The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents November 2006 Return to Table of Contents
Flags of Our Fathers
Short Takes
Books in Review
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Walter Lindenlaub
Karl Walter Lindenlaub, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?
I remember seeing Emil and the Detectives, which was based on one of my favorite children’s books by Erich Kaestner. Billy Wilder wrote the adaptation. I recently read the book to my son and showed him the movie on tape.

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?
Karl Freund, ASC from the German silent era; Robby Müller, BVK from my film-school days; and also [ASC members] Vittorio Storaro, Gordon Willis, Vilmos Zsigmond, Sven Nykvist and Philippe Rousselot. They were my biggest inspirations, among many others. Today the list would be even longer.

What sparked your interest in photography?
To gain admission to film school, I had to do a photo essay. I shot black-and-white stills with my father’s old Voigtlander SLR and learned how to develop them myself. After that, I was hooked. In film school, we did a short black-and-white movie in 35mm with Walter Lassally, BSC as our teacher, and I was the operator. After that, directing was not so interesting!

Where did you train and/or study?
I went to film school in Munich as a documentary student, back when nobody in Germany thought film could be taught in school. After that I went to England and studied for one year at the National Film and Television School (NFTS), where I learned much more about cinematography.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?
A German cameraman who died way too young: Helge Weindler, the only cinematographer I assisted. In England, I learned a great deal from [BSC members] Walter Lassally, Oswald Morris and Billy Williams, who taught at the NFTS and were very open about their craft.

What are some of your key artistic influences?
The German “Bauhaus Movement”; the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg and John Register; sculptures by Richard Serra; and photographs by Paul Strand, Robert Frank, Roy DeCarava and William Eggleston.

How did you get your first break in the business?
I had been invited to a small film festival to show my last student film, and right then I got a call to shoot my first television series. I was 26 and the luckiest guy around.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
I enjoy when I find a simple composition that looks specific, that’s maybe a little different from all the similar shots like it, and has lighting that matches [the style] without looking artificial.

Have you made any memorable blunders?
Too many to tell, but I’ll admit that I’ve been messing up my film ratings since I started using a digital meter. Now I make the assistant remind me to change my meter every time we change film stocks!

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Make friends early so you have allies in this business. They are the ones who call you first.

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?
I recently had the chance to shoot in Holland for many months, so I could go and see the paintings of the Dutch masters in many museums. When I got back home, we screened The Graduate for my son, and that film still blows me away for its visual inventiveness and guts.

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

I would like to do a musical. My favorite genre is film noir. Other than that, it is always the most satisfying experience to create your own universe in a movie, like in a period film, a science-fiction film, or a film that takes place at an exotic location. This makes the shoot a true journey of discovery.

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

I would love to have been an architect, but I was not good enough at mathematics.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?
Bill Taylor, Allen Daviau and Russell Carpenter.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?
Being invited into this organization is an impossible dream come true. Having a chance to meet my colleagues is a constant inspiration. It’s good to see that others struggle just as much as I do, even though they seem to know so much more.


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