MA Cinematography Alumni Francesca Zerenghi on celebrating her craft
By Danny Kelly
07 May 2020
Shortly after turning 30, Francesca Zerenghi realised it was time to make a change. Following her passion for the arts, she enrolled on our MA Cinematography course in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since.
Fast forward to the present and Francesca has a lot to show for her leap of faith. She has built a varied portfolio of narrative and commercial work, collaborating with clients such as Deloitte, Volvo and National Geographic. However, you might know her better as the Founder of Cinegirl – an online magazine dedicated to women working within the Film & TV industry.
In this interview, we discuss her career as a freelance cinematographer, work/life balance, and the exciting work Cinegirl is doing to give visibility to talented women in film.
What is it about Cinematography that inspires you?
Cinematography is a medium utilised to narrate a story, evoke thoughts, emotions and feelings. What I love about working behind the camera is that it is never the same. It is in constant evolution; different story, different location; different actors and ultimately a completely different experience. Hunting for such experiences is always exotic and fun.
Enrolling on MetFilm School’s MA Cinematography seemed to be a bit of a career change for you – what was going through your mind at this point?
Absolutely. My background was in commodities. I did enjoy that world, don’t get me wrong. However, I had a rather dramatic event happen in my life and it made me realise that life is too short to not have a shot at the things you are passionate about. Returning as a student was actually pretty easy. What is there not to like!? And I think the close community at MetFilm School also helped me ease into this.
You welcomed your second child to the family last year. How does being a parent influence the kind of projects you take on now?
I think any profession as a freelancer is tricky, however even more so in the Film & TV industry. It is unpredictable and difficult to plan around, especially if you have kids. I started working in short films and gradually started working on corporate commercials with clients, and it was surprisingly satisfying. Predictable hours and central locations were definitely something I was able to achieve through such projects. If you do want to settle down with a family, you need to start thinking about this. Working on features for weeks in a distant location is all good, but when you have kids it could become very challenging to manage. It comes down to what priorities are in your life.
What are the best and worst things about being a cinematographer?
I think across many roles in the industry, if you do a good job you don’t always receive the recognition which can be difficult. What I love the most is being able to evoke a feeling in the individual who is watching your work. It is important to remember that being a Cinematographer is a collaborative process too. You are working with everyone and any shot, any part of the project, stems from that collaboration. I love this sense of unity and belonging.
Cinegirl magazine has now been around for almost two years! What have been your personal highlights so far?
Two years already, time does fly. Personally I have learned a lot. I have met some incredible women with sensational and inspirational stories which have shaped the way I think about my life and my future. Self-confidence is definitely something I’ve been finessing through this process.
I learnt that it takes time to build something strong. We recently launched our brand collaborations platform and are extremely honoured to have prestigious lens company Cooke Optics onboard. We are featuring and attracting successful talent, represented by top-tier agencies, whose achievements speak for themselves. We’ve interviewed Oscar winner Cinematographer Lawrence Sher (DP of Joker), Natasha Braier (DP of Honeyboy) and Annie Sulzberger (Head of Research for The Crown), to name but a few, so I think we are pretty pleased with ourselves.
I have been extremely lucky to have the best team behind Cinegirl. Each team member truly believes in this project, and for this, I am eternally grateful. We are truly in this together.
Do you feel issues around diversity in the industry are improving?
First of all, there are many more women working behind the camera. Hopefully, organisations like Cinegirl and other women-orientated communities are increasing visibility and opportunities for women. However, when it comes to individuals (regardless of their gender) who have disabilities or are BAME, there is still much work that needs to be done. I don’t know how the situation is outside the UK, but here, diversity and inclusion is still an ongoing issue.
I would also like to add that mental health and bullying are problems which need to be addressed. We are in the process of launching the Cinegirl Podcast and one of our goals is to address such issues and encourage the industry to improve. Stay tuned!
Are there particular opportunities in the industry that you’d advise aspiring female filmmakers to take advantage of?
They should join Cinegirl! There are lots of online communities and collectives dedicated to women representation and they should join such groups. I would encourage aspiring filmmakers to reach out to women HOD’s and put forward their CV for potential projects. Cinegirl also has an Events section with updates on festivals focused on female filmmakers.