The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry

ASC Honors Film Students For Outstanding Achievements

December 12, 2007
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has named Andrew M. Davis of Chapman University and Sean Stiegemeier of the American Film Institute (AFI) recipients of the Laszlo Kovacs Heritage Award for Outstanding Cinematography on a student project. The presentation will be made during the 22nd Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards here on January 26, 2008, at the Hollywood & Highland Grand Ballroom.

“This award is designed to encourage talented student filmmakers pursuing careers in cinematography,” says Isidore Mankofsky, ASC, chairman of the organization’s Education Committee. “These students have demonstrated an ability to use artful cinematography in a collaborative environment.”

A jury of ASC members also chose five students to receive honorable mentions. They are Stephanie Dufford of Columbia College Chicago, Jesse Eisenhardt of the University of Southern California (USC), Jeremy Grant of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Ali Moghadas of AFI, and Charlene Wang also of USC.

“We weren’t looking for beautiful images,” Mankofsky says. “We were judging how effectively the films submitted by student cinematographers helped their collaborators present their stories. We were impressed with all the entries.”

Applicants for the Heritage Award, which was established in 1998, must be either in their final year of film school or a recent graduate. Their film submissions must be accompanied by a written recommendation from a film school chair, dean or teacher.

“We re-dedicate the ASC Heritage Award annually to the memory of a different cinematographer each year,” Mankofsky says. “Kovacs was tireless in his efforts to support students and other young filmmakers. He taught master classes during summers in Hungary, and mentored students in countless seminars at U.S. film schools, festivals and at the ASC clubhouse. He was also chairman of the ASC Education Committee for many years, and envisioned the Heritage Award as a tangible way for us to inspire talented young cinematography students to pursue their dreams.”

Kovacs’ extensive body of work includes such classic films as Easy Rider, That Cold Day in the Park, Five Easy Pieces, Shampoo, What’s Up, Doc?, The King of Marvin Gardens, Paper Moon, New York, New York, The Runner Stumbles, Frances, Ghostbusters, Mask, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Miss Congeniality. He died July 22, 2007.

Davis is a native of Spokane, Wash. He earned is bachelor’s degree at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in May. Davis says he became captivated by historical photographs that had the power to inform about a period in time or sequence of events. His passion for imagery combined with a love for narrative storytelling both in literature and cinema drew him to cinematography. The Line is the second short film Davis has shot for fellow Chapman colleague and director Kent Bassett. The film focuses on two sets of fathers and sons whose characters attempt to rebuild their relationships under new circumstances and then lives eventually cross paths. It has screened at the Palm Springs, Arpa and Whistler International Film Festivals.

“Based on photographs taken by migrants crossing the border and ranchers along the border, I tried to illuminate their sense of optimism and companionship as well as their desperation and isolation,” says Davis of his cinematographic approach. “We chose the Super 35 widescreen aspect ratio to allow us to completely isolate characters within the vast landscapes of the story.”

Stiegemeier was born and raised in Park City, Utah. His interest in photography led him to Chapman University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in film production. In December, he graduated from AFI with a master’s in cinematography. Stiegemeier submitted his AFI thesis film The Butcher’s Daughter. It follows a young farm girl living with her aging father on the secluded plains of the Midwest during the Great Depression whose lives are forever changed when rumrunners show up on their doorstep making demands and secrets are revealed.

Stiegemeier says an Andrew Wyeth painting called “Christina’s World” set the look that he and his director and producer envisioned. “As the film begins, it’s very warm, bright and comfortable,” he says. “As the daughter discovers the truth about her father’s past and their relationship begins to dwindle, the images become grainier and have more contrast. I’m elated that the ASC jury saw something special in it.”