The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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In Memoriam

Richard Frank Gunter, ASC — whose credits as a cinematographer included the series St. Elsewhere; Dallas; Beverly Hills, 90210 and Wizards of Waverly Place — died on Aug. 31. He was 65.

      Gunter was born on July 28, 1951, in Los Angeles. His father, Marvin L. Gunter, worked in the film industry, climbing the ranks of the camera department and eventually becoming a director of photography. Rick Gunter made his own first forays into the business as a child actor; he stopped performing in his early teens, and his interests then led him into still photography.

      After graduating from Hollywood High School, he attended San Fernando Valley State College — now known as California State University, Northridge — where he focused his studies on photography and psychology. Upon completing his degree, and with his father’s encouragement, Gunter entered the motion-picture field in 1974, beginning as a 2nd AC and working with cinematographers including ASC members Gerald Perry Finnerman and John A. Alonzo. He soon joined Universal’s camera department, where he worked alongside such cinematographers as Enzo A. Martinelli, ASC; Frank R. Hale; John McPherson, ASC; and Joe Biroc, ASC.

      With McPherson alone, Gunter notched credits on such classic series as The Incredible Hulk, The Gangster Chronicles and Kojak, and moved up the ranks to 1st AC and eventually camera operator. In the latter role, he joined McPherson for the first season of St. Elsewhere, and he remained with the show when McPherson moved on and Marvin Gunter took the reins. In 1987, when the senior Gunter retired, Rick Gunter was promoted to director of photography and saw the show through to its finale in 1988. In his application for membership in the ASC, Gunter recalled the series fondly, noting, “I had the opportunity to create many different moods, from surrealistic to natural, from dream sequences to hectic emergency dramas.”

      After wrapping St. Elsewhere, Gunter photographed the after-school special Two Teens and a Baby; telefilms including Home Fires; and multiple pilots, including Running Wilde, starring Pierce Brosnan. For the latter project, Gunter created a warm look and strove to keep the camera moving to underscore the show’s suspense. He spent three and a half years shooting Dallas, after which he joined the Aaron Spelling-produced Beverly Hills, 90210 in May 1992 for the start of the series’ third season.

      While in production on the fourth season of 90210, Gunter sat down with journalist and honorary ASC member Bob Fisher for a wide-ranging interview sponsored by Kodak. Acknowledging an interest in shooting features, Gunter also pointed out that his television schedule never allowed him the time. “I’ve always said that if I start a show, I’ll finish it,” he noted. “I won’t leave in the middle. I respect the people that hire me to finish a show, and I honor that.” That respect was reciprocated; when Gunter left 90210 at the end of the show’s eighth season, it was to go on to the Spelling-produced Love Boat: The Next Wave.

      While working on Love Boat, Gunter was proposed for active membership in the ASC by McPherson and fellow Society members Kees van Oostrum and Robert F. Liu. He was officially made a member on June 15, 1998. In their letters of recommendation, Liu described Gunter as “a quiet and talented cinematographer”; McPherson noted, “I highly respect his integrity and honesty”; and van Oostrum shared, “I have gotten to know him as a wonderful cameraman and a great colleague.”

      Gunter went on to work on series including Charmed, Grounded for Life, I’m in the Band, Kickin’ It, Jessie and Lab Rats. He enjoyed a particularly long tenure behind the camera of Wizards of Waverly Place, and his contributions were recognized with an Emmy nomination in 2011 — in the Outstanding Cinematography, Multi-Camera Series category — for his work on the episode “Dancing With Angels.”

      On Jan. 1, 2015, Gunter’s ASC membership status was officially changed to “retired.” Years earlier, while speaking with Fisher, he expressed gratitude toward all the cinematographers and crew with whom he had worked while climbing the ranks. “John McPherson was the most influential,” Gunter acknowledged. “I learned a lot about how to treat people from watching him work.

      “You have to convey to a director and the producers that you know what you’re doing [and] that you can handle what they want,” he added. “When a director says, ‘I want to do it this way,’ you say, ‘Okay,’ and you have to make sure he believes you. And then the crew — to get the most out of the crew, you have to treat them right and listen.”

      Above all, Gunter repeatedly emphasized his desire to craft natural-looking images. “You don’t want the photography to dominate the story,” he said. “Let it help tell the story.”

      Gunter is survived by his wife, Cathy; three sons, Brian, Cory and Terry; and six grandchildren.


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