Magazine article American Cinematographer

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Magazine article American Cinematographer

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Article excerpt

Dennis Muren, ASC

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

When I saw Tfie 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1 958), I was knocked out. I saw it eight times in the first week, which wasn't easy for an 1 1 -year-old who couldn't drive to the movie theater. Korda's The Thief of Bagdad (1940) was another huge influence.

Which cinematographers, past or present do you most admire?

John "Hard Way" Fulton, ASC was always looking for the better effects shot, no matter what it took to make it. His ideas were progressive, and the shots were surprising in a good way. Of the live-action cinematographers, [I admire] ASC members Charles Lang and Gregg Toland and all the usual suspects, some of whom I've been lucky to work with, love the classically perfect shot.

What sparked your interest in photography?

To have a visual reminder of an effects shot I'd seen in a movie, I'd use a toy spaceship or plastic dinosaur and try copying the shot, which gave me a print that I could study and hold.

Where did you train and/or study?

I was self-taught. There was no real interest in effects until Sfar Wars came along - no classes, nothing. So I had to guess how things were done and shoot my own stills and 8mm and 16mm effects movies. Occasionally, American Cinematographer would have an effects article with pictures!

Who were your eariy teachers or mentors?

In the '60s, there were only a dozen of us effects fans in Los Angeles. One was Jim Danforth, who graciously took time to teach me about art and film and quality. Phil Kellison gave me my first job using 35mm gear, shooting effects commercials at Cascade Pictures. Phil was an amazing cameraman who knew how to light a dime to look like a dollar. I also found people in the phone book. Bill Abbott, ASC kindly let me watch some model shoots at the Sersen Tank in Maiibu.

What are some of your key artistic influences?

When I was a kid, The Beatles, Ray Harryhausen, John Singer Sargent, Arthur Penn and the real world. Today, it's the real world, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Jim Cameron, Phil Tippett, Steve Jobs and the Internet.

How did you get your first break in the business?

[Future ASC members] John Dykstra and Richard Edlund hired me at the start of Star Wars. John felt my camera/stop-motion background might be valuable in shooting with his new computer-controlled cameras. …

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