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Meet Matteo Martignago

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matteo Martignago.

Matteo, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
“I don’t dream at night, I dream at day, I dream all day; I’m dreaming for a living.” (Steven Spielberg).

Everyone watches movies. Movies have different effects on different people. Some might watch them to escape reality, others to experience emotions they have never felt in real life and others might even watch them as a learning means. But most of the time a movie is someone’s dream brought to life whose final objective is to transmit emotions. Therefore, as Steven Spielberg said, I feel that in a not too distant future, I will be dreaming for a living. I realized this when I noticed that every time I listened to a song or someone described a feeling or a particular scene to me, I would imagine perfect frames that seamlessly blended into a perfect story. Every time I experience that particular scenario, I feel the need to share that story and bring value to others. I think it is this constant feeling that has made me decide to pursue my dream of making movies and sharing stories.

Since I was a kid, I have always been passionate about photography. Maybe my mother, as a photographer herself, transmitted her interest to me or maybe I was just fascinated by being able to capture every situation at any given moment. Photography became my favorite hobby as soon as I received my first analog camera at the age of six. A few years later, I came across studio photography and realized I was really keen on shooting portraits. That brought me to attend, a year later, a photography masterclass at the ISFCI in Rome, focusing on studio photography, in particular shooting in black and white, setting up lights and working with a view camera.

At this time, I started high school where I met my best friend with whom I shared the same passion. Consequently, we started shooting together and he introduced me for the very first time to filmmaking. From that moment on, I started imagining everything I saw as a possible story to tell through images and every time I experience that feeling, I get goosebumps. It was then that I realized this was what I wanted as a career…

I spent the first three years of high school shooting videos as much as I possibly could. My best friend and I started by taking part in online video contests to test ourselves and start learning from our mistakes. We were really too inexperienced for those contests but we definitely learnt a lot. During the last years of high school, I attended a two- year filmmaking course where I experienced what being on a real set is like. Here I met two of the most amazing teachers who later on became my mentors and close friends. During this course, I shot two short films covering the role of both cinematographer and directors. This fascinating experience was a further confirmation of my choice to take up a career in cinematography. After graduating from high school and not having found a film university in Italy that met the required standard to satisfy both myself and my parents, I enrolled on the Business Management course at the Luiss University in Rome. During these years at college, I continued to work and gain experience on set as DOP assistant with my filmmaking teachers from high school. I spent these years continuing to collect material on and research the best colleges both in Italy and abroad, to attend a cinematography course after graduating from the Business BSc.

That is how I came to be here in Los Angeles attending a Master’s Degree in Cinematography at the NewYorkFilmAcademy. One of the main reasons I have enjoyed this course is the hands-on and “learning by doing” mindset, which reflects my own. Another is that the course has confirmed my strong belief that teamwork is a vital component to obtain an extraordinary product.

Cinematography is the discipline that most appeals to and fascinates me because of its unique power, by means of various techniques, to arouse people’s emotions, even unconsciously. For instance, it has been proved that specific colors bring on specific emotions – blue invokes isolation, coldness and loneliness, yellow madness and obsession, and red passion, anger and violence. I myself have experienced many of these sensations unwittingly, simply from images. Images are mind-blowingly powerful.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
So far, it has been pretty smooth. I have always liked to make a plan and stick to it.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a Director of Photography and I mostly work on films and commercials.

As a Cinematographer, every time I work on a new project, I always encourage the Director to cover every aspect in a pre-production phase, making sure to avoid most of the problems during production. One aspect that the directors have work with so far really appreciated is how I manage pre-production. I usually push to have meetings with all the heads of different departments and go through the whole script. In this way, we put on the table all the challenges and problems from every department and make sure to solve most of them during pre-production. This has been my key for most of my projects and it has worked really well so far.

What were you like growing up?
I really need to mention two main people who started as teachers when I was in high school, then became mentors and finally this year colleagues, since we shot a movie together. I am talking about two of the most talented directors I have ever known, Alessandro D’Ambrosi and Santa De Santis. They have always supported and helped me through this journey.

Then I feel I definitely have to mention one of my teachers here at the New York Film Academy, Suki Medencevic. Suki has been of great inspiration for me and he has always supported and helped me during this journey.

I am extremely grateful to have met them and I look forward to keep working with them.

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