What exactly is the American Society of Cinematographers?

            The ASC is a professional, educational and fraternal group – the oldest organization in the motion picture industry.  It was formed in 1919 when the Static Club of America (headquartered in Los Angeles) and the Cinema Camera Club (located in New York City) merged as the current entity.  The ASC is not a union.  It’s an honorary group, with membership by invitation only to elite directors of photography who have consistently distinguished themselves. Bestowal of the ASC suffix is rare.  In the history of the medium fewer than 800 individuals have been granted the right to use it.

Where is the ASC headquartered and how many members are there?

            Based in Hollywood, the legendary ASC Clubhouse is situated at the southeast corner of Orange Drive and Franklin Avenue.  It was built in 1903 and we have occupied it since 1937.  The ASC currently has about 450 active members; associate membership is made up of about 150 technologists, equipment suppliers, manufacturers and representatives of related companies. Among our many efforts, we have published American Cinematographer magazine every month since 1920.  We also publish the industry bible, the American Cinematographer Manual; the 11th edition will soon be released in print and digital forms.  Each February we celebrate the ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, an event that attracts nearly 1,600 people.

Does the ASC do anything for students?

            Our motto is Loyalty, Progress, Artistry, but you might add Education to that as well.  Throughout the year, the ASC conducts many student-related initiatives; members participate in an endless array of practical demonstrations and panel discussions.  They also mentor students and lecture at schools around the world.  The ASC Master Class took the industry by storm in 2015 and is recognized as the best of its kind in the world.

What about the technology side of things?

            From a standing start in 2003, the ASC Motion Imaging Technical Committee – under the leadership of Curtis Clark, ASC – has become the leading voice in shaping the evolution and introduction of new technologies.  Without its influence, there’s no doubt we would now be burdened with inferior imaging workflows.

So, what are you people, anyway…artists or scientists?

            Cinematographers are both artists and scientists – with a slight advantage to the artist.  As the director’s closest collaborator throughout prep and production (and during the printing\digital mastering phase in post), we are co-architects of the visual plan.  We use light, color and movement to transform words into a physical reality that matches the director’s interpretation.  And don’t forget that the moods we create gain their marvel from their immediacy: If there’s no light, there’s no motion picture!

What else drives the organization?

            Perhaps the most defining trait we’ve nurtured for over 102 years is the passion each ASC member has for the job they do.  It’s something we cherish and guard preciously, and I believe it sets us apart from most everyone else in the industry.

            And it’s exactly this ethic that we need to bring with greater vigor to the community.  Society has changed, as have movies and television.  But the nature of our work and the motivations that drive us to do it have not.  Without our vigilance, a magnificent art form could easily be lost forever.


7 thoughts on “SOMEONE WANTS TO KNOW…”

  1. I love this post so much!
    I should print it and distribute it to my students when I teach classes.
    The best part is that even if the technology changed, the medium evolved and the gear diversified… the artistic part of the process remains the same: talking and painting with lights, framings and compositions.
    I became partially deaf when I was young and I thought it was an issue, but with cinematography I realized it can be a gift; I have to tell the story and deliver emotions with images, for someone that could not hear the sound.
    I truly love cinematography because it combines science and art; the scientist outside learns and uses new ways of expressing the artist inside.
    I will always remember when I was invited to visit the Clubhouse; I arrived 30 minutes earlier because I applied the same protocol I use when I see the call sheets. Richard Crudo was the one that opened the door and took me around the sanctuary. So much history, artistry and technology! I also remember meeting Michael Goi, Robert Primes and Dean Cundey. I also saw and learned the history of Billy’s Bar.
    Second happiest day of my life!

  2. Luigi – you must come back to the Clubhouse again sometime soon. It would be great to see you!

  3. I really would love to!
    I might be back in Los Angeles in the summer for a couple of weeks to shoot a music video. I’d love to stop by and visit. Would be great to see you, as well!

  4. Richard, It was a wonderful explanation of the ASC and it’s organization.
    What a beautiful facility too.
    Would love to visit it someday.
    Thanks for taking the time to write this piece. It was extremely
    interesting and informative.
    The passion for your work and dedication to it is very evident.
    I’m sure you’re helping to influence the younger generation too.
    I believe if I hadn’t become an architect I would have become
    a cinematographer!

  5. Thank you, Ken. You really must visit the next time you’re in Hollywood. If I hadn’t become a cinematographer, I would probably have become…something else!

  6. Become…. an architect!
    I will make a visit to the Clubhouse a number one priority
    the next time I’m in Hollywood!

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