Interview with cinematographer MAURÍCIO PADILHA

“Without ever really thinking about becoming a DP, Mauricio first walked onto a set at the age of 19, when a director came across some of his still shots on instagram and invited him to shoot the BTS footage. Three years later, he had the opportunity to sign his first project as a DP. Nowadays Mauricio lives in Sao Paulo and after 2 years into his career, has already worked alongside household brands such as APPLE, NATURA, BUDWEISER and UBER. Known for an intimate and provocative aesthetic, with a hint of noir.”


  • What personality or character traits are necessary to excel in being a cinematographer/DP?

There are different types of DPs, just like there are different types of directors, set designers and films. I can’t say I’m the most technical, or even more experienced on set, but with that being said, personally, aesthetic sensibility and grasping the concept of the project are extremely important. Keeping that in mind is the key to helping the director create, without loosing sight of what is expected due to the chaotic environment of a production site. Also being kind and pleasant on set is key, there should be no more space for jerks in the business.

  • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

Due to my close relationship with Paul Thomas Andersons films in my early teenage years, I tend to think Robert Elswit does excellent work. The way he handles facial expressions shows balance and sobriety in a very natural manner. That combined with camera movements and framing makes PTA films grasp perfection.

Currently Adam Arkapaw is my top choice. Few Dps are able to put their mark in such an impactful way without overdoing it.

William Turner and Henry Fuseli are also great influences to me, they have a very good relationship with light and shadows which are just as important in painting a film as are in a canvas.

  • What makes good cinematography?

Respecting the fine line between aesthetic excellence with being natural and pleasing to the eye. Not letting the viewer to be distracted by the photography but still giving him and immersive experience.

  • What makes a good camera? And what has been your favorite camera to use?

A good camera must serve you well. I usually work with an Alexa Mini, a battery bag and transmitters. The lighter the better. Depending on the budget its more beneficial to invest in lenses than cameras.

  • Do you think that cinematographer’s work has changed when movies went from film to digital?

Yes and I Love it. Me being able to work in film is a great example of that. Today is easy for someone to transition from a DSLR to a professional film camera. You can achieve the same results, but with more definition, texture etc. there has been a great democratization and development in the aesthetic of current films, its like we walked 10 years in 2. Its getting to a point where almost everything can be easily achieved. In the future I feel like more, and more, DPs are going to recognition for their boldness and craft.

  • Now that people watch films on TV, computers and even their phones, do you think about that end experience when you are shooting?

Not Really. I think that because I was raised watching movies on TV (way more than in theathers) this media has already sunk in. I think any media is extremely valid, if you are able to get the viewer to be caught up in the film. Personally im not a fan of 9×16 format, that makes me think next generations are going to be born with their eyes set in portrait mode.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

Shadow, always paying attention so that the light doesn’t get on your way.

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

In pre-production the involvement is more on the conceptualization process, which makes the production stage easier and organized. In post mainly making sure that color treatment doest fall off the rails.

  • What involvement in the production budget does the cinematographer/DP have?

The DPs opinion tends to be very important, with that handling budget becomes a indirect/direct responsibility. It is very important not to blow the up budget, but always being committed with the vision and aesthetic expected.

  • What is your most valuable advice for being a Cinematographer/DP?

Being a DP is so cool, that we need to pay attention not to have too much fun. To be focused and pay attention to the story and scenes while shooting is very important. Also having a good mental database, watching films and drinking fin other sources on your free time is what set you apart in the end. It’s not about what is cool or trendy, it’s about what helps to tell the story. I’ve done things I regret because of that.