Sandra Chandler : Emmy Nominated Cinematographer : Director of Photography : Los Angeles, California


film + video






A cinematographer whose work is renown in both vérité-style television and documentary films, Sandra Chandler’s intuitive sense of story — combined with the eye of a visual artist — has allowed her to tell stories that otherwise would not be told. Since 1991, Chandler has been providing audiences with tantalizing, gripping and oft lyrical imagery.


“Filming in the moment of an event of the subject’s life motivates me, it is what drives me. I am an observer, the audience.”


With an emphasis in feature documentaries, her work for HBO has garnered her two Emmy nominations for outstanding cinematography, Living Dolls (2001) and All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise (2006.) Also for HBO, she shot the critically acclaimed, The Young and The Dead (2000) and The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000), which earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for best documentary.


Among Chandler’s many industry accolades, her projects have also been profiled in New York Times, LA Times, Village Voice, Rolling Stone, People, Chicago Sun-Times and Variety.


Living Dolls: The making of a Child Beauty Queen is ...
more than just recording the grueling and exploitative world of child beauty pageants…young girls are coached and rewarded for performing coyly sexual routines well beyond their years. The result is both horrifying and engrossing… with Sandra Chandler’s lensing capturing every sequin and curl. —Laura Fries, VARIETY


The Eyes of Tammy Faye not only gives us the skinny
on the most celebrated eyelashes of our time (they're permanent albeit augmented by generous dollops of
L'Oreal mascara), it very much sees the world through
the eyes of that particular beholder. —Kenneth Turan,


Chandler’s documentary work has taken her around the world; having shot in the Australian Outback, the Himalaya, Fiji, Europe, South America, Japan, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Africa for PBS, TLC, Discovery, A&E and National Geographic among others.


“I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel the world and be invited into people’s homes and cultures, to share their stories. It is a trust earned and I always hope that
it helps those watching, to understand something they may never experience. Taking a preconception and
having it change and evolve is the best effect I think
a film can have”.


Recently, Chandler was the Director of Photography on the award-winning Sundance Channel series, Big Ideas For A Small Planet, now in its third season; and also for Sundance, Iconoclasts.


She also just completed filming for the soon-to-be released, Thunder Soul about the 92-year-old bandleader Conrad O. Johnson, who from 1969 through 1977, lead his predominantly black High School Stage Band to win an unprecedented 42 of 46 local, regional and national competitions. And One Lucky Elephant, eight years in the making, this doc follows the journey of circus producer David Balding as he tries to find a nurturing and permanent home for Flora, the 18-year-old African elephant that he rescued as an infant, raised as his “daughter” and made the star of his circus.


“While I am working on a project I keep myself open to see poetic and lyrical images that help knit story elements together. I love it when the director calls from the editing room surprised and loving the shots they didn’t know I was getting when it seemed like nothing was happening."


In addition to her documentary film repertoire, Chandler has an extensive body of commercial work. She has experience in stage and location shooting, celebrity wraparounds, host shoots, political spots, green screen, table top product shots, aerial cinematography as well as sports action filming, a challenge she enjoys. For Yamaha she was faced with the challenge of capturing crisp, clear, adrenaline-inducing footage in 20-below snowy conditions.


She also has experienced working in a broad range of film and HD formats. Before focusing on documentaries as a specialty, Chandler gained experience in an array of genres shooting 35mm & 16mm film and video. Chandler has served as 2nd unit DP on features, additional camera operator on stunts and big events, and a studio pedestal operator. In 1991, she was a camera operator for the TV series “lifestories”; a 35mm single camera drama for NBC. At the end of the season, she purchased an Aaton 16mm film camera and went about seeing the world through documentaries.


“All of these experiences make everything better–my doc work is informed by my narrative training and experience to better understand bringing drama and editorial into shooting in the moment in a verite situation, and to always consider the aesthetics of the image.”


Knowing how to compose for beauty and for grit. Working intuitively and with little crew and lighting in docs gives me the ability to be quick and flexible in dramatic and commercial work.


Chandler received her MFA from the USC School of Cinema in 1988, and has been adjunct professor of Graduate Cinematography. Her teaching and professional philosophy is to incorporate both the artistry of cinematography, while adhering to the practical realities of what makes a production successful. This belief is derived from her own experience as a both a cinematographer and producer. From the production side, Chandler has intimate knowledge of the complexity of managing a budget, balancing production value with the realities of time, personnel, money and the needs of post production.


Chandler lives in Los Angeles, CA. Keeps a season pass to ski at Mammoth Mountain and is an avid kayaker and cyclist. When she is not traveling, she is a passionate amateur cook and enjoys cultivating her ever-expanding garden.








sandra chandler cinematographer