Joan Churchill, ASC has been named Kodak
Cinematographer in Residence at the University of California Los Angeles
(UCLA) School of Theater, Film and Television. She will conduct a series of
screenings and seminars focusing on the role that cinematographers play in
nonfiction filmmaking. The annual residency program was inaugurated by
Professor William McDonald in 2000. It is sponsored by Kodak.
"Joan Churchill is one of the most influential documentary cinematographers
working in the film and television industry today," McDonald says. "She played
an important role in defining modern-day cinema verite filmmaking. Her sense
of story - combined with the eye of a visual artist - has allowed her to tell
stories, through the words and images of real people, that otherwise would not
Churchill, a UCLA alumna, received the first Outstanding Documentary
Cinematography Award from the International Documentary Association last year.
She has compiled more than 50 nonfiction credits, including such award-winning
films as AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER, SOLDIER GIRLS, ASYLUM and
LILY TOMLIN. Her recent projects include BEARING WITNESS, a documentary about
female journalists working in combat zones in Iraq, and a film for director
Barbara Kopple on the Dixie Chicks.
McDonald observes, "Joan Churchill has blazed trails that many other women
are following." He notes that women cinematographers were a rarity when
Churchill began her career during the early 1970s. Now, more than half of the
student cinematographers at UCLA are women.
Churchill's residency begins on April 15 at 10 a.m. on Sound Stage 3 of the
UCLA campus. She will screen and discuss clips selected from her body of work.
This will be a public event.
On April 17, there will be a screening of the controversial 1971 film
PUNISHMENT PARK, directed by Peter Watkins and shot by Churchill, at the James
Bridges Theater on the Westwood campus at 7:30 p.m., followed by a question
and answer session. The screening is free and open to the public.
During the spring term, Churchill will also conduct a workshop for film
students in conjunction with her husband, Alan Barker, a frequent collaborator
who is an audio sound mixer. They will discuss camera and audio techniques and
how images and sound compliment each other.
Churchill is a second generation filmmaker. During her childhood, she made
cameo appearances in educational films produced by her father, Robert
Churchill. She enrolled at UCLA as an English major but changed her field of
study after taking a summer class in filmmaking.
Churchill shot many films for other UCLA students but there were no jobs for
women cinematographers after she graduated. She started her career as an
editor. She began shooting documentaries for former classmates. In 1971, a
professor recommended Churchill to Peter Watkins, an English director who was
looking for a cinematographer to shoot PUNISHMENT PARK. The film was a
fictional story about Vietnam anti-war protesters who were given a choice of
going to jail or running a 50-mile gauntlet in the California desert. It was a
training exercise for police and soldiers who tracked them down. The film was
produced in 16 mm format in documentary style and blown up to 35 mm.
"There was no script and most roles were played by real people," Churchill
recalls. "I never knew what was going to happen next. The actors were very
emotional. The film caused a lot of controversy when it played in cinemas
because people didn't realize that it was a fictional story."
After that project, Churchill began getting calls to work on documentaries.
Her early credits include JIMI PLAYS BERKELEY with music legend Jimi Hendrix,
GIMME SHELTER with documentary pioneers Albert and David Maysles, NO NUKES
with Haskell Wexler, ASC and Kopple, and HAIL HAIL, ROCK 'N' ROLL with Taylor
Churchill went to London in 1974 for what was supposed to be a one month
teaching assignment at the new National Film School. She taught at the school
for 6 months and ended up living in England for 10 years. During that period,
Churchill began her lifelong collaboration with director Nick Broomfield,
including JUVENILE LIASON, TATOOED TEARS, and SOLDIER GIRLS, which won the
British Academy of Arts and Sciences Award for Best Feature Length Documentary
and the Prix Italia.
Churchill has frequently been cast in multiple roles as co-producer and co-
director in addition to cinematographer in films produced in every part of the
world. The subjects have varied from history and politics to music, social
issues and the human condition.
"I feel privileged to be able to go around the world and have people let me
into their lives," she says. "I may not be changing the world but I believe if
you can shine a light on things. You can get people thinking and asking the
Previous participants in the Kodak Cinematographer in Residence program were
Dean Cundey, ASC; Allen Daviau, ASC; Conrad Hall, ASC; Owen Roizman, ASC;
Laszlo Kovacs, ASC and Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC.
"Joan Churchill is a dedicated documentarian, who has generously agreed to
share her insights with the next generation of filmmakers," says Lorette Bayle
with Kodak's Entertainment Imaging Division. "I am certain that in the future,
students who participate in these seminars will look back on them as a turning
point in their lives."
For more information about the April 17 screening of PUNISHMENT PARK, visit
www.tft.ucla.edu or call (310) 206-8365. Admission is free. There is a $8
parking fee. For more information about Kodak, visit www.kodak.com/go/motion.
Joan Churchill Named UCLA Cinematographer in Residence
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