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Film News Roundup: Stephen Lighthill Elected President of American Society of Cinematographers

Stephen LighthillKodak Film Awards, Arrivals, Los
Michael Buckner/Variety/Shutters

In today’s film news roundup, Stephen Lighthill becomes president of the American Society of Cinematographers, Universal is teaming with Timur Bekmambetov and the DGA health plan is offering three months of free coverage to some members.

NEW PRESIDENT

The American Society of Cinematographers’ board of governors has elected Stephen Lighthill as president, replacing Kees van Oostrum.

The ASC noted that van Oostrum had served the maximum four terms and recently was appointed to lead Imago, the international federation of cinematographers. This is Lighthill’s second turn as ASC president, previously serving from 2012-2013. Most recently, he held the position of vice president. The board voted in three vice presidents — Amy Vincent, Bill Bennett and John Simmons. They elected Levie Isaacks as treasurer; Gregg Heschong as secretary; and David Darby as sergeant-at-arms

“This is a challenging moment for filmmaking in general and cinematography in particular,” Lighthill said. “As an organization, we are making plans to put words into action. Through the work of the Future Practices Committee and Vision Committee, I’m ready to lead our Society in responding, and in making our work environments safe, equal and diverse.”

Lighthill began his career shooting for San Francisco news programs, as well as national news shows such as “60 Minutes.” He segued into documentary cinematography, working on many films including “Gimme Shelter”and “Berkeley in the Sixties,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

UNIVERSAL DEAL

Universal Pictures and Timur Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs have partnered to produce and distribute films shot in the Screenlife format — which was used for his desktop horror movie “Unfriended.”

The Screenlife format is a genre in which the action takes place entirely on a screen of a computer or a smartphone.

“Timur brings a fresh perspective and distinct voice to all his work. As the industry further shifts, he finds new ways to connect with audiences across the globe,” said Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. “Timur and the team at Bazelevs blend a unique brand of storytelling with technological creativity that makes these films feel current and relevant. We look forward to continued shared success as we expand our partnership.”

Bekmambetov produced “Unfriended,” which grossed $65 million worldwide in 2015 with a budget of $1 million and spawned a sequel. He followed that up with the 2018 John Cho-led thriller, “Searching,” grossing more than $75 million worldwide, and his political thriller, “Profile,” that won the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as the SXSW Audience Award in 2018. The news was first reported by Deadline.

DGA COVERAGE

Trustees of the Directors Guild of America-Producer Pension and Health Plans have approved a three-month period of premium-free COBRA coverage to Health Plan participants whose earned active coverage terminates on Sept 30.

The plan announced that it took the action due to the continued shutdown of production since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the impact on participants. The board previously took a similar approach to participants losing earned active coverage on June 30.

Participants whose earned active coverage ends on Sept. 30 are now eligible for a three-month period of premium-free COBRA coverage, provided the Health Plan is their primary plan. Participants with other coverage as their primary plan, including Medicare, or who are eligible for retiree or carry-over coverage under the Health Plan are not eligible.