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Meet Daniela Rodriguez Martinez of Director of Photography in Burbank

Today we’d like to introduce you to Daniela Rodriguez Martinez.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Daniela. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I am a Director of Photography, living in California. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and after a nomadic life’s journey, found myself pursuing cinematography in Los Angeles.

Being a cinematographer has taught me to be more aware of the world around me, and it has taught me that there is much more to tell than what is on the surface. There are countless tales waiting to be told, everyone has one, myself included. My goal is to use this visual medium to help reveal the human experience and connect people across global lines. One of the things that inspires me as a cinematographer is a statistic commonly cited in my industry and told to me when I was just starting out: only 2% of cinematographers are female.

This number simply astounds me and I, like many other women, am trying to break this mold while doing something I love. However, finding my personal career goal was not always so simple for me, I didn’t always know what I wanted to do with my life. Like many other youths, I was lost after graduating high school. I had no idea what I wanted as a career, all I knew was that I wanted to travel, and so I did. With the support of my parents, I was able to move to New Zealand and live there for a year.

In New Zealand, I realized my strengths, weaknesses, and limitations in both my professional and personal life. I also got to meet many wonderful people from all over the world, who taught me about their cultures, beliefs and what they considered important in their lives. Being around those worldly and diverse groups made me grateful for what I had; I learned to appreciate more and judge less. My time in New Zealand also sparked my interest in movies. Everywhere around me looked so beautiful and cinematic that I wanted to be able to capture these landscapes and keep those memories with me wherever I went.

I also became more aware of how each space made me feel, I felt at ease at times, but I also felt fear and an immense sense of humility and many other things. These spaces made me feel very small, and I was able to reconnect with myself in a way I hadn’t before. So I wanted to be able to capture all this, but I wasn’t aware of how to do it. So I started to do some research about film schools, but none of the programs I could find made me feel as if they were the right ones for me.

All of them were very short and weren’t considered professional at that time, so it wasn’t ideal as in my home country is very important for us to have professional titles to move further in your chosen field, so I decided to come back to Colombia. Once back in my hometown of Bogotá, as I began college, I started exploring the technical aspects of filmmaking. Soon after, I started to analyze these technical aspects on a deeper level by going beyond the image and dialogue to the core of the movie.

I learned to look past what characters said and instead tried to understand what the writer and director really wanted to say about the subject. As time wore on, I began to understand that films do not have a single truth. Films can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on the viewer. What moves Peter, may infuriate Paul, and what infuriates Paul, may seduce Nancy, etc. This personal aspect of filmmaking, this connection to audience members on different levels with differing results, is one of the things I love most about my profession.

After finishing my bachelors, I wanted to keep moving forward and keep learning more, and more so I decided to come to the US to further develop my skills and vision, soon earning my Master of Fine Arts Degree in Cinematography. I also had the amazing fortune to be mentored by Tony Richmond A.S.C., B.S.C., Jacek Laskus, ASC, PSC, Suki Medencevic, ASC and David A. Armstrong, Director of Photography of some of the Saw films amongst others. These people helped shape me as a Cinematographer and taught me how to survive in Hollywood.

Currently, I am working as a freelance cinematographer and camera operator. I have shot several short films, TV shows, music videos, documentaries, and some commercials. I have had the good fortune to work with amazing and inspiring people, such as Marta Kristen, from “Lost in Space,” Sharon Stone, some known singers like Eben and Layto, and many other people who have long inspired me from the silver screen.

At the moment I am in preproduction for two short films and developing the visual concept for a vegan cooking show on which I am the Cinematographer. I am also about to work on my first feature as a Camera Operator, which will be a very enlightening experience, I am sure. I am very excited about all the good things life is bringing me, and I am always looking for ways to improve as a person and professional.

I love creating art, and at the end of the day, I am so thankful to make a living as an artist. Suffice to say, what I love most about cinematography is that it helps capture the moment we want by emphasizing a certain action or feeling. It is the means we use to communicate a story. The same scene, with the same actors and same dialogue, can look incredibly different depending on how certain elements are used, like lights, cameras, lenses, framing and all the different equipment that exists to help us capture what we want.

Then, after everything is shot and we are satisfied with the results, the content can be shared with an audience so that they are able to hear our message or feel our emotions. We connect to strangers without limitations through a plasma or projected screen, one crew of filmmakers connects to each of their audience members in different personal ways, and that is beautiful. It is also very impressive because it is not easy to translate someone’s ideas or vision in a new cinematically thrilling way and I love facing that challenge every day.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I sometimes believe, being in the entertainment industry can blind you in a way and can often make you forget the reasons why you are pursuing a certain path. There are many aspects that are appealing about this environment, but some of these can push you away from your core without you really noticing it.

One thing that I think has kept me on track, is that I care deeply about the stories we are telling. I know, just as many, that at the end everything comes down to the story, it doesn’t really matter if it has been shot with the most advanced equipment and most brilliant professionals, if the story is not good enough or it doesn’t connect with the audience everything can fail and all the money, effort and time spent won’t be worth as much. Not on a bigger scale because at the end of the day the story is everything.

Whenever I take on a job as a cinematographer, I need to be able to connect with the script on an emotional way to be able to perform my job as best as I can. Whenever I achieve this, it makes me happy, and I feel complete because I believe in what we are doing and the message we are trying to get across.

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Image Credit:

Elizabeth Keller, Paulina Zamorano

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