Matthew Mendelson, Oliver Lanzenberg, and Volker Bahnemann

Pictured from left: Graduate student Matthew Mendelson, undergraduate Oliver Lanzenberg, and Volker Bahnemann

Film school got a tiny bit easier last month for two students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In a packed-to-overflowing Tisch screening room, graduate student Matthew Mendelson and undergraduate Oliver Lanzenberg were named the winners of the first Volker Bahnemann Awards for Cinematography, which come with grants to help fund their thesis projects.

The grants were established by ARRI in 2010 to recognize talented cinematography students as well as to honor Bahnemann’s 48-year tenure at the company. Recipients of the annual production grant, which is designed to be funded in perpetuity, are selected by Tisch faculty. Also honored with plaques at the April 27 presentation were undergraduate nominee Freddy Meyer and graduate nominees Leonardo D’Antoni and Kristina Nikolova.

Speaking to the audience before the individual cinematographers’ reels were shown and the award-winners named, Bahnemann addressed the difference between the art and craft of cinematography, emphasizing that ARRI’s equipment addresses only one side of the equation. “Technology is an important, but subservient, component of the creative process,” he said. “I am grateful and happy to have even been able to contribute, and I hope that your receiving the award matches my joy in giving it.”

I caught up with Bahnemann at the reception following the presentation. He said he felt energized by being surrounded by the NYU students and hoped to spend more time working with students in his ostensible retirement than he was able to before. The sentiment followed from his earlier instructions to the assembled students: “Be proud to call yourself a cinematographer.”