The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents April 2015 Return to Table of Contents
Presidents Desk
A Little Chaos
ASC Close-Up
Tami Reiker

Tami Reiker, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?

When I was 8, I saw Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, and I loved the feeling of being swept away, feeling like I was really living in Charlie’s world. I mean, who wouldn’t want to fall into a chocolate river?

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?

Harris Savides [ASC], Anthony Dod Mantle [ASC, BSC, DFF,] and Christopher Doyle [HKSC], for always pushing the envelope. I’m always excited to see their movies.

What sparked your interest in photography?

From an early age I wanted to be a painter. Luckily, my parents immediately discerned I had absolutely no talent for painting and put a Canon SLR in my hands. That started my love of photography.

Where did you train and/or study?

New York University.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

I had no specific mentors, but I was lucky to assist many great cinematographers. I used to keep a notebook in the darkroom, and during breaks I’d run in and copy down their lighting diagrams [and their] choices of filters and film stocks.

What are some of your key artistic influences?

John Cassavetes, Lars von Trier, Jean Paul Gaultier, Sarah Burton, Henry Darger, Andy Goldsworthy, Donald Judd, Helen Levitt, Emmet Gowin, Jack Pierson and Nan Goldin. A couple of films I always go back to are Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique and Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher.

How did you get your first break in the business?

After college, I worked for a private detective. Our job was to tail victims of medical malpractice suits. He drove, and I hid in the backseat with a loaded 16mm Éclair camera to see if we could film someone carrying groceries with that ‘broken arm.’ From that, I saved up enough money to buy my own 16mm camera package, and I started shooting low-budget features, music videos and documentaries. 

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

When Lisa Cholodenko invited me into the editing room and I saw High Art for the first time. It was exciting to feel like the vision we’d spent months discussing was up there on the screen. 

Have you made any memorable blunders?

While sitting in a picture car, I forgot the actors’ mics were on, and everyone on the process trailer could hear me talking. You only make that mistake once.

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

'Pick your battles,' and, 'Never eat the fish.'

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

Ben Richardson’s work on Beasts of the Southern Wild was so raw and so beautiful. I love the look that Hoyte van Hoytema [FSF, NSC] created for Spike Jonze’s film Her.  Also, Mary Weatherford’s paintings, and a great memoir called The Removers by Andrew Meredith.

Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try?

Who doesn’t want to shoot a Western?

If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead?

I’d be a photojournalist or an organic farmer in Maine.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

Emmanuel Lubezki, Jeff Cronenweth and Francis Kenny.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

The great thing about the Clubhouse is that you get to meet some of the incredible legends of filmmaking — people you’ve worshipped from afar for years — and, at the same time, catch up with old friends.


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