Patterson also hired George Turner, who would succeed him as editor, and Angie Gollmann, the magazine’s first full-time advertising representative. (She has since been joined by East Coast sales rep Mike Trerotoli and advertising coordinator Sanja Pearce).
“Part of my mandate when I was hired was to organize the magazine more as a business and to produce financial reports that meant something to the ASC’s board,” notes Patterson. “When I started, the magazine was in the doldrums. Circulation had stagnated and even started to decline. I set up a financial-reporting system that enabled us to track the profitability of every issue, and after a year, we had circulation growing to new highs and were making money. I was lucky that the ASC had the resources to fund the revitalization of the magazine. It paid off for them in the long run.”
One feature Patterson added to the magazine was the editor’s editorial. “I used these commentaries to pontificate on anything that I thought was of interest, and I signed them with my signature because I regarded them as personal statements, but I did not realize that they were viewed as an official pronouncement of the ASC.” One of his editorials in praise of foreign cameramen created a bit of a stir among American cinematographers, and his AC contract was not renewed.
George Turner followed Patterson in the editor’s chair. A genial Renaissance man from Texas who had worked as a reporter, short-story writer, cartoonist, and storyboard artist and crewmember in the world of motion-picture special effects, Turner was a “good old boy” who would have been at home chewing the fat on the front porch of a small-town general store. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, and great love for the pictures of his youth especially those slightly less-than-respectable, Poverty Row “B” pictures that thrived on monsters, murder and mayhem. Turner was initially hired to write historical pieces for AC and serve as associate editor. Eventually, he established a small group of regulars who could treat film history with the same degree of detail and respect that he brought to his own work.
His wife, Jean, served as managing editor of AC, standing between George and those who would distract him from his writing and editing chores. In addition to his interest in AC’s historical articles, Turner expanded coverage of special-effects cinematography. After stepping down as editor, he worked as the magazine’s beloved “historicals guru” until his death in 1999.
David Heuring, who succeeded Turner, was chosen by the Turners to fill a staff-writer position at the magazine. Heuring had moved to Hollywood from the Midwest with an eye toward working in the picture business, and managed to land a non-paying job as a P.A. on a student film production. The producer of the film was aware that AC occasionally ran pieces on student films, and the idea was pitched to Jean Turner. She agreed to consider the piece, and Heuring spent three weeks honing his article before he deemed it worthy to submit. The article was accepted. “I got a $200 check, and my mom was really proud to learn that I’d been paid for writing and to see my name in a magazine,” recalls Heuring.
Heuring proceeded to write more articles, and the vagaries of freelance film jobs led him to interview for AC’s staff-writer position when the opportunity presented itself. “I came to the ASC office and knocked on the front door I didn’t know enough to go around to the back, where the editorial offices were. Harry Wolf met me at the door and said, ‘You must be David. I think you’re going to like it here.’ So much for the job interview!
“The first interview I did for an article was with Woody Omens, ASC,” continues Heuring. “I said, ‘I don’t even know what questions to ask.’ But Woody was very patient and helped me get through it. I was learning as I went. I had dropped out of the only journalism course I’d ever taken in college, so everything I learned about editing a magazine I learned on the job. I took the position very seriously. The ASC members were always so supportive, and I would take home books from the Clubhouse library and back issues of the magazine to try to fill in what I didn’t know about cinematography.
“Eventually, Jean retired and George followed suit,” he continues, “and I had been there just long enough to gain the trust of the Publications Committee. George went to bat for me, and I was offered the job of editor. I tried to make sure that the writing in the magazine was always first-rate my models were National Geographic for photo captions that offered added information, and Smithsonian for the overall writing standard. I also moved into new areas. AC covered a music video for the first time during my tenure as editor, and we also started to cover the ways in which computers affected cinematographers’ work.”
