As an industry leading cinematographer in his home country of Argentina and abroad, Mariano De Luca carefully constructs the image of every project he has worked on. Fans all around the world have appreciated his talent, whether watching the award-winning documentary feature Nasha Natasha on Netflix, or his latest two projects with VICE, Finishing School and This Must be the Place, which have gathered more than 3 million views across the platforms. This Must be the Place is an ongoing show on Vice TV, which was made in partnership with TikTok and is hosted by Daren Girdner, while Finishing School has 3 episodes, and was made in partnership with DUREX and hosted by The L Word: Generation Q’s Leo Sheng.
No matter the project, De Luca carefully balances the artistry of his craft with the technical side of it, using a wide range of tools at his disposal, such as varied lenses and lighting, to help tell the story and evoke emotion.
“For me there is something magical about cinematography. There is this process that starts where you read a script or someone tells you an idea, and after that pretty basic moment, my head starts to think in images, maybe in movies that those words in the script remind me of, or something completely new that I’m just imagining in my head. And then, the best part comes, when I have to translate those images in my head to an image on the monitor,” he said.
The moment De Luca read the script for the narrative film Amantes, he could once again begin to envision just how to visually capture the story. Amantes is a love story, but narrated from what the main character’s mind believes is true, while in reality it is quite the opposite. It is a psychological thriller with a captivating twist.
“I like that the story is basically a love story that everyone can relate to but is being seen from the mind of a character that has a fixation with insects. That turns everything in a different way, but if we dig into the story, we all can relate with different relationships we could have in different times of our lives,” said De Luca.
Amantes was shot in Los Angeles, and De Luca had a strong visual approach from the beginning. There is not a lot of dialogue in the script, which meant the visuals were absolutely vital to the success of the film. De Luca took this challenge head on, making major decisions. He chose to shoot in black and white, following the “Film Noir” era look with a modern twist, further adding to both the romance and suspense of the story. This decision to eliminate the colors and to just work with light and shadows allows the audience to focus more on the main character without any distraction. These creative decisions greatly impressed the director Alfredo Rodriguez-Allen, who says working with De Luca is like “a dream.”
“Not only is Mariano incredibly knowledgeable about his craft, but he’s a hard-working individual who is willing to dig as deep as you need in order to find what’s right for every single frame of the project he’s shooting. What makes Mariano so good at what he does is that he genuinely cares. He takes pride in what he does so no project is ever unimportant. He takes jobs that fuel his passion for storytelling and he never ever phones it in. Unlike other cinematographers that I’ve worked with, Mariano understands that what’s most important is the story that he is telling, not the shot that will look good on an Instagram post or reel. Many times certain cinematographers will go for a ‘cool shot’ as opposed to the ‘right shot’ but Mariano is not one of them. His focus is always on story and character, and he’s got a keen eye to highlight these elements even when the director drops the ball,” said Rodriguez-Allen.
To further captivate the audience, De Luca decided to use a zoom lens, making viewers truly feel like they are entering the character’s mind. The outcome is incredible and is eerily enchanting.
“It’s a cinematographer’s paradise to have such room to play with your visual storytelling and I think I used it as much as I could,” De Luca described. “I had a beautiful time working on it, and everytime I watch it, I’m extremely happy with the results. It’s one of those projects that will stay with me, and that keeps making me happy.”
De Luca’s creative calls paid off. Amantes premiered at the 2020 Verona International Film Festival, and has had an amazing film festival run. What is truly exceptional for De Luca is the recognition he has personally received for his work on the film. He won Best Cinematographer and Best Short Film Cinematography at the Canadian Cinematography Awards 2021 and also Best Cinematographer at the New York Cinematography Awards 2021.
“I’m super proud of the outcome and wish that everyone had the chance to watch Amantes. I had an amazing time working on it and will always remember it,” he concluded.