The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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M I3
The Propositon
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Van Oostrum
Kees Van Oostrum, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?
I believe it was Hellzapoppin’, which I saw when I was 14.

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?
In order of past to present: John Alton [ASC] for T-Men, He Walked by Night and Raw Deal; Néstor Almendros [ASC] for Days of Heaven and The Last Metro; and Darius Khondji [ASC, AFC] for Seven and The Ninth Gate.

What sparked your interest in photography?
I started in still photography really young, and I remember that the images were always about people waiting. There were sometimes lines of them, groups and singular characters, at a deserted bus stop.

Where did you study and/or train?

I started at the Dutch Film Academy, and after I graduated I came to the United States to study at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?
My early teacher, mentor and friend at AFI was George Folsey [ASC], and I also spent time with ASC members Lee Garmes and Charles Lang.

What are some of your key artistic influences?
Mostly paintings from the Middle Ages because of their simplicity and primitive expression, and also black-and-white photography from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Eugene Smith.

How did you get your first break in the business?
I had a year off before I was able to go to the Dutch film school, so I ended up working as a sound assistant. It was interesting, but I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a camera.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
When I go out relying on my instincts and emotions and then later sit in the theater, see it all put together, and realize I’ve completely forgotten how I did it.

Have you made any memorable blunders?

In film school I once focused with the iris ring and set the stops on the focus ring. I must say it looked kind of interesting.

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

Always strive for perfection in every image you create, not so much technically but in terms of feeling that you have completely understood what you are trying to convey.

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?
Books: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and anything by William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Recent films: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada by Tommy Lee Jones and The New World by Terrence Malick. Art: Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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

My favorite genre is drama, intimate stories. In that genre I would very much like to shoot a story in the Orient.

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

I would definitely be an architect.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

Philip Lathrop and Theo Van de Sande.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

Greatly, just by enabling me to meet and talk with so many of the great members. Through sharing experiences you gain confidence, because you realize you are not alone out there.


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