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What does it take to be ASC?


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#1 Michael Palm

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 06:36 PM

Hello Everyone,

I thought of a question today. I don't think it has a straight answer, but could be led to a great topic.

What does it take to be ASC?

Surely, some of you can answer this for me.

Thanks!
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#2 Matthew Buick

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 06:57 PM

It takes a lot; dedication, skill, an eye for light. Things like that. :)

I hope I make it someday, that is my ultimate wish. :)

OOOOOOH!!!!!

Edited by Matthew Buick, 07 April 2007 - 06:59 PM.

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#3 Michael Most

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 07:04 PM

What does it take to be ASC?


1. A track record of achievement as a cinematographer (for active membership) or in other industry positions related to the art and craft of cinematography (for associate membership).

2. An invitation from the ASC board, usually generated by being nominated for such by a current member.

3. Sponsorship by 3 current active members.

4. Payment of an initiation fee.
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#4 Matthew Buick

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 07:23 PM

I've got a question:

Who was the youngest ASC member? :)
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 08:16 PM

We don't really keep track of such statistics. By the nature of having to be well-established with some body of work of distinction, it tends to be middle-aged cinematographers who get asked to join. I think Aaron Schneider might have been the youngest to join at the time -- he may have been in his mid or early 30's even.

The younger members tends to be around my age, in their 40's.
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#6 Riku Naskali

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 01:59 AM

5. A green card or American citizenship, I suppose :(
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#7 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 02:28 AM

I had heard Matthew Libatique was one of the youngest, not sure how old he was when he got in though.
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 02:46 AM

I hope I make it someday, that is my ultimate wish. :)


I'd focus on more immediate goals first ;)

Don't think you have to be an American citizen. Storaro isn't (I don't think).
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#9 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 04:30 AM

Don't think you have to be an American citizen. Storaro isn't (I don't think).
[/quote]

Being an American citizen is definitely not a requirement. There are a rather big number of non-American cinematographers in the ASC. Emmanuel Luzbeki, Rodrigo Prieto and Guillermo Navarro are three Mexicans in the ASC, among many other nationalities. Those are the names that came to mind . . .

It generally is the case that anybody who's got the $10k fee, the recomendation of ASC members and/or the backing of a major studio who can't wait to get the soon-to-be-member on one of their shows AND the SKILL, could become a member. And while it is a most honorable and desireable thing to be accepted in their ranks, some of the members are less well-known and recognized (read talented) than others, including non-members. Having worked in this industry enough to be cynical I would also add that sometimes enrollment is more of an administratve issue more than a merit one. For example, if one is a cinematographer with all the experience and skill needed for the job, a union show WILL NOT, under any circumstance hire one if not a member of ASC or comparable, ellegible union. They can petition the ASC to accept the cinematographer in if they want him or her bad enough. I have worked on shows as location scout where we go on tech scouts with the DP and my pictures sometimes have been better than the DP's, with the director and production designer liking them better. One time the DP's stills were too underexposed and with no contrast, which was a source of embarrasment for him . . . I am not trying to say that I am better than the DP in question, or that the ASC and its rules and members are no good, only that one can be just as talented than the ASC member and still not get a comparable job unless one is in the union.

Also, some big time DP's get used to their million dollar budgets and large crews and are simply unable to work under more realistic circumstances . . . Just like everything, I guess, there are good and bad things about it.
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#10 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 05:40 AM

The ASC is essentially a club not a union, and thus a studio would not petition for the ASC to accept someone.

To be accepted into the club is more a symbolic honor than anything directly tangible (for example joining the union directly allows you to work on union shows at union rate, not that you will automatically have union work). To be in the ASC could indirectly help you in the form of helping to get your rates up; it is a mark of a tried and true professional who can create camera work at the highest standards.

"Also, some big time DP's get used to their million dollar budgets and large crews and are simply unable to work under more realistic circumstances . . . Just like everything, I guess, there are good and bad things about it."

I have learned the higher the budget does not necessarily directly correlate to more resources in MY departments. It often means my crews are paid a proper rate, the actors are better taken care of, and the production department has a nicer trailer/ office.

I don't know how many ASC members you have actually seen work, but I have had the fortune of seeing many, and honestly the better ones have their big setups, but primarily kept it simple.

I don't know what you mean by realistic conditions, if they have the budget for their gear, then obviously those conditions are realistic for them, maybe not you (or me). Your location stills also have the benefit of being stills (with the ability to really alter them in post, as I see most photographers doing, not to say yours necessarily were). They also have the benefit of you having more or less complete control of when you take them.

Kevin Zanit
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#11 Matthew Buick

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 08:47 AM

I'd focus on more immediate goals first ;)


Of course. <_<

I would imagine it's easier to break in to the ASC than to be initiated in. :lol:

SMASH!!!

Edited by Matthew Buick, 08 April 2007 - 08:49 AM.

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#12 Michael Most

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 10:27 AM

Being an American citizen is definitely not a requirement. There are a rather big number of non-American cinematographers in the ASC. Emmanuel Luzbeki, Rodrigo Prieto and Guillermo Navarro are three Mexicans in the ASC, among many other nationalities. Those are the names that came to mind . . .


Just go down the ASC membership list. There are members from every corner of the globe, many who are also members of their own national honorary societies. There are members from Canada, Mexico, Australia, South America, almost every country in Europe, and just about everywhere else. The ASC, while it may have the word "American" in it, and be headquartered in Los Angeles, is truly an international organization.

