Hosting the 32nd ASC Awards, Ben Mankiewicz of TCM and great fan of cinematography, set the tone and entertained the room. “I’m honored to be asked to host the ASC awards, and even more so when I learned that none of tonight’s nominees had to be replaced by Christopher Plumber. Congratulations to all of you. This is a great partnership – TCM and the ASC.”
Dean Semler, ACS, ASC, who shot Malificent and Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, In The Land of Blood and Honey, presented her with the Board of Governor’s award to a “very special woman who made her indelible mark, not only on our industry, but across the whole planet. She’s a great film director, a wonderful actress, a dedicated humanitarian, a wonderful mother, and a cinematographer’s dream.”
Accepting her award, Jolie kicked off the evening by thanking her producing partner Michael Vieiera and by praising the cinematographers she’s worked with. “I was actually taught to direct by a few amazing DPs, artists and storytellers, Dean, Christian Berger, Anthony Dod Mantle, Roger Deakins, and their teams. They’re not just a source of light, they are the other directors on set.” But what really hit home was her strong statement about women in the industry. “I think of the opportunities I’ve had as a woman and the female artists before us, for whom the freedom to pursue art and ideas, independent of and on equal footing, was a bitter dream, and the many ways in which women still struggle to live and work on equal terms. I’m very excited to see more women making their mark in cinematography and being recognized for it. I’m hopeful that in our lifetimes we will see that rise in the voices of women across all societies – that surge of light that has been held back for far too long.”
The award for Episode of a Series for Commercial Television was presented by actor Sean Astin, whose segue involved a story about Andrew Lesnie, ACS, ASC, from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As Lesnie was lighting a shot where the only window was a “tiny cement groove,” Astin asked him, “Hey Andrew, where’s that light supposed to be coming from? He looked at me and said, ‘same place as the music.’”
The winner of the Commercial Television award was Boris Mojsovski, CSC, for 12 Monkeys, “Thief.” Caught off guard, Mojsovski said, “I didn’t prepare a speech because David Green was supposed to win. He was my mentor always, and he’s the real master. I share this with him.” He also mentioned his father, a retired cinematographer, who “taught me how to be a good filmmaker, be honest, to always push for the best, and put the movie or TV show first.”
Actor Daniel Dae Kim presented the Television Career Lifetime Achievement Award to Alan Caso, ASC for Lost, Hawaii Five-O and Hellboy. As Kim explained, Caso created Hawaii Five-O’s signature look, which he did with “class, grace and an easy smile. All things that can be in short supply when working under the rigors of a network television schedule.” Kim added that Caso is dedicating himself to “helping a new generation of cinematographers get the opportunities they need to succeed.”
In Caso’s extremely humble acceptance, he took a moment to explain that in today’s politically charged climate, with the sexual harassment plague finally coming to light, “I found myself ashamed and appalled, especially while working abroad, or here with talent from other countries, at the blatant sexism and racism on display. I realized how much of a hypocrite I was, complaining about the problem, while surrounding myself with an almost exclusively white male crew. I swore to myself I would spend the remaining years of my career mentoring and kicking in some doors for aspiring cinematographers who don’t look like me.”
Actress Kerri Kenney-Silver presented the award for Motion Picture, Miniseries or Pilot Made for Television to Mathias Herndl, AAC, who could not attend, and accepted the honor on his behalf for Genius, Chapter 1.
ASC president, Kees Van Oostrum spoke about the organization’s impressive list of accomplishments, highlighting the fact that they are breaking ground this year on the new ASC Educational Center, “a state of the art facility, which will house our educational endeavors.” A hundred years of the ASC Magazine will soon be available online. And they just “unveiled the restored Mitchell #2, known as the directorial camera from Citizen Kane, among others.” Van Oostrum continued, “This year marks the first time a female cinematographer is nominated for a feature award,” referring to Rachel Morrison, ASC, who was nominated for her stunning work on Mudbound. Finally, he presented the Bud Stone Award to ASC associate member Frieder Hochheim, for starting the fluorescent revolution in lighting, and went on to create Kino-Flo, along with Gary Swank.
Hochheim, surprised at the award, responded, “the ASC has been a very important element in my entire career. All the cinematographers I ever worked with have meant so much to me, have taught me so much. A big thanks to Robby Mueller, ASC for being one of the first people to truly support me in this whacky idea of taking fluorescent tubes and using them on movie sets,” the first of which was Barfly.
Student cinematographers received The Andrew Lesnie Heritage Award, including Favienne Howsepisn, from AFI, for her thesis film, Snowplow, and Logan Fulton, an undergrad at Loyola Marymount University, for Widow. The Haskell Wexler Student Documentary Award was granted to Connor Ellmann, from USC, for Forever Home.
Bob Gazzale, the president and CEO of the American Film Institute, presented the ASC President’s Award to Stephen Lighthill, ASC, for his body of work and service to the industry. Gazzale touched on Lighthill’s extensive career as a documentary and narrative cinematographer, including work on Gimme Shelter, The Grateful Dead, and the series Nash Bridges, along with a story involving the time Lighthill strapped himself to the back of a camel to shoot for National Geographic.
Rachel Morrison, ASC, one of this year’s Theatrical Release nominees for Mudbound, summed it up in the presentation video: “Stephen taught me to put the story first–cinematography in service of the narrative. He helped usher the American Film Institute into the modern age, finding a balance between digital technology and preserving the tradition of celluloid. Stephen has given everything to the AFI, the ASC, to local 600 and to helping students make the transition into working cinematographers.”
Accepting the award, Lighthill thanked his crew, and the amazing cinematography faculty at the AFI Conservatory. Lighthill noted, “They’re all working cinematographers who are smart, collaborative, supportive, and the secret to my success.” Referring to the fact that the ASC is 99 years old, Lighthill stated, “we will applaud the 99th female cinematographer who has graduated during my tenure at AFI.”
