When I go deep and analyze the reasons why I became a cinematographer, it always boils down to one peculiar factor – mastery.
Looking back at my time as a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I’ve come to understand what appealed to me in all of the people I admired. They were really good at something. It didn’t matter if they were a ballplayer, an astronaut, a rock star…the local mechanic or the dog catcher. If I recognized that they had put in the time and energy to learn how to do something on a superior level, well, they lived on a pedestal as far as I was concerned.
That seems like an odd thing for such a young person to embrace, but it increased in its zeal as I was exposed to more of the world. And when the time came to choose my own path, it was foremost in my mind. Whatever I did, I wanted to be among the best and was prepared to expend any effort necessary in order to join those ranks. Though I could just as easily have gone another way, I stumbled into cinematography – and I’m eternally thankful for that. I was blessed to get to know some amazing role models who taught me so much and whom I so idolized – Alonzo, Bailey, Butler, Daviau, Dibie, Fraker, Hall, Kemper, Kovacs, Omens, Roizman, Wexler, Willis, Zsigmond… If those names don’t ring a bell, look ’em up!
The best of what I learned from them didn’t concern lenses, emulsions or sensors, although there was plenty of that. It also didn’t end at the door to the ASC Clubhouse. Besides being great cinematographers, they were all fantastic characters, just wonderful human beings. Though I’d never place myself in their class, I’m forever in their debt for the examples they set and the guidance they so generously dispensed.
The learning and honing and striving to be better never stops. Now, the bigger satisfaction is in passing those lessons along to the younger generation or anyone else who might be interested.
If I’m lucky and keep working hard, I might just have a chance to live up to an incredible legacy…