the art direction for projects, drafting and building set designs, or writing scripts for films.
What was your first memory in the city?
The first time I came to New York was when I was thirteen years old. I remember that NY had just had a huge storm so a lot of the subways were flooded and I was really disappointed that I couldn’t ride the subway. The first place we went to was Times Square in a taxi and I was indifferent, actually. I wasn’t that excited. I just thought, “Oh cool, I guess this is New York City.” I think it’s kind of funny because a few years later I found out that people travel to New York from all over the world and it’s a big deal. But at that time of my life, I wanted to move to Los Angeles instead.
What happened to LA?
I lived in LA for a few months and I realized then that I didn’t like LA. So then I came to New York after all. I think Times Square doesn’t completely grasp the New York City vibe, which was my first impression of the city. It’s very touristy and there’s a lot of New York that isn’t encompassed in the touristy areas. I’ve always wanted to move to a city that would challenge me and when I was really into photography before (pursuing graphic design), there was a school in LA that I wanted to go to, but it ended up not being my scene. I came to New York again on my 20th birthday and I realized that New York was the place for me to go all along.
I just liked how you are able to go anywhere in New York. Just take the subway and you can end up in any borough and meet new people and experience a new part of the city. There’s no one character to New York because it’s multiple characters.
Did you feel a certain creative pull from the city?
I think that it’s the people more so than the city itself. The people know that this is where the underdogs go. People like me who didn’t have a foot in the door at first come here to get themselves established. I think that’s what’s so great about New York. There’s a magnifying glass on it and people will pay attention to the scene. If you're doing something great people will notice you somehow just because you’re here as opposed to some small town. By attracting talent, you attract even more talent - it waterfalls.
Even after I graduated from college I thought to myself, “What if I went back to Texas?” I had a friend who had his own studio there that does commercial work, but I didn’t want to do that. If I went back to Houston there would have been only two production companies I could work for and if they didn’t have anything for me, I would basically be unemployed. Here, there’s a lot more opportunity for creative work. So I decided to stay here which is nuts but I’m getting by with freelance work and it’s been great.
I want to talk more about your college experience. After your experience, would you recommend going to an art school for those who want to pursue production design or art direction?
I went to The School of Visual Arts. I have a love-hate relationship with my school. The biggest reason why I’d recommend going to SVA is that they give you a lot of freedom to create whatever it is that is in your mind. They support your wildest imagination. The Fine Arts department and Film department are both very open-minded in that regard.
As a school, they do give you guidelines but the liberal arts component of the program pushes you to think, communicate your art well, and be professional in your presentation. There are really great artists out there who don’t know how to express themselves or don’t know why they created their art and it’s very valuable to be able to articulate not only yourself, but also your work and how you got there. I think that’s what separates professional from amateur artists - having the ability to articulate yourself and the body of work that you created. And going to a school like SVA can help get you there. I’m not saying that you have to go to school to be an artist, I’m just talking from experience.
The freedom you have in art school is also a good and bad thing. It weeds out the people who don’t know how to handle freedom well while allowing you to figure out who you’re really going to be after graduation.
The con to the school is the cost. You’re paying so much and you don’t see where you’re money is going towards. I don’t remember the exact tuition cost, but I believe it was around $30,000 a year for four years. It’s a private school that doesn’t do full scholarships either, but they do provide scholarships.
So after college, you jumped into the freelancing scene. Can you talk a little bit about your freelancing work and what it's like to work for yourself?
So I do a lot of various jobs and for different industries my title is completely different, which is why I have four titles on my resume. For film/music videos, I’m a “Production Designer” or “Art Director”. For magazines and photography, I’m a “Creative Director” or “Creative Consultant” because there’s a separate Art Director for the magazine that will approve your work. For Broadway, it’s “Set Designer”. That’s why I have so many different titles on my website.
I can speak more about my recent gig as a Production Film Designer.
The way I get hired is through word-of-mouth or I go online to Mandy.Com and I apply to the job listings through there. Usually when I get calls for an interview, they’ll ask me “How would you approach this video or a scene in this video? What do you see?” In preparation for that meeting I’ll have already prepared a list of scenes. Sometimes I’ll quickly sketch something out if it’s a face-to-face interview. The biggest part is selling yourself, which makes me nervous even though I’ve done it so many times. It’s weird saying, “Hi, here’s what I can do” but you just have do it since it’s part of the job.
So the last person I interviewed with, he actually liked me so much that he booked me on two shoots immediately. The first shoot was a commercial we shot in December and for the second shoot I’m going to be building three sets for him. We’re building a living room, a kitchen, and a bedroom, which I actually physically build out. I create the blueprint on AutoCad then move on to 3D Max/SketchUp which is a 3D software that I then create 3D structures for my team to better understand the layout. I can even bring in the cinematographer and we can drop in a camera in the 3D set and use the right lens we’re going to be using which gives us an idea of how we’re going to be shooting the scene.
