We had the opportunity to speak with talented cinematographer, Johanna Coelho. Most recently Coelho brought her insight and professional experience to ABC’s The Rookie, which follows a man as he starts over as LAPD’s oldest ‘rookie’. She has a multitude of skill sets in the film sphere and she discussed her work, creative process, and professional journey with us. In this interview, we touched on Coelho’s journey into cinematography and her time working on The Rookie.

What was your journey into cinematography like, and what drew you to the industry?
I loved stories as a kid, and when I started using my parents' VHS early on, I fell in love with visual storytelling. As a curious child, it felt like everything could be explored through filming. I started learning different cinematic approaches by self experimenting. After graduating as a Science Major in high school, I decided to continue my college studies in cinematography to dive deeper into the craft.

Getting to film different stories every time is so unique, and the connection you build with a director and crew on set is so special. As someone who always wanted to do everything and be everywhere at the same time, being a cinematographer really makes me feel complete.

What is one thing you wish you would’ve known when first entering this profession?
Creating images is only one part of the cinematographer’s job. Working as a Director of Photography is also being a leader, adapting constantly and managing on set politics. It’s about taking responsibilities and being able to deal with many things at the same time. I feel we often underestimate this side of the profession when it’s a critical part of the job.

How would you describe your creative process?
I always focus on the story first. I want to understand the characters’ journey and the script's intentions. 

Then I start gathering visual references based on the tone and feel of what we discussed with the Director, and create a final lookbook that I will share with my team so everyone is on the same page.

Once we have a clear creative approach with the Director and talk more about specific shots, I start looking for the right camera equipment for our film and get all the technical details figured out. 

Even though I like to prep as much as I can, I stay flexible on set and ready to change or adapt anything that doesn’t feel right to the story.

Is there an aspect of your work you would describe as your personal touch to each project you work on?
Even though I believe my work as a DP should be versatile and adaptive to the story, and therefore not specific to one style, I do give a lot of attention to the use of colors and contrast. I love how colors can communicate a strong feeling or a mood, and how shaping an image helps draw the eye to a specific place. 

How has your time working on The Rookie differed from previous projects?
Working on the Rookie was a different approach to shooting. We had a lot of pages to shoot per day and we were working with three cameras. It forces you to think much faster and more efficiently. Lighting for three angles at the same time can be difficult, and finding a workflow and approach that works for you is key in not compromising too much within the time you have to film.

You also have to constantly anticipate, think about what is next and what can you get started while you are still filming the current scene. 

What’s the best way to stay connected with you and your future projects?
I’m not as much on social media as I would like, but I try to share my work on instagram as often as I can! (@johanna_coelho).

About Johanna Coelho
Featured in 2018 in Variety as one of the Up Next generation of filmmakers, Johanna has worked as a cinematographer on a number of diverse projects, including award-winning narrative films, music videos, and TV Shows. She has worked with renowned companies such as Netflix, ABC, Oxygen Network, Hello Sunshine, Scout Productions, MarVista Entertainment, and Hawaiian Tropics.

Her last feature film And Then There Was Eve won the Jury Award at the L.A Film Festival. Her recent work includes the TV Shows The Rookie S2 and S4 on ABC, and Killer Siblings on Oxygen Network.

Johanna was born and raised in France. Seeking to enrich her European approach with the American perspective, she moved to Los Angeles in 2011 where she studied cinematography at the prestigious American Film Institute.

She has been passionate about creating and experimenting with meaningful images since a very young age. Her early determination and drive for cinematography has led her to be one of the youngest cinematographer to ever shoot network television. She loves to say she is a visual psychologist: her role is to understand and interpret the emotions of the characters, to create for them the best visual atmosphere to act in.

I also keep my website up to date, so don’t hesitate to give it a tour: www.johannacoelho.com

And for what’s coming, IMDB is always a great resource: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3857186/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Stay updated on Johanna’s work via her IMdb and Website.