John Bowring ACS

John Bowring, ASC at center, rear. Denny Clairmont, left.

John Bowring ACS, passed away on his way home to Australia. John was one of a dozen speakers who presented brief overviews of the industry to an audience of 65 at the annual Cooke Optics NAB dinner on Wednesday, April 13, 2011.

John said, “Our community really needs to get together to promote how good film really is. This is often lost in the current digital haze of different formats.

“Aha. I see some vendors in the room ready for roasting…nothing personal about suppliers being past their delivery dates, but… We had to buy Alexas because Aaton has been taking their time getting their new digital Penelope to us…(laughter all around)…but I’m sure they’ll have a deliverable one by the end of the year.

“Certainly the biggest camera release of the show has been the new Sony F65, and it certainly looks to be an interesting kit. We’ll have to see what the price comes in at, because our model has been sort of changing, particularly in Australia. We’re always trying to do it cheaper and cheaper and cheaper–perhaps not as good at times, but it’s going to be interesting to see where the next year goes. There’s all this new stuff. The Sony F3 cameras, NEX-FS100 NXCAM Super35, other little cameras…The digital stills things has gone off like a packet of fire crackers in Australia. Everybody who wants to be a filmmaker buys a Canon 5D and considers themselves a film production company. It’s a bit of a frustration, but the core business on the film side–it’s amazing– it keeps going and looking good. So I think film will be around for a long time, long after I retire anyway.

“At the end of last year, we got our Aaton Penelopes. We started our first Aaton Penelope features at the beginning of 2011. We’ve done our first Aaton Peneope 2-perf feature, and from that there’s a lot of other interest in doing 2-perf film. Because 2-perf is really such a strong format, as Denny (Clairmont) said. It is starting to become a strong way of getting film back into the marketplace. Many of our older cameras are sort of sitting on the shelves in terms of 35mm, but certainly the Aaton 35-3 and the Aaton Penelopes are very successful in 3-perf–in the marketplace doing features as well. These are mostly very low budget features; they don’t necessarily have a lot of resources like the two little boys over in New Zealand have. A lot of our features are being shot in the Outback with Aatons working with timecode and all that. It’s a very efficient way of making productions be able to shoot film and still come in relatively competitive to certain other digital formats. And with film, they have a glorious look.”

Geoffrey Chappell, of Cooke Optics, who was the moderator, master and commander of ceremonies, adds, “And to think that I held him to talking for only two minutes.  I have known John Bowring for about 35 years, and true to his last speech, he was a staunch supporter of film, while embracing new digital technology.

“John always put up a good argument, and was respected by many manufacturers. John spoke freely, a true and passionate Australian who just loved and lived for his craft. I feel that all the guests at the Cooke dinner  should feel honoured to have been in his company. John spent the last days of his life doing what he enjoyed most, and with the many friends that he has made world-wide. For me, he truly was a legend. The comforting thought for me was that he was with his wife of 35 years, Sue, at the time of his death. She has been a major force in the company. Our sympathies also go out to his children, Jack and Kate.

“John Bowring is an example of how one person can make such a BIG difference to a country’s film industry. He made manufactures take note, and convinced them to change. You can see this on his company’s website: LEMAC. John started life as a documentary cameraman travelling the world with the well know Broadcaster  Clive James. We will all miss John Bowring.”

Soren Phillips writes, “He was traveling home from NAB via HongKong, complained of a headache when he got to the hotel and things then happened very quickly. He was quite fit. I struggled to keep up the years I assisted him. He’s going to leave a very big hole here in Australia for his enormous extended family of friends and colleagues.”

Ron Johanson, president of the ACS, announced that the 2011 Australian Cinematographers Society National Award will be dedicated to the memory of John Bowring, “as a mark of respect for his contribution to the field of cinematography.”

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