Hosted by The American Society of Cinematographers
Over the period May 2 – 5, 2011 in Los Angeles, a small piece of history took place. It was at that time at the ASC Clubhouse that 57 delegates from 22 countries assembled for the first International Cinematography Summit Conference (ICSC)
This Summit was instigated by current President of the ASC, Michael Goi ASC and supported by the Board and members of the American Society of Cinematographers. This first Summit took place because of the changing face of cinematography in a landscape of technological change. We all needed to know and understand the role of the cinematographer and how we are perceived in this constantly changing environment in which we work.
In his opening address ASC President, Michael Goi ASC outlined that the purpose of the Conference was to find ways to increase communication between cinematographic societies worldwide regarding the technical and aesthetic issues that affect our craft and to find ways to heighten the awareness of the value of our artistry in a profession increasingly focusing on computer generated or enhanced imagery. He stressed his personal aim from the Conference was to leave a legacy which would benefit cinematographers long after he and others had departed.
The agenda, had been developed by Michael, by inviting prior suggestions from prospective delegates. By the time the delegates had assembled, the original agenda had been improved with the addition of delegate involvement and was a perfect balance between issues of technology and creativity. Some specific sessions were chaired by Fred Goodich ASC, Vilmos Zsigmond ASC, Denis Lenoir AFC ACS, Caroline Champetier, the President of the French society and myself.
However, the secret weapon introduced by the ASC to make this week even more memorable was the vision of the 89 year old icon, Haskell Wexler ASC embarking on a four day hand-held film of the event. Everywhere we ventured Haskell blended into the Californian landscape, occasionally engaging in verbal conflict with old ASC adversaries from behind the camera whilst still shooting. It was truly memorable!
To augment the numbers able to afford this costly Summit, Societies had called upon the services of their relevant nationals working in Los Angeles, including those from Portugal, Mexico, Serbia, Slovenia, France, Italy and the UK.
A group of 25 sponsors, from a broad industry base contributed to bringing the Summit to fruition. They included; CAMERON-PACE GROUP, CLAIRMONT CAMERA, CINELEASE, COMPANY 3, CREATEASPHERE, DATTNER DOSPOTO,DELUXE, EFILM, FLETCHER CHICAGO, FUJIFILM,ICG;LOCAL 600 IATSE, J.L.FISHER, K5600, KINO FLO, KODAK, LASER PACIFIC, LEE FILTERS, MOLE RICHARDSON,PANAVISION,PARADIGM, SONY, TECHNICLOOR, TIFFEN, UNITED TALENT AGENCY, NBC/UNIVERSAL.
Among the delegates arriving early were Greek cinematographers, Yiannis Daskalothanasis and Angelos Viskadourakis. Anyone asking for the spelling of delegates’ names must have wished they had not bothered, but we hope this Greek presence marks a new beginning for the GSC’s positive involvement not only in the European Federation, but the world industry. It’s common knowledge that Greek filmmakers are suffering a dramatic decline in production, along with Bulgarian style Government proposals to withdraw Authors Rights.
Monday, DAY 1
After breakfast and introductions at the ASC, we boarded the “Magic Bus” for an informative illustration at Sony Colourworks of the first ever test, which was directed and photographed by Curtis Clark ASC, of the new SONY F65 4K. Of great interest to us all was the lack of artifacts, even when the image was blown up 900% during a night sequence. This camera will be released later this year and I have to say the results put a smile on many cynical faces. It was that good! The agenda also included an exposition at Sony Studios on how 3D affects our ability to tell a story visually through lighting and composition. This was preceded by a demonstration on current 3D techniques at Sony studios where they run the most comprehensive “hands on” course for cinematographers available in LA. This involved “real time” demonstrations of the possibilities and the equipment available to us. Back on the bus, all counted for and we returned to the ASC Clubhouse for the afternoon agenda. The first item being “How can we increase our communication on a regular basis?” This discussion centred on communication between cinematographers either by personal or electronic means, and the various options for education not only of students, but of a wider public. When the possibility of establishing a new International organisation was suggested, the existence of a European Federation called Imago was mentioned. It represented 20 of the 22 Societies attending this Summit and the decision of the Korean Society under their President, Heeseong Byeon KSC to join Imago in Paris next March, was warmly welcomed. The Czech representative Martin Preiss ACK was already working on internet proposals to ease communication, not only between Societies but on a more personal level between cinematographers.