Stephen Pizzello, AC’s current executive editor, came to the magazine in 1991 after gaining experience at newspapers and magazines on the East Coast. A native of Salem, Massachusetts, Pizzello studied film and journalism at Boston University, where he served as film editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Free Press. A lifelong movie buff, he relocated to Los Angeles in the spring of 1991; after a brief adventure as an agent’s assistant at Creative Artists Agency (a stint he likens to the acerbic 1995 comedy Swimming With Sharks), he found refuge at the ASC when a friend who worked there told him AC was seeking an assistant editor. “Many in the industry might think me crazy for leaving CAA during the height of the Mike Ovitz era, but the long hours, low pay and bottom-line atmosphere made me miserable,” says Pizzello. “One day I was attempting to discuss movies with an established agent in the film department, and when I mentioned Antonioni, he had no clue who the man was. I suspected then that it might be time to move on.”
Still unfamiliar with the sartorial concept of “California casual,” Pizzello showed up for his job interview with the Turners wearing a business suit. “George was editor at the time, but Jean was retiring and Dave Heuring had been promoted to associate editor,” says Pizzello. “When I walked in the door, Jean took one look at me and asked with genuine alarm, ‘You don’t always dress that way for work, do you?’ I told her I had plenty of Red Sox jerseys that I’d be happy to wear instead. Jean was a big Dodgers fan, so that went over pretty well with her. Then George engaged me in a detailed discussion about the virtues of the original King Kong, and I was hired on the spot.”
Pizzello served as assistant editor for a year before George Turner joined his wife in retirement and Heuring was promoted to editor. Heuring promoted Pizzello to associate editor, and the two enjoyed a friendly and fruitful collaboration for 31⁄2 years. When Heuring moved on, the ASC named Pizzello executive editor, a post he has held since July 1995. “Dave and I were both determined to take the magazine to the next level, and after he left, I tried to build upon the solid foundation that he, George and other predecessors had laid down,” Pizzello says. “Cinematography is an artful pursuit, and I felt AC should address the subject in a way that combined the technical and philosophical aspects of the job. Many trade magazines can be as dry as dust to read, and I thought we could expand our audience beyond the professional realm if we included more creative insights about the filmmaking process. Technical matters will always be a cornerstone of the magazine’s content, but I’ve tried to widen its scope to embrace both the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of cinematography. Some readers prefer hard technical details, but many others, including some of our most esteemed members, feel that why they do things can be even more important than how they do them. After all, motion-picture equipment changes at a rapid pace, but instinct is a timeless element of filmmaking.”
Pizzello sought to broaden the magazine’s coverage by mixing features on major Hollywood films with more pieces on independent and foreign productions, and by adding a number of new departments such as Short Takes, Global Village, DVD Playback and The Post Process. He also hired more experienced editors and freelance writers, and in 1998, he helped Winterhalter supervise a major redesign of the publication.
These strategies, augmented by additional coverage of digital techniques and postproduction trends, have been rewarded with many publishing awards over the past decade. During that span, AC has earned 10 Maggie Awards, 37 Maggie nominations and four Folio: Eddie Awards for Editorial Excellence. “Throughout my tenure, I’ve had outstanding support from Martha and my other co-workers, including editors Rachael Bosley, Douglas Bankston and Christopher Probst; art director Micki Gore; circulation director Saul Molina; and former editors David Williams, Andrew Thompson, Chris Pizzello and Marji Rhea,” Pizzello says. “Our writers have also gone above and beyond the call of duty, and I can always rely upon the ASC Publications Committee for advice and guidance. No editor can put out a magazine like AC alone, and I’ve been particularly fortunate to collaborate with people who truly understand and respect the magazine’s importance to the industry.
“Cinematography is an endlessly fascinating and ever-evolving topic, so the magazine stays fresh,” he adds. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone comes up with a new way to shoot or a new piece of equipment, which opens up new areas for us to cover. As a result, I believe AC will never get old or redundant. The magazine grows and ‘morphs’ with the industry it covers.”
So here we are, 85 years later. In some ways, the earliest readers of magazine might not recognize the AC of today, but in many ways, things haven’t changed all that much. Cinematographers have always faced a future filled with new equipment, new formats and new opportunities to create pictures that touch the audience on an emotional level. For more than eight decades, AC has helped connect cinematographers and others who are interested in the art and craft of making motion pictures. With the help of the ASC and our current and future readers, AC will continue to be a link that promotes the ASC’s goals of “Loyalty, Progress and Artistry.”