Goodich Recalls Path to ASC

Frederic Goodich, ASC, at work on a jeans commercial.
Frederic Goodich, ASC (second from right), and a colleague at work on a jeans commercial.

Like many ASC members, Frederic Goodich almost took a different career path. Parents tend to push their children in the direction of economic security. In Fred’s case, the more secure profession was to be a chemist.

“My uncle was a chemist who co-developed the Kent Micronite filter,” recalls Fred. “I had a high school best friend who took that path. But I soon realized I had a stronger drive to be some form of an artist. My father, while working as a waiter at Lindy’s, New York’s celebrity deli, drew portraits in his free moments to amuse customers. From early childhood on, he would take me to the Museum of Modern Art or Manhattan’s Thalia theater, and I would see foreign films and silent movies. I often sought the make-believe world a dark theater offered.”

 

CINEGOGUE

Saturday mornings wear fancy suits

Down guilty rooms of pock-marked pews

Turn same sad pages kick in shins

Five-and-dime store eternal lamp

Lights loud reluctant giggles chants

Hundred rayon skullcaps soar

Spitballs crease velvet book of Law

Hell Avenue Bronx synagogue.

Later stunned by afternoon’s night

Stars blink in ceiling’s black & white

Paradise Loew’s cinegogue

Holy apathy awe magic times

Religious weekends neighborhood shrines

-- Frederic Goodich, 1965

“When the French New Wave hit the Bleecker Street Cinema, I found my true love. At the time, C.C.N.Y. had a department named after the great documentarian, Robert Flaherty, offering film studies. I decided to switch majors my junior year in order to satisfy both sides of this art/science duality. And I got as job in the Museum of Modern Art’s Film Library.”

His first job out of college, working for a German production company based in Washington D.C. doing weekly profile stories, took him all over the States; it placed him at historic crossroads. He photographed John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, coal miners, salmon fishermen, theater celebrities, and many others. Around this time, Fred was offered the opportunity to shoot travelogues while sailing on a four–masted Windjammer to various ports around the world. An offer he couldn’t refuse.

Eventually, however, after one year of aquatic adventure, he ended up in Los Angeles, CA, broke and looking for work. “When I first came to Los Angeles, I looked like a pre-hippie – sandals, beard, shaved head. Based on my interests in documentary and the avant-garde, a friend suggested I visit Larry Lipton who’d written the beat generation history 'The Holy Barbarians.' Seated in a rocker in his living room, dressed in pajamas and slippers, Lipton hosted a weekly salon in Venice, California where people gathered to discuss art, politics poetry and filmmaking while he projected 16mm underground films. Lipton suggested I seek work at Encyclopedia Britannica Films in Hollywood."

Goodich on set for a Roger Corman production.
Goodich on set for a Roger Corman production.

Like Isidore Mankofsky, Haskell Wexler, Caleb Deschanel, Walter Murch and others, Fred spent part of his early career working for Britannica on educational documentaries. “When I first interviewed, I offered to sweep the floors, anything, work for nothing. I got a job at $40/week as Isidore’s camera assistant. It was a great learning experience shooting 16mm Ektachrome reversal, trying to light it to make it look like 35mm negative, constructing plastic models for geology and biology films, editing, doing sound, whatever it took. Eventually, I graduated to director/cameraman, making language arts shorts intended to expose inner city kids to images that would inspire them to see the world around them with fresh eyes.”

Fred recalls a certain applicant looking for a job at Britannica from USC coming in with a photo essay about cars he’d done as his calling card. “Afterwards, I remember overhearing our producer say, ‘You know, it’s unfortunate. You get these talented guys from school, and you know they’ll never get a career going unless they just decide exactly what they want to do.’ That job applicant was George Lucas.

“There was always this mix for me, wanting to be involved in underground as well as ‘above-ground’ films,” Fred says. He wrote, shot and co-directed an ‘above-ground/underground long form music video’ documentary feature for A&M records, Love It Or Leave It, that he says expressed his concerns for how our culture stood silent while the ecology around us was being destroyed by our blind industrial greed. Fred studied acting and took workshops with Stella Adler in this period. He continued to freelance for Britannica while working on documentary features and exploitation films. Music videos and independent features began to happen for him. Whereupon his career in commercials, first shooting then directing, expanded significantly; it was, while it lasted, an enormous success.

FredGoodichWillGeer1b
Fred photographing and directing Will Geer in “Walt Whitman’s Civil War," an anti-war educational film made while the U.S. was embroiled in Vietnam.

“Membership in the ASC has been a validation of my passion, and of my instinct to follow an artistic path,” says Fred. “It has also fed my desire to teach, to inspire younger people with the love of storytelling conveyed through the magic and mystery of Light and Shadow. I treasure the sense of sharing and the focus that comes with being part of the ASC. When I first started shooting, it felt like cinematographers didn’t really talk to each other. It was like being in the wilderness. Being in the ASC brought an awakening. I am so pleased to be part of an expanding ASC that includes women, minorities and people from so many distinct cultures.”

Fred is an officer of the ASC and chairman of the ASC International Committee. “I’ve always had an interest in the international community of cinematography,” says Fred, who has attended Camerimage numerous times. “I was one of the organizers of Cinematographer’s Day in the late 1990s, which began in Palm Springs and went to Bangkok, and I was involved with film preservation at the Museum of Modern Art’s Film Library very early on,” he says. “So there’s a thread throughout my career that is very meaningful. I love hanging out with colleagues with different backgrounds, learning about their issues and experiences. It’s an honor to be part of the outreach for such a respected body as the ASC.”

Goodich (left) poses with Italian ASC members Luciano Tovoli, Vittorio Storaro and Dante Spinotti at an ASC Awards ceremony.
Goodich (left) poses with Italian ASC members Luciano Tovoli, Vittorio Storaro and Dante Spinotti at an ASC Awards ceremony.

Fred has been a key member in support of the ASC Spotlight Award, given annually to recognize great cinematography in a narrative or documentary shown in limited theatrical release – worthy films that might otherwise escape the consideration of the ASC Awards.

And Fred is deeply involved with colleagues in the planning of the 2016 International Cinematography Summit (ICS), a conference of cinematographers from around the globe slated for early June 2016 in Los Angeles. “Being an Active Member of the ASC -- in both senses of the term – makes me feel relevant and turns me on.  I’m a working DP and a participant in Society activities. It’s a privilege to feel so committed, along with others of my colleagues.”

 

 

 

 

 

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