The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents October 2008 Return to Table of Contents
Body of Lies
Production Slate
Post Focus
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Ross Berryman
Ross Berryman, ASC, ACS

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?
Seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) on the huge Cinerama screen was an unforgettable experience. It left me thinking about its content long after I left the cinema; it’s a film of great power and mystery that I still find intriguing and mystifying every time I view it.

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?
There are so many. To name a few: ASC members Freddie Young, Jack Cardiff, Néstor Almendros, Vittorio Storaro, Gordon Willis, Conrad Hall, Jordan Cronenweth, Dante Spinotti and Roger Deakins.

What sparked your interest in photography?
My father was an avid photographer, and that influenced me a lot; he was very supportive. Plus, I have always had an interest in the arts.

Where did you train and/or study?
I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where there was a very prolific company called Crawford Productions that produced dramas for Australian television. I was lucky enough to be a part of that and ended up staying there for eight years. All the crews were very young, and it truly was a great training ground, with lots of camaraderie as well as hard work. They provided opportunities for so many people in the growing film industry ‘down under.’

Who were your early teachers and/or mentors?
The many cameramen at Crawford Productions that I assisted: David Eggby, ACS; Barry Wilson; Vincent Monton; and Dan Burstall, among others.

What are some of your key artistic influences?
I’ve always found the paintings of Rembrandt, Vermeer and the French Impressionists fascinating. Also, I’ve spent countless hours watching classic movies. I’ve revisited the films of John Ford, David Lean and Stanley Kubrick many times.

How did you get your first break in the business?
I was lucky to start as a trainee at Crawford Productions as soon as I left school. I eventually found my way onto a camera crew, where I knew I belonged. I worked my way up to camera assistant and had been doing that for a while when one of their key cameramen left and I was suddenly promoted to that position. So, at the age of 21, I became a lighting cameraman on a successful television drama, Matlock Police. Color didn’t come to Australian TV until 1975, and it was one of the last black-and-white shows to be produced. It was a tremendous period to be around.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
My first feature as director of photography. I met my wife, Lynn Barker, who produced it.

Have you made any memorable blunders?
It’s not really a blunder but inauspicious nonetheless. The first day my unit arrived to support Dean Semler, ASC, ACS on Dead Calm, we were on our way to film a sunset from a lonely atoll in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Our twin-engine runabout was laden with camera cases, and we were racing to get there before the sun disappeared. As we approached the atoll, there was a huge bang, and we started taking water very quickly — we had hit a piece of coral and it had ripped a huge gash in the hull. The driver gunned the crippled boat and managed to beach it on the atoll. Instead of making our first shot, we had to send out an SOS so we could be rescued before the fast-changing tide came in and completely covered our small piece of land — and before darkness set in.

What was the best professional advice you ever received?
‘Be nice to people on your way up because you never know who you’re going to meet on the way down.’

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?
I think No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (both shot by Roger Deakins) had extraordinary visuals.

Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try?
Film noir and Westerns have always interested me.

If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead?
I have no idea, so I’m glad it has worked out so far!

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?
Dean Semler, Michael Negrin and Steve Mason.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?
As I was beginning my journey in cinematography, reading American Cinematographer was always something to look forward to each month; I could find out what the best cinematographers in the world were doing and how they did what they did. So the ASC has always been a beacon of excellence, and to be part of this group of people is an honor and a privilege.

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