For the first time in the history of both organisations, Imago and the American Society of Cinematographers held a joint conference at Camerimage to discuss ways of promoting international cooperation and collaboration so that members of all the different national cinematographic societies can share their knowledge, technical research, experience, and expertise.
Founded almost 25 years ago, IMAGO, once a European federation, is now a global organization with 50 societies and over 4000 members from Europe, Asia, Latin and South America, Australia, and New Zealand. The ASC, founded almost one hundred years ago, is the oldest and most established cinematographic association in the world with a membership of 400. The aim of both societies is to protect artistic integrity and maintain the very highest standards of cinematography.
At a time when technology is rapidly changing in complexity and sophistication, the proliferation of new equipment, systems, and ancillary tools introduced on the market every few months has impacted on the role of the cinematographer, not always positively. It has never been more important for cinematographers around the world who face the same challenges to come together as a community and defend their profession.
The discussion was led by a panel consisting of Imago members Elen Lotman , President of the Estonian Society of Cinematographers, Michael Neubauer, general manager BVK, Nigel Walters, Vice President of the BSC, Phillipe Ros, AFC, and Louis-Philippe Cappelle, SBC, and general manager of IMAGO.
Members from the ASC included Suki Mendencevic, head of the International Committee, Roberto Schaefer ASC, John Toll ASC, Jacek, Laskus, and Checco Varese. Present in the audience was Paul Rene Roestad FNF the new President of Imago.
Elen Lotman began by saying “A few years ago in Los Angeles some said that cinematographers are an endangered species, we would disappear like the dinosaurs, (which I never believed, coming from Europe) but if we stay informed of the changes, we are more likely to survive. If we stay united and strong and learn from each other, we can keep up with the changes in the industry.”
The panelists discussed a wide variety of topics affecting their work, but the greatest shared concern was the cinematographer’s loss of control over their images. Some countries are protected by cultural or educational ministries, but in others, “it’s a jungle out there.” Since the introduction of the DI, it has become more difficult for the cinematographer to trust that the production will allow them to do the final work, ensuring that their original artistic intentions for the film won’t be altered in post-production. The cinematographer is the person necessary to follow through on the original concept but often it is the producer or the director to decide if the cinematographer can finish the film and if they will get paid or not. They must trust you and rely on you. Even though the director is (or should be) the cinematographer’s best ally there are no guarantees and most situations must be negotiated. “The technology can work against us, anybody can do the post.”
One member said “No one is going to misuse your images if you photograph something in a certain way so that it cannot be manipulated. With these new tools it is much easier for them to destroy images once they get their hands on them.”
“In the very beginning of the project, let it be known that your intention is to be with the project until the end, from pre-production to post. Your agent should put the language in your contract as part of your agreement.”
A member from Belgium spoke about HDR. “HDR is going to be very important and there will be more possibilities for grading, highlights, detail in the dark, shadows, contrast, etc. We will be seeing things that were not intended to be seen. Controlling dynamic range and contrast in cinema or TV broadcast must be addressed by our technical committees.”
A member of the technical committee added that manufacturers should give cinematographers access to the controls inside the camera so they can control texture and sharpness and overall look of the image. The more the technical committees work with manufacturers, the more information we will get.
Another contribution was that the potential misunderstandings among the team and strained working relationships within the department could be improved by integrating the DIT, the colourist, the colour scientist, data manager, or people in post production into the cinematographic process.
A serious concern is the increasing number of working hours in the day that can vary from 9 hours to 12 hrs. or more in Europe and the U.S. Each country has its own (union) guidelines and labour laws, but some unified standards could be established to protect against excessive hours.
Author’s Rights: Cinematographers are the creators or author of images and therefore should maintain the right of co-authorship of the film. Certain countries have already adopted this legislation while others have challenged it. Imago has been successful to protecting and defending these laws.
Trying to get the conversation back on track, Nigel Walters BSC said “We are supposed to be talking about international collaboration, but it’s all about RESPECT. Cinematographers need to be respected and their work needs to be respected. We are “Below the line” and as such, are put in the category of artist. We have to get back to being considered a ‘creative’ entity where we are “Above the line”. If we are a united group of 50 societies working together in solidarity, this could strengthen our position.
Over the years, Imago has been effective in promoting international cooperation in countries that have no laws to regulate working conditions. Worker’s rights are non- existent and therefore Imago has taken on the role of a trade union. Imago was able to help these countries by fostering greater ties between rich and poor nations and in certain cases fostered working relationships between nations that were political rivals.
As the session was coming to an end, some ideas for ways to cooperate and collaborate needed to emerge…
Cinematographic societies hold regular meetings, conferences, and events that allow participating members to share their experiences, exchange ideas, and strengthen relationships.
Imago holds several gatherings outside of it’s annual meeting at Camerimage such as The Manaki Brothers film festival in Macedonia, the Oslo conference every two years, and attends the very successful Global Summits in Los Angeles. Next year Imago is introducing the Imago Awards which will be an award ceremony “By cinematographers, FOR cinematographers” that will take place in Finland.
The ASC and IMAGO have a network of thriving committees in place: Education and Outreach, Mentoring, Technical, Authorship, Diversity, etc.. Workshops and Masterclasses are important to teach members, students, and aspiring cinematographers new skills. Other national societies have filmed their masterclasses and are considering sharing them on social media websites such as Facebook or YouTube so that everyone can share this information.
The digital revolution has altered the cinematography profession and Imago, the ASC and their affiliated societies are working to create the conditions for a positive future by developing an ongoing strategy for collaboration and cooperation.