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Matteo Martignago – Director of Photography from Italy to Los Angeles

7 mins read

First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and your profession

I am a Director of Photography and as such I work really closely with the Director in every stage of production.

I have always been passionate about photography and filmmaking and slowly transformed this passion into my profession.

My job is to bring into reality the Director’s vision and to do so I have to overlook and manage several departments on set such as camera, grip, lighting and production design. It is really important as a Director of Photography to work closely with the Director and therefore with all the other department’s heads if you want the movie to be successful.

I always try to have as much pre production as possible because over the years I learnt that the more you figure out everything during prep the more successful and efficient the set will be.

What is one project that challenged you recently as a Director of Photography?

Recently I have worked on a series of shorts Directed by Eric Alt. It was a really interesting project because we shot 4 different shorts, all of different genres and I got a lot of freedom in terms of look and lighting. I wanted to keep the camera moving most of the time and for this reason I decided to put it on a Losmandy Camera Jib and ended up shooting 90% of the shorts with the camera on it.

This particular project was challenging because we had a lot of coverage and I needed to move fast, keeping the look consistent. For this reason I decided to rig most of the lights so that we had the freedom of turning around fast and just do minor adjustments without moving too many lights around.

How do you choose what camera and lenses to use on a project? How did you decide which one to use for this series of shorts you were telling us about?

I always choose cameras and lenses based on two different reasons. Usually I choose the camera I want to work with based on the condition I will be working with. For example, if I know that we will be shooting in one location with controllable conditions and lighting, I base my choice on look. So, let’s say that we are shooting an action movie set mostly outdoors, I might go for a Red Helium or a Red Gemini. If, on the other hand, I need more flexibility because I need to move fast, from interiors and exteriors both at day and night, I would

probably go with the Sony Venice which has a really high dynamic range and retains more information in the shadows and highlights.

In terms of lenses I base my choice on the look that I want to achieve. Am I shooting anamorphic or spherical? That all depends on the look the Director and I are trying to create. If I am shooting a documentary on the other hand, I would probably opt for a zoom rather than prime lenses because it makes it much more comfortable and versatile.

Are you involved in the post production process?

Yes of course! I think every Director of Photography should be involved in the post production process, especially when it comes to color grading. Without the DP and the Director supervising the color grading process, the look can end up being completely different from what they had in mind.

Even if the producers don’t involve me directly or even if it is not paid, I always push to get in the color grading session to supervise it. It is a project I shot after all and I want it to look perfect!

Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Alessandro D’Ambrosi and Santa De Santis?

I worked with Alessandro and Santa on a really interesting short film called MyDorian. They were both Directors and I was the Director of Photography. It was a really interesting collaboration and it was definitely one of my favorite movies to shoot. MyDorian is basically a movie that takes inspiration from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde but it is set in the present day. It is a really great concept and reflects very much the society we live in today. I can’t wait for it to be available to people to watch.

I saw that you co-founded a Film Festival called Ruthless Film Awards, can you tell us more about it?

Yes of course! Ruthless Film Awards is a new type of film festival. I co-founded it with a Director friend of mine, Emanuele Daga. We wanted to make something different that would actually be useful to everyone participating at the festival. We know that all the festivals out there focus exclusively on those best films every year, leaving all the other participants empty handed. Every time I wasn’t selected for a festival I have always wanted to know

what I did well and what I could have improved. This is what Ruthless Film Awards aims to do. Every filmmaker that sends a movie to the Ruthless Film Awards will get a one page analysis paper with Ruthless Score attached to it, calculated by the average of all the individual scores for Directing, Screenwriting, Cinematography, Acting, Sound and Editing.

Then only the top 5 movies with the highest score will be screened at the private event in December in front of an audience of registered agents, managers, producers and entertainment lawyers.

We are actually very excited and proud about it.

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