Director of photography Petra Korner received the Kodak Vision Award for Cinematography at the Women in Film’s annual Crystal + Lucy Awards on June 12. The honor goes to a woman who has “made significant contributions to advancing the art form.”
Peter Boyce, an executive with the Kodak Entertainment Imaging Division, said Korner was being recognized for “bringing passion and high standards to every project she photographs, and her accomplishments are an inspiration to other young filmmakers.”
Jennifer Aniston and Holly Hunter were also honored “for expanding the role of women in entertainment.”
Born in Vienna and currently based in Buenos Aires, Korner studied filmmaking at NYU and received her master’s at the American Film Institute. Korner recently finished work on 25/8, directed by Wes Craven, known for his horror films. She also was DP on The Informers, released earlier this year, which starred Ben Kingsley. Her breakthrough came on The Wackness, a film about dissolute young New Yorkers in the 1990s, which won the Dramatic Audience Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
“I’ve been intrigued by moving images for as long as I can remember,” said Korner. “I used to be really into avant-garde and experimental films. But seeing films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now made me turn my attention towards Hollywood with its unsurpassed talent pool.”
The DP—who is fluent in French, German, English and Spanish—has worked on projects throughout the world. “I tend to get hired for jobs all over, because I have a strange reel,” said Korner. “We used to call it the ‘third world reel’—Africa, Panama, Mexico, Uruguay… Now it’s a bit different.” Working outside the United States “really opens your mind as to what you can accomplish with very little.”
She’s moved on to feature films with bigger budgets, like 25/8. “This was my first studio picture, which was nice,” said Korner. “It’s refreshing being surrounded by people who are so good at what they do.”
Craven was “an absolute genius, and an inspiration to be around,” the DP added. “He’s got the wisdom of a man with 30 years of filmmaking under his belt, the energy of a teenager, and the gift to get as excited as a child.”
“Nothing compares to the electricity of being on set,” she said. “No matter how sleep deprived, the adrenaline and the immediacy of the job infuse me with energy. I get a rush every time I see my lights come on, and there is nothing more rewarding than looking through a lens, seeing it all come together in the frame.”
Among working cinematographers, she named Bob Richardson, ASC, as the one who has probably influenced her the most. “The man has amazing guts, and his bold imagery has always reminded me to be brave and take risks.” After seeing Snow Falling on Cedars, she decided “this is what cinematography is all about, this is what I want to do.”
She described the present generation of DPs as “unparalleled,” mentioning ASC members Roger Deakins, Janusz Kaminski, Darius Wolski, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Eduardo Serra as “brilliant artists who continue to inspire me with every film they shoot.”
As for the paucity of women cinematographers, she says, “I like to think that being a woman doesn’t make much of a difference these days.”
Technical fields have always attracted less women, and the career path “does at one point involve loading trucks and breaking your back carrying cable, which is another reason why there are so few of us. But I don’t believe that our society today makes it any harder—or easier—for women to succeed as long as they’re good at what they’re doing.”
The previous recipients of the Kodak Vision Award are Nancy Schreiber, ASC, Sandi Sissel, ASC, Ellen Kuras, ASC, Lisa Rinzler, Amelia Vincent, ASC, Carolyn Chen, Tami Reiker, ASC, Maryse Alberti, Uta Briesewitz and Mandy Walker, ACS.