Cinematography is driven by the desire to exercise one’s artistry. This is certainly true of pretty much every position on a production, but whereas one might enter into a craft in the business driven by the desire to be famous or to get rich, you'd be hard pressed to find a cinematographer whose motivation for pursuing this craft was primarily influenced by those desires. A cinematographer whose work is enormously influential might be virtually unknown to most of the world. A cinematographer becomes a cinematographer because he or she enjoys telling stories with light, color and composition.
The ASC is composed of cinematographers who are masters of visual expression — every one of them. There are those whose names are immediately recognizable, but every member achieved the honor of membership by being the best in the field. They have enhanced and defined motion pictures for almost 100 years. Allow me to mention a few of them.
When you watch the amazing mirror-room fight sequence in Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, you are watching the work of Gil Hubbs, ASC. Stephen M. Katz, ASC was the cinematographer behind the iconic comedy The Blues Brothers. Isidore Mankofsky, ASC gave life to Kermit the Frog for The Muppet Movie. When Revenge of the Nerds took place, King Baggot, ASC was there to film it. (King also shot one of my favorite fantasy films, The Last Starfighter.)
The beautiful, moody images from The Inland Sea were photographed by the same man who gave The Rocketeer flight, Hiro Narita, ASC. And when you watch just about any large-scale effects movie, you are probably seeing the work of Mat Beck, ASC, whose credits include shots for Titanic, Spider-Man 2 and Into the Wild. When Stephen King’s Pet Sematary was unleashed on audiences, they were thrilled by the work of Peter Stein, ASC. Gerald Feil, ASC was shooting exciting 3-D action years ago for Friday the 13th Part III. And when the Dixie Chicks were told to Shut Up and Sing, Joan Churchill, ASC was there to document their message.
One of the reasons Frasier ran for 151 episodes was that Ken Lamkin, ASC was behind the camera. George Mooradian, ASC made Emmy nominations a regular occurrence for his work on According to Jim. And Wayne Kennan, ASC gave the world some of its funniest moments with Seinfeld.
Michael Negrin, ASC trained his camera on Billy Joel as he courted Christie Brinkley in the video for Uptown Girl. And what do Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Britney Spears’ Boys and Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher have in common? They were all shot by Daniel Pearl, ASC.
Members of the ASC are generally pretty humble about their accomplishments. When we enter the Clubhouse, we all become equals. It’s not about egos or awards; it’s about hanging out and recognizing that we all got into this craft because telling visual stories is what we love to do.
One of my prized possessions is an ASC mug that bears the name Carl Berger, ASC. If you believe the databases, Carl is still alive, even though his first credit as a cinematographer was in 1932. His last documented film was 1967’s C’mon, Let’s Live A Little, a romp that I enjoyed as a youngster. According to the ASC’s records, Carl is well over 105 years old. Some think he might have died years ago and we just didn’t receive word, but I like to believe that Carl is still out there, and that he might yet walk through the Clubhouse doors again. I think his name will continue to be on the ASC roster for many years to come, because ASC cinematographers truly do live forever.