Shanele Alvarez, a freelance cinematographer, finds filmmaking a means of expressing her passion in culture, education, and photography. Her journey to being a cinematographer started when she first saw the making of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. She soon began creating her own videos as a hobby, utilizing her family members as subjects. Shanele continued to pursue her dream in college, where she realized she had a natural talent for story telling.
Shanele’s educational pursuit began at San Francisco State University, where she received an undergraduate degree in Intercultural Communication and Cinema Studies in 2001. In 2004, she obtained a Master of Arts for Screenwriting from California State University Northridge. In 2006, Shanele continued her education but this time with a concentration in cinematography when she attended the University of Miami. By 2008, she received her Master of Fine Arts in film production, as well as an Outstanding Film Production Award, an Assistantship Award for teaching undergraduate film courses, a Special Award for Screenwriting and Cinematography from the International Student Film Festival in 2007, and she had her screenwriting thesis published in 2004 by California State University, Northridge. In addition to her accolades in film studies, Shanele also received various awards for academic achievement while also being a collegiate scholar athlete.
While pursuing her education, Shanele worked with abused and at risk youth, teaching them how to use filmmaking as a tool to express their thoughts and emotions. It was these types of life experiences, along with her studies, that shaped her commitment to telling important stories. Soon after receiving her MFA, Shanele earned a position on an independent film as a Camera Assistant for Emmy Nominated Director of Photography (DP), Cliff Charles, who later became one of her mentors. A year later, Shanele joined the ranks of The People’s DP Inc, a production company founded by Mr. Charles, which focuses on cinematography, diversity, and education. Shanele’s hard work has helped to expand the company and its online magazine for and about cinematography, called DPTV, for which she serves as DP and producer. Shanele has also worked on a variety of projects under Mr. Charles including, Spike Lee’s documentary, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, and Reggie Roc Bythewood’s documentary, One Night In Vegas.
Shanele’s individual accomplishments as a cinematographer include shooting documentary and scripted films of varying genres. Her most recent work includes serving as cinematographer on a feature documentary about four immigrant women living in New York City, as well as on several short films. As a camera operator, Shanele has worked on projects for HBO, ESPN, Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year Award, The Office of Minority Health and Island Def Jam.
From time to time, Shanele is reminded that the path to becoming a cinematographer is a road less traveled by women and minorities. This notion doesn’t detour her from her dream, but in fact encourages and inspires her to succeed more. With an eye and the passion for filmmaking, Shanele Alvarez will continue to advance in her career as a cinematographer.
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