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Jack N. Green

Jack Green (Serenity’s cinematographer) to receive ASC 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award

Friday 26 September 2008, by Webmaster

Jack Green, ASC, will receive the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award. He will be feted by his peers during the 23rd Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards celebration here on February 15, 2009, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.

“Jack Green has earned the respect of his peers with an extraordinary body of work that is constantly evolving,” says ASC President Daryn Okada. “His innovative cinematography has inspired other filmmakers to follow their dreams and to explore new frontiers in visual storytelling. This recognition is an expression of our appreciation for what he has achieved, but we are certain that the best is yet to come.”

Green earned an Oscar® nomination for Unforgiven in 1993, and an ASC Outstanding Achievement Award nomination for The Bridges of Madison County in 1996. He has compiled some 40 cinematography credits, beginning with Heartbreak Ridge in 1986. His other memorable films include Bird, The Dead Pool, White Hunter Black Heart, A Perfect World, Twister, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Girl Interrupted, Space Cowboys, and the popular contemporary films The 40 Year Old Virgin and My Best Friend’s Girl.

“While it is not uncommon for the ASC to bestow this honor on a cinematographer who is still actively working, it is remarkable in that Jack Green is currently at the top of his game,” says ASC Awards Committee Chairman Michael Goi, ASC. “Maybe we’ll have to give him a second Lifetime Award in 20 years from now!”

Green joins a formidable cast of legendary cinematographers who were previous recipients of this recognition, including George Folsey, ASC, Joseph Biroc, ASC, Stanley Cortez, ASC, Charles Lang, Jr., ASC, Phil Lathrop, ASC, Haskell Wexler, ASC, Conrad Hall, ASC, Gordon Willis, ASC, Sven Nykvist, ASC, Owen Roizman, ASC, Victor J. Kemper, ASC, Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, William A. Fraker, ASC, BSC, Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, Bill Butler, ASC, Michael Chapman, ASC, Fred Koenekamp, ASC, Richard Kline, ASC, Allen Daviau, ASC and Stephen H. Burum, ASC.

Green is a third generation Californian who was born and raised in San Francisco, where his father, uncle and grandfather were barbers. His parents sent him to barber school when he was 15 years old. Green was working as a barber at one of his father’s shops when he was 17, and managing one of them at age 21.

“My father and mother were dancers in the post-vaudeville era, but they had to give it up because of the pressures of raising a family,” says Green. “My father was also an enthusiastic still photo hobbyist. He gave me my first camera when I was 9 years old. We had a darkroom with a home-made enlarger. I was hooked when I made my first print.”

One of Green’s regular customers was Joe Dieves, a former World War II U.S. Army combat cinematographer who had transitioned into shooting 16 mm documentaries, and industrial and educational films. Green cherished opportunities to discuss still photography with Dieves while he was cutting his hair. He recalls that it took him a year to work up the nerve to ask Dieves if he could watch him work.

“Joe said, ‘Instead of watching, why don’t you help me?’” Green muses. “He took me with him while he was filming one of the first Boeing 707s on the West Coast through the open door of another plane. I carried his camera gear on and off the plane.”

Within a year, Green was working with Dieves and other cinematographers as an assistant cameraman on 16 mm film projects, including industrial films, National Geographic specials and other documentaries and commercials. He was also a stringer on ABC Television network news crews. His assignments included covering the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, the Black Panther trials, and the assassination of Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968.

Green moved to Los Angeles in 1971 to work for a company that provided the Westcam, a gyro-stabilized camera for aerial cinematography. That is how he met Donald M. Morgan, ASC, who subsequently gave him his first opportunity to work as an assistant cameraman, on an independent feature film in 1975. Green spent the next 11 years working as an assistant and operator with an array of world-class cinematographers, including Fraker, Morgan, Ric Waite, ASC, Harry Stradling, Jr., ASC, Bruce Surtees, ASC, Michael Watkins, ASC and Rex Metz, ASC. They were mentors who prepared him for the future.

“I can’t say enough about the impact all of those cinematographers and others had on my life and career,” emphasizes Green. “I was an operator for Bruce (Surtees) on Pale Rider (in 1985). When he lit a set, it was like watching a painter create a work of art. After four more films operating for Bruce, he told Clint Eastwood I was ready to move up to cinematographer.”

Green’s career shifted into high gear after Heartbreak Ridge. He has since averaged shooting two narrative films a year, including 11 with Eastwood as director.

“Cinematography is an art, but it is also a craft,” Green observes. “It’s like learning to mix paints to get just the right colors. You aren’t just creating looks. You are helping to tell the story by creating moods. I don’t believe in playing it safe. I would rather work on the edge and trust my instincts. “It also takes teamwork to make a film,” he adds. “If you think you can do it yourself, just try walking out on a sound stage alone and waiting for the lights to come on.”

The ASC traces its roots to the dawn of the motion picture industry in 1913, when the Cinema Club in New York and the Static Club in Los Angeles were organized by the first generation of cinematographers, who were inventing a new language. Fifteen members of those two clubs organized the ASC in January 1919. They wrote a charter that dedicated the organization to advancing the evolving art and craft of telling stories with moving images. There are some 300 ASC members from around the world today, and 150 associate members from allied sectors of the industry.