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Beacons of Hope

Director Julia Swain, cinematographer Teodora Totoiu, and colorist Corinne Bogdanowicz shine a light on the documentary Lady Cameraman’s journey to the screen.

“Cinematography has truly saved my life,” director of photography Julia Swain says in the opening minutes of the documentary Lady Cameraman. Directed by Swain, the movie charts her journey to find and connect with other women who are working in her chosen and beloved profession — a career, she notes in her narration, that has helped her navigate overwhelming personal tribulations. The resulting documentary features archival material as well as more than 20 new interviews with such cinematographers as Anette Haellmigk, Autumn Durald, Cybel Martin, and ASC members including Natasha Braier, Reed Morano, Amy Vincent and Joan Churchill — the latter of whom shares a story about her union card that provides the documentary’s title — as well as Local 600 national executive director Rebecca Rhine, Marvel Studios’ executive vice president of production Victoria Alonso, and others. In presenting their stories, the documentary showcases powerful examples of women overcoming the motion-picture industry’s barriers to entry, offering a vision of hope that Swain describes as “a love letter to young cinematographers.”

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Commercial Spotlight: Cinematographer Kai Saul

“The last few months have been busy again,” says cinematographer Kai Saul, referencing the return of productions following the motion-picture industry’s abrupt shutdown earlier this year in response to COVID-19. “My crew and I are incredibly grateful to be back to work. Everybody understands how important it is to stay safe and healthy so we can keep working. We trust each other to be safe on and off set, and, knock on wood, we’ve all been okay.”

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A Mouse’s Tale

Don Burgess, ASC reteams with director Robert Zemeckis to adapt The Witches, Roald Dahl’s magical tale of tragedy and triumph.

Based on the book by Roald Dahl and now streaming on HBO Max, The Witches tells the story of a young boy (Jahzir Bruno) who goes to live with his grandmother (Octavia Spencer) in 1968 Alabama after having lost both of his parents in a car accident. Just as Grandma seems to be succeeding in bringing the Boy out of his shell, his world is rocked again by the revelation that a real-life witch is in town and poses a grave threat. Hoping to let the danger pass, Grandma and the Boy sneak away to a ritzy hotel, but as fate would have it, an entire coven of witches, led by the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway), has gathered at the same setting, where they hatch a plot to turn all the children of the world into mice.

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Happy Hauntings

Cinematographer Seamus Tierney captures the tricks and treats of Hubie Halloween in large format with DXL2.

Hubert Shubert “Hubie” Dubois was born and raised in Salem, Mass. He loves his hometown, and as Salem’s self-appointed “official volunteer Halloween helper,” he makes it his duty every October 31 to ensure a safe and fun holiday is enjoyed by all. But when a patient at the nearby Westfield State Mental Hospital goes missing, a mystery is set in motion that will change the town, and Hubie’s life, forever.

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Filmmaker Focus: Em Weinstein

Writer-director Em Weinstein’s short film In France Michelle Is a Man’s Name premiered in August at the Outfest Los Angeles Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Narrative Short. Shot on location in Oregon, the film focuses on Michael (Ari Damasco), a young trans man who returns to his rural home and attempts to reconnect with his mother and father (Olga Sanchez and Jerry Carlton, respectively). Following an uneasy dinner, Michael joins his dad for a drive, but their early bonding soon gives way to a chasm of misunderstanding.

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The Color of Paradise

Stephan Pehrsson, BSC shoots on DXL2 and partners with Light Iron to realize the vibrant visuals of the series Utopia.

The comic book Dystopia tells the story of Jessica Hyde, a young girl on the run from the evil Mr. Rabbit, who holds Jessica’s scientist father captive and forces him to create unthinkable biological horrors. Written and illustrated by an anonymous artist, Dystopia has earned legions of fans, some of whom have found far deeper meaning in its pages and believe clues to real-world viruses and pandemics are layered into its artwork.

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Sure Shots

Cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw orchestrates six cameras for the live-performance documentary feature Beastie Boys Story.

In the early 1980s, three friends embarked on what would become a 30-year adventure. Collectively known as Beastie Boys, the trio comprised Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz — aka MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock, respectively. Though they grew out of New York City’s punk scene, they soon embraced hip-hop, and as the years progressed, their creative output charted their growth as artists and as people. 

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Personal Destiny

Mandy Walker, ASC, ACS employs Panavision optics for Mulan, an intimate portrait set against an epic backdrop.

In Disney’s live-action feature Mulan, the eponymous hero (portrayed by Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a man and joins the Chinese army in order to spare her father from having to return to war. Through the trials that follow, she unlocks her hidden potential and embraces her true identity.

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