The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Lex duPont

Lex duPont, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?

I was 8 when I watched House on Haunted Hill, and it terrified me. That a 12-inch black-and-white moving image could produce such a profound effect was magic.

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?

So many, and for different reasons. The one that stands out is Gregg Toland [ASC]. He was an artist and a technician. His use of deep focus and his work devising a better-soundproofed camera demonstrated his total commitment to the art as well as the science of cinematography.

What sparked your interest in photography?

My father was a big photo enthusiast with a darkroom. We spent many hours there.

Where did you train and/or study?

I attended the Choate prep school, which had a sophisticated photo department. Then I went to Brown University, where I also had access to courses at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

Jack Burke at Leonetti Cine Rentals, where I started my career. Also, Frank Byers [ASC], Frederick Elmes [ASC] and Julio Macat [ASC].

What are some of your key artistic influences?

Today’s television series. The quality and variety of styles are remarkable. Can you imagine a producer 30 years ago permitting a day scene to be shot as dark and moody as we see today? Or using heavily gelled lights in an operating room or police-squad room?

How did you get your first break in the business?

While working at Leonetti Cine Rentals, I received a call from a producer who had her first AC back out, and she needed a recommendation. Of course, I recommended myself! Frank Byers was the cinematographer.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?

Seeing NYPD Blue broadcast accurately. It was my first series, and I was horrified when I saw the first airings; analog broadcasting was so inconsistent. Digital broadcasting is better, yet even digital televisions have inconsistencies that make me crazy. Picture settings — Vivid? Sports? Cinema?

Have you made any memorable blunders?

On the series NYPD Blue, we once filmed under the FDR Drive late in the day, facing east. The sun was pounding Brooklyn, and the large crime scene was set deep under the highway, where I had 3 footcandles! I assumed the director and producers knew I could not possibly have enough light to bring the dark highway scene into exposure range with Brooklyn. Wrong. It taught me to never assume that the ‘obvious’ is obvious.

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

From Gil Hubbs, ASC: 'We are freelancers and must make tough career decisions. There will be times when it’s best for us to leave a project early. Some people won’t understand that; you probably won’t have an enduring relationship with them, anyway.' And from Julio Macat, ASC: 'Be optimistic, even during the darkest moments. Cinematographers are highly visible on set, and our mood can affect the crew.'

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

The books Inevitable Illusions: How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds [by Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini] and The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. McGinnis is an illustrator whose work is truly fine art. Also, the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky.

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

I would like to film a mystery.

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

I could see myself as a professional pilot. I was a flight instructor during my college years. Piloting, like cinematography, is all about precision.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

Frank Byers, Gil Hubbs and Michael Goi.

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?

Previously I had little interaction with cinematographers, but that changed after joining the ASC. I’ve experienced tremendous satisfaction making acquaintances and even deep friendships with my peers. I am humbled and awed every time I enter the Clubhouse.



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