The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Brief interviews with ASC members about their careers and inspirations. This month: Ernie Holzman


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

Lawrence of Arabia.

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

Raoul Coutard, Jordan Cronenweth [ASC], Owen Roizman [ASC] and Gordon Willis [ASC].

What sparked your interest in photography?

My father gave me a still camera when I was 15, and I developed and printed in a friend’s darkroom.

Where did you train and/or study?

I studied cinematography at the AFI.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

George Folsey [ASC] and Jordan Cronenweth. 

What are some of your key artistic influences?

My wife, Terry, and I have visited many countries and I always enjoy walking the streets of cities — small towns — observing people and watching the light.

How did you get your first break in the business?

After an AFI internship with Jordan Cronenweth on Cutter’s Way, Jordan offered me the job of film loader on his next project — which would be Blade Runner.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

When I shot the pilot for Miracles with Matt Reeves, we decided to continue the concept of shallow depth, which we had used on a previous project. However, in the third act, there was a pivotal scene in which the two main characters gradually realize they have been having the same recurring nightmare. I suggested to Matt that we film the scene as a single setup that would begin with the focus on the boy in close-up-profile and his priest out of focus in the background. As the scene progressed, and as the boy and the priest become aware of their spiritual connection, I proposed that we gradually increase the depth of field by using a Panavision electronic device to change the shutter opening from 12 degrees at f2.8 to 200 degrees at f11, so that the priest would eventually come into sharp focus as well. Matt loved the idea as a subtle storytelling device, and because it was a visual counterpoint to the look we had established. 

Have you made any memorable blunders?

Yes.

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

[Gaffer] Earl Gilbert once told me, ‘The lights you turn on are just as important as the lights you turn off.’

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

I recently saw Denzel Washington’s film Fences, and a production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane at the Mark Taper Forum. Brilliant writing and extraordinary acting inspire me. 

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

I love musicals and unfortunately have never had the opportunity to photograph one.

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

I always thought it would be great fun to be a session drummer in Nashville or Memphis.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?  

Ken Zunder and Steven Poster.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

Being part of a group of men and women dedicated to the art of cinematography has been a constant source of inspiration. I truly enjoy our creative community and camaraderie.

 

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