The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry

Caleb Deschanel to Receive ASC Lifetime Achievement Award

November 2, 2009

Caleb Deschanel, ASC will receive the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Lifetime Achievement Award. He will be feted by his peers at the 24th Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards celebration here on February 27, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.

“Caleb Deschanel is an extraordinarily talented cinematographer who has played an influential role in cinema history, and driven artistic excellence in contemporary filmmaking,” says ASC President Michael Goi. “For him to receive this honor while still at the top of his field shows the profound influence and respect he has among his peers. His innovative cinematography is inspiring. We look forward to seeing what is yet to come in his work.”

Deschanel earned Oscar nominations for The Right Stuff in 1984, The Natural in 1985, Fly Away Home in 1997, The Patriot in 2001, and The Passion of the Christ in 2005. His body of work includes such memorable films as The Black Stallion, Being There, The Spiderwick Chronicles and My Sister’s Keeper. Deschanel has also earned an array of credits as a director of motion pictures and television programs.

“Caleb is still on the cutting edge of his remarkable career,” says Richard Crudo, ASC, who chairs the organization’s Awards Committee. “He has shot and directed documentaries and many commercials in addition to wonderful narrative films. Every one of his endeavors has been an exercise in exploring a new frontier.”

Deschanel joins a cast of legendary cinematographers who were previous recipients of this recognition, including George Folsey, ASC, Joseph Biroc, ASC, Stanley Cortez, ASC, Charles Lang, Jr. ASC, Phil Lathrop, ASC, Haskell Wexler, ASC, Conrad L. Hall, ASC, Gordon Willis, ASC, Sven Nykvist, ASC, Owen Roizman, ASC, Victor Kemper, ASC, Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, William A. Fraker, ASC, BSC, Vittorio Storaro, AC, AIC, Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, Bill Butler, ASC, Michael Chapman, ASC, Fred Koenenkamp, ASC, Richard Kline, ASC, Allen Daviau, ASC, Stephen Burum, ASC and Jack Green, ASC.

Deschanel blazed a non-traditional career path. He was born in Philadelphia. His family moved to Annapolis, Maryland, when he was 11 years old. Deschanel began experimenting with picture-taking when he received a Brownie Hawkeye camera as a birthday gift that year. He was a photographer for the school newspaper, and yearbook at Johns Hopkins University. During the summer following his freshman year, Deschanel took still photographs for record album covers and catalogs.

His interest in motion pictures was sparked by a French New Wave film festival organized by one of his instructors at Johns Hopkins. Fellow students encouraged Deschanel to enroll in the film studies program at the University of Southern California (USC) in 1967. By then, he was shooting 16mm educational films. After graduation, Deschanel earned a fellowship at the American Film Institute (AFI).

He sought out mentors who weren’t on the faculty, including Wexler, who encouraged him to experiment with shooting black-and-white film, and Willis, with whom he apprenticed for six weeks in New York. After graduation, Deschanel was living in Venice, California, making a living shooting educational films. One of his neighbors, Carroll Ballard, was directing films for the same company.

Deschanel collaborated with Ballard on the production of The Black Stallion, which was released to cinemas in 1979. Francis Ford Coppola was the executive producer. Deschanel took his first turn at the helm on a feature length film when he directed The Escape Artist, a 1982 release, produced by Coppola, Fred Roos and Doug Claybourne.

“One of the lessons I have learned is that the magic happens when a cinematographer develops and executes a visual style that compliments the director’s vision for the story,” Deschanel says. “I am learning every time I shoot a frame of film. When I’m not learning, I will know it’s time to quit. I didn’t get involved in filmmaking just as entertainment. Movies can inspire us to be better human beings.”

Filmmaking is a family affair. His wife Mary Jo Deschanel and daughters Emily and Zooey Deschanel are successful actresses.