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  • Originally published on
  • Monday, Sep. 26, 2016
Emerging Cinematographer Awards Mark 20th Anniversary; 10 Aspiring DPs Honored

”Twenty years of helping to launch careers,” said Steven Poster, ASC, president of the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG), during his opening remarks at the Emerging Cinematographer Awards (ECA) screening and ceremony at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles this evening (9/25).

Poster was reflecting succinctly on the ECA’s 20th anniversary as 10 aspiring DPs were honored and their work screened for a capacity industry audience. From its inception in 1996, the ECA competition has put the spotlight on some 200 artisans, providing what has proved for many to be pivotal exposure to help them realize their professional ambitions.

Addressing the industry gathering immediately after Poster, Jim Matlosz, who has been chairman of the Guild’s ECA committee since 2008, cited several who in recent years have gone from initial ECA recognition to notable industry accomplishments, including Tim Bellen who is currently cinematographer on HBO’s Veep, Todd Dos Reis who has lensed episodes of Longmire (Netflix) and Crazy Ex Girlfriend (The CW), and Tod Campbell, DP on Mr. Robot (USA Network). Matlosz himself was an ECA honoree in 2005.

The ECAs are open to any member of the Guild who is not already classified as a DP. Members are asked to submit films they have photographed with a running time of 30 minutes or less. The ICG offers its members the opportunity to be recognized and the chance to further their careers.

The films are selected by a panel of ICG members from across the country and can be seen by a wider audience at film festivals.

This year’s crop of ECA honorees consists of:

  • Derek C. Fisher, currently a loader, who displayed his cinematography chops with Use Your Oui Oui, director Jonathan Moeller’s thesis comedy short for Columbia College, Chicago. 
  • Dan Hertzog, 2nd assistant, who lensed director Robin Shou’s Earthbound. This marks the second time Herzog has scored an ECA honor, the first being for The Passage of Mrs. Calabash shortly after he came out of AFI.
  • Eric M. Hurt, operator, who shot, wrote and directed the quirky comedy short Elemental.
  • Spencer Hutchins, operator, who served as DP on Walker, a short directed by Adrian Orozco.
  • Alexa Ihrt, operator, who lensed director Yangzom Brauen’s Born In Battle, which is no stranger to honors, having earned the UNESCO Gandhi Medal and the UNESCO Enrico Fulchignoni Award for its depiction of the plight of child soldiers who are forced into combat.
  • Matt Irwin, operator, who was cinematographer of director Nicholaus Goosen’s short Emeralds.
  • Clifford Jones, digital imaging technician, DP of director Robert Kirbyson’s In Memory.
  • Karina Silva, operator, who shot Doble 9 for director Aisha Schliessler.
  • John Veleta, digital imaging technician, who lensed the comedy short Pop Music for director Patrick Muhlberger.
  • And Alejandro A. Wilkins, operator, who shot Limbo for director Will Blank.

Agent expertise
Beside showing work, the ECA proceedings provide practical advice to help honorees get work. The day prior to the DGA theater screening, the 10 ECA winners gathered at ICG headquarters in Hollywood to gain expertise from a trio of cinematographer agents: Erin Searcy and Kristen Billings of Worldwide Production Agency (WPA), and Jason Pagni of William Morris Endeavor (WME).

“This session provides the ECA winners with invaluable career advice they couldn’t get anywhere else,” noted Poster, who cited professional insights into how aspiring DPs can promote and sell themselves, and counsel on what they can do to open up doors and land desired jobs.

Sarah Jones
While all the shorts and ECA winners received a rousing reception, Sunday evening’s lone standing ovation went to special guests in the audience introduced by Poster: Elizabeth and Richard Jones, the parents of Sarah Jones, the assistant camerawoman who was killed on Feb. 20, 2014, while on location in Georgia for the filming of the telefilm Midnight Rider. Her tragic death sparked a call for improved safety on set and location, helping to reform industry practices.

Elizabeth and Richard Jones were in L.A. for The Sarah Jones Film Foundation’s third annual Walk for Safety which was held on Sunday afternoon (9/25). Upcoming in Georgia on Oct. 9 is a Film Foundation event which will honor Sarah Jones’ life and bring together the TV yyand film community to help raise awareness of the importance of safety. The event will be held at Oakhurst Park in Decatur, GA.

Poster and the ICG have been strong safety advocates, and supportive of keeping Sarah Jones’ legacy alive by urging the industry to prioritize safety at all times, reasoning that a person’s life is infinitely more important than a production’s schedule or budget.

Special awards
The ECA festivities actually got underway on Friday (9/23) at the American Society of Cinematographers Clubhouse in L.A. where special awards were presented to Rodrigo Prieto, Dolby Laboratories and David Geffner.

Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, earned the Kodak Cinematography Mentor of the Year Award. Prieto, who was born in Mexico City, first came to the attention of Hollywood for his cinematography on Amores Perros for director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Soon he was making major films Stateside and winning awards for his unconventional use of the camera combined with strong moody lighting. Leading directors came calling, including Julie Taymor (Frida), Spike Lee (25th Hour), Oliver Stone, whom Prieto worked with on four films, Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution), Cameron Crowe (We Bought a Zoo), Argo for Ben Affleck and two films for Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence, set for a November 2016 release. Prieto has been nominated for, or won awards from more than two dozen organizations, including the Motion Picture Academy, BAFTA, the ASC, the Goya Awards, numerous critics organizations and major festivals including San Sebastian, Tribeca, Venice and Cameraimage.

Dolby Laboratories, a leader in creating audio and video technologies that transform entertainment experiences in the cinema, at home and on the go, received the Canon Award for Advancement in Digital Technology, for its research into high dynamic range (HDR) standards and for developing the technology in professional displays and cinema projectors with their Dolby Vision solution. Dolby Vision combines two powerful capabilities—high dynamic range and wide color gamut— resulting in astonishing images that, compared to standard pictures, deliver brighter highlights, more light-to-dark contrast, and colors never experienced on screen. From content creation to distribution and playback, Dolby Vision has support as an end-to-end solution from A-list Hollywood directors, cinematographers, executives at major studios and exhibitors as well as OTT service providers and TV manufacturers worldwide. Accepting on behalf of Dolby is Robert Carroll, Senior Director of Video Content Solutions at Dolby, who is responsible for the products and services used in production and post production to create Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos content. 
And the Technicolor William A. Fraker Cinematography Journalist of the Year Award was presented to David Geffner, executive editor of ICG Magazine. Geffner began covering the film and television industry in the late 1990’s as a freelance writer with a focus on independent film. Prior to that, Geffner worked in postproduction for Paramount Pictures and The Walt Disney Company, and in story creation for Walt Disney Animation. As a freelancer, Geffner covered a diverse range of subjects, including new media, green architecture, health care, eco-travel, sports, and business technology for outlets like Humanities Magazine, Westways, UCLA Magazine, The Los Angeles Business Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and The Surfer’s Path. After becoming executive editor in 2008, Geffner has led ICG to more than a dozen Maggie Awards, and has supported the ICG brand as panel moderator at international trade shows like NAB and Cinegear.  

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