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Rising Stars: Meet Senda Bonnet

Today we’d like to introduce you to Senda Bonnet.

Hi Senda, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I have been obsessed with film since I was 9 or 10 years old. I would play my VHS cassettes every night even though I had seen them over and over. I always made sure to watch one movie a day. I grew up in France in a family where everyone was working in films or TV. My grandpa started in radio and then moved into TV when there were only four channels. Then my mom and my uncle became directors, my father is a line producer and my step-father is a DP. I didn’t really know I wanted to pursue a career in film until I was 16 and I started taking photos and videos of my friends.

I was absolutely mesmerized watching my step-father working behind the camera. I felt like this whole world of lights and cameras was another reality in the world we are living in and that felt very magical. Although I knew people in the business, I wanted to make it on my own, go my own way and create my own path. For my college I chose film school and studied for six years, being classically trained in film. I always dreamed of making American films, action films, comedies, science fiction, thrillers, etc. The film that really inspired me to be a cinematographer was Blade Runner.

While I was studying in Paris, I was chosen for an internship in Panavision and when I came to Los Angeles for the program I really fell in love with the city. I went back to France, finished my studies and worked a few years as a camera assistant and camera operator on documentaries which brought me to amazing places around the globe. About five years ago I moved to Los Angeles to start building another career from scratch! I did so many shorts and music videos building up my contacts and team. While it’s been tough to do it all again, to meet people and try to get into the industry in a new place, I am relentless and like challenges, even if it takes a few years to get the desired results. I always felt that I had to make films. It’s in my DNA; I have no choice. There is nothing else I enjoy more than films, both making and watching them. I feel extremely lucky that, even with the state of productions due to Covid, I have been able to work on amazing projects lately, some kind of films that really fulfill my need of cinema.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Starting back from zero here in LA has been tough. I was working in France, traveling to amazing places with the documentaries I was working on, and I knew that no-one was waiting for me here in the States, I had to build my own career here. It was a challenge I was ready to take on and I did not work for the first few months and would travel back to France to work on films as an assistant. I was a little lost because I had to make a choice, not working in LA or work and stay in France for a while. I had to make the sacrifice of not being on set for a while and then, at one point I had to decide where I really wanted to be, going back and forth was not a long term solution. I joined a wonderful group of women in films, and I started to get more jobs and started working on more interesting projects. I have been amazed to see how women help each other here, there is real support among women filmmakers, pushing to get more females working in the industry. I was so fortunate to find this community.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am specialized in cinematography. I feel like my job is to translate the director’s ideas and vision into a visual language, to craft the story in the best visual way, to make it the most emotional, honest and authentic. To achieve this, we have tools, so I light, frame and compose a shot. I choose the camera, lenses, filters and lights that we use to create the shots that will compose the scenes of a film. The light can be hard or soft, contrasted, colorful, muted. I also work on the camera movements, the angle, the machinery we will use, either if it’s gonna be a handheld film or a dolly kind of narrative.

I am proud of my perseverance and continuing my path to follow my passion every day, even in the hard times. I am proud to be raising my two year old daughter and still following my dreams. I feel proud and lucky at the same time.

What sets you apart from others?
It’s hard to say what sets me apart from others… I come from the classic method of doing films while embracing future technologies. I am extremely passionate and confident in my work, and am able to stay calm and collected, even if the ship is sinking. I listen to my intuition a lot and believe it helps me create magic. I love solving problems while also having hundreds of ideas a minute.

What makes you happy?
Small things make me happy, seeing my daughter laughing or dancing, being herself, this makes me happy. A walk on the beach with my family makes me happy. Being on set, crafting a shot, composing, lighting is a big source of happiness, and then when you finally have everything done, seeing the actors performing their craft and evolving in the shot is delightful, especially when they deliver a great performance. I am my happiest when I’m creating, whether it’s with the photographic medium or moving pictures. Spending time with my friends and telling stupid stories and jokes, sharing laughter also makes me pretty happy. I could bore you with an endless list, so I feel extremely grateful for the life I’m living.

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