SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Avai d’Amico: I’m a cinematographer by choice, and a producer by necessity. I’ve found if I want to have enough shoots to keep me busy, I regularly have to take initiative on the producer’s side to help get projects off the ground.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a cinematographer?
Avai d’Amico: I don’t think I really knew until I found myself doing it, and realized I didn’t like doing anything else as much as I like cinematography. I began writing when I was very young. When I got access to a camera, I found an entire new way to tell stories that was more social and challenging. Every aspect of cinematography is interesting to me, and it will take me the rest of my life to learn and try all the techniques I wish to.
SKSM: How do you communicate with a director to design a visual strategy for a film?
Avai d’Amico: We start from the story’s tone. The genre, the mood, and what emotions the characters are going through in each scene all influence how we light and what supports and choreography we use.
SKSM: You worked with Jacob Ewing on this film, what do you think the relationship between a director and a dp should be?
Avai d’Amico: Each director I collaborate with has a different approach, and expects different things from our working relationship. My ideal situation is working with a director who has a strong vision, and is open to my input on what techniques we can play with to bring that vision to life. I like working with directors who have big ideas, who will push me to do work that will be challenging and exciting.
SKSM: You worked in a Dollar Baby based on a Stephen King short story. It was your most challenging film?
Avai d’Amico: Not at all. Working with Jacob and the rest of the cast and crew was a great experience. Jacob knew what he wanted. We had a few meetings in advance of the shoot to talk through each scene, what expectations he had, what ideas I had. So when we got on set, we had a solid plan and a solid schedule, and for the most part everything just clicked into place. It was a relaxed environment. I’d worked with most of the cast and crew before, so we had rapport and were able to work efficiently.
SKSM: When you’re going to shoot, what are your favorite lenses? formats?
Avai d’Amico: I like the “Cooke look” — particularly the S4s. On projects like this, I’ll use my full frame Samyang DS primes because their image is so like the S4s with their warmth, low contrast, and octagon-shaped bokeh. I have full frame lenses because I can use them with any camera the production wants, and most Arizona productions don’t rent Cookes for me.
SKSM: Who are some of your influences (favorite dps/films)?
Avai d’Amico: I appreciate all the classics. I really like Steven Soderbergh because he does many films, and they’re all so different from each other. From watching his work, it seems like he’s having such a blast telling all those stories. That inspires me.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Avai d’Amico: I am. My favorites are The Colorado Kid, Under the Dome, and Needful Things.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Avai d’Amico: This summer I’ll be shooting a feature psychological thriller with one of my favorite local directors. It’s primarily three characters who meet while camping up in the mountains.
SKSM: What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Avai d’Amico: When I moved to Arizona a few years ago I had no job, no friends, no family, no place to live. I “test drove” a few different cities in the southwest, and had the most fun visiting Tucson, so I decided to stay and make a new life for myself. It was the scariest and the best thing I’ve ever done.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Something you’d like to tell our readers?
Avai d’Amico: –