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Ivan Rodrigues: Cinematographer on the Rise

When a photography class was the random fate that had his parents meet and fall in love, it's not surprising that Ivan Rodrigues was born with cinematography in his blood. But, it wasn't until he graduated from Brazil's top college and accumulated an impressive portfolio of commercials, TV shows and short films, that Ivan's career path landed him in Hollywood.

Accepted into UCLA's esteemed Masters of Cinematography program, Ivan was also among the handpicked crew chosen to work on James Franco's short film, City Bus, where his skilled cinematography got him nominated by UCLA for the ASC Student Heritage Award. Since graduating from the program in 2013, Ivan Rodrigues has been working non-stop and getting some attention of producers around the world. His latest projects took him to places like Italy, the Caribbean, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and many other locations.

Ivan Rodrigues

Currently back in Los Angeles after shooting a feature film in Brazil, we had a chance to catch up with the busy cinematographer and find out more about his picturesque path.

A lot of people set their sights on becoming a director. What inspired you to become a cinematographer?

Both of my parents were very into photography and although they didn't pursue it as a career, it was always something they enjoyed. They started teaching me the camera at a very young age. Then I discovered I also had a passion for film and I started renting movies just to watch the behind-the-scenes making of the movie even before I watched the movie itself. I started shooting my own home movies on the VHS camera we had and from that point my mind was set.

You were off to a good start working in Brazil and then you got accepted into UCLA's Master of Cinematography program. Was it difficult to make the transition moving to Los Angeles?

UCLA has one of the best Cinematography programs in the world, so for me it was the opportunity of a lifetime and I was very excited to move here for that reason alone. But there are a lot differences in the film industry here, compared to Brazil. It's obviously a lot bigger here and there are a lot more opportunities, but its also a lot more rigid and regulated, whereas Brazil allows a lot more artistic freedom. I think both industries could really learn from one another and I feel blessed to have both backgrounds.

Your next big opportunity was collaborating on a project with James Franco. How did that come about?

In 2013, James was producing a series of short films, one of them called City Bus and he came to UCLA and chose a few directors and cinematographers to work with. It was definitely a great opportunity to be involved on a project with someone so established in the industry. And, it was also one of my first biggest challenges as a cinematographer. The entire film was shot in the confined space of a moving city bus, which also meant a constantly changing background and different lighting as well. It took a lot of preparation and I spent days before the shoot riding the bus to determine what direction we were going, what the background would be, where the sunlight would be for all the different shots. But the director ended up being really happy with how it turned out and UCLA nominated me for the ASC Student Heritage award for my work on that film.

You also had some major challenges on your recent project Singapore Sling; an entire feature film shot in eleven takes! Tell us about that.

Yes, it was definitely the biggest challenge in my career so far because the film had an elaborate format of eleven takes, shot from each characters point of view with overlapping time frames. The longest shot was eleven minutes. That, in itself, is extremely challenging for a cinematographer to create interesting dynamics within the camera frame, especially for that length of time.

It was the perfect project for me to work on though because I'm always motivated by challenges. I love human drama stories where the actors and the camera must rely on each other more.

Who has influenced your work and what would you say defines your style as a cinematographer?

Vittorio Storaro is definitely one of the greats on my list. He's done so many different types of films from Apocalypse Now to One From the Heart to The Last Emperor...but he always has a very bold style that commits to the concept of each story. Roger Dickens is another great cinematographer who always has an interesting way of adapting his style to each film.

I think I'm also defining my work with my ability to grasp each story and then adapting my style to whatever best enhances it. But being a successful cinematographer isn't only about technical skills, personality goes a long way in this industry and I think a lot of my success is simply because I'm easy to get along with and good at working with all different types of people.

What is the next big project you're working on?

I'm currently working with photographer and director Tyler Shields for a feature film called The Wilde Ones. It was actually selected in the blacklist of 2014 and it's about a sociopath who runs bareknuckle boxing fights amongst teenagers.

As a cinematographer, what do you think about the fact that film has pretty much become obsolete?

Well, the battle between film and digital has been going on for years and digital is here to stay. But I don't think it's a bad thing because in 2014, we reached the point where digital can perfectly mimic film and it also allows a lot more flexibility in shooting. I think the next big thing is going to be larger format digital cinema and high dynamic range cameras that allow more latitude and cleaner images.

- Jana Ritter

To find out more about Ivan Rodrigues and his cinematography work, visit his website:
Hollywood, CA

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