Facing the Frights of This World

Cinematographers are used to being alert to where the shifting boundary of their work lies.

At top, ASC President Stephen Lighthill (Portrait by Michael M. Pessah, ASC)

Emerging from the scary — the uncertainty of a years-long health crisis — boundaries and ground we thought were solid have shifted. Protocols we worked with through the pandemic have morphed into a never-ending rigid structure of tests and separation. Productions ready to shoot are canceled on the first day of production. A major studio — Warner — has changed owners. Entire streaming programming is canceled (see CNN Plus) just weeks after going live. Scary enough?

Think of Poland: Over the last 120 years, their country has been controlled by entities including Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia. This is the ugly, scary past — right? Right? Horror of horrors: Coveting someone else’s land is still with us. The ground may not be as solid as you thought. 

The subject of this October issue of AC is horror — or, in a word, jeopardy from something or someone. The world is scary sometimes, and if it isn’t scary enough, AC has different kinds of horror to scare you. 

Cinematographers are used to being alert to where the shifting boundary of their work lies, while some directors and/or producers have different needs or attitudes toward what a cinematographer can contribute. What is expected to be a cinematographer’s responsibility on one production may not be the same on another, and what should be reserved for another collaborator to tackle is necessarily a variable boundary. 

Technological boundaries are in constant movement, too, and cinematographers are aided in staying abreast of change by this magazine — and, of course, the American Cinematographer Manual, 11th Edition, which came out this year after superb editing by David Mullen, ASC and associate member Rob Hummel. Another favorite is ASC member David Stump’s Digital Cinematography, just revised with a second edition, as well as the Cine Lens Manual by ASC member Christopher Probst and associate member Jay Holben, who also writes this magazine’s monthly Shot Craft column. The shelf of cinematography books where knowledge is shared is a long one. At the very beginning is a book by inventor Ross Lowell, the founder of Lowel-Light, called Matters of Light and Depth. Ross managed to write a book about lighting that’s both funny and informative. So, when worried about your next production, read this book. It may keep the scary away.

A Quartz D lighting kit — from Lowel-Light, founded by Ross Lowell, who wrote the book Matters of Light and Depth.

Stephen Lighthill
President, ASC

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