Speaking of those who attribute the increasing number of female cinematographers to the advent of smaller sized cameras, he emphatically declared, “The number of women in our ranks is not about the weight of the equipment; it has to do with the struggle we have waged for diversity, equality, and filmmaking. As novelist Ursula K. Le Guin once said, ‘resistance and change come first from artists.’”
Richard Crudo recognized Owen Roizman who received the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 and an honorary Oscar in 2017 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Noted Crudo, “Owen redefined the look of feature films in the 1970s.”
“Last Fall, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences took a huge step” said Crudo, “by making Owen only the third cinematographer in the Academy’s 90 year history to be so recognized.” Roizman is known for his gritty poetic realism as part of the American New Wave, with films like The French Connection and The Taking of Pelham 123. He continued to push cinematic conventions with Network, Tootsie and The Exorcist.
John Bailey, ASC, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, presented the Spotlight Award to Mart Taniel, ESC for November, adding that Taniel’s work “embodies well considered beauty in every shot that should inspire us all.” In accepting the award, Taniel explained how Daniel Pearl, ASC approached him at Cameraimage after the November screening. “Thank you, Daniel. It fills the space between my lungs with great warmth, so if you excuse me now, I can go home and have a heart attack.”
Mandy Walker, ASC, ACS, known for her cinematography on Hidden Figures, and Shattered Glass, presented the International Award to her mentor and friend Russell Boyd, ASC, ACS. Boyd learned the craft of cinematography while shooting documentaries, newsreels, commercials, and dramas, but the film that put him on the map was Pete Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. Boyd, known as Russ Bob in Australia, thanked his wife for all her support. “I’ve always felt that travel is one of the highlights of my work. The down side is spending a long time away from the family, but the up side is we get to work with great film artisans from various parts of the world and make life long friends along the way. Collectively, this is their award too.” Boyd also thanked his camera crew from Master and Commander, since he didn’t get the chance when winning the Academy Award. In particular, he mentioned “Sandy Sissel, ASC, who did excellent work as our second unit DP, shooting amazing combat scenes near the end of the film, and much more.”
Adriano Goldman won the award for Episode of a Series for Non-Commercial Television for The Crown, “Smoke and Mirrors.” Goldman thanked the ASC for the honor and Netflix for the opportunity, “but I really want to thank Claire Foy for being such an amazing inspiration. I think if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here now, honestly. Trying to keep up with her standards has been one of my main goals.”
Legend Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC, known for LA Confidential, The Last of the Mohicans and The Insider, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Russell Carpenter, ASC. Aside from Titanic, Carpenter is known for The Indian in the Cupboard, Ant-Man and xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Spinotti expressed Carpenter’s “passion for the craft, the photography, light and shadows, and how he sees the beauty in human beings and the world.” He continued, “Russell has the finest loyal collaborators, who love working with him. He’s able to deal with huge projects, some of which are politically difficult, but also technically advanced and complex.”
Carpenter expressed his “gratitude to the ASC for years ago bringing me into this community of magicians, sorcerers and marvelous people to work in a world that is pure alchemy and enchantment.” About his long journey towards his dream, Carpenter “had to change from somebody who needed a lot of recognition to somebody who could recognize the people in front of me.” In the end, Carpenter had words of wisdom for young cinematographers: “In the midst of pursuing your dreams, I suggest you notice everything. Use all your senses, on even the tiniest things, because it is in so many of these receptive moments of truly seeing what you see, that you create the only camera that ever really matters to the world, and that’s the camera of your own personal vision and your own personal gifts.”
Mankiewicz introduced the presenters for the Theatrical Release category. “Our final presenters are no strangers to the ASC stage. One is an Academy and ASC award nominee, the other a five time ASC award winner and eight time Oscar nominee, Matthew Libatique, ASC and Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC, or Cheevo, as he’s known.”
Cheevo shared, “A little note I found on a projector booth in Mexico when I was starting as a cinematographer.” He read, ‘cinematography does not merely show a story as it unfolds, but it actually unfolds the story,’ and I think the nominees tonight achieve that with their beautiful work.”
Libatique announced the nominees: Roger Deakins leads us on a stunning sci-fi journey of shimmering colors and moving lights while still managing to ground us in naturalism in Blade Runner 2049. Bruno Delbonnel contrasts deep shadows and magnificent light to paint the portrait of a world leader confronting his own self-doubts in Darkest Hour. Dan Lausten brings an impossible love affair to life through a symphonic choreography of light and color in The Shape of Water. Rachel Morrison’s landscape fills the frame; the earth and sky draw breath becoming central characters in Mudbound. And through Hoyte Van Hoytema’s camera work on land, sea and sky we experience the massive scope and scale of a heroic rescue in Dunkirk.
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC won the big award, which was accepted by his wife, James Deakins. “Roger is incredibly honored to be included in this year’s group of nominees, whose work he greatly admires. So he shares this award with Rachel, Hoyte, Bruno, and Dan. Because filmmaking is such a collaborative effort, he also shares this award with his hard working crew, including the team at E-Film, who as usual, contributed greatly to the final result. Roger also shares this award with Denis Villeneuve on their third collaboration. Not only is Denis a wonderful and talented director to work with, but also a close friend. It’s a very special privilege in filmmaking, which can often feel like being in the trenches, to be able to experience it with your friends. Lastly, he’d like to give a special shout out to the producers of Alcon Entertainment, Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson. It was a long and complicated shoot, but they were always there to support and facilitate what Denis and Roger were attempting to achieve. So thank you, ASC, for this really great honor.”