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Five Questions: ASC President Richard Crudo

Cinematographer Richard Crudo, who served three terms as president of the American Society of Cinematographers from 2003 to 2005, is back at the helm of the organization this year, following the annual election by the ASC's Board of Governors. Crudo, who is cinematographer (along with Francis Kenny, ASC) for FX's Justified, takes over from outgoing president Stephen Lighthill with a promise to expand ASC efforts "on all fronts, from pre-visualization through post-production and image delivery." We asked him about the ASC's agenda, its importance in the filmmaking community, and the continuing role of the cinematographer in the all-digital future.
 
Q: What is the single most important issue you expect the ASC to address in the coming year?
 
A: There are a number of issues that are critically important, and any one of them could take the top spot at any particular moment. Probably our primary concern would be leading the effort to maintain control over the creation, completion and delivery of our images. Technology changed so rapidly in the past decade that some people were predicting a future in which the cinematographer was irrelevant. Well, guess what? We're living in that future right now and we're still here, as essential and vital as ever. But that hasn't taken place because the ASC was slow or complacent. It took a strong and aggressive organization to step up and shape the direction technology has taken and to prove that we remain an indispensible part of the creative team. I assure you, we will continue to do that.
 
Q: The move toward digital acquisition is accelerating, with more and more cinematographers with terrific film résumés picking up digital cameras. What are your feelings on that transition, the pace at which it is proceeding, and the continued availability of film (be it 8mm, Super 16 or 35mm) for those who would prefer to keep using it?
 
A: The move toward digital acquisition is not accelerating…it is essentially complete. The tables have turned one hundred-eighty degrees from the way things were a decade ago. Instead of the vast majority of projects shooting on film and only a tiny percentage on digital, it's exactly the opposite. For all its undeniable beauty, simplicity and mechanical advantages – and as much as it pains me to say it – using photochemical technology has become an arcane pursuit. I trust it will hang on in some form for a time, but it's clear that we're facing a digital future…and we embrace that! 
 
Q: With the increased capacity to re-color, re-light and even re-frame high-resolution shots in post-production, the moving image is more malleable than ever. The ASC Technology Committee has been working hard to quantify decisions made by cinematographers during production and to preserve them in post, contributing to initiatives like the ASC CDL format and the ACES workflow. What else is ASC doing to help cinematographers protect their work?
 
A: Education is a big part of the ASC's day-to-day mission. Whether it takes the form of mentoring students, lecturing at film schools, sitting on industry panels, conducting practical demonstrations, advising manufacturers and technology leaders or simply setting a good example by the way we conduct ourselves on set, ASC members are out in the world spreading the word and protecting and promoting our interests on a wide variety of fronts. Certainly, our Technology Committee, under the incredible leadership of Curtis Clark (ASC), is planted firmly in the center of the key issues that have interest to cinematographers. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for some momentous announcements in this area later this year.
 
Q: What other ASC initiatives should all of our readers know about?
 
A: Virtually anything that concerns the promotion or protection of the art and craft of cinematography falls within our interests. In addition to the obvious pursuits, we also have members deeply involved in trying to solve the long-term archiving issue. This is perhaps the greatest challenge facing not just cinematographers but the entire industry today. And just to be sure no one gets the impression we're all business, there's a terrific social aspect to the ASC. We have lots of events during which members and associates get to mix it up, and it's a real boost to all of us, especially since so much of our work as cinematographers is done alone, away from our colleagues. We exchange information and techniques and get to enjoy each other's company as well. The ASC is a fantastic organization filled with amazingly talented and intelligent people.
 
Q: What’s your best piece of advice for working cinematographers in 2013?
 
A: Never give up. Attention to detail. Always keep a positive attitude. Be sure to check the ASC website frequently for educational and networking opportunities. Oh, and most important of all…be lucky!

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