ASC Masterclass

John Leake OAM ACS Emerging Cinematographer Award recipient Claire Bishop attends masterclass with the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) – by Claire Bishop

Caleb Deschanel ASC at the ASC Masterclass - PHOTO Claire Bishop
Caleb Deschanel ASC at the ASC Masterclass – PHOTO Claire Bishop

In October 2019 I was fortunate enough to attend the ASC Masterclass with support from the ACS John Leake OAM ACS Emerging Cinematographer award and Screen Australia.

The Masterclass is a five-day in-depth course in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The class of only twenty-five participants spent the bulk of the time at the ARRI Creative Space, in Burbank. We enjoyed full-day workshops, from lighting and shooting a drama scene with six-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel ASC (Don’t Look Away, The Lion King) exploring lo-fi lighting techniques and pushing the Alexa Large Format sensor with Shelly Johnson ASC (Captain America, The Wolfman), learning the secrets to lighting cars with Bill Bennet ASC, delving deep inside visual effects cinematography with David Stump ASC and had our minds blown learning about the Academy Colour Encoding System (ACES) and HDR with Curtis Clark ASC.

At the end of every day we would go to different show rooms to hear from sponsors Zeiss, Sony and Panavision about their latest technology. What I can say is make sure you arrive rested and ready for the twelve-hour days of workshops and discussions. The course was intensive but thoroughly enjoyable. The awesome nature of the course, although structured, meant we could chat informally with our instructors and Johnson gave us free reign to look inside his lighting plans for Captain America which read like a glossary of every light under the sun. The way he notes and plans his shoots is meticulous.


The week closed off with a dinner and presentations. I was touched to hear Bennet talk emotionally to us about the spirit and community of the ASC. He spoke about how all of us now are part of the ASC family and every ASC member has walked through the clubhouse doors and been where we are today in our careers. The community and camaraderie of the ASC resembling that of the ACS is such an encouraging and supportive community. I’m thankful to be a part of it.

My advice to anyone going to a masterclass with the ASC would be ask questions and get to know everyone. The staff at the clubhouse were amazing, I dropped in a week before to plan my route to the clubhouse and I ended up staying for a couple hours. I met the crew setting up for the ASC podcast who were interviewing Lawrence Sher ASC (The Joker), another right place right time moment. But above all, be open and receptive. The course is dense, I think at the end of the Friday we had gone through a colour grading session with Deschanel, Bennet, Stump and Johnson, then it was followed by several discussions about colour science, HDR and ACES. I felt my brain was about to explode. But we had another opportunity to chat one on one with our instructors. It was crazy to me, we could pick the brains of people who shot our all time favourite films, learn how they started, their ethos and share all the same worries you have early in your career.

If I hadn’t been supported by the ACS with their John Leake OAM ACS award and Screen Australia I wouldn’t have been able to finance this learning experience. The Masterclass has given be me the tools to take my career further, learn from the best and keep my mind open curious.

Claire Bishop won the John Leake OAM ACS Emerging Cinematographer Award in 2019.

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