Annual awards ceremony is an intimate party for 1,600By Frank Moldstad

Prior to the ceremony, there was a major schmoozefest.

Every year since 1987, the camera lens has turned around to focus on cinematographers at the annual American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards ceremony. This year’s 20th anniversary event on Feb. 26 paid tribute to cinematographers whose work spans more than five decades of film and television, from Lifetime Achievement Award winner Richard Kline, ASC, (The Andromeda Strain, Body Heat) to Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS (Memoirs of a Geisha).

Held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, the awards ceremony drew a crowd of 1,600 people, including a big portion of the ASC’s 400-plus members and associates, in addition to studio executives, directors, editors and actors. As the ASC President’s Award winner Woody Omens quipped, “There are 1,600 people here, but I still think it’s an intimate party. That’s because we’re not televising it to 60 million people.”

But another reason for the fraternal atmosphere is that ASC membership is by invitation only, a tradition that goes back to the organization’s founding in 1919 “to advance the art of cinematography through artistry and technological progress, to exchange ideas and to cement a closer relationship among cinematographers.” Members still refer to ASC headquarters as the Clubhouse, and actively pursue a variety of educational, cultural and professional endeavors.

 

As one of the oldest continuously operating organizations in the film business, the ASC maintains relations with everyone from industry pioneers to rising talents, and acknowledges them all. In kicking off the ceremonies, ASC president Richard Crudo hailed the presence of 92-year-old Harry Redmond, Jr., who worked on special effects for the original 1933 King Kong with his father, Harry Redmond, Sr.

Richard Kline

But one of the most remarkable examples of continuity is the family history of Richard Kline, ASC, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Kline noted that he is a fourth-generation ASC member, extending back to his uncle, cameraman Philip Rosen, who was a founding member of the organization in 1919. Kline’s father, Benjamin, was also a member, as was another uncle, Sol Halperin.

Kline’s award was presented by William Fraker, ASC, for his “extraordinary body of work,” which includes 46 feature films. Among them are Camelot (1968), The Andromeda Strain (1971), Soylent Green (1973), King Kong (1976), The Competition (1980), Body Heat (1981), Breathless (1983) and All of Me (1984). Kline attributed his success to luck and the fact that his parents met on the Universal lot. “I am also lucky to have survived studio catering,” he said, adding somewhat unconvincingly that it’s not that the food was bad, but it was served in prodigious quantities.

Other cinematographers honored for their illustrious careers were Gilbert Taylor, BSC, Woody Omens, ASC and Frederick Wiseman. Awards for contemporary film and television work were given to Dion Beebe, ASC, Robbie Greenberg, ASC, and Nathan Hope. In addition, producer/director Sydney Pollack received the only award not given to a cinematographer, the ASC Board of Governors Award.

Woody Omens

Omens, whose ASC President’s Award was presented by Doe Mayer, chair of USC’s Film and Production program, was cited for his accomplishments as both a cinematographerand an educator. His  credits range widely across film and television, including features such as History of the World: Part I (1981), Coming to America (1988) and Harlem Nights(1989), telefilms such as Ishi: Last of His Tribe (1978), Heart of the City (1987) and I Saw What You Did (1988), and the pilot episode of the series »Magnum P.I.» (1980). But in 1967, he began teaching part-time at USC, where he is now a full-time member of the faculty — one of the best they’ve ever had, according to Mayer. Among his former students is George Lucas. Omens is former ASC president, and co-founded the ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards in 1986 with Michael Margulies.

Documentary filmmaker/lensman Frederick Wiseman was honored in abstentia with the ASC Award of Distinction, being unable to attend because he is currently working on his 36th film, according to presenter Leonard Maltin.
Another master cinematographer being honored was Gilbert Taylor, BSC, who received the International Award for a career that includes Dr. Strangelove (1964), A Hard Day’s Night (1964), The Bedford Incident (1965), Macbeth (1970), The Omen (1976), Star Wars (1977), and many more. Although the nonagenarian was advised by his doctor against traveling from his home in England to accept the award, he sent a taped message of thanks, which he concluded by toasting the camera with a glass of champagne.pioneer of the cinema verite documentary style with his groundbreaking 1967 film Titicut Follies, an expose of cruel treatment of inmates at the Massachusetts Correctional Facility at Bridgewater. The much-lauded film was banned worldwide until 1991 after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that it was an invasion of inmates’ privacy. Wiseman’s method lets the images tell the story, unadorned with music or narration, and lacking a predetermined agenda. Other Wiseman films include High School (1968), Welfare (1975) Central Park (1989) and The Garden (2005).

 

After receiving the Board of Governor’s Award from actress Nicole Kidman, director Sydney Pollack said he’s declined such awards in the past because he didn’t want all his friends to be solicited for congratulatory ads. But he said his admiration for the ASC members prompted him to accept this one. Pollack, whose filmography includes They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?Three Days of the CondorThe Electric HorsemanAbsence of MaliceTootise, and The Firm, has worked with many ASC members, including five films with DP Owen Roizman. Reflecting on the importance of the cinematographer, he noted that directors can be protected by a good crew, and actors can have bad days, “but you guys can’t hide.”

Dion Beebe holding his award. Photo by Chris Pizzello

The Award for Best Theatrical Release was presented by actor Bill Paxton to Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS for Memoirs of a Geisha. Beebe recalled attending his first ASC Awards ceremony with his agent just seven years before, and how thrilled he had been to sit with the great Janusz Kaminski, ASC. In addition to Memoirs of a Geisha, Beebe’s other feaures credits include Chicago, In the Cut, Holy Smoke, Charlotte Grey, Equilibrium, and the upcoming Miami Vice. “Thanks to the ASC for honoring me,” he said. “It’s staggering.”

Other nominees for Best Theatrical Release were Robert Elswit, ASC for Good Night, and Good Luck; Andrew Lesnie, ASC, ACS for King Kong; Wally Pfister, ASC for Batman Begins; and Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC for Brokeback Mountain.

There were two television categories. Robbie Greenberg, ASC, won in the Motion Picture Miniseries/Pilot Television category for his work on Warm Springs, with the award presented by actor Edward James Olmos. Currently filming The Santa Clause 3 with director Michael Lembeck, Greenberg has won three previous ASC awards, for Winchell (1999), Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (200) and Iron Jawed Angels (2005). His other credits include The Milagro Beanfield War, Sweet Dreams, A Guy Thin, Save the Last Dance, Free Willy and Fools Rush In.

Also nominated in the Motion Picture Miniseries/Pilot Television category were Alan Caso, ASC for Into the West/“Wheel to the Stars”; Thomas A. Del Ruth, ASC for Code Breakers; Jan Kiesser, ASC, ACS for Reefer Madness and Bill Roe, ASC for Faith of My Fathers.

The other television category was for Regular Series, with the award presented to Nathan Hope by actress Emily Deschanel for “Who Shot Sherlock?”/CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He also won in the same category last year for the first CSI series. Some of Hope’s other credits include the documentary Searching for Debra Winger and the features Suckers, Nice Guys Sleep Alone, Mimic 2 and The Fog.

Other nominees in the Regular Series category were John Aronson for “Freefall”/Without a Trace; Jeffrey Jur, ASC for “Los Moscos”/Carnivale; John C. Newby, ASC for “Everything Old is You Again”/Las Vegas; and Glen Winter, CSC for “Sacred”/Smallville.