John Schwartzman, ASC, rode Seabiscuit to victory in the feature film competition at the 18th Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Awards gala on Sunday, February 8 at the Century Plaza Hotel. The award was presented to Schwartzman by Jim Sheridan, the Oscar-nominated writer-producer-director of In America. It was the first victory for Schwartzman in the ASC competition. He was nominated for Pearl Harbor in 2002.
“I suspect this is what the founders of ASC had in mind 85 years ago when they envisioned a quest for artistic excellence in visual storytelling,” Sheridan said. “Each of the nominated films was a singular artistic triumph. They ranged from fantasy to reality with strong characters who made intimate connections with the audience.”
The other nominees in the feature film competition were Russell Boyd, ACS for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Andrew Lesnie, ACS for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, John Seale, ASC, ACS for Cold Mountain, and John Toll, ASC for The Last Samuri.
Tami Reiker, Jeff Jur, ASC and Pierre Gill, CSC claimed ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards in the television competitions. Reiker won the cable award for the "Carnivale" pilot, which aired on Home Box Office. Jur took top honors for “Pick a Number,” an episode of "Carnivale." Gill won the competition for the best telefilm on a network channel for Hitler: The Rise of Evil, which aired on CBS. Carla Gugino, James Caan, and Kiefer Sutherland presented the awards, respectively.
It was Reiker’s first nomination. It was the second ASC Outstanding Achievement Award for Jur, who won last year for the telefilm Last Call. Gill was nominated for the telefilm Joan of Arc in 2000.
This was the first time in the history of the ASC Awards that a single program took top honors in both the television movie/miniseries/pilot and episodic categories. "Carnivale" is a classic good versus evil drama set against the backdrop of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression that wracked the United States during the 1930s.
Michael Chapman, ASC received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. Chapman was honored for his body of work, including such classics as Raging Bull, The Fugitive, Taxi Driver, The Wanderers and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. His upcoming releases include Eulogy, Suspect Zero and House of D. The award was presented by David Duchovny, who lauded the cinematographer for his artful visual storytelling, and also predicted that Chapman’s best work is still ahead of him. “Someday we’ll be back for part two of the Michael Chapman Lifetime Achievement Award,” he said.
Miroslav Ondricek, ASC claimed the International Achievement Award for his extraordinary body of work, which includes Amadeus, Ragtime, Hair, Silkwood, Slaughter-House Five</> and Awakenings. Ondricek is a native of Prague, Czechoslovakia, where he is currently teaching at the national film school. He received the award from actress-director Penny Marshall, who has collaborated with Ondricek on A League of Their Own, The Preacher’s Wife and Riding in Cars With Boys.
She noted that Ondricek began his career in Prague, but left his native land in 1967 when the communist government clamped down on freedom of expression. “He brought a different way of thinking to Western filmmaking, did marvelous work, and returned home to teach the next generation of Czech filmmakers,” she said.
Irwin Winkler received the ASC Board of Governors Award, which ASC presents annually to an individual who has made extraordinary and enduring contributions to advancing the art of filmmaking. Winkler has produced and directed films that have earned 12 Oscars in major categories and 33 other nominations, including Rocky, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff and Goodfellas. The award was presented by actor Kevin Kline who observed, “I am told on good authority that the surest way to put a big smile on a cinematographer’s face is to tell him or her that Irwin Winkler is on the phone.”
Howard Anderson Jr., ASC received the organization’s Presidents Award. This tribute is presented annually to an individual who has made unique contributions to the art form. Anderson is a visual effects pioneer who has earned several Oscar nominations, but is perhaps best known for his work on the classic television series "I Love Lucy" and "Star Trek." Anderson is a second-generation filmmaker. His father, Howard Anderson began his career in Hollywood in 1919. Anderson began working with his father part-time while still in his teens, during the early 1930s. His career stretched into the 1990s. The award was presented by his son, Howard Anderson III, and granddaughter, Valerie Anderson, both of whom are following in his wake in the film industry.
Film historian and documentarian Kevin Brownlow received a special award of recognition for his “incomparable contributions to preserving the heritage of the past for future generations of filmmakers and fans,” in the words of ASC President Richard Crudo. Brownlow is a self-taught historian and documentary filmmaker. He has authored books ("The Parade’s Gone By") and produced documentaries (Abel Gance: The Charm of Dynamite, Unknown Chaplin, Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow and D.W. Griffith: Father of Film) about the silent movie era, in addition to finding, restoring and preserving irreplaceable films for posterity.
The award was presented to Brownlow by his friend and actor James Karen, who noted, “He prowls and discovers old films, and preserves and restores them, so they can be seen in the future, as their creators intended … Kevin is our roadmap to the past.”
ASC also gave a nod to the future with the presentation of the Conrad L. Hall Heritage Award to two student filmmakers, Nelson Cragg from the University of Southern California and Bill Fernandez from Florida State University. The award is presented annually to one or more promising student filmmakers. Legendary cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, presented the awards. “This is just the beginning of a lifelong journey,” Kovacs said. “Keep learning and never despair. No matter what obstacles lie ahead, keep believing in yourself.”
The ASC was founded in January 1919 by a handful of cinematographers who were dedicated to advancing the art of narrative filmmaking. The ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards were inaugurated in 1987 for the purpose of recognizing and inspiring the quest for artistry in narrative filmmaking. There are currently some 270 members from many countries around the world, and another 136 associates in allied fields. For additional information, visit the ASC website at www.theasc.com