The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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In a recent conversation, former British Society of Cinematographers president Phil Méheux happened to mention the BSC Patrons, members of his organization who are not cinematographers but who nonetheless provide BSC shooters with sustenance and support. The ASC’s version is called an associate member, but “patrons” comes much closer to describing what these people really mean to us.

It would be easy to claim that the ASC has attained its hallowed position purely through the efforts of the nearly 800 cinematographers who have been invited to active membership since 1919. That would be foolish, though, as well as ignorant of long-standing precedent. No group ever gets to the top completely on its own, and the ASC is hardly the exception. Without the contributions of our unique and equally talented associate members, our stature would be immeasurably diminished. Indeed, whatever prestige and influence we have managed to attain over the years would never have been achieved without them.

Established by the ASC founders in the Society’s constitution, associate members have developed a tradition of their own whose vitality is stronger now than it has ever been. Just who are these amazing people? For the most part, they’re representatives of the manufacturers and suppliers whose goods, services and equipment we use every day. They come from an astounding array of backgrounds, and each person has been recognized for some time as an expert in his or her field. Most important, their approach to the ASC is shaped by a generosity that exceeds the mere sharing of knowledge or resources. There are a lot of reasons for this, but it’s no doubt driven by a passion for cinematography that in some cases rivals our own. It’s impossible to list all the great things they bring to the Clubhouse as both friends and professionals. Quite frankly, we couldn’t function without them.

Our history shows that the vigorous exchange between our active and associate members has repeatedly helped to advance the state of our art. Nearly all our committees include associate members, with perhaps the most effective example being the Technology Committee. The two-way nature of the system is ingenious in its simplicity; just as we cinematographers gain access to rare expertise, the technicians and engineers learn to understand the needs and desires of those who will ultimately use the tools they produce. This exchange is in no way limited by the scope of one technology or another. Instead, our associates help us make the hard choices that will actually determine what the future will look like.

And the advantages offered by our associate members are not limited to those with “ASC” after our names. Film students usually don’t hear this in school, but they should make it a top priority to become familiar with as many of our associates’ businesses as possible. As future customers (and maybe even as future ASC members), they will be forging relationships that will pay dividends for both parties down the line. Rental houses, especially, should be courted by up-and-comers of every stripe. Since it has become so easy to assemble a decent set of gear from venues such as eBay or the corner camera store, there now exists a tendency to avoid the traditional vendors in the hope of saving a dime. This is not good for the industry or for cinematographers. The willingness of our associates to assist those who are just starting out is legendary; to skirt that on any level is to circumvent a process that has helped virtually all of us attain our current status.

Though the changes in our business over the past decade have led to the departure of many of our most dedicated and long-standing associates, a new wave has rushed in to fill what would otherwise have become an echoing void. In addition to offering them a warm welcome, I sincerely hope they will derive as many rewards from us as we will from them.

Our associate members have been on the scene since day one, and will continue to be for as long as we exist. Believe me, we are very grateful for that!

 

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