By Georgia Packard, SOC. The Society of Camera Operators (SOC) rolled out the red carpet for their 2011 Lifetime Achievement Awards gala event February 5th at Warner Brothers Studios. Artists of the camera crew received a golden CAMMY while Technical Achievement Awards were presented to the corporate community for their contributions to the advancement of equipment and techniques vital to the work of Camera Operators. The SOC dedicates ongoing support to the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, contributing proceeds from the Lifetime Achievement Awards whose nominations highlight the careers of the industry’s best.
Michael Ferris, SOC was the Camera Operator recipient.
While attending UCLA’s Masters Program in Film, one of Michael’s earliest work experiences included Orson Wells’ The Other Side of the Wind. In 1972 he met and began collaborating with John Cassavetes who was receptive to the Camera Operator’s contributions in visual storytelling. He worked his way up as a union assistant and John A. Alonzo, ASC who utilized Ferris in the operator position on such films including Blue Thunder, Cross Creek, and Scarface among others. Operating credits include Colors, Rambo III, Diehard, Forrest Gump, The Truman Show, Blow, Jurassic Park III, Blood Work, SWAT, Seraphim Falls, The Soloist, The Runaways and Justified. In addition to a specialty in underwater cinematography, Ferris has an extensive list of international commercial credits, industrials, educational films and documentaries.
Alan Disler received the Camera Technician Lifetime Achievement Award.
Disler moved west to Los Angeles in 1975 to be admitted into the first trainee class for the Assistant Camera Training Program. Alan was fortunate to work as a 2nd AC with such notable cinematographers as Ray De La Motte and Craig Denault. Later he joined the crew of Ralph Woolsey, Gordon Willis and Caleb Deschanel, moving on to positions later with Peter Suschitzky, Michael Seresin and Russell Boyd.
“On balance, I still find the job rewarding and satisfying,” says Disler, “Despite the increasing emphasis on the commercial of the Industry to the detriment of the ‘Art’ side.”
Peter Romano, ASC was honored Mobile Camera Platform Operator. He started off in still photography and enrolled in Boston College. Concurrently he enlisted in the Navy and became a US Navy Underwater Cameraman assigned to Combat Camera Group. In 1980, while working as an assistant camera at Industrial Light and Magic, Romano was hired to shoot his first freelance underwater commercial. Frustrated with the limiting equipment, Pete built his own underwater camera housing, calling his product HydroFlex. His 1st AC credits include For Your Eyes Only, Jaws 3D, and Splash which instigated the need for standardized, operator-friendly 35mm underwater camera housing. Pete used his hands-on experience to simplify and enhance the shooting experience for film and digital productions in creating this system. Romano’s extensive credits include The Fountain, Lady in the Water, Men of Honor, Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan, The Rock, Waterworld and The Abyss.
David James received the Still Photographer Award. James joined the Stills Department at MGM Studios-UK at the age of 16, and began shooting his own stills at the age of 19. His first film was a British comedy directed by Ken Anakin and soon James was covering such movies as Women in Love, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar and Barbra Streisand’s Yentl. He moved to the US in the late 1980’s. “I got a call a few days later to say that he (Steven Spielberg) wanted me to do the movie and that I could pick up my portfolio book,” recalls David. He went on to cover many more of Spielberg’s movies after Schindler’s List. “Every movie I cover and have covered has its own story to tell,” says James. “My favorite subjects are musicals and war, though just having shot Water For Elephants, I have to add circuses in the Depression. In reality, I have to say that I have been extremely lucky in landing movies that have been a visual treat.” Currently David was hired to shoot Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. “Tom Cruise and I have shot some pictures that will be historical.” David James’ photography was used brilliantly in the program booklet for the event.
The Historical Shot Award was presented to Jost Vacano, ASC, BVK for his work in Das Boot, 1981. Realism was director Wolfgang Peterson’s goal and Vacano perfectly captured the look and feel of being cramped together onboard a submarine at war. “My idea for this film was to have a floating, handheld camera, documentary feel.” “Cinematography is sometimes about engineering, especially when the equipment for certain visual ideas does not exist. Because stabilizer-gyros were still unknown at that time, I had to build them myself. Coupled with a mechanical remote focus control and the prototype camera based on my design ideas and built by ARRI (later developed as production-model ARRIFLEX IIIc) and weeks of physical training, I was able to run through these small round doors in the submarine without bumping into them. After more training, I could even do it in reverse. Finally my ‘impossible’ shot of running with the camera the length of the 150 foot submarine’s long narrow metal tube seemed possible. But where to use it? It’s not a shot for its own sake. It had to tell the story. And the best moment was when the destroyer appeared and the whole crew had to run forward in panic.” Jost received the Award via digital presentation at ARRI’s Munich facilities from presenter Anette Haellmigk, SOC who worked with Jost on her first feature film and credits Vacano for her expertise in blocking actors and moving the camera.
