James A. Chressanthis

D.p. sees light in 'Shadows'

“I took my first snapshot when I was 10,” James Chressanthis recalls. “I originally enrolled in college as an engineering major, but followed my heart and earned a master’s in fine arts.”

After graduation, Chressanthis sculpted and taught art at a Michigan college. During a summer visit to a village in Greece, where generations of his family had lived, he created a filmic diary that won awards on the festival circuit. That inspired him to investigate a new career at the American Film Institute. Chressanthis subsequently lensed nearly 100 musicvideos until he found a niche shooting visually edgy telefilms and low-budget features.

He earned his first Emmy nomination for the miniseries “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” and has moved on to shoot the remake of the TV classic “Brian’s Song.”

“Our re-creations of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’ ‘A Star Is Born’ and ‘Girl Crazy’ scenes are tributes to the cinematography of those classic films,” he says of the Garland biopic. “I had to do justice to those films. They are masterpieces.”

Chressanthis observes, “A lot of people don’t understand what we do. There’s a direct correlation to sculpting. Cinematographers create multi-dimensional moving images in space and time, and we model with light and movement to tell a story the same way a sculptor works with clay. I marvel at all our technical advances, but it’s no substitute for talent or the ability to create the visually sophisticated images the audience expects.”