Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer / Charlie Lieberman, ASC

, Episode #92

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SPONSORED BY: ASC Master Class

About the Project

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, written Richard Fire and John McNaughton and directed by McNaughton, was photographed entirely on practical locations in Chicago in the fall of 1985. The modestly budgeted picture was completed in 1986 but only after building an audience on the festival circuit and gaining rave reviews from key film critics was it finally released theatrically in 1990. The film later became a massive success on home video and led to controversy about the MPAA ratings system.

While Henry had humble beginnings, it stands today as a contemporary horror classic in the company of such films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (shot by Daniel Pearl, ASC) and Halloween (shot by Dean Cundey, ASC).

Loosely based on the real-life exploits of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas — played in the film by Michael Rooker — and his accomplice Otis Toole — played by Tom Towles — the film grimly depicts a week in the life of a murderous sociopath. 

About the Cinematographer
Lieberman on location shooting a landscape.

After earning a B.A. in anthropology from Northern Illinois University, Charlie Lieberman, ASC settled in Chicago to pursue a career in still photography. 

He landed a series of jobs in camera shops and advertising studios before setting out as a freelance photographer. And one of his first assignments was to photograph indigenous cultures in small villages across 14 countries for a series of anthropology books.

Returning to Chicago, Lieberman displayed his work in a gallery and was subsequently hired as a still photographer on a documentary about Olympic athletes. 

This first taste of motion-picture production prompted Lieberman to change tacks, and he began working as a cinematographer in documentary, industrial and educational films. 

After shooting his first feature in 1985, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Lieberman remained in Chicago, primarily shooting commercials, until 1989, when he relocated to Los Angeles. 

He subsequently shot such features as South Central (1992) and Love is a Gun (1994) and network TV series including My So-Called Life, Party of Five, Joan of ArcadiaOnce and Again and Heroes.

Lieberman has been a member of the ASC since 2008, and is currently the chair of the ASC Photo Gallery committee, which has successfully staged four shows of still photography done by ASC members, including his own current work. He has also been an active participant in the ASC Master Class education program.

You'll find his personal site here.

American Cinematographer interviews cinematographers, directors and other filmmakers to take you behind the scenes on major studio movies, independent films and popular television series.

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