Camera Operators to Honor Veteran Still Photographer Frank Masi With Lifetime Achievement Award

The worst thing you could do is not give the studio a lot of options,” says unit photographer Frank Masi, whose stills have helped show off more than 70 films, from 1995’s “Gordy” to Disney’s upcoming “Jungle Cruise.” Masi has shot photos of stars Will Smith, Bruce Willis, Will Ferrell, Cameron Diaz, Dwayne Johnson and Hugh Jackman, to name just a few, over a 25-year career.

In a single day, Masi, 53, can snap and send upwards of 800 images. Not all still photographers share this methodology, but it has worked for him. On Jan. 18, the Society of Camera Operators will recognize his contributions to the industry with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Masi has galleries of memories from working on movies like “I, Tonya,” “The Hangover,” “Hancock,” “War of the Worlds,” “What Dreams May Come” and many others.

He recalls a day on “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007) when Willis fired a gun directly into the lens of the motion picture camera. Try as he might, Masi couldn’t capture the same composition. So he pulled Willis aside and, with the blessing of the show’s armorer, asked the actor to fire directly at him. “I lay down while Bruce unloaded his gun in my face [behind a piece of durable plexiglass Lexan],” says Masi, adding that his efforts resulted in a great shot.

It’s a level of trust that goes both ways. “Frank’s quality of work and set presence make him my go-to still photographer,” says Willis. “He innately understands how to balance remaining unobtrusive on a set and getting the shot. After meeting and working with Frank for the first time on ‘Armageddon,’ I had so much trust in him that I’ve asked for him on every film.” Willis even asked Masi to photograph his 2009 wedding.

For 2018’s sci-fi monster film “Rampage,” Warner Bros. asked Masi to shoot the promotional campaign as well. The studio wanted the shots to look natural. Between scenes, he pulled aside its star, Johnson — another frequent collaborator — for a few minutes at a time to capture the images. “We did it all with just exterior lighting, no assistants, and no hair and makeup close by like you would normally have in a studio,” Masi notes.  

Johnson says that what separates Masi’s work from that of others in Hollywood is his ability to capture emotions and actions that occur in the middle of shooting a scene. “He has great anticipation for moments and a great eye for beautiful composition,” Johnson notes. “And most importantly, he’s a great dude with a big heart — and that matters most to me.”

For director Todd Phillips’ “The Hangover,” Masi was shooting on set when Phillips said he’d also like to include some images at the end of the film as part of the credits. The photos needed to look like the characters had taken them, and everything Masi had shot for the project was too clean. “I went out and got a small, simple, point-and-shoot camera with a bright flash,” he explains.

Phillips says that Masi has an uncanny ability to disappear when needed and yet to capture “the stunning frames he manages to capture. I remember the late nights [when] Frank and I would run around Las Vegas with the actors from ‘The Hangover,’ coming up with insane ideas and creating wild scenarios of what may have happened on that fateful night. Frank is a true professional, and he understands the code on a cellular level: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — unless Frank Masi happens to be there with his camera!” 

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Coronavirus Placeholder COVID19 Variety

    IATSE Estimates Up to 95% of Its Members Are Out of Work Due to Coronavirus

    As many as 95% of IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) below-the-line crafts workers are currently out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. The figures come as over 3.3 million Americans have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment benefits. In an email to Variety Monday, director of communications Jonas Loeb said, “Estimates are [...]

  • 20190702_788LCDP_S4_tamaraarranz_DSC_9303.nef

    Spanish TV Industry Adjusts to Harsh Realities of the Coronavirus Crisis

    The Spanish TV industry has been shaken by the dramatic impact of the coronavirus crisis, but it is fighting back. Industry players have reacted fast, pushing forward with development, post-production and other business activities using online tools, and with the expectation of supporting funds from both public and private initiatives that will mitigate the effects [...]

  • His Dark Materials HBO

    'His Dark Materials' Costumers Make Scrubs for U.K. Medics Fighting Coronavirus

    Costumers behind the Bad Wolf-produced HBO and BBC fantasy series “His Dark Materials” have united to make scrubs for medical staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the U.K. The initiative, titled “Helping Dress Medics,” brings together a number of staff in the series’ costume department in Cardiff, Wales, and around the U.K. to stitch garments [...]

  • The Pennybox LTC Sandra Pennington

    How DIY Gear Is Helping Camera Crews Get the Job Done and Changing the Industry

    Cinematographers and their camera crews often tweak equipment to fit their needs. Sometimes it results in Garrett Brown inventing, designing and building the Oscar-winning Steadicam, or Nic Sadler developing the Artemis Director’s Viewfinder, which earned him an Engineering Emmy. But DPs and camera assistants regularly create tools and accessories to help them and their colleagues become [...]

  • Charm City Kings Movie

    How 'Charm City Kings' Cinematographer Throttled Up the Realism

    Puerto Rican director Ángel Manuel Soto stuck with his decision to bring on cinematographer Katelin Arizmendi for Sony’s “Charm City Kings” despite the studio’s desire for someone with more experience. Though Arizmendi’s credits included just a pair of indie features, Soto knew that her use of naturalistic light with touches of heightened realism were ideal [...]

  • Crip Camp

    How 'Crip Camp' Allowed Co-Director Jim LeBrecht Tell His Story of Representation

    The new Netflix documentary “Crip Camp” centers on Camp Jened, a summer camp for those with disabilities. As told in the doc, it would go on to spark something of a revolution in the disability rights movement. Filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (who had worked with Newnham as a sound designer on her projects) [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content