The American Society of Cinematographers

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Frederic Goodich

Frederic Goodich, ASC

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

Three in black-and-white: The Third Man, for its theme of best-friend betrayal, and for its aggressive and tactile lighting, deep shadows and silhouettes, backlit stone textures, the sewer-tunnel chase shots, the striking interplay of faces, and Orson Welles’ insidious smile; Bicycle Thieves, for the empathy it generated over the father and son’s dilemmas, the naturalness and simplicity of the images, and the irony of a seemingly tiny yet hugely significant family drama played out on indifferent city streets; and City Lights, for Chaplin’s pathos and humor, his playfulness and gentle kindness, and his expressive body language.


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

Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC; Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC; Conrad L. Hall, ASC; Gianni Di Venanzo, AIC; Laszlo Kovacs, ASC.


What sparked your interest in photography?

As a child, I loved to draw. On occasion, I’d watch my older cousin process and print rolls of 35mm still film in the temporary darkroom he’d set up over his bathroom sink. One day I found myself shooting stills in my Bronx neighborhood just for the fun of it, using a 35mm Leica IIIf borrowed from a buddy in junior high school. I realized then that making photo images was a premier pleasure! Eventually, while at college, I found a job working in the Film Library at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, surrounded by prints and original negatives of films I’d seen and loved in theaters. Some of them were in bad shape. Handling them with care, shipping prints to schools and other museums, I’d incurred an enormous responsibility. I was hooked!


Where did you train and/or study?

On the job mostly, but initially at the Robert Flaherty Institute at the City College of New York, and later at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Who were your early teachers or mentors?

My grandmother Rose Schoenholz, and cinematographers Isidore Mankofsky, ASC; Haskell Wexler, ASC; and Jordan Cronenweth, ASC.


What are some of your key artistic influences?

Caravaggio, John Alton and Robert Krasker, BSC, for single-source lighting ideas; Henri Cartier-Bresson, for his ‘decisive moments’; Mark Rothko, for his spiritual use of color.


How did you get your first break in the business?

Although I’d already been shooting news-style documentaries out of Washington, D.C., a chance meeting in Venice, Calif., with a Beat Generation critic led to steady employment, first as an assistant, then shooting and directing at Encyclopedia Britannica Films in Hollywood.


What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

Directing, writing and producing Kickstart Theft [AC Nov. ’12]. Vilmos was the cinematographer, and he allowed me to operate only one shot. He said it wouldn’t work, but later told me it was great!


Have you made any memorable blunders?

Turning down a music-video offer in NYC from world-famous director Ken Russell felt like a significant blunder at the time career-wise, but my dear wife, Donna, said I made the right decision, choosing instead to be with my son, Nik, at his graduation in Santa Monica. Indeed, I could always shoot another video, but Nik would graduate from high school only once. It was a celebration of family, of our dreams and aspirations. Turning down Julie Corman to shoot a feature at $100 a week was a true blunder career-wise.


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

Remain a student. Respect your crew. Collaborate.


What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

Book: Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical. Film: Carol. Painting: Epiphany #1 by Nikolai Soren Goodich. 


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



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

Fiction writer.


Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

John Bailey, Isidore Mankofsky, Bob Primes, Peter Anderson, John Toll.


How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

Recognized! Reinvented! Membership authenticated and reinvigorated my life’s passion — the technical and artistic sides. It led to teaching and shooting gigs. And new friendships! I look forward to participating in Society activities, hanging out with colleagues of different backgrounds, sharing issues and tales of our experiences, engaging with students. I value the responsibility of being an ASC officer and the chair of the ASC International Committee, grateful for the privilege and the trust bestowed.  


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