The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Swiss Army Man - Directing
ASC Close-Up
Lisa Wiegand

Lisa Wiegand, ASC

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

A Clockwork Orange and Alien. I was way too young and they are deeply burned into my memory cells.


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

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC — classic and undeniable! Peter Deming, ASC — dark and surreal! Robby Müller, NSC, BVK — fearless innovation! Rachel Morrison (future ASC?) — brave and political, she’s an inspiration!


What sparked your interest in photography?

My dad taught photography, so we had cameras and a fridge full of film. When I was 7 years old, I wanted to be a Pet Photographer — my young brain assumed that was a thing. I traveled my neighborhood snapping pictures of pets and delivered the prints to the owners. Never charged — didn’t understand that part of the biz.


Where did you train and/or study?

I attended a record-breaking nine years of film school. Undergrad at Wayne State U. in Detroit. Graduate school at both UCLA and AFI. Then, around the turn of the century, I taught cinematography at UCLA, LMU and AFI.


Who were your early teachers or mentors?

Johnny Simmons, ASC; Tom Denove; [ASC associate] Bill McDonald; Gyula Gazdag; Bill Dill, ASC; Steven Poster, ASC; Stephen Lighthill, ASC; Laszlo Kovacs, ASC; and Rodney Charters, ASC, CSC. I’ve had a lot of support from many generous filmmakers. I hope I can do enough in this life to pay it forward.


What are some of your key artistic influences?

Growing up, I spent many hours at the Detroit Institute of Arts. For me, art museums are like churches. Impactful art makes me feel connected to humanity in a way nothing else can.


How did you get your first break in the business?

My career has been a long path of baby steps. I’ve felt fortunate at every stage of the game, and it just keeps getting better. There have literally been times at work when I’ve pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I love being a cinematographer, and I’m glad I put all my eggs in this basket!


What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

Being the first cinematographer to shoot a scripted series in my hometown of Detroit was surreal and deeply meaningful. I wish my grandparents were alive to visit the set. They were diehard Detroiters and would have been so thrilled.


Have you made any memorable blunders? 

No way. Why — what have you heard? J.K. Most of my blunders have been political, and those are way worse than any technical F-up.


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

My agent, Charles Lenhoff, gives me pep talks before job interviews. Early on he said, ‘Tell them you want the gig.’ I thought he was nuts! I assumed, ‘If I’m interviewing, obviously I want the job.’ I’m still amazed that when I say it, it works. In a couple instances, after the interview, the producers thanked me for telling them, because apparently they often can’t tell if their cinematographer candidates are actually interested.


What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

I’m a TV junkie. Lately, I’m hooked on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, The 100 and The Last Man on Earth. Also: I was inspired by the VR projects at Sundance 2016. I spent three days at the VR exhibit, and now I’m addicted. Music also gets me jazzed up; currently I’m into Kid Cudi, Kate Tempest, Torres and Femi Jaye. I’m reading The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band, by Michelle Cruz Gonzales. Her decisions are inspirational because of her strength and purity of cause.


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

My all-time fave is post-apocalyptic sci-fi. But I enjoy variety in my work. For instance, I’m happy that I got to shoot the socially controversial American Crime with John Ridley. It’s invigorating to work on projects that open minds and introduce marginalized perspectives.


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

My fallback has always been … mortician.


Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

Steven Poster, Stephen Lighthill, Johnny Simmons. I’ve known them for decades and they have each been wonderfully supportive. Having them as sponsors makes my heart-light glow.


How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

It’s another thing I constantly pinch myself about. It seems like just yesterday I was a 15-year-old girl hiding out in her room, reading American Cinematographer and discovering her heroes. 

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