Jan 26, 2018
30 Under 30, Class of ’18: Gabriel Gomez, Filmmaker & Entrepreneur
Most Likely To: pet the dog, eat too much fruit, or scream for fun
Favorite Quote: “Make good art.” – Neil Gaiman
Gabriel Gomez founded Crooked Letter Films—a bicoastal production and management agency, based in Williamsburg—to create visual narratives across various fields, including documentary, commercial, music video, and narrative. Last year, Gabriel became the youngest ever Clio winner for a commercial he made for H&M + Refinery29, featuring twin brother ballet dancers from Brooklyn. If that’s not enough, he also recently broke into the world of music management, and saw his leading act Rosehardt gain momentum this past year. Gabriel’s work behind the scenes is a movie unto itself.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now?
After I got my first HI-8 camera at 8 years old, I became obsessed with making narratives & skateboarding videos. This was the “pre-editing software” period of my life, so everything had to be done in-camera. I distinctly remember making a horror/suspense short film. For one scene, I was holding up my Walkman’s headphones and playing the “score” for the film up to the microphone of the camera while rolling. I had to time the music perfectly with the moment with one hand, while also cueing a crunched up MetroCard in the other to evoke a “neck breaking” sound effect. It was surprisingly effective.
When did your occupation become real to you?
I made a feature film with my best friend over the course of our junior year at LaGuardia High School of the Arts. Being in the acting department, we had an entire ensemble of good friends who wanted to be in our cast. The story we were telling was appropriately melodramatic for 15-year-olds, but the 5 month process demanded a lot. We were perfectionists. We set up a screening of the completed film at John Jay College’s theater—it was a benefit for our friend’s Hurricane Katrina relief organization. Over 300 people attended.
I remember watching that night unfold—reflecting on the raw, creative filmmaking process paired with the “entrepreneurial hustle” it took to pull favors & set up the event—and thinking to myself, “this is all I want to do for the rest of my life.”
How does your neighborhood particularly inform your work?
Having been born and raised here my entire life, I’ve seen Brooklyn change significantly. Witnessing vacant warehouses, authentic and modest neighborhoods where I used to skate around, morph into ugly, glass luxury penthouses full of transplants—seemingly overnight—is often infuriating. But it’s also an exercise in awareness of inevitable change and what we, as artists, should do with that transition. It forces me to remain conscious of what side of what playing field I’m on and what kind of “Brooklynite” I want to be. This borough is so big and special and full of beauty; there’s always something to discover. It really makes me question my intentions for the “who/what/why/when” of creating art here.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now?
Doing what I love professionally has its moments of significant confusion and fear. I never went to college—I left and started my production company, so I don’t have a degree to subconsciously tamper those insecurities, as arbitrary as that is. Having a company, with employees/goals/overhead/etc. for 5 years, and continuing to grow by building new divisions of that company, all orbiting around my passion for film and music. The stakes feel higher because there isn’t really a “Plan B.” Maintaining confidence in the future of the industries I’m working within, finding time to nurture my ever-growing/changing passions, and being aware of my creative/professional drive to make good, honest work through it all.
What’s most rewarding?
Freedom. Freedom to call my colleagues my best friends. Freedom to tell the stories I want to tell; to try new things; to work with the talent I want to work with; to take jobs that feel right; to take time off to make exactly what I want to make for the right reasons; to be able to inspire others to do the same; and to involve all my other ridiculously-talented friends I’ve had for a decade. Despite momentary freak-outs, I’m so lucky and grateful.
5 spots in Brooklyn people should know about?
- Playground Coffee Shop – multi-generational family-owned coffee shop with locally-minded/community-building missions for the neighborhood. It has an incredible consignment shop for local artists, designers, and zine-makers, and an overall kickass aesthetic. More of an organization of culture than a coffee shop… but the coffee’s super good too.
- C’mon Everybody – I firmly believe this place is well on its way to being one of the best venues in New York. A few of the artists I manage play here frequently. The sounds and scenes that this place is harboring are so beautiful—nightly acts ranging from local to popular, strongly enforced LGBTQ-friendly vibes, and a great stage with amazing sound. The owner, Eric Sosa, should get a key to Franklin Avenue.
- Brooklyn Open Acupuncture – This place is a sanctuary. Providing super-affordable sliding-scale acupuncture in a beautiful space in Fort Greene, I’m always happy to walk in here. I bike and do yoga pretty much every day. I tend to tweak out at some point or another. One of the owners, Liz, has had a huge hand in my healing process.
- Terrace Bagels – The best bagel and only bagel in NYC worth discussing.
- The Dreamhouse/Spectrum – My first night there was the best nightlife experience I’d had in a long time. DIY-ish LGBTQ-ish venue/club on the outskirts of Bushwick—full of magic and weekly events of all shapes and sizes. No shade being thrown, but some of the newer venues in Bushwick have proven to be far more exclusive than inclusive of local communities. The Dreamhouse is making an effort to allow for much more affordable and comprehensive escapism.
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date?
Winning a Clio award last year for producing/directing an H&M project about young, black, ballet-dancing twin brothers was truly an honor. Breaking into music management this year to have my leading act, Rosehardt, gain more and more momentum is surreal and beyond rewarding. Having our new offices/studios in North Williamsburg as a place for good people to make, think and gather brings me daily joy. Simply having a creative life that ebbs and flows constantly is enough of an accomplishment for me.
Who/what inspires you?
Spike Jonze, Frank Ocean, and my mother.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years?
I really want to grow my company to be able to support art-making of all kinds. We’re on our way, but I want so many kinds of experiences stemming from the Crooked Letter collective: feature films, albums, photography projects, events, education, public service. Possibly merging my art-making with some sort political mission down the line is possible. I’ll have a few dogs. Monthly dinner parties for my friends and collaborators. Probably a partner. Some nice plants. All that good stuff. Oh, and most likely still living in Brooklyn.
What’s next for you?
Were developing a few documentary series in-house that are slated for production this year that I’m really excited about. My business partners and I are working on a subsidiary agency of our company, building a roster of directors/creators that we work with. The musicians I manage all have projects coming out this Spring that we’ve been creatively directing here at Crooked Letter (I seriously can’t wait to hold this Rosehardt LP in my hands). As always, lots of music videos and assorted projects with some incredible people coming up. I’m also really trying to focus this year to meet and collaborate with as many people in different fields as I can. We want to foster as much creativity and good work as possible—so hit us up! The Crooked Letter door is always open.
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