ASC Focusing on Education, Outreach, New Technologies — and Planning for a Big Birthday

Debra Kaufman

ASC President Richard Crudo (Credit: Owen Roizman, ASC)
ASC President Richard Crudo (Photo by Owen Roizman, ASC)

Shortly after the ASC elected Richard Crudo to his sixth term as president, he sat down to discuss some of the organization’s priorities for the coming year.

American Cinematographer: Give us a snapshot of the ASC in 2015.

Richard Crudo, ASC: Right now the ASC is busier and more vital than at any other time in its history. The staff is operating at close to full capacity, working in support of not only our member services, but also our educational efforts. We’ve always nurtured a special regard for those who are coming up in the industry, and our appeal to them has exploded over the past 24 months. The chief reason has been the popularity of the ASC Master Class, which we started in 2013 and hold four times a year. A great deal of time and effort goes into preparing each session, and once it’s over, we begin to prep immediately for the next one.  It would be an understatement to say they’ve been successful. Each one has been booked solid months ahead of time. And the ASC members who serve as faculty are amazingly generous; they get no special remuneration, just the satisfaction of passing along their knowledge and experience. It’s been very satisfying to see their generosity of spirit in action and to discover just how much they love participating. That enthusiasm isn’t confined to the instructors, by the way — every Master Class features a number of ASC 'ambassadors,' members who act as 'force multipliers' in the sense that they're on the scene to help answer questions and provide additional perspective. It’s always a terrific group of people, and the students love them.

How would you describe the typical Master Class participant?

Crudo: These classes are not meant for beginners or those who might just be curious about cinematography. They’re aimed at cinematographers who are already several steps into their careers and looking for that extra bit of instruction that will help take them to the next level. At least half the attendees come from overseas, which surprised us at first.

What other educational outreach is the ASC doing?

Crudo: In addition to the Master Classes, we have a very busy slate of activity every month. We mount seminars, screenings, lectures, roundtable discussions, Breakfast Clubs and a host of other things designed to spread our knowledge around. George Spiro Dibie, ASC, is the chairman of our Education & Outreach committee, and he does an amazing job of organizing things. Each event lasts about 90 minutes, often with students posing questions of their choosing to our members. Of course, everyone loves to see the Clubhouse. George likes to call it ‘our shrine,’ and in many ways it is. Being there inspires and excites people. We also have a couple of projects in the works that are designed to reach out to the younger crowd — high-school students, for example — but it’s a bit early to say much more about them.

What are some of your priorities for the ASC this year?

Crudo: Our objective remains the same as it has been since the organization was founded in 1919: to protect and promote the interests of the cinematographer. We'll do this primarily by growing our educational programs and expanding our efforts with our Technology Committee. Curtis Clark, ASC, has chaired that committee since its inception in 2003, and no one could have done a better job. He has taken it from a standing start and made it a vital organ not only for us, but also for the industry as a whole. We're now at the center of every discussion about emerging technologies, and we’ve been able to effect major change in our favor, including the creation of the ASC CDL and, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the ACES protocols. Serving the needs of our associate members is another priority. They're tremendously supportive of us, and we're always appreciative of that. Our website will also get a major overhaul; expanding our online endeavors to serve the ASC and its audience better is also at the top of our list.

Safety on the set is a topic that received a lot of attention in the wake of Sarah Jones’ death. Your American Cinematographer column about the subject went viral. Is there something the ASC can do as an organization to address this issue?

Crudo: Unfortunately, we have no binding or legislative power in this regard. But we do have the power to speak out, and our members do it all the time. In many ways the cinematographer is the chief of the crew, and we take that responsibility very seriously. A lot of these concerns have gone unspoken for many years, but that’s not going to be the case anymore.

The ASC will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019. What’s in the works for that?

Crudo: Although it’s more than three years away, we all know the time will pass in the blink of an eye. With that in mind, we're already anticipating a fabulous celebration for when the big birthday hits on January 8, 2019. Daryn Okada, ASC, heads the planning committee, and he and the committee are putting together a great blueprint for marking the occasion. There will be plenty of exciting events taking place throughout 2019, so I would advise everyone to keep an ear to the track. That whole year is going to be one for the ages!

And you know, it really makes you think. The ASC has weathered more change in the last 10 or 15 years than it did in all the time prior to that. There was a moment early in this century when it was touch-and-go as to whether the cinematographer would remain relevant in the digital age. But the job has actually expanded — exponentially — and our creativity and expertise is more important than ever before. We’re happy about that, and we aim to maintain the best of it so that one day, a future generation will look back at us with the same gratitude and reverence we now reserve for our founders.

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