The American Society of Cinematographers

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Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson, ASC

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

The puppets in Lili with Leslie Caron, Ahab and the whale in Moby Dick, and everything in Disney’s Alice In Wonderland all scared me enough that I’ve never forgotten any of them.


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

I was very lucky to work with and learn from many, including Conrad Hall [ASC]; Vittorio Storaro [ASC, AIC]; John Alcott [BSC]; Allen Daviau [ASC]; Tak Fujimoto [ASC]; Jordan Cronenweth [ASC]; and John Hora [ASC], among others. Today there are many doing beautiful work: [ASC members] Deakins, Richardson, Lubezki, Elswit and many others. The work accomplished on television today is extraordinary — feature quality.


What sparked your interest in photography?

Dad’s darkroom in the downstairs bathroom got me started. My father was an advertising writer-producer for Kodak commercials. I got hooked. I still love the smell of the chemicals.


Where did you train and/or study?

Undergraduate at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where I was so lucky to learn about American directors from a young teacher named Marty Scorsese. Graduate work at the Roger Corman New World Pictures "College" that got so many of us going in Hollywood. Invaluable experience, never-ending fun!


Who were your early teachers or mentors?

Bruce Hill, who had a camera-rental house and was instrumental in the development of video assist, was my first mentor. He had worked at Mitchell Camera during the development of the Mark II. He was a brilliant camera guy and taught me so much. A wonderful man.


What are some of your key artistic influences?

Painters, of course, throughout the ages: the Impressionists, Hudson River School, Vermeer, Hopper, Henry Poor. Photographers like Walker Evans, Adams, Robert Frank, Winogrand, Avedon, Eggleston. And Bob Dylan.


How did you get your first break in the business?

Hard to define the first break, but maybe a phone call in 1971 from Roger Corman to my friend Jonathan Kaplan in New York, hiring him to come to Hollywood to direct Night Call Nurses. He brought three of us with him, I shot 2nd unit, and none of us ever left.


What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

One of the best has to be working with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reprising their roles of Felix and Oscar [in The Odd Couple II]. What a pair — what a pleasure and privilege!


Have you made any memorable blunders?

Many years ago I went to Miami to assist Bobby Byrne, ASC in shooting a new ending for a picture. He had asked that I bring a set of attenuator filters. When we and the tripod were knee-deep in the sea a few days later, he asked for the filter and it was then that I learned the difference between the grad I had brought and the attenuator he wanted. Yikes. That was a bad moment. He’s a much nicer man than I deserved just then.


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

Roger Corman would always tell his first-time directors before the first day of shooting, ‘Whenever you get a chance, sit down!’ Still good advice.


What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

The photography that Emmanuel Lubezki accomplished on Birdman absolutely blew my mind. Wow. Fearless mastery.


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

Westerns are the most fun, and period films in general. I would love to do something from the Sixties.


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

I first went off to school to study architecture, but fortunately I was steered in a different direction. Over the years, I have met at least a dozen other cinematographers who began by studying architecture. It’s a curious thing.


Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

I am very grateful to Steven Poster, Robbie Greenberg and John Toll.


How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

There is a powerful feeling of belonging to an extraordinary group of artists, and a group with such an important history. I am so fortunate to be a part of it.


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