Raúl Gonzo, local filmmaker

Gonzo’s colorful style is just one aesthetic he channels in a broad range of work

Raúl Gonzo, in the yellow suit holding Crookshanks, poses with Alina Lee, who stars as Margo Hoo.

Raúl Gonzo, in the yellow suit holding Crookshanks, poses with Alina Lee, who stars as Margo Hoo.


You can see Raúl Gonzo’s short film, Margo Hoo Couldn’t Sleep!, September 29 at 4 p.m. at the Crest Theatre.

It took two years for Raúl Gonzo to complete the short film Margo Hoo Couldn’t Sleep! “This was a long time in the making,” Gonzo confided to the crowd at the film’s July premiere at the Crest Theatre. “I’ve had other [projects] that have been longer, but this one is finished!”

Margo Hoo flashed across the screen of the movie palace in a story that combines childlike whimsy with sobering themes of ostracization and overcoming loneliness. It pays homage to the idyllic 1950s Sirkian suburb, neatly wrapped in a colorfully loud visual package that seems to jump straight out of a pop-up book.

A professional filmmaker since 2010, Gonzo developed his unique style through directing music videos and shooting conceptual photography. Now, he’s hoping this narrative short will garner attention at film festivals. As an official selection for the Sacramento Film and Music Festival, Margo Hoo will once again screen at the Crest later this month.

SN&R caught Gonzo at the premiere and asked him about his short film, the local filmmaking community and his future plans.

How does it feel to have your short film finally premiere?

It’s a relief, for sure. It’s nice having a screener like this in a place like the Crest, which is a beautiful theater. It feels better than if we were to just put it online or something like that. When you spend that much time on something, there’s sort of a feeling like you want to do a little bit more than just drop it on Vimeo.

How does Margo Hoo differ from your music videos?

In some ways, not at all. Once I started doing the concept photos, they started out as a series and I realized: This colorful stuff is actually just me. Someone approached me about doing a music video in this style, and I was hesitant. I didn’t know if it would translate. … But I loved the song, and they were open to whatever I wanted to do, so I started making my music videos that way. … It was a good way to actually test and see if I could do motion instead of still-work. Also, just having a story is the difference I think, having a narration.

How would you describe the Sacramento filmmaking community?

It’s nice, because everyone kinda knows each other. But it’s also growing, so it’s hard to say. I think when they did Lady Bird, they brought up their own crew, because [Sacramento] is not necessarily a place people think of where there are these big companies or studios. … It’s gonna take things that come out of here and people who come from here to give [Sacramento] a little more clout.

What would it take for Margo Hoo to become a feature film?

The way that money works in Hollywood, you have to find these big people … a studio, or a dentist or someone who has a million dollars, and for them, it’s just an investment. They’re hoping to get their money back, plus more. But the way that has to happen is through film festivals, as far as I know. It’s probably also connections, but for me, it’s festivals.

What are your artistic influences?

Dr. Seuss is a big one. I read his books to my son all the time. That’s like our thing. … There are photographers—usually they are European ones—Europeans like colors so much more than Americans do. Also, different sorts of cartoons. … A lot of kids’ stuff, of course. The one thing I always tell people is early Tim Burton, like Beetlejuice and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

Any other projects you’re working on?

I’m always working on music videos. As far as films go, I have another short that I’m working on, it’s not colorful like this. It’s an ’80s film, so it’s got a Paul Thomas Anderson sort of vibe … the music is very intense and the characters are just going through a crazy bad day. But [the Margo Hoo] aesthetic is really what I’m working on.

How else can folks see Margo Hoo?

It won’t be online, that’s for sure. I feel weird about it, because I have friends of mine who are like, “Send me a link!” And I don’t really want to do that now. I want it to be in film festivals, I want people to go out and see it. I’m like, “Yeah! Where do you live? I’ll submit it to a film festival there, and when it comes, you can go to the theater and watch it and sit with an audience.” I really like that idea. Eventually, I’m sure it will end up online in a few years, but I would much rather people see it at a film festival—and I mean that in the best possible way—it would mean so much to me, for people to actually go out, not sit down and watch it at their computer.