Vilmos Zsigmond Named Kodak Cinematographer in Residence at UCLA;
Free Screening of
April 30, 2009
Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC has been named Kodak Cinematographer in Residence for the spring quarter at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Theater, Film and Television. The mentorship program was inaugurated by Professor William McDonald with the support of Kodak in 2000.
The residency program will begin with a free screening of McCabe & Mrs. Miller at the James Bridges Theater on the UCLA campus in Westwood at 8 p.m. on Monday, May 11. Zsigmond shot that classic 1971 Western in collaboration with director Robert Altman. McDonald will moderate a discussion with Zsigmond after the screening. The public is invited to attend along with faculty and students.
“The generous spirit of cinematographers, their passion for their art form, and their willingness to share their knowledge and insights has made this program an extraordinarily valuable experience for our students,” McDonald says.
Deliverance, The Long Goodbye, Cinderella Liberty, The Rose, The Witches of Eastwick and Maverick are among the many other memorable films in his body of work.
“Vilmos is both a talented artist and a role model for young filmmakers as they prepare to enter this very competitive industry,” says Peter Boyce, general manager of the Americas region for Kodak’s Entertainment Imaging Division. “It is our privilege to continue our support for this residency program. Our dedication to investing in tomorrow’s filmmakers is as steadfast as our commitment to the future of film.”
Zsigmond was born and raised in Szeged, Hungary. He was a self-taught, passionate still photographer during his teens. Zsigmond worked in a rope factory, where he organized a camera club and taught his co-workers how to take pictures. That earned him an opportunity to study at the Academy of Theater and Film Art in Budapest.
“During my first year at film school, we studied sculpting, painting and other arts before we touched a motion picture camera,” Zsigmond recalls. “(Professor) György Illés and my other mentors taught me to appreciate all of the arts.”
Zsigmond arrived in the United States as a political refugee in February 1957. He worked at still film laboratories in Chicago and New York while he was learning to speak English one word at a time. Zsigmond moved to Los Angeles in 1959 to help Josef Zsuffa, a fellow Hungarian immigrant, produce a short film.
“Robert (Altman) wanted the film to look like old faded pictures,” Zsigmond recalls. “I had read an article about Freddie Young (BSC) flashing film to get that look. I both pre-exposed and pushed the negative to get the look Robert wanted. Executives at the studio hated the look when they saw dailies. They wanted Robert to fire me, but he fooled them by blaming it on the lab. He said, ‘They don’t know how to make dailies.’”
Zsigmond stayed in touch with Illés, his other teachers and classmates in Hungary by mail. In 1970, a Hungarian film titled A pál-utcai fiúk (The Boys from Paul Street) was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category. Illés was the cinematographer. Zsigmond was at the airport to greet his mentor when the plane landed in Los Angeles.
“The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Why aren’t you coming home to visit?’” Zsigmond says. “When I asked György how I could repay him for all that he had done for me, he told me to reach out to and help the next generation of filmmakers.”
Zsigmond subsequently arranged regular visits to the film school in Hungary. After the Cold War ended, he and Kovacs helped to organize a bi-annual, two-week masterclass in cinematography at their alma mater for students from around the world.
For more information about the May 11 screening of McCabe & Mrs. Miller visit www.tft.ucla.edu or call 310-206-8365. Admission is free. There is a $9 parking fee. A limited number of pay-by-the-hour parking spaces are also available in Lot 3. For more information about Kodak, visit www.kodak.com/go/motion.
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