Eugenio Caballero "Shaping the Scene"

A Mexican production designer. He is best known for his work on Pan’s Labyrinth for which he earned an Academy Award. His latest cooperation with Alfonso Cuarón on Roma brought him second nomination for an Academy Award. 

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Caballero was raised in Mexico City. After studying the history of art and history of cinema in Florence, Italy, his career as a production designer began in Mexico, with award-winning work on music videos (MTV awards) and short films. Soon, he started to work in feature films as an assistant and a set decorator. 

"The feelings are the guide for my work, in reality, designing a film is not an aesthetic discipline, but a narrative branch. The first thing I do before capturing an idea is to find out the background of the characters. "

Eugeniu Caballero


In film, he started working as an assistant and set decorator for the Oscar awarded Brigitte Broch, in many films, including Romeo + Juliet (1996)  by Baz Luhrmann which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art-Direction Set Decoration.

Later, he started his work as a Production Designer in the following films: Little Saints (1998), Seres Humanos, (2000), Asesino en Serio (2002) and the well-known film Crónicas (2004), which competed at Sundance Film Festival, the “un certain regard” competition at Cannes, and won the “Horizons” award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. 


As a production designer in the Guillermo del Toro’s multi awarded film Pan’s Labyrinth, he received the Academy Award in 2007 for Best Achievement in Art Direction. "In Pan´s Labyrinth all the sets were built from scratch, there was nothing there but a forest, everything is made with plaster, models, other spaces were built apart in forums, due to their complexity as inside the tree. the setsthey were not large in size: the important thing is that they were visually impressive. It happened to us that the forest was drying, because it was a hot year, and the script indicated that it should be wet, full of moss, so we made tons of artificial grass to make it look all green, as well as the moss on the trees! Another curiosity is knowing how to make mobile walls, know what lighting will be, locate the ideal angles, all depending on the camera. And although I do not coordinate it, the costumes also belong to me, in order that their colors and textures are harmonious," said Caballero. 


Since Pan´s Labyrinth success he has designed several films such as the 3rd film of the Resident Evil Saga, Resident Evil: Extinction (2006), The Limits of Control (2008) by Jim Jarmush, The Runaways (2009), The Impossible (2011), Club Sandwich (2012) - winner of Torino Film festival, Aloft (2013) - Golden Bear nominee from Berlinale or Monster Calls (2016) - winner of 9 Goya Awards including Best Production Design. 


"It was a very different process than any other film. Alfonso had written a beautiful script, but he didn't share it with the crew. I mean, I read it and I was probably the only one who read it, but I read it but just one or two weeks before we started to shoot. Everything started with conversations, with long conversations about little details and it was kind of a reverse engineering of what we normally do."
Eugenio Caballero about Roma

That was the start of the collaboration between Alfonso Cuarón and Eugenio Caballero. Nothing could truly prepare Caballero for this black-and-white epic, the director’s most personal project to date, which he’d been thinking about for over 15 years. "He (Cuarón) said it was a very personal story. We didn’t start by looking at images, we started with conversations. It was probably one of the only films that I’ve ever done in my whole career where I actually got to spend time with my director. We spent long afternoons talking about the details and sounds and what he was feeling. We talked about the family dynamics when they were having dinner.All of those things helped us build the world that we end up portraying. We also wanted to look at the complexity of Mexico City where worlds often opposite from one another collide and they co-exist. We wanted to talk about loss. In this case, if you think that Alfonso, you see it’s a big break in his life where the dynamic of his family changed. So, we wanted to talk about that. We talked about the condition of domestic workers in Mexico and what it was like back then.We made all the visual decisions based on that and so for me, it wasn’t just about creating a period film. Each prop you see is carefully placed and it had been taken into consideration before it was put there and how it’d help us talk about these subject matters," said Caballero. 

The film was shot in chronological order which brought a lot of complications. "Instead of shooting everything that happened in the house in one month, we needed to have the house for almost a year, to dress and paint it. Basically, they rehearsed there, then we’d shoot a part of the film there—the beginning—and then we started to go out to the different locations and sets. Then, we’d come back and it would have to look like the same day, even if we shot it two or three months later. We needed to somehow build everything to be more permanent," said Caballero. The film has 10 Academy Awards nominations including Best Film and Best Acievement in Production Design. 


Selected filmography

Roma (2018)
A Monster Calls (2016)
Aloft (2014)
Club sándwich (2013) 
Europa Report (2013)
Lo imposible (2012)
The Runaways (2010)
The Limits of Control  (2009)
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Pan´s Labyrinth (2006)
Seres humanos  (2001)
Santitos (1999)
Romeo and Julie (1996) - assistant set decorator