When Rosaleah Gonzalez toured the campus that would eventually become her college, she wanted to study gaming development....
“I grew up playing a bunch of video games,” she says, “but my mom was like ‘I feel like you really don't want to study gaming development. I think you really want to go for film…’ and she was right.”
Ever since she was little, Rosaleah loved the whimsy and magic behind movies like Small Soldiers and Never Ending Story. But, when it came to actually making films, she discovered that what she really enjoyed was working with other people and creating art as a team.
As a result, she fell in love with film production and pursued an Associate of Arts and Sciences in Cinematography and Film/Video Production at Tribeca Flashpoint College.
“My mom really knew me as a person and steered me in the right direction,” she smiles. “After all, I don’t play as many video games today as I did back then.”
Rosaleah on the Stop Me Tribeca Flashpoint Student Short Film Crew | Rosaleah Gonzalez
“I know this is really weird, but I love reloading cards and changing lenses,” Rosaleah admits with a laugh. “It’s very satisfying.”
After graduation, Rosaleah had wanted to be a Director of Photography. Nonetheless, as she worked more and more as an Assistant Camera, she began realizing how much she loved working with her hands. She especially loved the technical side of the camera department.
“As a Director of Photography, I felt so scrambled,” Rosaleah thinks, “and sure, it was fun to do, but I stressed out the entire time.”
At the time, Rosaleah felt so overwhelmed on set that she found herself dodging offers for DP. Yet, one day, while working as a 1st AC, she realized that she wasn’t stuck on her path. In fact, she was finding more joy in supporting cinematographers.
As a result, she began to intentionally seek out more and more Assistant Camera roles.
“DPs are counting on their Camera Assistants to help them,” Rosaleah relates, “and I love being the sidekick. I like helping.”
Rosaleah as a 1st AC on Semana Santa | Andy Cat
Work on set can be hectic. The Director of Photography is often trying out different tactics or adjusting to new conditions, and that could feel tedious or redundant for the rest of the Camera Department.
“This job has really taught me patience,” Rosaleah reflects.
In fact, she notes that the Director of Photography will oftentimes want to try on multiple lenses and lighting changes before a take - a process that can be annoying for some.
“I think that filmmaking is about being patient and trying your best with what you're given,” Rosaleah says. “So, yeah. I'm happy to wait.”
Rosaleah working with JBTV and The Claypool Lennon Delirium | Michael Nguyen
In 2017, when Rosaleah was 23 years old, her mother passed away unexpectedly.
“It had sent me into a whole spiral,” she recalls. “She was my number one. She supported me in everything and she was my best friend.”
Rosaleah was inspired by her mom. Her mom was a late-bloomer, working in the film industry later in life since she had Rosaleah at sixteen. Seeing her mother follow her dreams inspired Rosaleah to do the same.
“It was just so crazy how fast her career took off,” Rosaleah observes. “When she knew that she wanted to do something, it almost felt like she could make it happen overnight.
So, when her mother passed, Rosaleah threw herself into her work.
“Keeping busy was one of the few ways I could get my mind off of my mom’s passing,” Rosaleah remarks. “But, it wasn’t fair to me. I didn’t give myself time to grieve.”
Eventually, Rosaleah began struggling with her position in film. She lamented the fact that she felt like she wasn’t getting anywhere in the industry - a feeling that she now attributes to being largely amplified by her grief.
“I told my dad that maybe I should do engineering or something,” says Rosaleah, “and he was confused since it felt like it came out of nowhere.”
After that low point, however, things began to look up. Rosaleah began having better days. Grief became something that she could deal with in waves, rather than something that she was drowning in. With time, she began to slowly recover.
Rosie Gonzalez, Rosaleah Gonzalez's mother, posing for a photo shoot | The Michael J
“My mom did a lot of makeup and wardrobe,” says Rosaleah, “but one of the last things she did before she passed was acting in this short film.”
Rosaleah and her mom had driven out to an unknown destination when her mom surprised her with the fact that they were both there for a short film. Rosaleah had no idea. Soon enough, she found herself playing a DJ as an extra on set. Her mom played a drug lord.
“She didn't tell me where we were going,” Rosaleah shakes her head, “and then, suddenly, I had to meet all these new crew members while dressed like a bum.”
Later, when Rosaleah was filming a project as a Director of Photography, she vaguely recognized one of the actors. After speaking up, they both pieced together that he had played the the son of Rosaleah's mother in that short film all those years ago.
“It was just so incredible that we crossed paths,” Rosaleah muses. "We must've met again for a reason."
Rosaleah working as a 1st AC on Where Do We Go From Here | Dawn Moore
“I was part of the small percentage of people of color at Tribeca,” Rosaleah recounts.
She attended a white male-dominated film school. Although she made some friends, Rosaleah oftentimes felt left out by the other students. She was nervous about pursuing a career in an industry where she oftentimes was one of the few women of color on set.
When Rosaleah felt like she wasn’t getting anywhere in her career, Rosaleah had considered quitting an industry where she felt like she didn’t belong.
“But, my mom wouldn't have wanted me to just give up,” Rosaleah states. “My mom started late and good things still followed, so I felt like I could do it too.”
So, Rosaleah kept on doing what she loved.
Recently, she’s really enjoyed the productions that she’d been a part of - especially given that the industry is changing for the better and there is more and more diversity on set. As seen in the annual Hollywood Diversity report released by UCLA, women and people of color have made progress in key roles such as directors and film writers (although they're still vastly underrepresented). Nonetheless, Rosaleah even recently worked on a production team filled with women of color - an incredibly empowering experience that helped Rosaleah feel seen.
“My mom was a late bloomer and a lot of that’s been my experience too,” Rosaleah says. “I learned a lot of stuff later in life, but at least I learned.”
Rosaleah working as a 2nd AC on Screams From The Tower | Jon Runnfeldt
ROSALEAH GONZALEZ is a Camera Assistant. She currently works in Chicago. Rosaleah has worked on a variety of productions in the past, ranging from TV to feature films to music videos to commercial work. In her down time, you can find Rosaleah playing video games and spending quality time with her loved ones.