2 Minutes With ... Cinematographer Ava Berkofsky

Our chat about creative inspirations, Covid life, recent work and more

Born in Wales and raised in the mountains and cities of California, Ava Berkofsky brings a background in fine art and documentary photography to cinematography, marked by a relentless search for the nuance of place, time and subjectivity.

In both 2019 and 2020, Ava was nominated for Emmys in cinematography for HBO's Insecure, having worked with director/EP Melina Matsoukas to create and execute the look for the show. Recent feature projects include Share (2019, dir. Pippa Bianco, produced by A24) and Free in Deed (2017, dir. Jake Mahaffy).

When not shooting, Ava—a member of the 2020 Film Craft: Direction & Cinematography jury at the Clio Awards—can usually be found lying in the grass with their 5-lb. Chihuahua, Tiny. We spent two minutes with Ava to to talk creativity, inspiration, Covid, recent projects and much more.

Ava, tell us...

Where you were born, and where you live now.

Abergavenny, Wales, U.K. I live in Los Angeles now. 

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

First an astronaut, then lawyer, then photographer, then war photographer, then cinematographer.

How you discovered you were creative.

Sounds silly but it was never a discovery or a choice.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

Patti Smith.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

The first time I read The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. Mind exploded. 

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.

The first concert I was the Rolling Stones with Guns N' Roses with my friend's parents. And lately I've been loving Angel Haze.

Your favorite visual artist.

Martina Hoogland Ivanow.

Your favorite fictional character.

Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story.

The best book you've read lately.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong.

Your favorite movie.

Wings of Desire. The opening 10 minuets are just magical.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

@wolfgang2242. Senior dogs living happily make me happy.

How the Covid-19 crisis has changed your life, personally or professionally.

It's hard to put into words. There were four months where production shut down and I was barely working, and like the rest of the world I went through all kinds of swings of fear, panic, grief and calm. I was lucky to have a partner who was working, and to have housing and food security. I will always remember the eerie quiet of the streets and sky in April. Having had family get sick, and, thank god, recover, it's a reminder of how interconnected we all are and how vulnerable life is. I'm back to shooting now, but this time it's working its way through my (and all of our) collective consciousness and we will all be different. Already are different. And hopefully more empathetic. 

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.

There are so many. I got to create the look for the HBO show Insecure with such an inspiring group of artists and it challenged me to take risks both creatively and technically.

Also, the feature film Share was a project I was creatively involved in from the start. So when we got to actually photograph the film, I felt so clear on the tone and visual language. It was just there waiting to be realized.

Your favorite creative project from the past year.

I just wrapped a movie called The Sky Is Everywhere (dir. Josaphine Decker, produced by A24). The script was lighter than what I'm usually attracted to in features, and so shooting something that was about joy as much as it was about grief was such a relief while the world is so heavy. I wish I could share stills but I can't yet.

Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago. 

Wildcat, by Khalil Joseph.

Someone else's creative project that you've been impressed by lately.

Isadora Kosofsky's work in general, and specifically her photography book project Senior Love Triangle. Published in 2020.

Your main strength as a creative person.

I have a strong inner compass that collaborates well with other strong inner compasses.

Your weakness or blind spot.

I get too attached to an idea and have to get un-stuck in order to evolve.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Senior dogs. Always.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The lack of empathy.

What you'd be doing if you weren't a cinematographer.

Building things with my hands. Digging in the dirt.

2 Minutes With is our weekly interview series, publishing every Wednesday, where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Ashley Epping
Ashley Epping is art director of Muse by Clio and program lead at the Clio Awards.

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