Tuesday, DAY 2
Began with visits to Sony and Universal Studios, These visits were related directly to VIRTUAL PRODUCTION & VIRTUAL CINEMATOGRAPHY. In an almost pre lit green screen sound stage, facilities and equipment including camera crane and a RED camera are available should they be required. You can of course bring in and use your own equipment if you so desire. This designated sound stage is available for testing and pre visualisation of the shots you wish to achieve. There were demonstrations of the interactive hand held device for shooting called the SIMULCAM, which we all were able to use. Imagine a Playstation like device, totally portable and maneuverable, that enables you to preview action on established backgrounds, on green screen, in real time. We also looked at the new MACHREC LED lighting systems. These units are a versatile, cool system ideal for green screen work and all other applications.
Upon returning to the Clubhouse there was a very informative demonstration of how to use PRE VISUALISATION to your advantage as a cinematographer. The Pre Viz Society attempted to explain at length the benefits this system, which we use constantly in Australia, can be to cinematographers. It certainly proved to be a tough crowd for these enthusiastic young guys. There were many in the room who simply dismissed it out of hand as being a possible threat to the creative control of the cinematographer. Some even suggesting that it lacked the capacity to convey emotion and should not replace the cinematographer as the guardian of the image. How they came to that understanding I have no idea, as it’s simply another tool we can use to our distinct advantage. I got the impression that there were many who were experiencing this for the first time and felt quite threatened by it.
To finish the day, an interesting subject, that of WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF THE IMAGE? Co- hosted by the formidable Caroline Champetier, President of the AFC and LA based cinematographer, Denis Lenoir ASC AFC.
All delegates were invited to present an overview of their country’s current situation relating to the topic. One by one this was explained to the Conference with varying reports and surprising optimistic results reported by delegates ending in an excellent exposition and discussion led by young Polish cinematographer Jaroslaw Szoda PSC, ably assisted by one of the founders of their Society, the eminent cinematographer and teacher, Slawomir Idziak PSC. The description of present day conditions in Poland was evidence that it is not only the Scandinavians who have achieved their “Eldorado”. If proof were needed that cinematographers can be rewarded as co-authors for a film’s cinematography, it is to be found in the fifteen European Societies who have already been granted the right to receive residuals from Collecting Societies.
Wednesday, DAY 3
After breakfast including coffee, bagels and fruit at the ASC Clubhouse it was back on the “Magic Bus” once again for the journey to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Pickford Centre for Motion Picture Study. The Pickford Center was dedicated in honor of legendary silent film actress Mary Pickford in 2002. Pickford was one of the founding members of the Academy. In addition to the 286-seat Linwood Dunn ASC Theater, the building houses several Academy departments, including the Academy Film Archive, the Science and Technology Council, and the Grants and Nicholl Fellowship programs.
Any doubts as to the relevance of solid state lighting as an agenda item were completely dispelled at the Academy by Jonathan Erland in an eloquent treatise on the science of colour, followed by a technical overview by Bill Taylor ASC. A test film by Daryn Okada ASC illustrated the current lack of colour consistency in LED technology. An impressive display of various lights bounced against a white screen revealed a colour temperature difference, which did not need a genius, or a meter to confirm that tungsten reigns supreme in colour consistency. Nigel Walters BSC informed us of the recent decision by the BBC to only allow programs to be produced on daylight balanced 35mm stock, slower than 250 asa in future HD productions. This was greeted with incredulity and derision by the large audience. Yet another farcical decision by the uninformed BBC.
The first professional use of the Academy’s 11F-ACES workflow system, was illustrated, in great detail with footage shot by Francis Kenny ASC and Richard Crudo ASC. This Image Interchange Framework-Academy Colour Encoding Specification enabled them on a current television series “Justified” to hold enhanced highlight detail when using digital cameras. Both cinematographers spoke glowingly of the system.
The final session of the day dealing with Current and future film and digital archival and preservation practices, was from a distinguished panel including, Milt Shefter of AMPAS, Grover Crisp and Michael Friend from Sony, Ms Andrea Kalas of Paramount and the much respected cinematographer, John Bailey ASC. No progress on solving the solution to the archiving in “The Digital Dilemma” appeared to reassure delegates that present digital productions would be preserved safely for future generations. The problem of preserving “Indies” especially was highlighted. These productions, once completed end up in garages, sheds, under beds and make them virtually impossible to preserve. Preservation always appears someone else’s task. It was admitted that as yet no guarantee can be made to safeguard the future of any digital archive material. A somewhat unusual plea was made to the delegates not to use the Macbeth Colour Chart because it is restricted to three colours if printed, and the Academy does not consider this of a sufficiently high standard to recommend.