I am also a prop master and carpenter so I can build sets out of wood or make a fake boulder. I’ve taught a group of people how to caulk and cut wood, just basic stuff so far.
Then I always give my interviewer a disclaimer saying that he shouldn’t feel worried about disagreeing with me on any of my ideas. I’d rather them disagree with me than always agree with me and that way we can go back and forth and it gives me an idea of what kind of director I’m working with. I’ll keep pitching ideas until the day of and that’s what’s so exciting about it - the concepts and styles are constantly changing until the day of filming.
After I get hired, we’ll have a lot of meetings where we discuss our ideas back and forth. I then create a lookbook board. The director will also make a mood board and a “treatment” which gives you an idea of how the video will play out and you can watch it as if it’s a ‘silent film’ or read through it like a short book.
I then have to figure out how many people I’m going to need and if they have the money for it. I handle how things will be budgeted, especially in regards to props and set decoration. The videos I’ve been working on are smaller budgets, like $20K, which means I can only bring on interns that want to work under me and learn from me.
Wow, you already have interns?
Yeah, interns are really exciting. I feel like I myself just got out of interning and there was so much pro-bono work in my past. Sometimes I look back at what I’ve created and I’m like, “Wow, I did that for free?!” but that’s just how you learn. I was still in school and I didn’t have to worry about a lot of things because my my family was still helping me with life expenses so that helped. Being able to do pro-bono work gave me a better understanding of how production works, how to better manage my time, and balance my work. Sometimes now when I’m on two shoots at the same time or back-to-back it does get hectic.
So how do you balance your work schedule?
It helps having interns [laughs]. I just hand off things. But in reality I have to switch my brain. Have you seen the movie ‘Dreamcatcher’? It’s this weird sci-fi horror film based off of a Stephen King novel. In this movie, there’s a guy with telepathic power and people go into his mind to read his mind. In one of the scenes, it shows how in his mind he has a bunch of filing cabinets just floating around everywhere. I believe they called it a “Memory Warehouse” and he has to organize all of his thoughts into those filing cabinets. I feel like that’s a good visual representation of my brain: I just have filing cabinets everywhere. I have to force myself to focus on what I’m doing in the present moment and not think about the next shoot. The ideas have to be separated.
Another thing that helps is having “me time”. If I’m working on 2 or 3 shoots, I’ll prepare for my day but I always schedule in “me time” which is either working out, painting, or watching Netflix or some other similar activity. It’s just time for me to cleanse my palette and not think about work. I need to have "me time" when I’m switching in between shoots. Sometimes I can’t do it when I’m on the go, but if I’m at home I have to have it. If I don’t, I become a vegetable the next day and I can’t think. I start to feel like my creative flow is starting to slow down because I’m not letting myself regroup. I think that’s a really big thing in freelancing: giving yourself that pause is a really essential thing. When you’re young, you tend to want to “go, go, go” but that doesn’t help. You have to remind yourself to slow down, pause, drink some water, eat, sleep, and start again in the morning.
I’ve noticed a difference from how you’ve changed in high school and I feel like you have this aura of confidence, energy and life around you. The question, then, that I have is “What is the greatest change you’ve seen in yourself?”
Wow, first of all, thanks! I don’t think I’m that confident, but I’ve been told that by other people too. I think it’s really interesting when people say that to me because I know my own struggles. For example, earlier this year I took a Lyft Line ride to my set and the driver noticed that I was really tired. I was super exhausted and we just started talking and somehow during our conversation, I started to cry. Then he said what you just said - he said, “I feel like you are doing so much in your life that you don’t even realize how far you’ve come” and then it really hit me. He denied all other rides and took me straight to my destination so I got there an hour early and he bought me breakfast and told me to take care of myself. He said, “Don’t forget to eat.” which is something I do all the time because I’m so preoccupied with work.
My New Year’s Resolution for this year is to take care of myself better because life is just going to get more hectic.
Anyways, ok, back to your question [laughs].
For a long time I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do or what career path I should take. I knew it would be something in the arts, but I didn’t know specifically what it was that I wanted to be. And then all of the sudden I stumbled upon Production Design. It had everything I wanted to do and more. I was able to sketch designs, paint, take photographs, create models…the list goes on. I began to notice changes within myself, too. I started to learn how to balance my life, handle stress better, and be quicker on my feet. I’ve never turned back since then.
And what advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say to myself everything happens for a reason, so take it day by day, especially during the hard times.