The President’s Award was accepted by Russell Nordstedt, president of Local 80 for the Grip Union. The SOC and Grip union have been very active in combining their talents and offering camera dolly workshops at Local 80 stage in Burbank. They have forged a highly motivated crew of technicians mastering camera movement, communication, and creative storytelling. “Whether on a dolly or a crane, the camera operator and the dolly grip work together as a team to pull off all of those amazing shots you see on the silver screen. They are also there to guide us while handheld and spot us for the Steadicam. No matter what the shot, Local 80 has our backs. It all comes down to Grip, Lighting and Camera dancing together to make it work.”
Frank Kay was presented with the Distinguished Service Award Cammy. He began his career in 1987, working as the Director of Creative Services and Stage Operations at Panavision. There he oversaw the physical design and set-up of their new stages at Woodland. Once built, Kay directed their sales and marketing, and managed their day-to-day operations. In 2004, Frank moved to the Marketing Director position at JL Fisher where he created and administers the yearly advertising budget, produces all worldwide trade shows and the beloved annual JL Fisher Open House in Burbank. As the company liaison to all unions and guilds, Kay has loved to meet and encourage dolly grips, key grips, cinematographers, camera operators and sound boom operators to develop and improve tools of the trade. Frank Kay has been a pivotal agent in the success of the numerous SOC training workshops.
Technical Achievement Awards were given to ARRI for the design and development of the ALEXA CAMERA and to George Peters, Lev Yevstratov and Joseph Bednar for the design and development of the ULTIMATE ARM GYRO-STABILIZED CAMERA CRANE. Bill Russell accepted the award for ARRI where he has been a driving force in the company for over 30 years. Having had the pleasure of visiting the amazing ARRI complex in Munich, Germany where the cameras are designed and mostly hand-assembled, I was impressed with the technological advancements continually offered by ARRI, their personal attention to detail and the ability of the company to listen to what we film makers need/ desire in our film and digital tools. Many thanks went out to these technical award winners who have helped make our artistic imaging creative, visually stimulating and cutting edge.
Colin Anderson, SOC was voted as Feature Film Camera Operator of the Year for his work on The Town. “The Town was without doubt one of the most enjoyable sets I have been on because of Ben Afleck. One would be hard pressed to find a nicer person to spend your day with! He is extremely bright, humorous and knowledgeable. Ben and director of photography Robert Elswit, ASC both gave me an enormous amount of freedom to make my own choices regarding setups and framing, which is so rewarding. They did, however, have a definite vision for the film and I think they struck the perfect balance as to when the camera was moving or stationary.” Nominees included Stephen Campanelli, SOC The Hereafter, Geoffrey Haley The Fighter, Peter Rosenfeld, SOC The Social Network and Scott Sakamoto, SOC Salt.
David Frederick, SOC was voted as Television Camera Operator of the Year for his work on Sons of Anarchy. “Almost entirely handheld, Sons of Anarchy is the most physically demanding camera operating jobs that I have ever had. We use the Panavision Genesis: a visually incredible imaging camera, but heavy. As A-camera operator, I have the pleasure of co-operating with the perfect gentleman Steve Fracol, SOC on B-cam and Steadicam. Steve and I have worked side by side for the past three seasons. The effort behind the camera is shared by the hard working crew, all of them passionate about the show. We work fast and get a huge amount of stunning work done each day.” Nominees included Greg Collier, SOC Bones, Tony Gaudioz, House, Lawrence Karman, Raising Hope and Guy Skinner, SOC 24.
Warner Brothers Studio was a perfect setting for the stunning black-tie event. Welcoming all for a much deserved celebration of hard work, creative problem-solving and artistic achievement. Bruce Carse hosted the evening with his usual quick wit and intimate knowledge of cinematography. Bruce is the Co-Founder of ONE Hollywood, which takes the collaborative nature of film production beyond the set and establishes online a place where professionals in all disciplines can learn, share and ask about their crafts, their profession and technology. Carse has produced, hosted and moderated hundreds of Q and A’s focused on the collaborative nature of feature filmmaking, as well as acting as Master of Ceremonies several times for the SOC. This year the SOC’s donation to the Vision Center was a short digital documentary showing Children’s Hospital continuing contributions and commitment to the children and families served. The SOC has pledged to continue their uncompromising support, as noted in the group’s motto We See It First.
Article by Georgia Packard, SOC. Photos by Craig Mathews, Mathews Imaging. Captions by Dave Frederick.