The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Presidents Desk
ASC Close-Up
Steven V. Silver

Steven V. Silver, ASC

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

To Have and Have Not was a good one. That film left a strong impression of what type of man I wanted to become.

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

Sidney Hickox [ASC], for his work during his contract days at Warner Bros., from great films like The Big Sleep and White Heat to I Love Lucy. Néstor Almendros [ASC] literally wrote the book: A Man With a Camera. It is a must-read for anyone pursuing a career in cinema. [ASC members] Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler, Jordan Cronenweth, Vittorio Storaro — the list goes on.

What sparked your interest in photography?

My father was a radiologist who used to purchase large amounts of X-ray film for his hospital. The sales people gave him a Super 8 camera, free film and developing envelopes that sat dormant in his closet. I became curious and started creating films of my friends in the neighborhood. We’d gather in my bedroom, tack up a white sheet to project on, and laugh out loud at our wacky films. Even in its most primitive state, the power of cinema was undeniably alive.

Where did you train and/or study?

My first classes were at Los Angeles Valley College and Tahoe Film Workshops under Gerald Hirschfeld [ASC]. But it wasn’t until my first job at Hill Production Services that I really began to train, hands on.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

Michael Endler from Hill Production Services and Sidney Sidell from the Howard A. Anderson Company taught me how to be an assistant cameraman. David Eggby, ACS, was the first cinematographer who took me under his wing and shared his great wealth of knowledge; his approach to exposure and filtration gave me the confidence to begin shooting for others. George Spiro Dibie, ASC, inspired me to pursue multi-camera photography and gave me a basic understanding of lighting for four cameras.

What are some of your key artistic influences?

Life. When I experience beauty, drama, comedy, etc. in our everyday world, I am compelled to document it. Whether with an SLR, an iPhone, a sketch pad or paint, I enjoy watching the way light plays a part in the world.

How did you get your first break in the business?

I walked into Hill Production Services, met Jean Hill, the owner, and told her that I would sweep floors, clean toilets and do whatever she needed, and in turn she could pay me whatever she liked — I just wanted to be around cameras. She hired me that day.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

On Two and a Half Men, executive producer Chuck Lorre wrote a song-and-dance scene for Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher with 40 dancers. It took place on the old New York Street on the Warner Bros. back lot. Since it was a fantasy sequence, I took the approach that our characters were in a Broadway musical on a gigantic soundstage, much like the exterior work in West Side Story. After weeks of prep, it was rewarding to see the satisfaction on the faces of the producers as the scene played out in real time.

Have you made any memorable blunders?


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

'Make sure your chosen profession is your passion.'

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

The Calder exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The film Mr. Turner was my pick for best cinematography — truly masterful! The book Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse is a great reminder of the power you can gain by serving others.

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

A Western would be fun. Actually, anything in a natural setting. My work has been 85 percent onstage!

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

Farming, surfing, still photography and painting.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

George Spiro Dibie, Donald A. Morgan and Michael O’Shea.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

I now get approached to instruct classes and seminars in my field, which has been an enjoyable perk of being a member. The Clubhouse has proven to be a favorite place to exchange views and chime in on where our industry is heading. Spending time with the greatest cinematographers of our time is an honor beyond words.



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