Cinematographer Ellen Kuras became the first woman to receive the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award at the ASC Awards in Hollywood on Sunday night.
Kuras, whose credits include “Summer of Sam,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Blow,” called attention to long working hours on set and advocated for on-set safety during her acceptance speech. “We leave set after having worked a long day or
night. During my lifetime, I’ve lost count how many times I struggled to get home after long hours on set. How I barely managed to get into my driveway. And I know that I am definitely not alone in this struggle,” she said.
Just last year, nearly 60,000 IATSE workers almost brought the industry to a halt demanding better hours and working conditions, saying that the surge in production over the past decade has led to long hours and dangerous situations on set. Said Kuras, “I hear younger passionate filmmakers talk about leaving the film business — because though they care about their work, it shouldn’t be at the expense of their lives.”
Kuras cited the insatiable appetite of viewers as the reason for the push for content. “Never before has it been more about the bottom line,” she said, “I’m sure that you’ve all experienced key decisions being made by people who are not filmmakers and who have little understanding of what it takes to actually get the work done. Simply moving a post-it from one date to another doesn’t necessarily mean it’s humanly possible.”
The cinematographer said that the quality of work, meaningful quality of life, but most critically, safety both on and off set are at stake. She went on to advocate for safety to the audience that included filmmaker Jane Campion, Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”), Myron Kerstein (editor “Tick, Tick, Boom!”), James Laxton (“The Underground Railroad”) and Alice Brooks (“In the Heights”) to “continue the fight to change how many hours we work and to fight for a better quality of life so that we have the energy and focus to do what we do best – create beauty and truth.”