Evan Ciniello talks working with global superstar Drake on ‘Money in the Grave’

When famed Canadian Cinematographer Evan Ciniello embarks on a new project, he always focuses on the story. Whether filming a viral music video, an acclaimed film, or an award-winning commercial, he focuses on the message of the content

“One thing I enjoy about cinematography is the diversity of styles one can portray. I really enjoy the idea of keeping images grounded in real life and elevating the already existing light in a space. I also use different lensing techniques to create a look for a viewer that makes them feel like they’re right there with the characters. I really hope I never stick to one style. I like the idea of always evolving as an artist but staying true to your morals and ethics” he said.

This dedication to his craft is evident in his work. Projects like Ali Gatie and Alessia Cara’s “Welcome Back” music video and Dove Men’s Care commercial campaign focusing on paternity leave for new fathers show that Ciniello focuses on the story and message of his work with each and every frame. 

“As a cinematographer, I am an artist first, and a technician second. There are many different tools cinematographers use to alter the image. The camera body, lenses, lighting, shadows, and colors are all tools used to create images that tell stories and make the audience feel a certain way. It is all about the creative process for me,” said Ciniello.

Despite the many prolific successes on Ciniello’s resume, when asked about the highlight of his career, he narrows it down to working on the “Money In the Grave” music video by global superstar Drake, featuring multi Grammy-nominated musician Rick Ross.

“I wanted to work on this project for numerous reasons, the first being because of Drake. I have been listening to Drake since I was a teenager. Not only is he an international legend, he is a Canadian icon from my city. The second reason is that I jumped at the opportunity to work with the director, Theo Skudra. Theo has been Drake’s personal photographer for years now, and works on all sorts of interesting projects. The third being that it’s an incredible track on its own, and it features Rick Ross, who is a legend,” said Ciniello.

The video for this hit song was shot in three different cities, one being Toronto, which is Drake’s hometown. Ciniello was the cinematographer in Canada because he is used to working in a fast-paced environment and is exceptionally talented with shooting on celluloid film. Ciniello’s part of the video was shot at Drake’s home in his indoor basketball court. 

“Getting to shoot Drake, one of my favorite artists, on 16mm film at his home was truly a dream come true,” said Ciniello.

Shooting at Drake’s home basketball court was an incredible experience for Ciniello, but one that came with its challenges. Lighting a large basketball court is no easy task for a cinematographer, but Ciniello knew just what to do. In the end, he had an 18k light on a lift coming through the skylight in the court. Ciniello’s creative eye was essential here, working on the fly in such a spacious arena to still capture an artistic image on a unique method of film. It created a beautiful beam of backlighting for Drake as he performed the track. The final video was black and white, so this contrast worked very well. Over 50 million people have viewed this video on YouTube, so Ciniello’s work clearly paid off.

“It feels great knowing I was a part of the success of this video. Being from Toronto and hearing this track everywhere that summer, and still to this day, it’s definitely one of my career highlights. When the video was released, it became an internet sensation. It was one of the biggest hits of 2019 as soon as it was released and the video itself was featured on many high profile platforms such as Rollingstone, the Grammys, Billboard, Pitchfork, mtv.uk, Complex and many more,” he concluded.

Be sure to check out Ciniello’s work on “Money in the Grave” and enjoy both the music and the cinematography.

Photo by Mack Callistan

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