At top, show host Ben Mankiewicz at the ASC Clubhouse.

Celebrating Enduring Cinematography: The 35th Annual ASC Awards

Mank, Two of Us, The Truffle Hunters, The Mandalorian, Motherland: Fort Salem, The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit take top honors in this year’s ceremony.

Samantha Dillard

Hosted by Turner Classic Movie’s Ben Mankiewicz, this year’s ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography celebrated spectacular imagery, masters of the craft, and the ways in which the industry has adapted in the wake of Covid-19.

One such way that was recognized, celebrated and even employed to produce the awards show was virtual production. Cinematography’s biggest night, which typically takes place in the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland complex, was instead held in the virtual space on Sunday, April 18, with special live moments captured at the historic ASC Clubhouse. This marked the first time in the show’s history that it was livestreamed to a global audience.

(See a complete list of nominees and winners here.)

The event kicked off with a performance from the show’s live orchestra while a reel played, showcasing the indelible cinematography captured by ASC members — as well as some of this year’s honorees and nominees. Mankiewicz and ASC Awards Chair Dana Gonzales, ASC then welcomed nominees, guests, sponsors and audience members.

The presentations began with the first competitive category, Episode of a Half Hour Series for Television. Kira Kelly, ASC presented the award to Baz Idoine for The Mandalorian “Chapter 13: The Jedi.” This category was sponsored by ARRI Inc.

This was Idoine’s first ASC nomination and win. The cinematographer previously worked with fellow nominee Greig Fraser, ASC while doing second-unit work on features including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Vice. Shooting addition photography on The Mandalorian, he assumed cinematography duties when Fraser stepped away to shoot the upcoming feature Dune. For his work on the series, Idoine also won the 2020 Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour).

We caught up with Idoine on our virtual red carpet — sponsored by Panavision — for a brief interview with AC contributor Jim Hemphill:

ASC President Stephen Lighthill then took to the stage to offer remarks, and Andra Day introduced a reel of social-conscious films, starting with Minari being presented by Robert Yeoman, ASC.

Ellen Kuras, ASC presented the Documentary Award to Michael Dweck and Greg Kershaw for the work in The Truffle Hunters. This category was sponsored by Canon USA.

This is the first ASC nomination and win for both filmmakers. Dweck and Kershaw were Sundance Institute Catalyst Forum fellows as well as Sundance Music and Sound Design Lab fellows. The Truffle Hunters premiered at Sundance in 2020 and went on to screen at more than 35 festivals. Dweck’s projects incorporate mediums including film, sound, photography and sculpture. Kershaw is a documentary and narrative filmmaker whose work explores the complexity of humans confronting an ever-changing world.

Dweck and Kershaw then spoke with Hemphill on the red carpet:

The next film in the social-conscious series to be featured was Nomadland, presented by Rodney Taylor, ASC.

In the category of Episode of a One-Hour Television Series – Commercial, James Whitaker, ASC (with a surprise cameo from Lawrence Sher, ASC) presented the award to Jon Joffin, ASC for Motherland: Fort Salem “Up is Down.” This category was sponsored by FotoKem.

This is Joffin’s second ASC win and fourth nomination. He previously won for his work on Beyond, and was nominated for his work on Alice and The Andromeda Strain. Joffin’s longform TV credits include Five Desperate Hours, Aftershock: Earthquake in New York and A Wrinkle in Time, as well as the series Masters of Horror, Crusoe, Rush and Aftermath.

Joffin later joined Hemphill on the red carpet to discuss this achievement:

Recognized for her work as a director, writer, producer and actor, Sofia Coppola was honored with the ASC Board of Governors Award. This award is presented to filmmakers for their significant and indelible contributions to cinema through their body of work. It is the only ASC Award not given to a cinematographer and is reserved for industry stalwarts who have been champions for directors of photography and the visual art form. This year, the award was sponsored by Picture Shop, a Streamland Media company.

Coppola was presented with the award by Edward Lachman, ASC, who photographed Coppola’s directorial feature debut, The Virgin Suicides, and Philippe Le Sourd, ASC, AFC, who collaborated with Coppola on The Beguiled, La Traviata and On the Rocks.

The Society’s efforts to continue its mission throughout 2020 was then highlighted, noting such accomplishments as the Clubhouse Conversations video series, the redesign of American Cinematographer magazine and the launch of the Online ASC Master Class sessions, which began in the fall of 2020.

In the next competitive category, Episode of a One-Hour Television Series – Non-Commercial winner, Paul Cameron, ASC presented the award to Fabian Wagner, ASC, BSC for The Crown “Imbroglio.” This category was sponsored by Panavision.

This is Wagner’s second ASC win and fourth nomination. He previously won and was nominated for his work on Game of Thrones. He has received two Emmy nominations, for his work on Sherlock and Game of Thrones.

Wagner also spoke to Hemphill on the red carpet:

Edward Lachman, ASC returned to highlight Notturno as part of the Social Conscience series.

Next was the Spotlight Award, which strives to showcase independent film or smaller projects that might otherwise not be recognized. Matthew Libatique, ASC presented this prize to Aurélien Marra for his work on Two of Us. This category was sponsored by Panavision.

This is Marra’s first ASC nomination and win. His work on Two of Us also earned him the Best Cinematographer’s Debut Award at the 2020 edition of Camerimage.

Following his win, Marra spoke with Hemphill:

This year’s In Memoriam paid tribute to the ASC members, associates and colleagues who passed in 2020 and the 2021 — Michael Chapman, ASC; Denny Clairmont; Allen Daviau, ASC; Richard DiBona; Gerald Feil, ASC; John C. Hora, ASC; Judy Irola, ASC; Gary B. Kibbe, ASC; Robert F. Liu, ASC; Steven Manios Sr.; Isidore Mankofsky, ASC; Giuseppe Rotunno, ASC, AIC; and Peter Sova, ASC.

For the final film in the Social Conscience series, John Simmons, ASC highlighted Princess of the Row.

In the category of Motion Picture, Miniseries, or Pilot Made for Television, Polly Morgan, ASC, BSC presented the award to Steven Meizler for The Queen’s Gambit “End Game.” This category was sponsored by Red Digital Cinema.

This is Meizler’s first ASC nomination and win. In 2018, he won the Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie for his work on Godless.

Meizler shared some thoughts with Hemphill on the red carpet:

The final award of the day — in the Feature Film category — was presented by filmmakers Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC and James Deakins to Erik Messerschmidt, ASC for his work on Mank. This category was sponsored by Keslow Camera.

This is Messerschmidt’s first ASC nomination and win. He worked as a gaffer for such series as Bones and Mad Men as well as the feature Gone Girl before director David Fincher hired him to shoot the crime drama series Mindhunter. He performed second-unit photography on Sicario: Day of the Soldado and shot episodes of Legion, Fargo and Raised by Wolves before re-teaming with Fincher for Mank.

He closed out the red-carpet broadcast by talking with Hemphill about his award:

Host Ben Mankiewicz concluded the ceremony with a personal anecdote, sharing that he is the grandson of Herman J. Mankiewicz, upon whom the feature film-winning picture Mank is based.

The commemorative ASC Awards program book features complete background information on our nominees, honoree, profiles on new ASC members, dozens of rare behind-the-scenes stills, and much more. We hope you enjoy this 112-page memento as a keepsake of this year’s special online event — and feel free to share it with your friends who also love the art and craft of cinematography. The book is best experienced in two-page view.

Download here.

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