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Q&A: Salvatore D’Alia, New York From Every Angle

Q&A: Salvatore D’Alia, New York From Every Angle
Salvatore D’Alia prepares to ride above NYC for his ‘City Verité’ shoot.

Salvatore D’Alia was commissioned on Storyhunter to produce a “captivating visual poem” entitled ‘New York From Every Angle’ for Discovery Digital Networks, as part of their City Verité series. The result is pretty mind-blowing.

Although Salvatore works just across this bridge from the Storyhunter offices (at Adorama), what with our busy schedules, we did the digital-native thing and caught up with him over Skype.

Storyhunter: When you first saw this assignment on Storyhunter, what was your first reaction?

Salvatore D’Alia: Once I saw this assignment, “a short music video on your city”, I thought: “That’s easy and fun”. So I applied right away. I told myself: I’m going to tell this story about New York City in two minutes and 30 seconds, and there’s so much to tell. It’s not going to be a quiet video where you can relax. Nobody comes to New York City to relax. If you want to relax, you go somewhere else. It’s going to be a pretty fast rhythm. So I tried to mix the fact that it’s a pretty chaotic city, where there’s a lot going on every single day of the year, with some sweetness to it. This works for my vision of New York City because, if you know the city, you know where to go to feel that “sweetness”. I focused on making this piece about dynamic movement, because that’s what I think the city is about.

SH: Tell us about the production process behind your piece.

SD: The video couldn’t be more than three minutes, and I knew I would be including some shots of people walking on the street. I’m a very aesthetic guy. I wanted to shoot everything in 4K, but I knew that I wouldn’t have the time, so I had to compromise and mix 4K and Full HD. I looked for beautiful shots of New York City, something that is not easy to find. I was trying to tell a story about the city and trying to show as much as possible, both touristic spots and non-touristic spots, which can be challenging. I wanted to shoot portraits of the different types of people in New York City, because it’s so characterized by the fact that it’s a “melting pot”, a mix of different cultures and ethnicity. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shoot the portraits I envisioned because of time constraints.

SH: Where did you get the ideas for all the different locations?

SD: I decided to do some aerial shots — luckily I had access to a helicopter with no door so I could get clean shots of the city. Shooting was quite tough because it was a very windy day. Every time I was trying to track a building for even two seconds, the helicopter lowered its altitude by something like 20 feet. It was very, very hard. In 25 minutes of riding the helicopter, I maybe had one minute of good footage. In all, I used about 20–25 seconds in the video.

SH: How long did it take you to shoot the piece?

SD: I shot for about three days. Two full days and one half day, then two days of editing. I also used some footage that I had shot previously to this assignment.

SH: You know a lot about gear. What did you choose to use for this?

SD: I used what I call a melting pot of cameras. Most of the footage is from the Canon 1DC in 4K with my 50mm f/1.2 and a 24–105 Zoom. I also used the Sony a7S with a Shogun recorder, Sony FS7(Slow Motion), GoPro Hero 3, and all the previous footage is from the Canon 5D and Black Magic Camera.

SH: What was the best part of this shoot?

SD: I thought the helicopter ride would be the highlight but it was actually the most brutal time of the shoot. Photo would’ve been easier, just cold. Shooting video on the helicopter was rough. For most of the street shooting, I had a colleague who helped me out, because I had two cameras at the same time. I’m a “run & gun” shooter, but it was nice to have someone with me who could just hand me a different camera or different lens.

The highlights were probably the few moments where it was just me and the camera. I had a few shots, especially the one of sundown on south ferry, where I was shooting alone. A quiet moment when you’re just waiting for the right light to come, and New York City just gives you that — the money shot every single time.

Salvatore D’alia is a filmmaker who left his home in Italy for New York City back in 2010. His clients have included Citroen, Unilever, Nike, Food Network, Bravo, The Warner Sound with artists such as Madonna, Cee Lo Green and Ed Sheeran. He has also been commissioned by The Weather Channel on Storyhunter.