Magazine article American Cinematographer

Close-Up: John C. Flinn III, ASC

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Close-Up: John C. Flinn III, ASC

Article excerpt

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

1953's Shane - Alan Ladd, Van Heflin and Jack Palance. Loyal Griggs, ASC won an Academy Award for this movie, and George Stevens was nominated for directing. The look and direction were amazing. A great Western.

Which cinematographers, past or present do you most admire?

ASC members Robert Surtees, Conrad Hall, Bernie Guffey, Billy Fraker, Richard Kline, Richard Rawlings Sr., Monroe Askins Sr. and Freddie Young. Robert Morrison, as well.

What sparked your interest in photography?

As a child, I had an Eastman Kodak Baby Brownie Special. I still have it! Then I got an 8mm Keystone three-lens-turret magazine camera, and then a 16mm Cine-Kodak single-lens magazine camera. I still have those as well.

Where did you train and/or study?

My first day in camera was as a second assistant cameraman, and I knew nothing, so every day thereafter was school on the set. I took a lot of notes!

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

My teachers were the first-assistant cameramen I worked with. I was lucky to work at all the major studios at that time, and each studio had a different way of doing this or that, so it was a great opportunity to be able to learn from all those assistants. They were great.

What are some of your key artistic influences?

[ASC members] Bernie Guffey, for From Here to Eternity, Conrad Hall, for In Cold Blood; William Fraker, for Paint Your Wagon, Rosemary's Baby and Bullitt, Vilmos Zsigmond, for McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Allen Daviau, for Bugsy; Gordon Willis, for The Godfather, and Richard H. Kline, for Camelot. I was working part-time as an usher at the Warner Beverly Hills Theatre when I first saw Lawrence of Arabia, shot by Freddie Young. It was one of the most beautiful films I had seen. Later came Doctor Zhivago and then Ryan's Daughter. Young's work made a big impression on me.

How did you get your first break in the business?

My dad was direðor of advertising and publicity for Columbia Studios, and with his permission I went by and talked to camera-department head Bill Widemeyer, and told him that I really wanted to pursue this profession. About three weeks later, I got a call from him. …

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