Q&A With Salvatore Interlandi, Chair, Cinematography Dept., New York Film Academy

May 28, 2014

Salvatore Interlandi is chair of NYFA's cinematography department

Q: What is the first lesson to learn in becoming a successful cinematographer?

SI: The first lesson is to understand the language of cinema and how images work together (to learn what it means to be cinematic). Understanding the power of perspective and how that shapes a viewer’s experience. And with that understanding you can create images that are far more impactful than words.

Q: What do you wish you knew when you started in your field?

SI: To keep shooting. Never stop. Become obsessed with images, color, and light. Keep your eye active throughout your day and watch how the light breaks through a set of French doors, be conscious of the atmosphere in a restaurant, watch people, go to museums and deconstruct paintings and photographs.

Q: How do I get the most out of my program at NYFA?

SI: Be ready to come to work everyday. Be present, get your hands dirty, open your ears, and absorb as much as you can. In a little over nine months, you learn several different cameras as well as different shooting formats: 35mm, 16 negative, 16 reversal, and HD/digital video. On the very first day at NYFA, students have a camera put in their hands and the intensity never lets up.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?

SI: To keep stretching yourself and find out everything you are capable of. Keep asking yourself who you are. And live the questions.

Q: Which pieces of equipment do you find most effective in your field?

SI: Lens, Light, and Filtration. The lens is the foundation to any image and establishes the visual tone of the film. The light allows me to create emphasis and separation within the frame as well as create a mood. Filters help to give the image personality and style.

Q: What are the essential first steps to breaking into this field after completing a cinematography program at NYFA?

SI: The essential first step to breaking into this field is the building of your Cinematography reel. At the end of the one-year program, you have the opportunity to have a very impressive reel. In a little over nine months, each cinematographer is expected to complete eight (8) projects. And the students that make the most of their time at NYFA end up shooting more projects with the relationships they make with other filmmaking students at NYFA.

The next step is to recognize that you also walk out after completing a program at NYFA with several different skill sets like gaffing, gripping, ACing, and camera operating.