It generally is the case that anybody who's got the $10k fee, the recomendation of ASC members and/or the backing of a major studio who can't wait to get the soon-to-be-member on one of their shows AND the SKILL, could become a member.


I don't know where you get this notion from. The ASC has nothing to do with the studios, and studios have no say in who gets invited to join. Only an invitation from the members themselves can get one into the ASC. Studios couldn't care less about the ASC membership status of the cameramen they hire, other than as an indication of a good reputation. The fee is to keep the organization solvent, as any organization - even an honorary one - must be run as a business.

For example, if one is a cinematographer with all the experience and skill needed for the job, a union show WILL NOT, under any circumstance hire one if not a member of ASC or comparable, ellegible union. They can petition the ASC to accept the cinematographer in if they want him or her bad enough.


You are completely confusing the ASC and the ICG (International Cinematographers' Guild, also known as IATSE Local 600). The ICG is "the union." The ASC is an honorary society, a private organization that has nothing to do with negotiating contracts.

Also, some big time DP's get used to their million dollar budgets and large crews and are simply unable to work under more realistic circumstances . . .


On the contrary, many "big time DP's" are often among the fastest and most frugal cameramen in terms of how quickly they can work and the package they use. Any experienced cameraman tailors the package to the needs of the individual production, and doesn't ask for what they don't need. They don't always go out with a large package if it isn't warranted, and many are absolute masters at doing a lot with very little. Some even enjoy doing smaller productions for this very reason.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 10:47 AM

The ASC is not the Union (IATSE Local 600) -- people seem to get that confused all the time. Studios can't petition for a DP to join the ASC, nor would they bother. It's an honorary society and the three letters of recommendations from ASC members who personally know the DP is the only way to start the ball rolling for membership. Denis Lenoir, Robert Primes, and Roy Wagner wrote ones for me.

There are a number of international cinematographers in the ASC.

But the ASC also wants and needs people who will active in serving on committees, going out on panel discussions and lectures at film schools, i.e. actively promoting the cause of cinematography in the public. I serve on a couple of committees, by far the most active being the Technology Committee (so large it is made up of 27 sub-committees and so advanced that it is mostly attended by the Associate members, who are often engineers and other technical experts in the industry) but also the Publications Committee (which deals with the books and magazines published by the ASC, centering around the magazine and the manual.) There is also the nominating committee for membership, the awards ceremony committee, an education committee, etc.

I've done my share of features with a tiny crew -- one only had three PA's to help me and the sound man, the other had a two-man grip electric crew with a van with four lights in it.
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#14 Daniel Smith

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 11:59 AM

I hope I make it someday, that is my ultimate wish. :)

Why not the BSC?

Not selling out are you, Matt? :o
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 02:02 PM

I've done my share of features with a tiny crew -- one only had three PA's to help me and the sound man, the other had a two-man grip electric crew with a van with four lights in it.


Just to add to that, if anything, the common complaint I get from crew people is that I try and do their jobs too much (move & adjust lights, set flags, etc.) I enjoy the physical aspect of lighting a scene and coming from low-budget features and video industrials and EPK's, I had to learn to do a lot of that myself. And many ASC members had similar low-budget backgrounds -- few people start at the top afterall.

So the trick for me has been to remind myself to let the experienced crew people do their jobs -- sometimes I count to ten or go to the craft service table just to stop myself from moving equipment. But other times, I just get impatient and do it myself. I know that's not being efficient...

Sometimes a Gaffer or Key Grip will remark that I must have worked in the past with a lot of bad crews, which is true. It tends to make you rely less on other people, which is too bad when you finally hire reliable people.

Truth is, though, that even as the budgets have climbed, I still run into some incompetency in different departments. It can be frustrating.
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#16 Matthew Buick

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 02:26 PM

Quite possibly.

Believe me, I'm doing this country a favour.
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#17 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 03:04 PM

Just to add to that, if anything, the common complaint I get from crew people is that I try and do their jobs too much (move & adjust lights, set flags, etc.)... But other times, I just get impatient and do it myself. I know that's not being efficient...

Sometimes a Gaffer or Key Grip will remark that I must have worked in the past with a lot of bad crews, which is true.


I think I've read in other threads about your frustrations with gaffers & grips David. And it's funny how you mentioned "set flags". I don't know how many times I've had to raise my voice, walk over and literally SHOW what a grip or gaffer was doing for me by flagging off a light.

The term "To Prevent Lens Flare" should be included in all grip books and lists of common terminology among beginner grips & gaffers.
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#18 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 05:41 PM

Among the terminology book should be a section talking about how the term "Gaffer" is not normally a plural one. On most sets there are not multiple gaffers, there is one gaffer, the gaffer, the head of the electric department. The only other time you run into more than one gaffer is a pre-rigging gaffer or a second unit gaffer.

It is grips and electrics, best boy grip and best boy electric and key grip and gaffer. Just my pet peeve . . .

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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 05:49 PM

If you're talking about different gaffers over time, then it's plural.
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#20 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 06:32 PM

In that instance it is plural, but "frustrations with gaffers & grips", and "among beginner grips & gaffers." just sounds like the million times I see the two jobs incorrectly linked as counter parts.
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