ASC’s 2020 Rising Stars

Laura Merians Gonçalves
“I love being challenged and working with people who challenge me,” says cinematographer Laura Merians Gonçalves. “I like to think through our limitations and thrive. If you have the right collaborators, you can figure out how to make anything happen.”Gonçalves grew up in a family of photographers. “We were always taking photos and looking at photography as art,” she says. Her parents encouraged her to pay attention to light, often steering family conversations toward the subject. “Cinematography is very nostalgic for me. I’m always thinking about my childhood and the spaces I lived in. Memories are my best inspiration.”
During her time at the University of California, Berkeley, she studied philosophy and “started to experiment with lighting and electricity. Something about that world really resonated with me.” After graduating, she started her journey into filmmaking as best boy electric on the 2001 featureBully, directed by Larry Clark and shot by Steve Gainer, ASC, ASK. Gonçalves joined IATSE Local 728 and, later, ICG Local 600, and she credits the unions and her work on features, commercials, music videos and television for her real education. “Whether a job turns out to be gloriously well-received or no one ever sees it, all the work serves as learning experiences,” she says. “You have to embrace less-than-perfect results, and look at them in a positive way so that it transforms you and makes you better. The process is the result I want.”Gonçalves never participated in professional shadowing experiences, but over the years many cinematographers have served as mentors. “I learned so much by watching others do it. 

Gonçalves lines up an over-the-shoulder shot. (Photo by Barney Cokeliss)Pacified won two awards at the recent Camerimage International Film Festival: Best Cinematographer’s Debut and Best Director’s Debut (for Paxton Winters). For her work on the film, Gonçalves was also awarded Best Cinematography at the 2019 San Sebastián International Film Festival and Best Cinematography at the Aruanda Film Festival in Brazil.Her additional cinematography credits include the short Solipsist, the Netflix special John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch, and numerous other shorts, music videos and documentaries.“

 Pacified wins Cinematographer's Debut at Camera Image

Laura Merians wins Best Cinematography for 'Pacificado' at San Sebastian Festival

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The film, produced by Winters, Darren Aronofsky, Paula Linhares, Marcos Tellecheak and Lisa Muskat, also nabbed the best actor award for Bukassa Kabengele and the best cinematography prize for Laura Merians.


Laura Merians : Linguistics of Light

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Emerging Cinematographer Article

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Pacified' Review | Tribeca 2020

The Hollywood Reporter
by David Roone

Flawed but full of soulful feeling.

Director Paxton Winters considers the psychological toll of drug culture and violence in this vivid community portrait of a Rio favela, whose producers include Darren Aronofsky and Lisa Muskat.

The opening shot of sweaty morning sun washing in over the sleepy face of Tati in bed signals an arresting visual style that makes sumptuous use of warm natural light, lush color and atmospheric night scenes without ever veering into poverty porn. With sinuous camera movement, cinematographer Laura Merians, whose background is in commercials and music videos, captures the dense tangle of favela dwellings, stacked higgledy-piggledy one on top of another all the way up the mountainside. They are separated by labyrinthine alleys and rooftop passageways and split down the middle by a seemingly endless flight of steps, shown from above in one spectacularly impactful image as the man who may or may not be Tati's father lugs a refrigerator up the hill on his back.


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