With Christmas so close, I thought this was an appropriate subject for today…

            Sincere displays of gratitude have become as difficult to find as a mainstream journalist without an agenda.  Sure, you can point to the teary theatrics of awards season, but those are generally so transparent as to not withstand a second look.  What I’m referring to is a genuine show of appreciation that has neither been required nor expected.  To do that, an individual not only needs to be self-aware but self-possessed.  It means looking beyond the moment and acknowledging that – to quote one of William Fraker, ASC’s pet phrases – “It ain’t all about you, baby.” 

            While shooting a feature in the early 2000’s I had the most unpleasant experience with an actor who had been an enormous star in the 1980’s and ’90’s.  He struck me as the angriest, unhappiest person on the planet.  The reasons for his behavior were a mystery.  He was by no means destitute or physically hobbled.  He still looked good.  The film we were making was a worthy effort.  But his psychotically selfish behavior, miserable temperament and lack of respect toward everyone was appalling.  To this day he remains the most despicable example of a human being that I have ever encountered.

            Which isn’t to say that he didn’t exhibit a moment of grace.  One day on set a  frightened PA handed Mr. Misery a small, gift wrapped box.  I have no idea what was in it or from whom it had come, but it clearly made an impression.  I was standing close to him when he called the PA back.  He then dictated a message of thanks to the sender that was truly touching.  And you know what?  In that moment all of his rotten antics fell away.  He was rendered decent, recognizable and relatable.  By dropping his nasty charade, he revealed something true about himself and was forgiven all transgressions.  Of course, the good will didn’t last out the minute.  But years later those few seconds still hold some magic for me.  If anyone ever needed to see an example of the healing, transformative nature of gratitude – even in ways we might not be privy to – that was it.

            Meanwhile, a paradigm shift continues to take place throughout the world.  Roiling change continue to keep everyone off balance; this blurs our perspective and makes context impossible to determine.  Hopefully, in the New Year we’ll refocus on a less self-centered society whose one-to-one exchanges coincide with its broader ideals.  I see indications of this whenever I meet with my fellow ASC members.  A lot of luck is needed to sustain a career in our business and I suspect that they know it, if only on a subconscious level.  I also sense a great deal of gratitude among them; in ways both subtle and overt they often acknowledge that we’re fortunate to have come this far and are able to do what we do.  In fact, I’ve noticed this trait among cinematographers from every corner of the world.  It seems to be part of our disposition.

             Certainly, there are many other things to be grateful for in life than having chosen to work as a cinematographer.  Indeed, we should be thankful for a healthy day in a world in which an errant microbe can kill you as easily as an errant bullet.  But there’s another way to think about it.  Rather than continuing to be caught up in the mechanics or aesthetics of what we do, why don’t we concentrate more on the relationships we forge and the things we learn about ourselves while on the job?

That way, blessed as we are to be cinematographers, true gratitude can be our only response.


7 thoughts on “GRATITUDE”

  1. Thank you, Richard. This was a wonderful post.
    As a struggling cinematographer still trying to make a living out of this job, I constantly fall into the miserable thoughts of an unfair life that doesn’t lend me any lucky hand; from unfinished projects, to one-time directors that decide to change career, to producers incapable of pushing forward the movie, the list is long and the pandemic didn’t really help in quelling angry thoughts.
    But I forced myself to find silver linings in all this; I have many reasons to be grateful and even if I’m still not where I’d like to be, I tell myself that I have to keep pushing and working hard because every opportunity I miss is a missed chance.
    There is nothing else I’d rather do than working as a cinematographer and I can’t picture myself doing any other job, so I have to be grateful just for the fact that I can still pursue my goal and not giving up on my dreams.
    Thanks again and I wish you great holidays and a happy Christmas.

  2. Hello – I just stumbled across your site today, expecting to find a wealth of lighting information and to my surprise the first post I read is so beautifully written and instead consists of a heartfelt reminder to be a kinder and grateful human. So on that note, thank you for your words and all that you share. Although I have never met you, I hope you continue to be the caring soul that I think you are. I also hope you are able to find many moments of happiness during these difficult times.

  3. Thank you, Jennie…that’s a very kind reply! But look a little further and you’ll find that wealth of lighting information you were initially after. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions. In the meantime, I send my best to you and yours for safe and happy holidays!

  4. Luigi – We all experience those dark emotions from time to time, but hang in there. My best to you and yours for the holidays. 2021 will be better – I’m sure of it!

  5. Thank you Richard, a beautiful and insightful message. I agree gratitude and perspective are gifts that will support us through difficult circumstances and enhance and enrich the great one’s, not only for us but for all that we encounter.
    Buon Natalie!

  6. Thank you, Jacqueline. My best to you and yours for Christmas and New Years. I hope we can meet up in person again as soon as the covid hysteria passes in 2021!

  7. This post made my day, and reminded me of all the things I have to be grateful for…one of them, how much I learn from you each time I read your blog. Thank you!

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