Creator Chronicles: Cinematographer Ludovica Isidori

Ludovica Isidori is a cinematographer whose visionary work has graced the screens of Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. From narrative feature Sanctuary, to ABC’s Soul of a Nation, to commercials for brands like Florida Health, Ludovica’s experience spans genres and industries.

Creator Chronicles: Cinematographer Ludovica Isidori

Ludovica Isidori is a cinematographer whose visionary work has graced the screens of Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. From narrative feature Sanctuary, which premiered at TIFF, to ABC’s Soul of a Nation, to commercials for brands like Florida Health, Ludovica’s experience spans genres and industries. 

Growing up in Italy, Ludovia absorbed the richness of thousands of years of cultural heritage. Her mother, instrumental in shaping Ludovica’s early artistic inclinations, introduced her to film and literature at a young age. Ambitious and inspired, Ludovica went on to earn an MA in Cinema and Television studies from IULM, Milano and an MFA in Cinematography from the American Film Institute, where she also received the Olivadotti Scholarship for craftsmanship excellence. 

Ludovica levergaged her academic discipline to master the technical aspects of cinematography and develop a narrative-driven approach, ensuring the visual elements would align with the tone and effectively communicate the underlying core of the story. She’s strategic about framing– how to use space, how to create foreground and background effectively. She chooses cameras and lenses that align with the project's requirements, always keeping the narrative at the forefront. 

Her recent feature "Sanctuary" is a psychological thriller that follows a dominatrix (Margaret Qualley) and her wealthy client (Christopher Addott) as they engage in a high stakes role playing game for power and control. With one location and two main characters, Ludovica separated the story into chapters that broke down stages of emotion and power, to then weave these elements in a way that created a track, a story path. She made decisions about how to capture a scene based on the narrative. In chaotic moments, she embraced manic camera movements, while more performance-driven moments took a step back, allowing the focus to remain on the actors.

Ludovica believes in lighting that is based in emotional truth, rather than realism, “We’re not reproducing reality, we are portraying reality. It’s the way I see you–I take what stands out about you in my perspective and I respond to that.” There is a sequence in Sanctuary where the two main characters are making love, but what the team hoped to convey is the moment where two worlds collide and collapse into one another. They played with opposing colors, red and blue, to portray this complex relationship. “The characters needed to feel like two worlds mirroring each other, different in nature but belonging to the same universe,” she explained.

Ludovica conveys emotional truth in the film Sanctuary

Drawing from a background in narrative, she ensures the visual tone of commercial work aligns with its intended message, using visual elements to subtly reinforce the idea. The empathic aspect is crucial for emotional impact. Her experience in independent movies taught her resourcefulness, understanding that diverse results can be achieved with different tools. It's about being smart and choosing the right technology for the specific purpose, rather than always opting for the latest camera.

She was brought onto a Florida Health project that demanded technical precision, aiming for a seamless single-shot sequence. Groundwork was crucial, as the director envisioned capturing a moment in a baby room. On-site assessment proved essential, allowing them to navigate the room's dimensions and craft an atmosphere lit predominantly from outside. The collaboration with the operator began early in preparation, involving multiple walkthroughs, 8 hours of rehearsal, a 1 ½-hour shoot, and a swift wrap-up.

The technical challenge lay in portraying the beauty of a pregnant woman surrounded by a nurturing environment. The collaboration between the camera and talent required careful consideration of what to reveal or conceal, navigating emotional beats in a single continuous shot. Prep involved refining the shot during rehearsals to ensure versatility for both 15- and 30-second deliverables.

On a project like this one, Ludovica offers meaningful camera movement options, particularly in short scenes involving multiple stations. Her solutions aim at maintaining tension and avoiding unnecessary or unmotivated travel shots. The focus is on identifying key elements—performers, products, or exuberance—that sustain tension and then building the narrative around them. Recognizing the importance of transitions, the speed of camera movement plays a role in keeping the audience engaged. Understanding departmental limits and strengths, along with available resources, contributes to a successful execution.

Ludovica gives a chance for her camera skills to shine.

On set, Ludovica’s focus extends beyond technicalities to the artistry of framing and creating a visual rhythm. Conversations with clients and directors are crucial, ensuring a shared vision and a deep care for the project’s success. Surrounding herself with individuals who share her passion and dedication, fostering a collective sense of commitment among her team is key to ensuring everyone is aligned in their pursuit of excellence. 

When asked about your favorite piece of equipment, Ludovica answered, “Operators. The person behind the gear is what makes the difference.” She compares great camera operators to dancers, “It’s a rhythm, like watching a dancer. How they partner with the subject in front of the lens.” Ludovica has mastered this rhythmic relationship between camera and subject herself, as showcased in a documentary series she’s worked on. 

ABC’s "Soul of a Nation" is a TV documentary series that features interviews covering topics from pride to music. There are multiple elements at play in how each subject is showcased, there is the interview shoot as well as the hero shots for profiles, and both must maintain a polished look despite unpredictable schedules and locations.

Ludovica’s skills lie in rapidly assessing new locations, adapting to available lighting, and making on-the-spot decisions about shots and setups. This process hones the ability to respond swiftly without compromising quality. The abundance of interviews provides an education on creating distinct visual styles based on the personalities being featured.

For celebrities like Ne-Yo, the focus is on enhancing their unique qualities, ensuring the style of what we see on screen matches the essence of that person,  “Ne-Yo is cool and classy. It was about lighting him like a movie star in a noir film.” The challenge is to work within time constraints while maintaining beautiful visuals and preserving meaningful representation. You can take a look at some stills from the project here.

When asked about projects she’d like to create in the future, Ludovica talked about applying her aesthetic tastes to branded content. Passionate about fashion, Ludovica seeks to celebrate diverse forms of beauty and bodies in contemporary ways. Fascinated by the intersection of movement, bodies, and fashion within frames and inspired by dance music videos and fashion films, Ludovica aims to bring to light a more diverse understanding of beauty. Ludovica looks forward to opportunities where can create loud, playful branded content that pushes boundaries. Her goal is to blend her narrative expertise with innovative lighting and camera movements, expanding core truths within the realm of branded content. We look forward to seeing what she creates next!