Gil Cates: Board of Governor’s Award
Gil Cates might best be known as the perennial producer of the Academy Awards, but the American Society of Cinematographers views him as a renaissance man.
“He has produced and directed many memorable movies, television shows and stage plays,” says ASC vice president Owen Roizman. “Gil was also a forward-thinking president of the Directors Guild of America, and a visionary educator who inspired and enabled countless young filmmakers to follow their dreams.”
Members of the ASC might seem like a clubby bunch, but they’re all about passing the torch to the next generation. Cates still teaches classes at UCLA’s film, theater and TV school, where he became the first dean when the film and theater departments merged in 1990. As recipient of ASC’s Board of Governors Award, Cates is being recognized as one “who has made significant and enduring contributions to advancing the art of filmmaking.”
Among those who’ve received the award in years past are Gregory Peck, Fay Kanin, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman and Stanley Donen.
The connective tissue might be that they have all “made a difference,” according to ASC president Richard Crudo.
Cates — whose Hollywood career dates back to the early ’60s, and whose directing credits include the features “I Never Sang for My father” and “Summer Wishes, Winter Dream” and the TV productions “After the Fall” and “The Last Married Couple in America” — came to the biz indirectly.
By his father’s requirement, Cates enrolled as a premed student at Syracuse U., but when his fencing hobby got him a gig as a fencing adviser on a Shakespeare theater production, he says, “I told my father as a freshman during Thanksgiving that I was going to be a director — a theater director.”
The stage experience has served him well at the Geffen Playhouse, which he helped to found and where he continues to direct plays. He’s been the producing director since the theater was born and the 2005-2006 season marks its 10th anniversary.
If the members of ASC’s awards committee consider Cates a Brahmin of sorts, the admiration is mutual. “The heart and soul of moviemaking is the cinematographer,” says Cates. “He’s the only one that doesn’t work in any other art form.”
Cates continues, “A writer writes movies and plays, an actor acts in television movies and plays, but a cinematographer only exists in film. He or she is the unique voice in film and that’s why I’m so thrilled to be getting this award from them.”
— Lisa Hirsch
Leonard Maltin: Distingished Achievement
Maltin digs beneath the surface
Within the filmmaking community, top cinematographers are achieving the kind of rock-star status once reserved for directors. But not everybody understands what d.p.s do, and critics often fail to credit their work in reviews.
Leonard Maltin, however, is an exception, which is why he’s only the third journalist and/or critic to be honored by the American Society of Cinematographers.
Maltin will be feted with the ASC distinguished achievement award at the society’s 19th annual kudofest Feb. 13. He joins ex-Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin, who received the board of governors kudo in 1991, and 2003 special achievement honoree Roger Ebert.
ASC award committee chair Owen Roizman cites 1976 book “The Art of the Cinematographer” (originally released in 1971 as “Behind the Camera”), which consists of conversations with lensers Arthur Miller, Hal Mohr, Harold Rosson, Lucien Ballard and Conrad Hall as one of Maltin’s most notable works.
“His interviews with those five amazing cinematographers explored territory where very few journalists or authors had previously ven-tured,” Roizman says. “He asked insightful questions about the roles they played in the collaborative process of filmmaking. It was an ex-traordinary effort for a 21-year-old student.”
“I think one reason that book turned out so well is that I didn’t know anything (about cinematography),” admits Maltin. “I had a crash course over a couple of weeks time with these guys who virtually invented cinematography. I got to soak up in a short time some of the meaning of what (cinematographers) contribute to every film we see.”
Maltin notes that recently cinematography has become even more complex and hard to understand and appreciate. “There is such a high level of competence in most mainstream films now. You sort of expect (films) to look good. But it has gotten really difficult because of all the computer imagery. So you don’t know where real photography ends and the digital paintbrush begins. But as somebody said to me the other night, a good d.p. is looking at everything and making sure everything is seamless and looks the way it is supposed to look.”
— Addie Morfott
Richard Moore: President’s Award
In the late ’40s, after graduating with a degree from USC film school, Richard Moore was making beer steins for college frats — just to stay busy.
“In those days, (fellow USC grads) like Conrad Hall and Bill Fraker and myself were having a hell of a hard time finding something to do,” says the co-founder of Panavision. “What do you do with a degree in cinema from USC, it meant nothing really.”
It’s not as if Moore had slacker tendencies, his drive was too rigorous for that — so much so that Moore had a hand in some of the most im-portant developments in camera equipment, for which he is being honored by the American Society of Cinematogrpahers with its presidents award.
A childhood passion for photography steered Moore into the camera business as a young man. He was shooting travelogues, which he calls “little, stinky 16mm projects,” when a travel film he shot was parlayed into a free round-trip ticket to Europe. Once there he visited the Arri-flex camera factory and, as he put it, “conned them into letting me be their representative on the West Coast.”
He met future iconic cinematographer Hall (“American Beauty,” “In Cold Blood”) on a shark-hunting trip he took with fraternity brothers to Tahiti. They opened a camera shop in Westwood Village to sell the Arriflex. But as it turns out, they only stocked the camera for nine months, because, “we couldn’t sell a camera, because the industry just wasn’t ready for them.”
Soon he began helping his pal Robert Gottchalk as he was developing an underwater camera casing and the two of them founded Panavi-sion, first selling anamorphic lenses, and later developing 35mm and 65mm cameras. He cites timing as crucial to their success, as studios were terrified at being overcome by TV and were ripe for new equipment.
He developed cameras at Panavision for nearly nine years, until his passion for filmmaking led him to start using the equipment. A varied career followed, working as a cameraman, cinematographer and director. His d.p. credits include such films as “The Reivers,” “Myra Breckin-ridge” and “Annie.” He cites as the highlights of his career shooting President Johnson when he traveled to Spain in 1966 to discuss the Viet-nam War, and shooting four films starring Paul Newman. He’s spending these days writing screenplays, which he’s currently shopping around town.
Says Moore, “Becoming a cameraman and becoming a part of Panavision was strictly, I don’t know what you’d call it, luck or fate? It’s something I didn’t plan on — it just happened.”
— Lisa Hirsch