IMAGO …is now the de facto world body

Article re-published ~ NZCS November Newsletter

IMAGO is ‘The European Federation of Cinematographers’ but is now the de facto world body.

The main purpose of the Federation is to champion and uphold the high standards achieved by the Cinematography Profession, and via a constant exchange of experience to promote the spread of culture on which the long-standing technical and artistic quality of the global Cinema industry is firmly based.
One of the things that most concerns IMAGO is to improve and maintain standards in technological equipment and also the quality of screening in cinemas.
Thus ensures that all the work that we, together with the directors and their collaborators, put into making a film, and the resulting quality, may be fully appreciated by movie-goers who, in many instances, are nowadays obliged to watch films which, owing to technical inadequacies and shortcomings, do not come up to the standard of the original.
IMAGO also has a view towards obtaining the legal recognition which would permit us to more effectively uphold this fundamental requisite of quality, in other words, to defend quality in the cinema, we aim to work simultaneously to have the Cinematographer recognised as co-author of the Film, which the Italian AIC and the Spanish AEC already do in their credits with a more appropriate and correct term that literally translated means “Author of the Photography”. Legislative bodies are also beginning to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Directors of Photography (DoP) right to be recognised as co-author, but a great deal of work still has to be done.
Another important field in which IMAGO will take action, both by urging government intervention and becoming directly involved, is the methodical preservation and restoration – which can no longer be delayed – of European cinematic heritage, and by extension of developing these systems, give a template for other countries in preserving their films also.


Report by Marc Swadel Full Member NZCS & ACS

I arrived into Greece, for the first time and readied myself for a solid 5 days of master class, meetings, new people and new ideas.

The first morning I met up with brother in arms Ron Johanson, the ACS President, who set the day up with a ready smile and a laugh.

We met up with IMAGO President Nigel Walters BSC and walked down to the fantastically appointed Greek Film Archive complex for the first of two days of the Conference, which consisted of master classes with Cypriot/Englishman Haris Zambarloukos (Thor/Mamma Mia/Sleuth) Academy Award nominated Austrian Christian Berger (The White Ribbon/Raffl/The Notebook) and Greek/American Academy Award nominated Hollywood heavyweight Phedon Papamichael (Descendents/The Monument Men/3.10 To Yuma/Nebraska/Walk The Line).

The programme included film showings, and demonstrations of the RED Dragon and Sony F65 camera systems, and had a capacity 200+ audience on both days.


Marc Swadel with Ron Johanson OAM ACS

On the 3rd day, we all got on the bus for the 3 hr road trip to Delphi, ancient oracle of knowledge and wisdom for the Greeks. I was sitting with Ron ACS, and reflected how the last time an ANZAC delegation went to a European event on the 25th of April (some 500 miles away and 99 years ago) it was the birth of our common identities, and brotherhood, and how far the Europeans have come in that time – instead of shooting bullets it’s now about shooting film.

It was a pretty full on schedule for conference – a lot was got through, a lot of discussions, discourse and seriousness, as happens whenever Europeans get together on a national level, but Ron was there to crack some jokes and pull things back when it threatened to get dryer than a desert.

I have filtered through what was discussed and have highlighted the main points covered below:


A lively discussion was had over the state of standards in projection, and archiving. The words used here were ‘Wild West’ – manufacturers not talking to each other, standards being ignored. It costs 80K Euros for a calibrated DCI spec projection system, yet Sony are selling 4K gear that is not compliant, and other systems can vary wildly in standards.

IMAGO is proposing a cinema screen ratings system that will award ‘IMAGO STARS’ a mark out of 5. IMAGOS proposed standard is:
14-Foot Lumens Screen Luminance
SMPTE Standard commonality (not less than 75% of luminance as seen in centre of screen, measured form any seat in the cinema)
No silver screen.
Another conversation was had regards archive standards. The current leader is ACES (Academy Standard Encoding System), which uses Super DPX. The current next gen standard is Open EXR – which is a 16 bit format currently being supported by Arri and Sony – which apparently is the first man made format that exceeds the human eye in ranger and information. A big problem that was bought up was de-bayering, and the inherent limitations it presents. The consensus for the future was that soon everything will be shot raw, and this will help archiving greatly, so we are closer to a true and solid archive format that will be as close to uncompressed as possible. 35mm is still seen as the most future proof, and stable way of archiving films, but less and less films are originating on the format.


