Ricardo Marmolejo started his architecture career in the 1990s. As technology changed rapidly, he noticed a gap in his education.
“I noted there was this big field of computer graphics that I was really attracted to. I like learning, and little by little I started discovering all these new areas in visual effects/animation,” he said. He wanted to learn more about this evolving field, and to bring that knowledge back to the classes he taught at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Nuevo León, Mexico.
Through the Fulbright-Garcia Robles Program, he updated his architecture skills and learned to apply them in a new medium: film.
Ricardo first learned about the Fulbright Program through a colleague at Monterrey Tech.
“Many scholarships in Mexico are not focused on technology. I fit perfectly with the Fulbright Program. They had support for the art of animation.”
In 2010, Ricardo was awarded a Fulbright grant to study animation and visual effects at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, concentrating in composing and lighting.
Ricardo was able to work on many projects outside of his classes, such as a documentary on Japan and a music video, for which he did lighting and rendering. “I didn’t want to [just] be here taking classes and doing homework. I wanted to do something else,” he said. “I started getting into projects at the Academy.”
And then came Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Ricardo worked with a team on lighting and rendering for the film, which focuses on the life of a six-year-old girl, Hushpuppy, living in a Louisiana bayou community. When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, it won four awards and went on to win 35 additional international prizes.
Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. Though it did not take home any awards, it received a great deal of praise and provided Ricardo with extremely important practical experience in his field.
“We were really excited [about the film],” Ricardo said. “But not everyone [knew] about this. Now, everyone is excited.”
“Being a Fulbrighter is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life. People look at you differently and that has a lot of implications,” Ricardo said. “You feel special, but you have to give a little more because you feel that you need to keep up with everybody else in the Fulbright Program. That makes us work harder and give the best of ourselves.”