Location Scouting. Don’t trust on photos and videos from producers when you’re able to visit the location in advance. Sometimes it’s a time saving that ending by wasting money, time and quality of the shooting, because the cinematographer or his crew should know ahead of time, what are the limitations and how is the location. Sometimes a missing stinger (cable extension) might generate a lot of trouble for the entire crew.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ricardo Cohen.
Ricardo Cohen, born and raised in Rio de Janeiro — Brazil, moved to LA in 2017 to pursue and improve his knowledge and career at the film industry. With 9 years of professional cinematography and filmmaking experience, studied Cinematography and Producing at UCLA, to understand better the entire filmmaking process in the US, especially in LA. He filmed in Brazil for two BBC documentaries and some other projects as music videos, soap operas and some corporate films as cinematographer and camera operator, but as he says, there’s nothing like shooting in Los Angeles. Being surrounded by the city that breaths arts and entertainment, the perfect weather, the access to the latest gear available in the world and much more makes us much more creative and excited to shoot and create content affirms Ricardo.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m born and raised in Rio, Brazil. Since I was very young I always loved photography and cameras and my mother always supported my hobby and she bought me my first video camera when I was 7 and I started filming every family trip and family gatherings, I mean, I tried to. But while other kids were happy playing soccer or video games, I was happy handling my camera around.
When my parents realized that it was so intense, they tried to slow down, especially when I turned 17 and said that I wanted to study cinema or any arts related bachelor. I ended up graduating in International Relations but that dream of working in the film industry never stopped until I started to add cameras on my remote controlled airplanes, cars and helicopters that I had as an Hobby and was practicing for more than 10 years. It started to attract a lot of attention and demand and I opened my production company and started to offer professional aerial images, years before the drones becoming a reality and available to the public.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I realized that flying remote controlled airplanes and helicopters with cameras onboard would be a business after taking the first photos for the company that I worked for and they were really surprised by the quality, angles and flexibility involved. At the beginning we used to call the adapted helicopters by “multirotors” and years later some companies came out with the name “drone”. After opening my production company in 2013, I dropped the career and position that I had as a Commercial Director at a company in Brazil and started working, studying hard and trying to share knowledge and information with other people doing the same around the world. That fast market growth and my passion, brought me to the Cinematography and Aerial Cinematography world where challenges, learning and creativity are infinite.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I can say that one of the most interesting and surprising stories is when I was invited to shoot a famous Brazilian MMA fighter, some videos to promote his new gym, and for my surprise the first artist to show up to train with him was the singer Wiz Khalifa and during the upcoming days I had the pleasure and honor to shoot with some famous actors and celebrities as: Terry Crews, Prince Royce, Sterling Brown, Harold Perrineau, Laurence Fishburne, Diplo DJ and others.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes that I had in my early years was, believing that some Hollywood films scenes and some shots were beatable. But they’re not for many reasons. That thought made me realize that I had to study harder and learn from the best to try to improve my work and one day be able to reach and work in a Hollywood type of production and budgeted movies.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Right now, I’m discussing with a Brazilian producer to shoot a Feature film about the life and story of a famous Brazilian philosopher and writer, but the pandemic is delaying and postponing the starting dates due to the ongoing restrictions and risks of travelling abroad. And for this project it will be needed to travel to some states in Brazil what makes it even more difficult because COVID cases in Brazil are skyrocketing and out of control.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
One advice that I would give for those starting on the cinematography path is to not be afraid of committing mistakes, but you should learn how to fix them afterwards, especially when related to lighting a scene. This career requires a lot of knowledge about cameras, lenses, lights, hundreds of accessories and how to use appropriately each of them and how to adapt your creativity and needs in the client’s budget. So, studying each gear, knowing how to operate, handling them and its applications is extremely important.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
The Diversity in the entertainment industry is important and it’s fantastic being able to see and support this change on the industry in the past few years. I believe that the diversity is key to aggregate points of view from different cultures and inclusion of minority groups. We have seen some film festivals focused, for example, on women productions, which is fundamental for those competitors to create confidence and reach higher levels of professionalism and be able to grow and get better sponsors and access to funding, and then dispute the other festivals.
Its really important to understand the positive influence of diversity and spread this culture of inclusion in both, in front and behind the cameras. When people are brought together to solve problems in groups, they bring different information, opinions, and perspectives and everyone grows together. And when this culture of diversity is translated into films for example, its incredible to watch the results and how talented and successful, these people are and it is sad and unbelievable to hear some stories of exclusions and prejudice.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1st — contracts. I had problems a few times, getting paid by some clients so my top recommendation is to always have well done and signed contracts.
2nd- Insurance. It’s a essential expense that I’ve heard from friends a few times that is a waste of money or its unnecessary, but until you have an incident or accident on set which involves highly expensive equipment. I never had any problem but I have seen, especially in Brazil people being robbed and loosing all their uninsured gear.
3rd- watch movies- It is really important to watch a lot of movies and not only the most famous ones to create tastes and a art background to have references and inspirations as cinematography is an art, you’ll find your style. By knowing the theories and rules it is easier to break some to achieve the wanted lighting, colors, framing or camera movements.
4th- Plan your shootings- Even if you’re shooting a school or friends project, it’s really important to plan ahead and a having a shooting list. That’s the minimum to don’t miss any sequences and to fit it in your schedule.
5th — Location Scouting. Don’t trust on photos and videos from producers when you’re able to visit the location in advance. Sometimes it’s a time saving that ending by wasting money, time and quality of the shooting, because the cinematographer or his crew should know ahead of time, what are the limitations and how is the location. Sometimes a missing stinger (cable extension) might generate a lot of trouble for the entire crew.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Entertainment industry is always changing and evolving, that’s why it is really important to keep studying, not only to learn about the new tendencies and modern gadgets but to understand the art and history of filmmaking and cinematography.
Another important tip is to respect the rest and sleeping hours. The lack of sleeping and shooting for multiple hours continuously might affect some people attention, concentration and creativity, sometimes leading to accidents or mistakes.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A movement that I would love to spread and support is to stop the culture of seeking for failures and mistakes from people, instead of getting the best of them. Some people nowadays, especially on social medias are looking for failures or negative sides. As Walt Disney said: “If you can dream It, you can do it”, so lets support each other and believe in each other dreams, or at least respect them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Even with all barriers and blockages that my family imposed when I was youth, my parents and my wife are for sure the number one supporters, not only financially but also emotionally. When I opened my company in Brazil, they realized that was not only my dream becoming true, but also something that was a perfect fit as a career. When I started my wife used to help me on shootings and travels during the weekends, helped me to carry heavy gear and cases around to try to save some money and keep investing on the company and my studies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t be scare to fly high, because it will inspire others” from an Estonian Musician, Kerli. This really inspired me to create and fly higher, especially remembering when I started and heard from some “old school” cinematographers, producers and professionals that drones and remote controlled devices would never be a useful tool on the professional cinematography and entertainment industry and nowadays its hard to don’t see a drone, remote controlled crane, cable cam or cars being used on each production around the globe.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
That’s the hardest question. There are a few people that I really appreciate and would love to spend time with. But there’s a Couple living in Kenya-Africa, that I follow and really appreciate their still photography work. Jonathan and Angela Scott (@thebigcatpeople) have the most incredible wildlife stills and they are also based in a dreamy destination, which definitely is on the top of my bucket list.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m on Instagram as @ricardo_rcview and my website is www.ricardocohen.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you Authority Magazine and all your crew, appreciate the support and attention.