A discussion was held about educational opportunities, as the changes of digital/CGI to the Cinematography landscape need to be taken into account, as well as canvassing what study options are available to budding students.

There are many attending Cinematographers who teach or run courses, and the idea is to research, and identify the needs of the industry, and also to see what national and European standards/qualifications exist.

Joshiko Osawa JSC from Japan related the JSC’s programme. They take on 15 students a year, and have one lesson a week, to learn the foundations of being a camera assistant, and they make a short film at the end of the year. They students can make it with the help of rental companies or through their own connections; the aim is to shoot on 35mm. The core study revolves around 35mm, as there is not a great opportunity to study with 35mm, and the end result are students who are up to speed with that format, so have good employment prospects. The JSC have been running this for ten years, and have 100 ex students currently working in the industry.

An educational committee was mooted, and Tony Costa AIP of the Portuguese society was nominated to head it. I have volunteered to be part of this committee, and I will talk to education providers in NZ, as well as talking to our guys who currently work shooting for Weta etc.


Next up was a discussion on master classes, and the need for a programme of both national level (such as the Greek one) and ‘signature’ master classes called ‘Imago Inspiration’ – the first of which was held in Vienna with Director + Cinematographer pairs talking about working together, techniques and the like (Christine Jeffs and John Toon NZCS ACS were part of this along with Fellow NZer Michael Seresin ONZM BSC with Alan Parker and also Russell Boyd ASC ACS and Peter Weir). With Imago being international, communication in organisation will be greatly improved – the GSC had a two day master class with Phedon Papamichael, Haris Zambarloukos and Christian Berger, which was a great example of international co-operation, and was at full capacity both days.
There was also talk of other less formal promotional and networking events. The Polish society mentioned its very popular ‘PSC – After Midnight’ drink+talk sessions at Camerimage in Poland.
There was also talk on festivals and events – Camerimage, AIC Micro Salon, BSC Expo, Manaki Brothers Cinematography Festival and the Bucharest Master class.


Fritz Neimann, a German Lawyer who has a successful history of lobbying the EU on behalf of Composers rights, was taken onboard to keep tight on the EU in regards to archiving, Cinematographers royalties, working conditions and also to research and advise on various EU funding bodies and opportunities for the Society itself, as well as funding for master classes and education.


A Social Dialogue Committee was set up to concentrate and develop a solid framework of pan-European rights. The aim is for ‘Fair Remuneration that allows one to survive in a dignified manner’. The outlines are:
• Provision of a minimum income
• Introduction of a model contract for freelancers
• Such a contract must include a percentage towards social security
• Representatives and groups who are not unions should be able to collective bargain.
There was a lot of discussion on this subject.
In general Eastern Europe have excellent moral rights over the image.
Jerzy Zielinsky from Poland, where they do have royalties for Cinematographers, told how they changed their name to the Polish Society of Authors of the motion image. As he said ‘ There is a need to build the perception in the public/govt. that we are, not only the co-authors of the film, but the authors of the motion picture images – even if this is not legally acknowledged.
Padrag Bembag SBS from the Serbian Society also added that ‘we need to raise the profile of the Cinematographer in restoration and archiving of films’.
Ron from the ACS relayed ‘how in Aust/NZ there are no official or legal recognition of the rights of Cinematographers – but Cinematographers should have these rights.’
Ciaran Kavanagh ISC Irish Society added how in Ireland’ Cinematographers don’t feel that confident, or feel they have an authorship role’.
Cristina Busch (IMAGO Legal Counsel) underlined how ‘the existing rights and attitudes to Cinematographers in Eastern Europe, as creators, helps to push for moral rights across Europe’.
The general consensus was strong, and a clear path forward could be seen. Already the Hungarian and Spanish societies are lobbying in their respective countries for stronger working rights for Cinematographers. With Fritz active in lobbying in Brussels from this year, this work will be focused on a European level.


At 18.52 on the 2nd day of the IAGA – finally the vote was taken – a full ‘YES’ vote from all members to make Imago a world body. A ‘YES’ vote allows all associate members to join. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Australia, Japan and Israel are all present at this decision – Australia and Israel joined did there and then, both Ron and Idan Or having the mandate to do so.
Idan, of the Israeli society gave a very warm and rousing speech, which at the end of, both he and Ron were bought in as deputy board members.
The fees for full members society’s within of IMAGO are 28 Euros per full member of each society, capped at a maximum of 2000 Euros a year, per society.


