President’s Desk: Stronger, Fairer and More Inventive

​“I am committed to addressing the twin challenges to our members posed by the industry shutdown and our membership’s lack of diversity.”

ASC President Stephen Lighthill (Photo by Michael M. Pessah, ASC)

We are living in very, very challenging times. The Covid-19 pandemic is raging around the world, our industry is on an unprecedented hiatus, and a simultaneous widespread movement in the U.S. is seeking racial equity. As the newly elected president of the ASC Board of Governors, I am committed to addressing the twin challenges to our members posed by the industry shutdown and our membership’s lack of diversity. 

The year the ASC was founded 101 years ago, 1919, saw the end of the so-called Spanish flu pandemic, which infected some 500 million people and had a death toll of around 50 million. Our magazine, then titled The American Cinematographer, was founded the following year. 1920 saw the first U.S. presidential election in which women were allowed to vote — half a century after Susan B. Anthony started her campaign for women’s suffrage, which culminated in the passing of the 19th Amendment.

Today we face another pandemic, and another campaign for greater equality — this time between races — that has brought thousands of protesters into our streets. The ASC will play its role in the world of cinematography to confront both of these challenges. 

Our First Vice President, Amy Vincent, ASC, and Erik Messerschmidt, ASC are leading the new Future Practices Committee, which is holding regular meetings with key industry professionals to discuss how we will all get back to work as safely as possible in the face of the Covid pandemic. The committee has held lengthy discussions on a wide array of issues, including the potential hazards of using smoke on sets, the value of virtual location scouting, and ways to sanitize equipment — inviting relevant industry experts to address each meeting and to answer questions. I imagine this committee will also add to the discussion on the various proposals to make cinematography “remote” or hands-free.

Increasing diversity at the ASC will be one of the priorities in my time as president. Our Vision Committee will be stepping up its outreach through events — both virtual and ultimately in-person again — to help increase diversity amongst cinematographers. We will continue with our student awards and our mentorship and education programs, and we will also strengthen our efforts to propose more diverse candidates for ASC active membership.

The world looked bleak in 1919/1920 — but it quickly bounced back and the Roaring Twenties took off, as America reinvented itself, just like it has done so many times in the past. I am convinced that this nation, and the ASC, will also emerge from our current challenges stronger, fairer and more inventive. It is, simply, in our nature — and in our history of 101 years.

Stephen Lighthill
President, ASC

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