Dani Lopez-Sanchez, cinematographer, new Idyllwild Arts Academy Film and Digital Media faculty member, on location in India. Photo courtesy of Sanchez-Lopez

Dani Sanchez-Lopez is an experienced teacher and cinematographer. He is two weeks into his new position at Idyllwild Arts Academy as a full-time member of the Film and Digital Media faculty. But what lends him an especially exotic flair is the pantheon of international destinations where he has studied, taught and worked professionally.

Born in Seville, Spain, Sanchez-Lopez has an MFA in cinematography from Chapman University in California and is working on a Ph.D. from the University of Seville. For the last four years he has lived, taught and worked as a cinematographer in the Indian subcontinent, in India and Pakistan. He has shot three features in the backyard of Bollywood: “Tamanchey,” “Ishqueria,” and “San Pacchattar (Year75),” a political thriller that will be released later this year.

During this same period, he also shot several documentaries, including “The Journey Within” on the music scene in Pakistan as well as directing music videos and commercials in India and Pakistan. At the same time he served on the faculty of the film school attached to University of Mumbai, India and taught cinematography seminars at the Film and Television Institute of India. In addition to his obtaining his MFA from Chapman, Sanchez-Lopez also studied film and visual arts in Spain (University of Seville), the United Kingdom (University of Birmingham) and in New York (Cornell University). He has been professionally honored for his work at film festivals including Bozeman, Montana’s HatchFest Film Festival and the Goldeneye International Festival of Movie and TV Cameramen.

Through it all, Sanchez-Lopez remains friendly, open, accessible and irrepressibly upbeat. His research interests are avant garde and edgy, including gender-based film genres such as Japanese animation and sexuality. He is interested, based on his extensive travels and diverse residencies, in societal norms and issues in different countries and cultures.

His commitment to film goes back to his early youth. “I was nine when I started acting,” he remembered. “By the age of 11 I knew what I wanted to be and got my first camera.” When offered the position at Idyllwild Arts, Sanchez-Lopez accepted quickly. “The moment I spoke to Annette [Haywood-Carter, IA film chair] on the phone, we just clicked,” he remembered. “She told me how she was planning to change the program, apply industry standards and introduce the students to working professionals. And the school is an arts school. The students know what they want to do.”

“You meet these kids, they are amazing. They all have a voice. My goal is to help them channel their voices so
they can be themselves and tell
their own story.”

Sanchez-Lopez believes it’s important for students to watch movies. “They should analyze films they watch so that they can understand the visual language and then learn to speak in visual images. I would be very happy if they learn to see.”

He said he is excited the department is in the process of obtaining new cameras, giving students opportunities to work with the latest equipment. Sanchez-Lopez is teaching four classes: Intro to filmmaking, lighting in film, cinematography 1 and production.

As an example of how he plans to help students find their individual voices, he spoke of the first exercise he gave his IA film students: create a 15 second video he calls a “Selfie.” “It’s a self-portrait of the most vivid memory they’ve ever had,” he said. “It has to be their identity and their visual narrative but they cannot be in it.” The exercise is designed to encourage students to identify and film the images that best express who they are and the particular memory that illustrates their identity.

Sanchez-Lopez still has to return to India to pack up his house and move into his new Idyllwild home. He is looking forward to being settled in Idyllwild and becoming part of the community. His boyhood and professional background have grounded him in multiculturalism making him an especially appropriate fit for a school with a broad international profile and vision.