Magazine article American Cinematographer

Asc Close-Up

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Asc Close-Up

Article excerpt

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?

I was raised by my mother, and she didn't get home from work until 7 p.m. That allowed me to watch a movie every day on Million Dollar Movie - a dollar figure that gives away the era. Each week brought a new genre, and most of the movies were in black-and-white. I embraced them all.

Which cinematographers do you most admire?

I was spinning the dial of a hotel TV recently, and a single shot from America, Amedea, shot by Haskell Wexler, ASC, made me sit down and watch the whole movie. ASC members Gordon Willis and Sven Nyqvist changed the way I looked at movies and changed the way all movies looked. Work by Robbie Müller, BVK and Juan Ruiz-Anchia, ASC made me try harder. Nestor Almendros, ASC showed me, and all of us, the power of natural light. And I still hold images in my head from Henri Aiekan's work.

What sparked your interest in photography?

Seeing Cartier-Bresson's work when I was in high school. I saved up to buy a 35mm Nikon, and to get access to my school's darkroom, I became the photo editor of the yearbook, establishing a standard for sub-par yearbook effort that has probably not been matched since my tenure.

Where did you train and/or study?

At New York University's film school, I took cinematography classes with a Czech named Beda Batka. He was overbearing and didactic but knowledgeable. He insisted all his students buy the American Cinematographer Manual. I still have that edition.

What are some of your key artistic influences?

I spent all my summers in a house without electricity; it was filled with daylight, and we used kerosene lamps in the evenings. Perhaps because of that, I appreciate natural light and warm light from flames.

How did you get your first break in the business?

Thanks to a sound mixer, Mark Dichter, who convinced a producer I was a responsible guy, I was asked to shoot a half-hour TV show featuring a fallen Hungarian golf pro named Julius Boras. It was a kind of travelogue, and Julius, who hated fishing and travel, wandered the globe, fishing in exotic locations. The soundman and I would fish, and when one of us hooked a fish, we'd pass the rod to Julius, whom we then filmed landing the catch. On good days, I could persuade Julius to sit in a canoe or skiff in ankle-deep water while I put my back to the shore and found a nice, watery background. A year later, that same producer set up a prime-time show in New York, and the next thing I knew, I was the director of photography. I assembled a hard-working, experienced crew and faked my way through two successful seasons.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project? …

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