“You’re not a DP until you have been fired.” That was a common thing that Bryan Raymond, the Sales Director at Ikan, heard at the ASC Master Class he attended in Los Angeles, California. (For those new to the film industry, DP stands for Director of Photography.) What’s the ASC Master Class? It’s an intensive five day seminar taught in LA by some of the best cinematographers in the world and it is hosted by the ASC (The American Society of Cinematographers). The seminar is designed for cinematographers with an intermediate-to-advanced skill set and includes hands-on demos of lighting and camera techniques, specialized instruction on various topics such as commercial cinematography, and more. It’s a great way for cinematographers to hone their skills and learn from the experts. Some of the experts that Bryan got to learn from include: Jacek Laskus, James Neihouse, Bill Bennett, Ueli Steiger, Theo Van de Sande, Rob Legato, Curtis Clark, Steven Shaw (the first AC on ET), David Darby, and Jill Bogdanowicz.
All the classes took place in either the ASC Clubhouse or at the Mole Richardson Stage. At the sessions, Bryan learned things such as using camera movement to tell a story, creating moods with lighting and color temperature, and shooting in low light. Another feature of the class was having access to the highest levels of tools in the industry including the Panasonic Varicam, Alexa 65, and Dolby PRM-4220.
An interesting session that Bryan attended was taught by Bill Bennett, a cinematographer and pilot who has been shooting automobiles, aircraft, people, and places for national TV commercials for over 20 years. In Bill’s class, he pulled away the smoke and mirrors of shooting a commercial and showed how to light the scenes for automobile commercials. He demonstrated how to properly shoot a car commercial with tips such as getting reflections off windows, etc.
Many of the classes focused on lighting, color correction, and communicating the director’s vision to the art department, gaffers, etc. They also learned how to use color temperature, camera movement, and lens selection to make a flat image come to life. Besides ACES, high dynamic range or HDR was a common thread in most sessions. In Ueli Steiger’s class, attendees learned about the whole ballet between the camera and grips that had to be performed in order to change the lighting throughout the set. Bryan found it very helpful to learn how to deal with certain situations and how to best share a vision with the rest of the team. Other tips that the experts gave include building a crew locally, finding and working with a great crew, always sharing tips, and helping others. Each person has his/her own unique take on things and a different approach so learning from each other helps everyone.
Another interesting session that Bryan attended was taught by Rob Legato, a visual effects supervisor, second unit director, and second unit director of photography. Rob has won two Academy Awards for his work on Titanic and on Hugo. In his class, Rob dissected a scene in the thriller, Shutter Island, and showed how he created the last scene in the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio to make it believable. He also showed attendees how he made the Jungle Book. He combined live action with CG in the Jungle Book and instead of using treadmills, Rob designed a blue screen set built around a turntable to simulate characters walking through larger locations.
During the course of the five day seminar, Bryan got to meet a bunch of people and talk to them about all their experiences, successes, and failures. Some of the most interesting stories and advice came from how people rebounded from failures. It seems that getting fired is part of the process of becoming a director of photography hence the quote at the beginning of this post.
Overall, taking the ASC Master Class and receiving a certificate at the end was a huge honor for Bryan. He said that he will remember the class for the rest of his life. He enjoyed meeting participants from all over the world and sees the ASC as a true global society of cinematographers.