Our second home, “The Magic Bus” returned us to the Clubhouse for an informal dinner and discussion, on this occasion about COLOUR TIMING AND INDIVIDUAL ARTISTRY. Peter James ACS brought up the subject of instances where the cinematographer has, upon completion of shooting either been removed and told they were not required for the grade, or in some instances been ‘locked out’ of the grade. Where does this leave us? Peter attempted to move that we adopt a stronger stand on these issues that relate to creative control and the integrity of the image. Vilmos Zsigmond ACS was in favour, as were others, but the meeting was not prepared, at this stage to implement a formal undertaking. Both Peter and I were very disappointed and Peter went further to say; “He had hoped we would leave this meeting with some resolution that we would fight the practice of not allowing the cinematographer to be a part of the DI”
Sadly there was no such resolution, maybe that’s for another day, when we are all truly united as one world body. It will be up to us as individual Societies to fight this battle on behalf of our members. One that I, and many others are more than happy to continue doing.
Thursday, DAY 4
Began again with breakfast at the ASC Clubhouse. Today’s initial agenda item of General discussion was co chaired by Fred Goodich ASC and Vilmos Zsigmond ASC. It was resolved that we work collectively on a Mission Statement for the ICSC. I was nominated to present a draft recommendation for further discussion. I duly presented same and on my return to Australia sent through the final draft for approval. There was further general discussion between delegates, some quite passionate, particularly involving the French and Polish delegates, prior to us heading for Panavision and Mole Richardson for tours of both these amazing and incredibly supportive companies. Phil Radin from Panavision indicated that Panavision were in the throes of designing and manufacturing a new HD Camera to suit those cinematographers who liked working with the Genesis.
Upon returning to the ASC, we were assembled and presented with some small mementos, prior to dinner and our final farewells.
These occasions are always tinged with elements of sadness as one invariably makes new friends and reinforces existing ones. The dedicated staff at the ASC;
Patty “The Boss” Armacost – Events Coordinator
Sharon Bruneau – ASC Receptionist
Delphine Figueras – ASC President’s Assistant
Alex Lopez – American Cinematographer Circulation Manager and Martha Winterhalter – American Cinematographer Publisher, made us all feel so incredibly welcome and for that I speak on behalf of us all. To put it succinctly; The ASC staff rock!!
For some delegates who attended this Summit it can be viewed as an extension of the meetings that IMAGO has been holding for the last two decades. For others it will have been a vastly new and I must say, rewarding experience.
All will share the spirit of optimism inevitably engendered by such a positive experience. All Societies welcome the generosity showed by the ASC, the “Senior Society”, commanding such great respect and admiration around the world. One great hope for the future, was the presence of so many young cinematographers and the abundant enthusiasm of the ASC members who supported this initiative.
IMAGO President, Nigel Walters BSC commented that he hoped we will all have closer ties with the ASC. There is also a need for a coordinated list of cinematographers available for Masterclasses around the globe.
Haskell Wexler ASC spoke in favour of a worldwide Facebook site. Martin Priess ACK from the Czech Society informed the meeting he hade taken the liberty of setting one up called International Network of Cinematographers, while we were discussing it. There were some who were not in favour of this.
I had the opportunity to address the delegates and reminded them it would be a terrible shame if we simply left this Summit, expecting the ASC to “deliver the goods” as it were. It is not the responsibility of the ASC or any one individual, it is our collective responsibility to keep those much discussed and vital lines of communication open for business, between us all. It’s by collaboration that we will achieve our goals.
As the esteemed Polish teacher and cinematographer Slawomir Idziak PSC said; “We at this table are the ones to make the change and should not leave it up to others”
One has to be buoyed by the intent and the enthusiasm of all the delegates. I firmly believe, we are really all in this together, for the long run.
Ron Johanson ACS
With thanks to Nigel Walters BSC.
PROPOSED 2011 ICSC MISSION STATEMENT
It is the purpose of the 2011 International Cinematography Summit to ensure that the role of the cinematographer remains a key element in a world industry.
We. as Cinematographers will continue the development of our craft as an art form, and at all levels, will promote the highest standards of visual story telling within our global community.
Our mandate is to foster and encourage dialogue between all Societies, Governments, Ministers of Culture, Manufacturers, Producers and Directors to further nurture and to retain the integrity of our profession and to protect the visual integrity of the final product.
We, as cinematographers are the custodians of the image. This is our heritage and our responsibility.
ICSC 2011 Delegates