The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Bill Roe, ASC
Bill Roe, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?
I grew up in the business, and every summer my dad, Jack, seemed to be doing Westerns. I spent my summer vacations visiting those sets, and Westerns quickly became my favorite.

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?
The first names that come to mind are Owen Roizman, ASC; Michael Chapman, ASC; Gordon Willis, ASC; Caleb Deschanel, ASC; John Toll, ASC; Oliver Wood; and Joe Pytka.

What sparked your interest in photography?
My high-school graduation gift was a 35mm still camera. After playing two years of college football and baseball and enduring numerous cortisone shots, it wasn’t so painful to pick up the camera.

Where did you train and/or study?
I started off by sneaking onto the Warner Bros. lot, where I worked in the loading department for free for about a year. My first official job was as a loader on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band with Owen Roizman. My training was all on the job, and I’m still in training.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?
Throughout my career, every second assistant, first assistant, camera operator, and cinematographer has been a teacher. Alan Disler; Victor J. Kemper, ASC (who moved me up to operator); Owen Roizman; Michael Chapman; and Joe Pytka all made a huge impact on me.

What are some of your key artistic influences?
I hate this question.

How did you get your first break in the business?

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
When I was working on The X-Files, driving home at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning after working a long week became the norm. The feeling I had on that drive home, being so proud of what we had accomplished as a camera crew, was very cool. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Have you made any memorable blunders?
Forgetting to put the pressure plate in and forgetting to turn the camera on. Those are the only two blunders I’m willing to share.

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Do not be afraid to push yourself and trust yourself.

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?
I’m constantly influenced by everything I see, from features to television shows to commercials to Sports Illustrated.

Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try?
I worked as an operator on Wyatt Earp with Owen Roizman, but I’d love to do a Western as a cinematographer.

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

The PGA would have been fun!

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?
Every time I step into the ASC Clubhouse, I feel awe that I’m part of such a prestigious organization. Not only is it an honor, but it also has given me the opportunity to form closer relationships with other cinematographers. To be a part of the ASC is a dream come true!

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