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.

Popular on Variety

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!” 

More Artisans

  • George MacKay as Schofield in "1917,"

    '1917,' 'Jojo Rabbit' and 'Parasite' Lead Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “1917” continued its award-winning streak on Sunday night when it took home the feature motion picture – dialogue award at the MPSE Golden Reel Awards, recognizing outstanding achievement in sound editing. Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” won for feature motion picture – music underscore. The Golden Reel Awards presented prizes in 23 categories encompassing feature films, [...]

  • Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME..Tony Stark/Iron Man

    How 'Avengers: Endgame' Publicity Team Made Headlines By Saying Nothing At All

    Secrecy and strategy were fundamental when it comes to marketing the MCU films. After 14 years and 22 films, those two factors were crucial when it came to planning the rollout for the final installment,  “Avengers: Endgame.” Earlier this week, the publicity team behind the film’s campaign was nominated for the ICG Publicist Awards. Union [...]

  • The Farewell Movie BTS

    Academy Falls Short on Diversity, but Foreign Films Crash ACE Eddies Party

    The American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards, which will be handed out Jan. 17, will for the first time give voters a choice of selecting a foreign-language film in each of the three categories. The trio in contention are: “The Farewell” (comedy), “Parasite” (dramatic) and “I Lost My Body” (animated). “This is the first time in our [...]

  • Best Documentary Scenes from 2019

    Directors Describe Their Key Scenes in the Past Year’s Top Documentary Films

    The directors of this awards season’s documentary hopefuls explain the ticking hearts at the center of their shortlisted films. Apollo 11, Director: Todd Douglas Miller  Setting the Scene: The pre-launch sequence for the first mission in which humans landed on the moon, featuring NASA workers and regular citizens alike. “It encapsulates everything and highlights a lost [...]

  • Paris Recreated for Movie Productions on

    TSF Recreates Paris on Former Air Base for Movie and TV Shoots

    As French outfits move to expand their studio offerings, industry eyes have turned to a 20-hectare stretch of land 20 miles south of Paris. There, in the commune Plessis-Pâté, sits the TSF Backlot 217, a converted air base that has become one the Gallic industry’s banner initiatives. One of France’s leading production suppliers, TSF scoped [...]

  • DSC07163.ARW

    Streamers Urge French Production Sector to Go Green

    For the French industry, the drive to open up additional studio spaces has gone hand-in-hand with the push for green production, because for the most part, they share the same root cause: The international streamers that are causing a surge in audiovisual production tend to have strict criteria when it comes to sustainable development. “Companies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content