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Spotlight: Class of 2020 Female Cinematographers


For the first time, almost half of our cinematography graduating class are women. According to Women and Hollywood, in the 250 Top grossing films of 2018… 

“Women fared best as producers (26%), followed by executive producers (21%), editors (21%), writers (16%), directors (8%), and cinematographers (4%)”…  

92% of the films had no female directors, 73% had no female writers, 42% had no female executive producers, 27% had no female producers, 74% had no female editors, 96% had no female cinematographers.”

Feirstein is dedicated to tackling these startling statistics and committed to increasing diversity in the Film Industry. This is reflected in our talented female cinematography students, now in their final year and wrapping up multiple Thesis film shoots! We asked about their favorite films, their experience at Feirstein, and why they decided to pursue a career as a Cinematographer. 

Top left to right: Teresa Torchiano, Nada Stjepanović. Bottom left to right: Maddalena DeBeni, Rikki Porter, Nicole Velez Photo Credit: Andrew Cashin

1)  What are your top 5 favorite films/TV shows at the moment? 

Teresa: Hundreds of films and shows move me for different reasons so I am not into picking favorites. What have I been watching lately? Big Little Lies-Andrea Arnold (2017). Filmmakers I recommend and respect? Ava DuVernay, Lynne Ramsay, and Reed Morano. 

Nicole: Top film as of 2019: I am Not a Witch – Rungano Nyoni (2018). Other favorites: Belly – Hype Williams (1998),  Carol – Todd Haynes (2016), Happy Together – Wong Kar-wai (1997), Moonlight – Barry Jenkins (2016) 

Rikki: There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson (2007) , The Headless Woman – Lucrecia Martel (2008), Happy Together – Wong Kar-wai (1997), Singing in the Rain – Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen (1952), Let the Right One In – Thomas Alfredson (2008)

Maddalena: Divine Emanuelle: Love Cult – Christian Anders (1981),  Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – John D. Hancock ( 1971), The Slayer – J.S. Cardone (1982), Paper Moon – Peter Bogdanovich (1973), My Friend Dahmer – Marc Meyers (2017) 

Nada: Top film as of 2019: The Load – Ognjen Glavonićhe (2008). It was directed by a fellow Serbian director and handling a very sensitive topic in the most poetic of ways, plus DPed by a kickass female DP! Other favorites: Fish Tank-Andrea Arnold (2009), Girlhood-Céline Sciamma (2014), A Night On Earth – Jim Jarmusch (1991), Ratcatcher – Lynne Ramsay (1999)


 2) What is unique to you about Feirstein?

Nicole: Feirstein is unique because of its facilities. It’s unreal the kind of access we have to create.

Teresa: The Feirstein student body is more diverse than most graduate film programs because lower tuition translates directly to more socioeconomic diversity. Feirstein includes and empowers more voices that have historically not been well represented in the film industry. As a woman raised by working class parents, that is pretty important to me.  

Rikki: The openness and willingness to collaborate. I have had the most amazing experiences working with many students of all different backgrounds.

Maddalena: The diversity! That is by far my favorite thing about Feirstein. Film has a long way to go, but Feirstein seems to be going in the right direction.

Nada: We’re kind of a school that has “big shot school” equipment with “small shot school” attitude. Makes for a fun and interesting learning process crewing with the most awesome people ever. 


3) What motivated you to pursue Cinematography? 

Nicole: When I saw “Do the Right Thing” for the first time I was intrigued by the visual storytelling of the film.  I wanted to be behind the lens ever since. 

Teresa: From a pretty young age, I was making films with our family VHS camcorder and directing productions in our basement and around the neighborhood. It wasn’t really a question why I wanted to pursue film and cinematography. I love expressing and representing our shared human experiences visually. 

Rikki: I was always interested in taking photographs and videos as a kid. When I got to undergrad, I insisted on shooting every single project. I was totally obsessed with the image!

Maddalena:I wanted to join the film industry and I’m a visual person. I went to art school for undergrad and I felt that I could figure out cinematography–that it could be a way to better understand film.

Nada: I just enjoy creating beautiful or interesting pictures! There’s this feeling of rush you get when you do something you really like, for me it just happens to be working with cameras and lights. 




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