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Matteo Martignago – Director of Photography

1)  First of all tell us about yourself and your profession

I am a Director of Photography from italy now living in Los Angeles. I started my career as a DP back in italy where I used to shoot small projects like short films and music videos. In highschool I started to get into filmmaking more seriously and started to work on small sets to gain experience and knowledge as much as I could. I have always loved photography and I feel like Cinematography is an evolution of it in some forms. Being able to create stories and realities someone can only think about most of the time, is something that has always fascinated me and something I never get tired of.

  1. What’s your process when it comes to cinematography? Is there a particular type of camera you favor? Do you like certain lenses? High-key lighting or low-key lighting?

The first thing before even accepting a project is to read the script and make sure it is something I want to do. If it turns out to be something I would like to do, I will start again reading the script several times, every time from a different point of view. Right after all these passes I would generally have a meeting with the director and discuss with him the script, showing him the notes I took and the kind of look I think would fit the story.

I have a couple of cameras that I really love working with: The Sony Venice and the Alexa Mini LF. They are both amazing cameras and everytime I can I try to use them on the projects I work on. What I usually test more and take more time deciding, are the lenses I would use on a project. That’s because every lens has its own look. Some are sharper, others might have a warmer look etc.. So I always like to test several lenses and decide later on the ones that fit the most the look we are going for.

I don’t have a specific preference in terms of high-key or low-key lighting. I think that the lighting should always be motivated by the story. As Director of Photography you should never compromise the story with a lighting that doesn’t fit the story or that would distract the audience from it.

3)  What is perhaps the most important factor for you to choose a script?

My decision on whether or not to accept a script as DP most of the time is only based on story. I always try to work on projects I know will have some kind of impact on people or simply stories I know I will have fun shooting, such as a good comedy. One thing I always try to do in every project I do is to challenge myself with some specific shots or looks in order to always keep experimenting.

  1. What is the cinematographer’s involvement in pre-production, production and post-production?

My job as Director of Photography requires an input and work in every stage of pre production, production and post production. In pre production it is really important to work with all the heads of other departments, such as Production Design, Wardrobe and Make-up, in order to analyse all the needs of the movie and the best way to work and create the look the director is looking for. This is extremely important especially for the look since both Production design and Wardrobe directly impact the colors present in every scene.

In production the DP is in charge of the camera, grip and electric departments and it is really important for the DP being able to manage and coordinate efficiently all these departments in order to be on time for every set up.

In post production I always try to work with the colorist together with the director. This really helps to achieve the final look of the movie faster and better.

5)  Any advice to the aspiring cinematographers?

Always keep yourself busy. Whenever you have the chance to shoot something, do it. Everytime you work on a project you gain experience and get to know people that most likely will call you back in the future. It is extremely important in this industry to know as many people as possible and be able to cultivate those relationships. My biggest advice right now would be to network as much as possible and work on as many projects as possible.


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