Interview with cinematographer Vittoria Campaner

Vittoria is an Italian cinematographer who has worked internationally shooting films in Italy, France, Norway,
China, Taiwan and Trinidad and Tobago as well as the US. Her narrative work has screened at many international
film festivals, including Palm Springs International ShortFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Los Angeles
Asian Pacific Film Festival and Bogotá Short Film Festival, and in 2020 she was selected as a Cinematography fellow
for Film Independent’s Project Involve. A graduate of the MFA program in Cinematography at UCLA (class of ’19),
Vittoria also served as DP on numerous video art installations which have been exhibited at renowned venues all
over the world, including the Biennale Larnaca (Greece), and the Femmebit Art Festival (LA). Her versatility across
different mediums is partly a product of her diverse and multidisciplinary background in design and mixed media,
which she developed while studying at Parsons the New School for Design in New York (class of ’15). As a
storyteller, Vittoria is drawn to high-concept narratives, magical realism and, more broadly, subject matter that
deals with the more absurd aspects of everyday life, with a particular focus on women’s stories. In addition to her
work in cinematography, she also writes and directs her own material, and her latest directorial effort, DYE RED,
won Best Experimental Narrative Short Film at the 51st Nashville Film Festival.

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

A strong passion for image-making, curiosity and good work ethics, but most importantly a love for
storytelling and collaboration, and the willingness to devote a lot of time to figuring out, with the
director and crew, the best way to tell a story, from the characters to the conceptual and emotional
details of each scene and the overall message of the film.

  • What makes good cinematography?

I believe that the more I learn to listen to my own body and my own heart when I tell a story, the
stronger I am as a cinematographer. Therefore, a balance between your wildest instincts and meticulous

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

It depends on what a project requires. Personally, I love shooting on film the most. Not knowing
precisely, the final outcome of the image during shooting keeps you focused and always thinking on
your feet. Then, once the project is developed, the images often greet you with surprises, which can be
very rewarding. That was my feeling while shooting Dye Red.

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

The job might be the same, but the approach can be different. Everything moves faster, and you can get
away with less precision. Creativity with digital can be rich and at the same time dispersive – digital
makes a production safer, there is very little risk of losing footage and the material is abundant.
Sometimes this can lead to excessive safety and less risk-taking: for instance, people often say “let’s just
cover the whole scene for safety and figure it out in editing.” On the other hand, digital opens up
opportunities for more people to get into cinematography and to learn the craft and the job on their
own, even without the kind of formal training that was once required. However, in my view, digital can
never replace the magic of shooting on film and that feeling I was describing earlier.

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

Yes, of course. It is important to know where the film will live. You always shoot a film hoping for it to
play in a theater, but ultimately, in today’s world, it will always end up on TV or a computer, so it has to
look good there too.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

It’s hard, they complement each other. There is not one without the other. I love working and analyzing
the quality of my shadows and my light equally.

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

DPs are of course most involved during production, but pre-production is also very important, since
planning and preparation is essential. A DP’s involvement in pre-production can influence many
decisions, from the choice of locations to production design. It is important that the collaboration runs
smoothly and begins as early as possible. In general, it is important to be involved in all stages to
different degrees, depending on the director’s needs. Only during the editing process do I sometimes
step away from the project a little, often on purpose so that I can be helpful and give better feedback
later on when some time has passed, and my eyes are fresh again.

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

It depends on a lot of factors, including how invested one is in the project. Usually, I am responsible for
the part of the budget assigned to the camera department, and while I do not directly manage it, I
determine many of the decisions. Furthermore, I often find myself helping with grant applications
and/or negotiating favorable equipment deals.

  • Since you are also the director of the film, what was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

I learned how sometimes it is important to let go and not micro-manage everything. Since I was at once
director and DP, my plate was always full and I had to rely on my crew even more than I was used to. I
have always been very collaborative but, while as a DP I usually like to have things under complete
control insofar as my department is concerned, on Dye Red I had to partly let go of such desire and trust
in my collaborators, because of the number of moving parts. The most rewarding part of the experience
was witnessing the passion and commitment which the crew members put into my vision.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Integral to the conceit of the film was the necessity to figure out precisely how the film would be edited
already in pre-production. Dye-Red is made up of three long takes seamlessly interconnecting one with
the other, with the exception of one scene. Yet, though the film was designed to have little or no visible
cuts, ironically the editing process turned out to be the most challenging. My editor Leonardo Campaner
and I did not have a lot of footage to work from, and so we had to be very careful in selecting takes and
assembling the piece in such a way as to extract the most emotion out of the material.