I have to commend the GSC on the organisation and execution of the whole event – we had the master classes, a dinner with the Greek minister of tourism over looking the Acropolis, a visit to the Greek port town of Galaxidi (where in the museum, in pride of place, was a letter in Greek from the prime minister of New Zealand to the people of Galaxidi thanking them for helping NZ soldiers to hide and escape in WW2) tours of Delphi and the Acropolis, and also a seafood dinner at the GSC President, Yiannis Daskalothanaisis’s home.
The amazing thing, is that the 24 member GSC was formed in 2012, and was birthed in what can only be called an apocalyptic period for the Greek economy and creativity. For such a new society to come from challenging conditions to hold such a fantastic series of events is testament to the tenacity and vision of a group of people who have a desire and love for what they do.


The progress made since my first attendance in 2012 has been remarkable. Since the French (AFC) left in a huff after being out voted by all other societies to one, on enlarging IMAGO to a world body, the waters have been cleared and with this clarity we have a force that moves as one.

The big changes are thus:

1 – a lobbyist in Brussels. This will mean that for the first time, someone will be targeting the EU parliament in regards to workers rights, I.P, Authors rights, and also with a fine eye for accessing funding opportunities.
What this means for the NZCS – is that there is a voice at the EU table pushing on the fronts of royalties, I.P protection and working rights, with the long term goal of achieving a strong level of all three – which would be Europe wide, and should also be best practice and mandatory for co-productions – eg: if a co-production is made between NZ and a European country – the European laws would have to be recognised and followed, otherwise no dice. There are a handful of European societies, most notably the Polish, that have royalties for Cinematographers, and from here it is hoped to bring it across the rest of Europe over time. The fight is on.

2 – Archiving and projection standards. This is a big one – IMAGO is very active in pushing for a European (and hopefully a de facto world) standard for digital archiving and projection. Currently there area patchy few that reflect the modern digital reality, and it is fantastic to think that it is Cinematographers who are in the vanguard of keeping the quality of vision that we bring the finished work through to the screen, and beyond.

3 – Master Classes. Another exciting move forward over the last two years. The establishment of the Master Class Committee (which Ron ACS heads up) the fruits of which John Toon has experienced first hand, and the profile that it brings our art and works to the public eye is fantastic. The big wins for the NZCS here – aside from already having John and Michael NZCS, and NZ film on show at the top level of the art in Europe, are that we are part of an open dialogue with the rest of the world, with access and communication in regards to bringing some amazing Cinematographers to our shores, and having some of our guys giving master classes on a global basis. We have the added advantage of Ron and the ACS actively looking at bringing people over to our part of the world, and indeed we can also reciprocate. The fantastic event in Athens with Cinematographers the calibre of Phedon Papamichael, Christian Berger and Haris Zambarloukos would never been possible without IMAGO. There are also other possible avenues that open up, of EU funding assistance in bringing European Cinematographers over to NZ/Aust.

4 – IMAGO is a world body! The only major societies not in are the Chinese (and HKSC), and the French (who are sulking off in a huff.. but may well be back in a few years). The American ASC are barred from joining due to the legal make up of their society, but maintain an open closeness, and usually have an observer presence through dual society members – usually AIC/ASC (the Italians recently opened up citizenship to those who have Italian great grandparents – thus opening up a door to Europe to dozens of ASC members – if any of our NZCS guys have Italian heritage – this could be your key to Europe!)
The advantages of our full membership in IMAGO are obvious, and we have the added strength and solidarity of joining with Ron and the ACS in the commonality that we share as countries and markets, as a united voice within IMAGO. I was at Cannes this year, where the NZ Danish Co-Production treaty was signed, and within it, a point I noted, of how under most of these treaties we count as Aussies.. and Aussies count as NZers. It also struck me how close we are to our mates over the ditch, in where we want to go – royalties, rights and protections, and how a closer relationship between our societies would benefit all on the regional and world stage.


Check out the full NZCS Newsletter ~ click links below.

IN THIS ISSUE: Marc Swadel reporting on Imago, Shooting The Dead Lands with Leon Narbey, Shooting Cover Band with Drew Sturge, Shooting The Z Nail Gang with Chris Matthews, Postcard from Iceland from Marc Swadel, the next event – Opening the Creative Channels of Communication, Paul Richards reporting on the Big Screen Symposium, news of The Data Book Relaunch, and a new Tips & Tricks column.

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