In 2018, Variety named Johanna Coelho as one of the Up Next generations of filmmakers — for good reason. The cinematographer has worked on a diverse number of projects, including TV shows, movies, and music videos. Most recently, her talent and visual approach were on full display in The Rookie. The procedural follows John Nolan (Nathan Fillion), a middle-aged man who decides to actively pursue a career in law enforcement after a life-altering brush with death. At 40, he’s also the oldest rookie cop in the LAPD, and it’s not always an easy path for someone at that age to follow. The show combines drama, action, and comedy — a cocktail of genres that appealed to Coelho.
Johanna Coelho recently spoke with CBR about the road to becoming a director of photography. She also dove into joining The Rookie, the series’ action-packed shootouts, and capturing those funny moments. For me, it was a pretty progressive revelation. I love telling stories. I was writing stories when I was a kid. I liked to borrow my parents’ VHS camera, and I started to make movies or fake commercials with my friends. I was the one always behind the camera. I started discovering the editing process and what I should shoot for editing. Then I went to high school and was a science major, but I did an option for cinema. When I finished that, I realized I wanted to go fully into that, and I fully loved it. I decided to pursue cinematography because I love being around people. I love all the different stories you can tell through the lens. I love the editing process, but I really love creating the image and the director’s vision.
I was on The Rookie in Season 2, but I was an additional DP on that, so I was doing all the double-ups and second units. I just loved the action side. It was so interesting to get to learn more about shooting sequences, or we do a lot of explosions, fire, visual effects, and car chases. All of those aspects are very interesting in how you want to approach that visually because there are so many different beats in a small amount of time. You really have to find the system that works for you. I was really interested in this aspect of technique, but how do you make the technique cinematic at the same time? The combination was very attractive to me.