Hollywood Cinematographers Lead Way for the Rest of the World

ASC Masterclass
Courtesy of ASC

As the largest and oldest cinematographer society, the ASC has long been a source of inspiration — and guidance — for overseas artists and international groups similarly dedicated to the craft.

“On a global scale, the ASC is respected as the first organization to elevate the work of the cinematographer in the eyes of the industry,” says Michael Goi (“American Horror Story”), a former ASC president. “Whether it’s the explorations we spearhead on burgeoning technologies or the way we bring attention to innovative techniques through our magazine and ASC Awards program, the ASC has been a galvanizing force.”
Cinematographers working far from Hollywood have relied on guidebooks and manuals from ASC for generations.

“In my early years, the ASC was the criteria of cinematography,” says “Mad Max: Fury Road” DP John Seale, who began his career in Australia before working in Hollywood and beyond. “We devoured all the information from its handbooks and eagerly awaited the new magazines to see how the ‘big boys’ in Hollywood were creating magic.”

During the Australian new wave of the 1970s and films like “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” on which he was a camera operator, “DPs used the ‘set’ formulas of Hollywood cinematography as guidelines that could be manipulated to accommodate their own culture’s individual presentation,” points out Seale, a member of Australia’s society in addition to ASC.

French cinematographer Richard Andry (“Madame la Proviseur”) and Denmark’s Dan Laustsen (“The Shape of Water”) both describe the ASC’s manuals as “filmmaking bibles” when they were getting their start decades ago. For the Frenchman they were “the key to a dream world.”

When Laustsen later met Kees Van Oostrum, the Amsterdam-born current president of ASC, “I realized how much amazing work the society does for the world of cinematography by harnessing and passing knowledge through generations of cinematographers.” He is a member of Denmark’s society as well as ASC.

Dozens of national cinematographic societies have adopted the ASC as their model. Among the newest and smallest is Lupon ng Pilipinong Sinematograpo in the Philippines.

Shayne Sarte (“Kailangan Kita”), a member of that society, commends the ASC for the technical information it shares with cinematographers and the entire film community. She adds: “The importance they give to continuing education is remarkable.”

The ASC may have helped define and advance cinema language but it has always been a two-way process. Just one example: The distinctive style of film noir has its roots in pre-World War I Europe, brought to Hollywood in the 1940s by cinematographers like Italian Nick Musuraca (“Out of the Past”).

Indeed, many ASC members are also members of overseas cinematographer societies. This, by default, has opened the exchange of ideas between the ASC and the rest of the world.

“The language of cinema becomes more universal as the ASC invites people to join its society,” says Santosh Sivan, director and cinematographer of “Ashoka the Great,” and a member of ASC and India’s society. “In doing so, the ASC respects the different sensibilities and cultures of each artist and together the craft of cinema moves forward.”

As digital technology threatens the role of the cinematographer “every aspect of the cinematographer’s art has the potential to be changed without our control,” asserts Roberto Schaefer, cinematographer of “The Kite Runner” and member of ASC and Italy’s cinematography society. “The ASC is taking a lead to protect and guide our vision from set to screen.”