Sunday, April 10, 2022

From Brazil to Los Angeles: An interview with Laisa M. Santos, Director of Photography

Laisa M. Santos is a Cinematographer born and raised in Brazil. She graduated from PUC - MG (Faculty of Communication and Arts) in 2018 and since then she has been working in many projects as a Cinematographer and Assistant Camera. During her time at university, Laisa gained experience in every area of filmmaking but chose Cinematography as her primary interest. She has worked in many short films, music videos, TV productions, documentaries and feature films.

In 2019, Laisa moved to Los Angeles, California to expand her knowledge and experience in cinematography and now she is preparing to DP her first feature film.

Interview with Laisa M. Santos

Laisa, so nice to finally talk to you. You have been growing in the film industry for the past few years and now you are working in the pre production of your first feature film in Los Angeles. What can you tell us about it?

I’m super excited for this project and yes, pre-production has started. We have a locked script in which I’m one of the writers, alongside Clara Rena Faria. The story is about a relationship between mother and daughter and how their childhood memories will bring them together. 

It’s a personal topic to me and I’m excited to see how it will look on camera. I have started a lookbook for the project, so I’m choosing the color palette, shots, angles…The style approach will be very subtle, soft, high key lighting but not as dramatic. The flashbacks will follow the same characteristics but with a blue tonality.

We will be shooting with the Alexa Mini LF, one of my favorite cameras, and the lens choice is the set of Cooke Panchro/i Classic. I plan to play a little bit with filters to help create the visuals I imagine and add to the storytelling.

You talked about doing lookbooks for the project. Is that your first approach to visual storytelling after accepting a project?

Lookbooks are very important because it is a way to fully understand the complexity of the entire visual aspect of the project. Not everybody does it but it really works for me and how I like to work. I don’t have a solid formula for my lookbooks because it varies depending on the production but I always have camera and lighting references.

It varies not only in terms of type of shots but also for composition, color temperature, mood, style of lighting for each location…the list goes on. It does not need to be extremely long and complex, what matters is that as soon as I get that folder, I’ll know exactly how the project will look.

I write the most important characteristics about each character’s personality and how it affects the lighting and a little bit about the storyline and how the cinematography will progress as the story goes.

Before accepting a new project, what is the first thing it attracts you in a new script?

I am a Cinematographer with a sensitive approach but that doesn’t limit me. I enjoy challenges. Yes, I like to shoot dramas with more serious topics but I also like to shoot comedies, romances, thrillers. It is more about how I can mix my cinematography style with the story and align together with the director’s ideas.

As soon as I get a new script I read it many times and take a few notes. Questions for the director, shot ideas for each scene, lighting suggestions. I write everything as how I imagined the story in my head so I can talk about it with the director in our first meeting. After the first one, many more meetings happen in order to lock a few things, such as the final mood of the story, the main colors and lighting and camera set ups. 

For other types of projects, such as music videos, fashion campaigns or even documentaries, I have more creative freedom in most cases. I don’t have to follow a classic linear route, I can play more with time and space and that is something that really excites me. 

Could you please tell our readers where they can find your work and keep track of upcoming projects?

If you want to see my work, make sure to follow my Instagram and visit my portfolio to find out more of my new productions. I’m currently prepping for 3 short films, 1 feature and supervising the color correction of my latest short project!


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