The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents March 2011 Return to Table of Contents
The Adjustment Bureau
Career TV Award
Presidents Award
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Crescenzo Notarile
Crescenzo Notarile, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?
When I was in the seventh grade, we were shown a Twilight Zone episode titled “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” The entire story takes place in one man’s mind in a split second as he is being hanged, and this resonated profoundly with me.

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire, and why?
The ASC roster has dozens of my heroes who inspire me to tears and awed silence! Quintessentially, I would say Gregg Toland, ASC, for his use of black-and-white and audacious perspectives; Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, for his spiritual and metaphysical use of color; Conrad Hall, ASC, for his artistic machismo and precise storytelling; Gordon Willis, ASC, for shooting The Godfather; and Owen Roizman, ASC, for his friendship and creative guidance.

What sparked your interest in photography?
When I was growing up, there were hundreds of photography books in my house, from Lucien Clergue to Irving Penn to Man Ray. My father was an award-winning art director in advertising, and one of his photographers was Richard Avedon. As a child, I stuffed my pockets with Avedon’s Polaroids after watching him shoot with such vigor and class.

Where did you train and/or study?
I received a four-year scholarship to New York University through my photography, but I eventually transferred to New York Institute of Technology to follow a mentor film teacher who inspired me conceptually. Of course, my most important training has been in the field; I started as a camera PA and worked with many great cinematographers as I moved up.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?
The first were my parents, who to this day are both magnificent artists. My first mentor on a film set was a very gutsy cinematographer by the name of Tony Mitchell, whom I assisted exclusively.

What are some of your key artistic influences?
I love tear sheets. I collect thousands of them and keep them in notebooks for reference. They’re mostly work by photographers and painters who inspire me with lighting, compositions, color schemes, concepts, etc.

How did you get your first break in the business?
My father’s advertising agency had an in-house production company that made Mercedes-Benz and JC Penney commercials. I started out working as a PA during my summer breaks from school.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
Moving up to camera operator on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.

Have you made any memorable blunders?
Yes, the all-time classic for a camera assistant: turning on the light in the darkroom before I put the lid back on the film can, consequently fogging the entire 1,000' roll of exposed film. The worst part was finding the courage to inform the director of photography.

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
From Owen Roizman: ‘There’s no need to have an ego as a man. Let your work on that screen be your ego.’

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?
Truly, reading interviews with my colleagues every month in American Cinematographer inspires me! I am currently looking at Bill Brandt’s book Shadow of Light for a personal project, and I’m also reading Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now. The Social Network reminded me that smart filmmaking can always catapult something formulaic and familiar into that extraordinary stratum.

Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try?
I would love to shoot a surreal horror film or a classic Western.

If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead?
I would love to score feature films!

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?
Julio Macat, Alan Caso, Jim Chressanthis and Nancy Schreiber.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?
When I was invited to join the ASC, I cried. It is an honor and a privilege to be associated with the best in the world, to engage in artistic and technological conversations with them and then bring that energy into my own work.

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