The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Francis Kenny

Francis Kenny, ASC

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

As a kid, I never watched movies or television. I became a cinematographer from growing up in the cockpit of a test plane flown by my grandfather. The airplane is currently in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. I’ve taken my daughter to see it. It’s called the Flying Laboratory.

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

[ASC members] Gregg Toland, Conrad Hall, Owen Roizman, Vittorio Storaro, Haskell Wexler, Ed Lachman, Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki … there are many.

What sparked your interest in photography? 

Traveling as a kid from one place to another. Different states and different countries. 

Where did you train and/or study? 

Hofstra University.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?  

My professor, David Hoffman, won the Critics Award at the Cannes Film Festival at the age of 26. He decided he hated the business, so he tried teaching. He taught for one year, then went back into the film business. I was his student, and he hired me right out of college.

What are some of your key artistic influences?  

Rembrandt, Rothko and the Beatles. Robert Kennedy.

How did you get your first break in the business? 

Kindness. I helped someone become an operator. Turned out his best friend was about to direct a movie — Heathers — and I was recommended.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?  

Getting out of Afghanistan alive. 

Have you made any memorable blunders? 

Blunders? Many. Not wearing sunblock, forgetting a birthday …

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

How to walk the line between clever and stupid. Through discipline comes freedom.   

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you? 

The book A Confederacy of Dunces, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, Victor Hugo’s writings, Charles Dickens, Tim Ferriss, the Joffrey Ballet and [ASC associate] Jim Jannard.  

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

Something similar to One from the Heart, where the transitions are live and built into the sets.

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

Inventing products for cinematographers to make their job easier, which is what I’ve been doing recently. Everything moves very fast today. Smaller, lighter, more mobile support gear for cameras will give cinematographers more ‘think time' and help them get through the day with less setup time.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?  

Sandi Sissel, Robert Stevens and Sol Negrin.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career? 

I began to develop real friendships with fellow cinematographers. It’s never about competition. It’s the place to learn, listen, teach, borrow, and share the insanity of what we do. The ASC is a very special place.


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