George Spiro Dibie, ASC will receive the 2008
American Society of Cinematographers Career Achievement in Television Award.
The tribute will be presented to Dibie during the 22nd Annual ASC Outstanding
Achievement Awards celebration here on January 26 at the Hollywood and
Highland Grand Ballroom.
Dibie earned five Emmy Awards and seven additional nominations for multi-
camera, episodic television series between 1985 and 1998. His award-winning
programs were Mr. Belvedere (1985), Growing Pains (1987 and 1991), Just the
Ten of Us (1990) and Sister, Sister (1995). The other nominations were for
Night Court (1986 and 1988), Growing Pains (1992), Dudley (1993) and Sister,
Sister (1996, 1997, and 1998).
Dibie worked on six television series, which broke through the 100-episode
barrier, beginning with Barney Miller in 1975. He also shot every Warner Bros.
pilot for multi-camera series over a 10-year span, including My Sister Sam,
Head of the Class, Murphy Brown, Driving Miss Daisy and The Trouble With
?George Dibie broke all the rules because he understood that there can be
drama in comedy, and comedy in drama,? says Russ Alsobrook, chairman of the
ASC Award Committee. ?He ignored the broadcast engineers mandate to make all
multi-camera shows look bright. George knew how to photograph beautiful
actresses but he didn?t hesitate to use darkness and create gritty images when
that was the right visual grammar.?
Dibie compiled between 1,500 and 2,000 hours of situation comedy credits on
primetime television. He also shot between 60 and 70 television movies,
including a number of programs for a regular, late-evening drama series called
The ABC Armchair Mysteries.
?George earned this tribute from his peers in recognition of his artistry
as a cinematographer,? says ASC President Daryn Okada. ?I would be remiss if
I didn?t mention that he overcame daunting odds to achieve a seemingly
impossible dream. George has also dedicated himself to helping many other
people achieve their dreams.?
Dibie was born and raised in Jerusalem, in Palestine, before Israel was a
nation. His father was Greek and his mother came from Lebanon. He was a
dedicated movie fan and an avid still photographer during his youth. After
completing high school, he was hired by the United States Information Agency
(U.S.I.A.) in Amman, Jordan. His job was translating reports written by
members of the army in Jordan. One day, Dibie told his boss that his dream was
to go to school in the United States and become a director or cinematographer
in Hollywood. Seven days later, he had a U.S.I.A. scholarship and was on his
way to Los Angeles.
Dibie enrolled in a film studies program at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he
focused on lighting and directing stage plays. Dustin Hoffman was a classmate.
Dibie supported himself by working as a waiter and busboy. He also bought a
couple of 16 mm cameras and a projector, and shot films of weddings, bar
mitzvahs and other events.
After Dibie graduated in 1963, he worked as a checker in a supermarket,
where he shared his dream with shoppers. One of those customers worked for
20th Century Fox, and called one night to tell him to report on the studio lot
for work as a day player on an electrical crew the next morning.
His first day on the job was on a set where Leon Shamroy, ASC was filming
Cleopatra. He worked his way up through the ranks. He became a best boy and
then a gaffer, working on crews with legendary cinematographers, including
Harry Stradling, ASC, James Wong Howe, ASC, Harkness Smith, ASC, Howard
Schwartz, ASC, Jack Marta, ASC, Harold Stein, ASC and Philip Lathrop, ASC.
?I learned so much by watching and listening to them,? Dibie recalls. ?I
was Harry Stradling?s gaffer when he shot On a Clear Day, starring Barbra
Streisand. She was beautiful. I invented the Stri-light for her. Barbra really
knows how to find her light.?
In 1966, Dibie and Dr. Roger Dash organized a company for the purpose of
producing and distributing 16 mm documentaries and educational films. Dr. Dash
researched and wrote the scripts. Dibie directed, shot and edited the films.
Their first project was a 22-minute film about six black people who grew up
poor in ghettos and succeeded in life. Dibie-Dash produced and distributed 20
films during the next 10 years.
Dibie?s breakthrough in Hollywood happened in 1975 when Danny Arnold
recruited him to be the director of photography for Barney Miller, an episodic
series produced with multiple cameras in video format. It was a 30-minute
situation comedy set in a police precinct headquarters, starring Hal Linden,
Abe Vigoda and an ensemble cast.
?In those days, video shows had technical directors who looked at wave form
monitors in the control booth, and made sure that the key-to-fill light ratio
was 2:1,? Dibie recalls. ?It was a broadcast standard that the engineers
wrote because they believed all video programs needed a bright look like game
shows. Danny Arnold told me that he wanted a dramatic look that was right for
the mood and environments where scenes were happening. If it was supposed to
be dark and moody, he wanted that look.?
Barney Miller became a fan favorite with an eight-year run on television,
but Dibie re-fought the same battle with television engineers on various other
programs. For a number of years, the camera guild rules limited Dibie to
working on multi-camera TV programs produced in video format. He challenged
that rule and broke through that barrier in 1983 when he shot the multi-camera
episodic series Buffalo Bill on film.
At the time, there were three different Locals representing cinematographers
and camera crews in the United States. They had organized in 1928. The Local
in New York represented members on the East Coast. The Local in Chicago
represented members in the Midwestern states. The Los Angeles Local
represented members of the West Coast.
Frank Stanley, ASC, president of the Los Angeles Local, encouraged Dibie to
run for second vice president in 1984. He was elected and stepped up to
president after Stanley retired because of a health problem. Dibie was re-
elected in 1985. He served as president for 20 consecutive years. During that
period, the three regional organizations were merged into the International
Cinematographers Guild, Local 600.
Dibie is credited with initiating a diversity program designed to assist
women and members of racial minorities, who were under-represented in the
industry, to succeed as cinematographers and camera crewmembers. He also
supported a plethora of training programs designed to enable members to
nurture their talents and skills.
Dibie recently participated in a seminar for film students and other
aspiring filmmakers when one of them asked how he kept his spirits up when
things were difficult. Dibie responded, ?That?s simple. I love the work. You
are helping the director, writer and producers create a fantasy world. You
read a script and start to dream about what it should look like as you tell
the story. To me, that is like painting, and I love to paint. This was my
boyhood dream and it has all came true.?
The ASC was chartered in January 1919. There are currently 290 active
members of ASC who have national roots in some 20 countries. There are also
150 associate members from sectors of the industry that support the art and
craft of filmmaking. Membership and associate membership is by invitation
based on contributions that individuals have made to advance the art of visual
storytelling. For information about the 22nd Annual ASC Outstanding
Achievement Awards, visit www.theasc.com.
George Spiro Dibie To Receive ASC Achievement Award
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