Andre Chesini tackles Alzheimer’s in moving film

Andre Chesini measuring light on Chocolate
Andre Chesini behind the scenes for “Chocolate”

Ask any cinematographer what they love about film and you’re likely to get a different answer. For some, it’s about having an outlet; a way to channel the vast array of emotions, thoughts, and experiences that life has to offer. For others, it’s a platform to showcase an artist’s creativity and to entertain audiences of all sizes. It is both gruelling and competitive; however, most cinematographers will tell you that above all else, it’s about the indescribable feeling of getting to see your work come to life on screen. Filmmaking is an ever-evolving art form and over time, it has broken barriers, tested limits, and motivated human beings to see the world in different lights. For award-winning cinematographer, Andre Chesini, it is about all of this and more.

“Cinematography is a dynamic process, borrowing from different art forms to create an art form of its own. It drives me to evolve not only as an artist, but as a human being and it has helped me to learn so much about the world that we live in. It is an endless process of discovery and it has given me the opportunity to travel to new places and meet new people. It’s in those places that ideas flourish and new projects come to life,” says Chesini.

At a young age, Chesini began to work with 3D CAD modelling at a SolidWorks reseller. It was here that he earned himself various positions working for prominent companies like Alston and Embraer Suppliers as a 3D modelling designer, using mechanics to help pre-visualize ideas and concepts. In those days, Chesini thought he might eventually work toward becoming an engineer; however, he was always hungry for more. His unrelenting desire and creative insight, paired with his technical skills, drew him toward cinematography and from there, he has never looked back.

As he continued to pursue his dreams, Chesini moved to the south of Brazil to lend his talents toward projects like the award-winning, A Fábrica; a film which won over 60 awards and went on to secure a nomination at the 85th annual Oscars Awards. Another of his works was a viral music video called Oração. If not for Chesini, it is unlikely that the video would have reached three-million views in less than three days. Achieving such success so early on in one’s career can often have a negative impact on his or her ego; however, this was never the case for Chesini. He is simply grateful for the recognition and motivated to continue to produce even greater work.

With a decorated career like Chesini’s, it comes as no surprise that director Thiago Dadalt was determined to work with him. Dadalt’s familiarity with Chesini’s work on A Fábrica solidified this desire. The two worked together for the first time on the wildly hilarious television series, Life on a Leash. When Chesini was approached about the possibility of working with Dadalt again for the film Chocolate, he found himself instantly intrigued. The film portrays the beautiful tale about the power of family and hope when a suburban housewife and mother finds herself homeless in Skid Row, Los Angeles as a result of her Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I feel a strong impulse to jump on board with projects grounded in a social issue. For Chocolate, we had the opportunity to portray the life of a house-wife who finds herself homeless as a result of her early-onset Alzheimer’s, a disease that degenerates the mind. I was born in Brazil, where homelessness is a prevalent social issue and I really wanted to portray it as close to reality as we could,” tells Chesini.

The reality that often goes unseen with cinematography, however, are the challenges that filmmakers must overcome to produce high-quality content for their viewers. By the time the ensemble hits the screen, a cinematographer’s work typically appears seamless. In the case of Chocolate, Chesini, Dadalt and their entire team encountered several obstacles along the way. It is in situations like these, however, where Chesini’s natural affinity for filmmaking comes to light.

Chocolate had its production challenges. We were going to shoot in the midst of a hot summer in Los Angeles and our ideas involved several locations, as well as various moving parts. I decided to choose handheld and steadicam given our locations and hard placements to set tracks and cranes. I felt that it created a more intimate connection with the characters since the camera position was closer to the action. I also recognized that it was an emotional film for the actors, so Thiago and I decided we would use longer shots to help the actors delve deeper into their characters. Even with all of our production challenges, Thiago managed to pull a 29-minute cut. He didn’t need to re-shoot any of the material or film additional shots. The result was a consistent film that draws the audience into a tale of survival and love in the midst of the devastating reality of forgetting and losing yourself,” states Chesini.

Prior to completing the film in November 2016, Chocolate was already nominated for the London International Film Festival where it received the award for Best Supporting Actress. Following this early success, the film went on to be an Official Selection for the Hollywood and Hollyshorts Film Festivals in 2017. It later won Best Drama and Actress at the Firstglance Film Festival Los Angeles and Marché du Film at Le Festival de Cannes 2017 and continued to win awards thereafter.

So, what makes a short-film like Chocolate so successful? Naturally, it comes down to talent like Chesini. When asked about working with the cinematographer, Dadalt comments that “Andre is an outstanding professional that I feel extremely fortunate to have come across. We’re both Brazilian, so we share a mutual understanding of the unique challenge that it brings to establishing a career in Los Angeles. He is a very talented cinematographer with a keen eye for capturing the perfect moment. His input and his work ethic are a delight when filming.”

With a cinematographer like Chesini on the scene, one can only imagine the calibre of content that he will continue to bring to the industry.

Check out some behind-the-scenes footage of Chocolate here.

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