The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents December 2014 Return to Table of Contents
Presidents Desk
ASC Close-Up
Julio G. Macat

Julio G. Macat, ASC

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

101 Dalmatians (1961). According to my mom, I wouldn’t leave the theater until I could watch it again. Also, Sullivan’s Travels (1941) showed me truthful and heartfelt moments in comedy.


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

Gabriel Figueroa, Néstor Almendros [ASC], Allen Daviau [ASC] and Caleb Deschanel [ASC].


What sparked your interest in photography?

Being able to freeze a moment in time and examine it was fascinating to me.


Where did you train and/or study?

By watching filmmaking veterans at work. I spent two years at UCLA’s film school, but I dropped out because I had a chance to be on a set and observe.


Who were your early teachers or mentors?

Michael Joyce, who shot Family Affair and other TV shows. He owned Arri BL cameras, and I maintained the gear. Also Haskell Wexler [ASC], who wrote me back when I was 19, and Allen Daviau, who took my call when I was 20.


What are some of your key artistic influences?

Italian films like Amarcord and La Dolce Vita. Living in Florence for a year. The fear of failure.


How did you get your first break in the business?

I filled in for a friend driving an equipment truck on a second-unit shoot for the series How the West Was Won. They let me out to help set up the tripods and heads. Eventually, I learned the rest of the equipment and got to go out on shoots as a second assistant.


What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

Seeing the reaction from children after the first screening of Home Alone. They were empowered!


Have you made any memorable blunders?

Yes, many, but the most memorable was when I arrived late to a location in Chicago where we were shooting a funeral scene. I rushed inside and noticed how far along the preparations were and how impeccable the set looked, including the extras. After happily yelling, ‘Guys, this looks great!’ to compliment the art department, I realized I was in the wrong side of the building. I was at a real funeral home, and a service was in progress. Every single mourner turned around to look at the idiot who was yelling. I just said, ‘My bad. Sorry. Carry on … so sorry!’


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

When you shoot, take chances, don’t play it safe, push the envelope into that scary and dangerous place, do not settle for mediocre work. There is always room for improvement. Be original; do ordinary things in an extraordinary way. You are telling a story, so what does each shot say? Shoot images that you would enjoy watching.


What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

The light in Tuscany.The book Magnum Cinema — in the same way we study history to understand our place as ‘contributors to our craft,’ this book is an inspiration to excel.


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

Dramas with appropriate darker photography.


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

I’d be a chef or a watchmaker.


Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

Allen Daviau, Steven Poster and Russ Carpenter.


How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

It has enabled me to build long-lasting friendships and relationships. It’s as if there is an extended family that knows you well and cares about you. There is comfort and camaraderie in sharing an artistic spirit and a place to compare notes on this odd role of ‘being’ a cinematographer. It’s like talking with your kinfolk. It’s helped all of us get our ducks in a row so we can help guide our craft in a positive direction. It makes me feel accomplished and proud.


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