The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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2012 Television
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Jonathan Taylor

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?  
The Red Balloon (1956) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?
Robert Krasker, BSC and Gregg Toland, ASC for their groundbreaking, beautiful and inspiring work.  David Watkin, BSC for his innovative use of bounce lighting and the Wendy Light. Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC for his ability to adapt his 
lighting style to complement the narrative. Philippe Rousselot, ASC, AFC for his use of delicate, soft and realistic source lighting.

What sparked your interest in photography?
Picking up my dad’s Leica and learning by taking pictures of just about anything. He had a contact at the lab, so my film processing was free.

Where did you train and/or study?
After college, I started as a film loader and learned by watching and working with other technicians.  I was lucky to learn my craft in a practical environment. I learned early on the importance of understanding all the various jobs within a film crew.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?
My father, Peter Taylor, an Academy Award-winning film editor, inspired me to enter the film industry.  Paul Wilson, BSC generously shared his vast knowledge with me. Stanley Kubrick taught me the importance of careful composition. Over the years, highly talented camera assistants, operators, key grips and gaffers helped me hone my craft.

What are some of your key artistic influences?
Photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson and Frank Capra. Automobile designers: Ettore Bugatti, Delahaye and Malcolm Sayer. Music: R&B and classic rock. Painters: Turner, Constable and Vermeer.

How did you get your first break in the business?

I started as a film loader at Century 21, a company best known for producing the British TV show Thunderbirds.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
Directing and shooting the second unit on Captain America: The First Avenger. The dual role was challenging, but a fantastic experience.

Have you made any memorable blunders?

Very early on in my career, I asked a person I assumed was a production assistant to perform a menial task, only to discover later that day that he was, in fact, the film’s director.

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Stay calm, listen, observe and lead by example.

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?
Denise Mina’s crime-novel trilogy based in Glasgow, and the films A Single Man, True Grit (2010) and Midnight in Paris.

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

I would like to shoot a low-budget drama that is meaningful and has a great human story and a great soundtrack — like American Graffiti.

If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead?
Classic-car restoration.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?
Bill Pope, Russell Carpenter and Philippe Rousselot.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?
As a second-unit director of photography and, more recently, a second-unit director, I get to work with many talented ASC members, each with a unique and clever way of shooting. As a result, I come off of each film with a stronger sense of knowledge. It’s always a humbling experience.


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