Marvellous Masterclass

Mark Kenfield, recipient of the John Leake OAM ACS Emerging Cinematographer Award, travels to Los Angeles for a masterclass with our friends at the ASC – by Mark Kenfield


After a whirlwind couple of months travelling, first in the United States and then traipsing around Australia on a series of shoots, I have finally settled back home and had a minute to process the terrific experience that was the ASC Masterclass.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Australian society, as it’s thanks to the wonderful generosity of the John Leake OAM ACS Emerging Cinematographer Award that I was afforded the opportunity to attend the Masterclass in Los Angeles.

Bouncing between the ASC’s lovely clubhouse, north of Hollywood, and a small stage at Mole Richardson’s headquarters in The Valley further north; the course is a week long intensive (and I mean intensive, they’re twelve-hour days), covering a range of specialties determined by the particular ASC members who are available to teach on a given course.

ASC Clubhouse - PHOTO Mark Kenfield
The ASC Clubhouse in Los Angelese – PHOTO Mark Kenfield

We had a fantastic line-up of teachers for our course, and from a wonderfully broad range of specialties, including Shelly Johnson ASC, Oliver Bokelberg ASC, Bill Bennett ASC, Mark Weingartner ASC, Jacek Laskus ASC, Curtis Clarke ASC and the recently retired Don McCuaig ASC.

This gave us sessions examining topics as varied as finding and rekindling your creativity and inspiration, lighting cars, managing multiple cameras, shooting and delivering HDR, the ACES (Academy Colour Encoding System) workflow, the joys of blowing things up on Second Unit, and tips and tricks to getting realistic results shooting visual effects elements.

There are certain parts of your education as a cinematographer that I simply don’t think you can fill without exposure to the accumulated knowledge of cinematographers who have worked at the highest levels and on the largest scales. The best part of the course was getting that exposure. In addition to the terrific line-up of teachers, each session was audited by other ASC members, who would generally hang around to chat at lunch and dinner, which meant that even if a sessions got a little off track you could just sit down and have a forty-five minute, one-on-one with Dean Cundey ASC at the back of the room!

The number of pinch-me moments was quite remarkable. Sitting down for lunch on day one and chatting to a gentleman named Gil, and discovering about half an hour into the conversation that you’re actually talking to Gil Hubbs ASC – who shot Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee! – was one such moment. Getting to chat to Claudio Miranda ASC one-on-one about his approach to lighting and a little film he’s working on at the moment called Top Gun was another. Until another classmate, who was slightly less capable of containing his rabid ‘fanboydom’ than I was, came along and weirded poor Miranda out.

There was even an Aussie component to the proceedings, with the lovely Peter Moss ACS ASC and Peter Levy ACS ASC auditing most of the course, and sharing some fantastic stories about life in the golden age of Australian cinema. It was tremendously instructive to be able to pick the brains of some local cinematographers who have made the move to the United States with such success.

Now there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a pricey piece of education. About $4000 AUD at current exchange rates. I would recommend anyone interested in attending to schedule some time in advance of the course simply to adjust to the time difference. Every one of those mid-afternoon jet lag induced nod-offs costs you about $100 a pop.

But on the whole, I can only offer a firm recommendation to anyone who has the opportunity to attend the Masterclass. It was thoroughly marvellous.

Mark Kenfield was the winner of the Australian Cinematographer Society’s John Leake OAM ACS 2017 Emerging Cinematographer Award.

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