Q&A with Gaspar González

Gaspar González is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His films include the national PBS release Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami and the Emmy®-winning Hecho a Mano: Creativity in Exile. He has written for numerous publications, including The Miami Herald, Village Voice Media, and Grantland. His work has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Cinematheque. He earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.

Name, title and where you work:
Gaspar González, Filmmaker/Owner, Hammer and Nail Productions

How would you best describe your company?
Hammer and Nail is a media production company specializing in short-form and feature-length documentary content for broadcast and Internet outlets.

What makes it special?
We recognize that people want to be entertained, but they also want to engage with ideas and points of view. “Smart” is a demographic.

What steps led to your current position:
In 2005, I was working as a magazine editor when I had an idea for a documentary telling the story of how Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali, and how it all happened in Miami. I partnered with a filmmaker friend and made that documentary for PBS. People liked it, so they let me make another one. Eventually, making films became my career (although I still write).

What’s been a career highlight?
All of the interesting people I’ve gotten to meet.

A career lowlight?
Staying too long at a job I didn’t like.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your industry?
The migration of documentary content from television and cable channels (which went headlong into reality TV) to the Internet.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I’m a filmmaker. The list of technology I can’t live without is endless.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I’ve got a vintage console turntable I love to play records on. (You know, records… round, made from vinyl…). It’s a nice break from the digital world.

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Never be afraid to fail. And if you do fail, fail on your own terms.

What’s the best professional advice you could offer?
I would expand slightly on the advice I got: Never be afraid to fail. And if you do fail, make sure it’s because you tried to do something ambitious, not because you lacked courage or imagination. Over time, you’ll find yourself farther along than people who succeed at doing the same old thing. And you’ll have more fun.