The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Page 2
ASC Close-Up
President's Desk

Considering the relationships between the many cinematography societies around the world, how many disciplines in the movie industry can make a remotely similar claim to such solidarity, affection and respect for one another?

You could really make a case that the founders of the ASC started a popular trend when they established our organization back in 1919.


These are the initials — and I’m sure I missed a few — that represent the various cinematographers’ societies that have sprung up around the world in our wake. (For the record, the acronyms respectively represent Austria, Czech Republic, Australia, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Croatia, Hungary, India, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Republic of Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland and Slovenia.)

Beyond indicating that we are indeed a social lot, this alphabet soup also poses a question: How many disciplines in the movie industry can make a remotely similar claim to such solidarity, affection and respect for one another? Anyone who has had the good fortune to attend one of our annual ASC Awards events will instantly recognize the bond that exists among us; most notable among the pomp and ceremony is the sincere, wall-to-wall fellowship expressed by everyone there. You can’t help but come away from that evening with a renewed faith in what we do and a reaffirmed conviction that, without exception, cinematographers are the most naturally passionate artists in the industry.

And this is precisely why it’s so easy for us to join together in an effort to protect and expand our interests. Further proof will come early this month when the ASC hosts the second International Cinematography Summit at our Clubhouse in Hollywood. It will be attended by representatives of the various cinematography societies from around the world for the purpose of increasing communication and interaction regarding the artistic and technical changes that are affecting our craft. The first summit, held in 2011, was a huge success; we’re anticipating even greater results this time around.

Standardization of emerging technologies, archival concerns, future trends — these issues are right at the forefront for all cinematographers, regardless of where we live or work. One issue in particular keeps popping up in most every circle: It’s scary to think that at this late date we’re still hearing reports about cinematographers being blocked from supervising the finish of their work in the DI suite. Does discouraging or altogether barring the cinematographer from placing the final touches save money or time? Example after example has proven the opposite to be true. Equally troublesome, artistic integrity is compromised every time the original intent developed by the director and cinematographer is cast aside. Since we’re hired for our taste and expertise — which are generously proffered at every point in the process, by the way — you really have to wonder what’s going through someone’s head when they choose the exclusionary route. Compounding the insult, we are rarely paid for our postproduction labor.

Short of a binding, European-style right-of-authorship agreement — which will never be enacted in the United States — we’re pretty much left to cover our own bases in this respect. Our employers are aware of the great commitment we bring to the job, and many of them are all too eager to use that against us. Right now our only recourse is to develop strong relationships early on with directors and producers that will serve to protect us when necessary. The irony is that the smart ones understand how important our contribution is and generally insist that we supervise the DI. Problems usually emerge only when the uninformed are in control, and sadly there are enough of those running around the industry to fill a stadium. Hopefully the International Cinematography Summit will offer some new solutions.

On another note entirely, this column marks my final “President’s Desk” appearance. My term at the ASC helm has come to an end, and I’ll soon hand the reins over to a newly elected individual. The past three years in office have been a superlative pleasure, and I’ll always be thankful for being allowed the opportunity to serve this great organization. It’s impossible to express how humbled I’ve been by this experience and the wonderful people I’ve come in contact with. I want to send a great, big thank-you to our members and associates, the ASC staff and Board of Governors, and, most of all, our faithful readers.

And to my successor — whomever that may be — I have but one word: excelsior!


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