Erik Messerschmidt ASC describing a lighting adjustment to gaffer So Kenijro. (Photo by Bill Bennett, ASC

Special ASC Master Class Wraps in Japan

Multiple lighting demos serve as key training tools — illustrating how cinematographers must maintain creativity amidst challenges.

Terry McCarthy

The ASC conducted a very successful three-day Master Class for 17 cinematographers and lighting directors in Tokyo from March 24-26, with Society members Erik Messerschmidt and Bill Bennett instructing. This Master Class was supported by Netflix and primarily held at Toho Studios.

Messerschmidt takes questions during his Day 1 presentation. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Day 1 started with a live Zoom welcome message from Los Angeles by ASC President Stephen Lighthill. This was followed by a presentation by Messerschmidt on some of his overarching ideas about the role of the cinematographer, the decision-making process, and managing a creative relationship with the director. Messerschmidt showed some clips of his Oscar-winning camerawork from the feature Mank and also the series Mindhunter — both in collaboration with director David Fincher — to illustrate his points.

Messerschmidt describes the structure of a long dialog sequence from the movie Mank. (Photo by Bill Bennett, ASC)

After lunch, Bennett did a lighting demo on automotive photography, employing a scale-model car to focus on how to light reflective surfaces. The day ended with a Q&A session with attendees. Netflix hired two simultaneous interpreters so that the instructors did not have to interrupt their talks to wait for a translator to catch up – this saved a lot of time and made the discussions much more lively.

Bill Bennett, ASC conducts his demo on automotive lighting employing reflections. (Photo by Erik Messerschmidt, ASC.)

On Day 2, Messerschmidt did two lighting demonstrations with two actors inside a traditional Japanese house – one simulating daylight, the other shot by candlelight to simulate night. He also responded to a spontaneous request by some of the Japanese attendees to shoot a day-for-night scene outside (in the rain). Apparently, it can be hard to get production permits to shoot in Tokyo at night, so filmmakers are often forced to do a lot of day-for-night shooting. Even though this scene had not been planned or rehearsed, it all came off very well.

On Day 3, the class was taken through the color grading process of the material that had been shot in the previous two days. The class was particularly impressed with how well the candlelight scenes turned out, because they had feared during the shoot that the scene would be underlit.

In the afternoon, there was a wrap-up panel discussion, followed by a presentation of ASC Master Class completion certificates to all attendees, signed by President Lighthill, Messerschmidt and Bennett.

At the wrap party afterwards for attendees, the ASC instructors and Netflix staff, we were also joined by representatives from vendors who generously supported this session with equipment, including ARRI, Sony, Artone Film, Nac Image Technology, NKL and APEX.

You’ll find more information about the ASC Master Class program and upcoming session dates here.

The assembled class (click to enlarge). (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

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