We are occasionally asked, “What is the American Society of Cinematographers?” Many people think we are a guild or union; we are not. We are an honorary group whose members invite other cinematographers to join based on the excellence of their work. Written recommendations from three active ASC members are required before a cinematographer is invited to become part of the Society.
Although the ASC recognizes career work in feature films and television projects, we occasionally accept into membership cinematographers who have extraordinary accomplishments in other realms, including documentaries, commercials and music videos. A complete roster of our members can be found on our website, www.theasc.com, and is published in this magazine on a quarterly basis (most recently last month).
The ASC’s mission is twofold: to celebrate excellence in cinematography, which we do with our annual ASC Awards ceremony; and to educate, which we do with our publications, chiefly American Cinematographer magazine and the American Cinematographer Manual (now in its 10th edition), and with the countless hours our members devote to mentoring, teaching and speaking in various forums around the world. One of our vice presidents, Richard Crudo, ASC, has remarked that “all ASC members are teachers” through our individual and collective efforts.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, it is suggested that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary for success in almost any serious profession. At a music conservatory, success in performance was plotted against hours spent in rehearsal, and a direct correlation was found: The more you practice, the better you become. It seems to us that the same is true with cinematography, but in a world of 24-hour filmmaking competitions and one-button videography, it is a radical notion that so much time is needed for mastery. Ten thousand hours is probably about a third of the way through a typical career, and as our mastery of the art and craft increases, so do the wisdom and knowledge we need to be effective collaborators and
storytellers. Mastery of cinematography is experience dependent; the more we shoot, the longer our careers, the better we get.
There are organizations similar to the ASC in every profession because celebrating excellence in any field is good for that field as a whole. Recognizing great achievements in cinematography is good not only for cinematographers, but also for the community of labs, equipment manufacturers and technical experts that serve us. No one is born a master. Only with hard work and collaboration do masterpieces result.