An interview with Danni Ma, cinematographer of “More”

Danni Ma


«The secret to film is that it’s an illusion.»



Danni Ma, originally from Tianjin, China, embarked on a transformative journey in the realm of art and filmmaking. Spending five years in Australia studying fine art, she then ventured to the United States to pursue her passion for filmmaking. Drawing from her diverse cultural background, she seamlessly integrates a rich tapestry of experiences into her filmmaking. Currently based in Los Angeles, Danni Ma thrives as a full-time cinematographer, bringing a unique perspective and depth to her craft.



Rock band FRACTURED rose to prominence in the chaotic pandemic time, fueled by a burning desire for freedom. How did you guys meet?


From a young age, I had a deep passion for music, and as I transitioned into a cinematographer, one dream lingered—to shoot a music video for a rock and roll band. I took to Facebook and expressed this aspiration, and to my delight, FRACTURED reached out, expressing their interest in collaboration. Upon delving into their music, I found profound inspiration, envisioning the visual aesthetics of our potential music video.
Together, we embarked on this collaborative journey, and the result surpassed all expectations. The fusion of their music and my cinematography created a piece that resonated perfectly with our shared vision.



Tell us about how your career in filmmaking began.


After completing my fine art studies in Australia, I pursued my passion for filmmaking by enrolling in the film and television major at SCAD Atlanta. Eager to explore various facets of filmmaking, I took on different roles in several projects. I tried my hand at directing comedy short films and also took on the role of a producer for various projects. However, it was in the realms of camera and lighting that I discovered my true passion.

The art of using color and lighting, combined with intricate camera movements and composition, captivates me. I find the process of weaving these elements together to tell a compelling story to be truly fascinating.




What names and currents would you cite as inspiration for the making and post-production of this video clip?


Upon first listening to the music, a vivid imagery of a dark, moody abandoned church immediately formed in my mind. This initial vision became the foundation for our mood board and color palette. Drawing inspiration from Michael Bay’s iconic use of blue and orange contrast, I opted for a cyan and orange color scheme to infuse the visuals with a vibrant energy that mirrors the music.



In terms of camera movements, I aimed for dynamic and fluid sequences. Leveraging the editing process, we synchronized the camera movements with the rhythm, incorporating jump cuts, quick clips, and speed ramps during post-production to enhance the overall visual experience.

To maintain visual consistency and complement the chosen Dutch angle for most frames, I avoided exaggerated camera lens distortions. For the close-ups of the band members, a telephoto lens was exclusively employed to capture the desired aesthetic.




What work did you and director Zhen Guo do to find common ground in the writing and storyboarding of this video?


Upon conceptualizing the idea inspired by Michael Bay’s distinctive color palette, I immediately shared it with Zhen. Much to my delight, she shared the same enthusiasm for the cyan and orange combination along with the dutch angle. Together, we immersed ourselves in watching numerous rock and roll band music videos, drawing inspiration from the dynamic visuals.



Zhen’s exceptional skills in storyboarding played a crucial role in translating our vision into a tangible plan. This paved the way for our talented production designer to seamlessly bring our ideas to life, creating the perfect set for both the abandoned church and warehouse. The final result exceeded our expectations, perfectly capturing the envisioned vibe, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.



What are you currently working on?



In the upcoming year, I have exciting plans to delve into the realm of web series production. With the constant evolution of technology, my commitment to ongoing learning remains unwavering. To stay at the forefront of innovation, I recently explored the possibilities of virtual production in an XR volume, expanding my understanding of the cutting-edge techniques shaping the future of storytelling.