2015 Honorees and Honorable Mentions

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Honorees

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A collection of highlights from all of the 2015 honorees.

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Daniel Cotroneo

Operator
The Other Side

A rising director of photography, Daniel’s roots are in lighting, working on such films as Star Trek Into DarknessDjango Unchained and the television series Mad Men.

Daniel bought his first camera at age 9. He spent much of his childhood trolling around Oakland, California, recruiting friends and family for movies. He earned his BFA from Chapman University and later joined the ICG as a camera operator. Daniel has since shot in every medium − from features and documentaries to television series for Syfy and A&E. His work has taken him to the bayous of Louisiana, the gold mines of Oregon, and the temples of Japan. Daniel’s second collaboration with director Akiko Izumitani, The Other Side, has garnered good press in its festival run, winning Best Cinematography at the Sacramento Asian Pacific Film Festival, among other awards.

Daniel wants to live in a world filled with good sushi, where baseball season is year-round and where film titles don’t always end with a number. When he’s not shooting, you can find him at the ballpark or at his hometown speakeasy movie theater.

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Devin Doyle

1st Assistant
Fish Friend

Growing up in a military family, Devin Doyle moved frequently during his childhood. While stationed in Germany, his interest in filmmaking began when a video production course was offered at his high school. Later, after receiving his BSC degree from Ohio University, Devin moved to Los Angeles and landed in Panavision Hollywood’s two-year program. There, he laid the foundation for his career before going freelance as a loader, then advancing to data manager and finally camera assistant in Local 600.

You never forget your first pet: this is the lesson ten-year-old Sally learns when she discovers, the hard way, that her new goldfish is actually a bloodthirsty piranha. This is the story of “Fish Friend,” another collaboration between Director Jordan Blum and Doyle. Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II in the Technicolor Cinestyle LUT, the production was not without its challenges. Disregarding the old adage about working with children and animals, the production took on both hurdles in addition to the painstaking labor of featuring a stop-motion animated fish.

Devin would like to thank Local 600 Cinematographers Giles Dunning and Joseph Aguirre for their enduring mentorship. He would also like to thank his family, friends, and wife Amanda for their endless support. “Fish Friend” is Devin’s second ECA selection; his work on the music video “Lancaster Stomp” was acknowledged at the 2014 ECAs.

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John Garrett

2nd Assistant
Delia

John Garrett grew up in San Francisco as the son of a theatrical-lighting-designer father and a ballerina-and-modern-dancer mother. While his peers were sleeping in their own beds every night, John was playing on the stage and sleeping under the dimmer-board table as his parents worked on shows in different theaters around town. In his teens, John’s dad would go on to do theatrical lighting jobs on movie sets. John got to visit him on Leap of Faith, Strange Days, Batman Forever, The Birdcage and others. He was hooked and knew working on movies was what he wanted to do.

After graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a degree in film, John moved to Los Angeles, where he was advised to get a job at Panavision if he wanted to get into the camera department. He started in Shipping and Receiving and worked his way up to prep tech. A couple of camera assistants took a liking to John and invited him to camera-PA on their show after work on the nights and weekends. He is forever grateful to Richie Masino and Darin Moran for giving him that first shot. After John got in the Union, he hooked up with “the greatest focus puller in the world,” Jimmy Jensen. Jimmy gave John the best old-school training anyone could ever dream of. John still has not met anyone who works harder, with more passion and skill than Jimmy.

John met the director of Delia, Thomas Scott Stanton, working as Jimmy’s 2nd AC on Dreamgirls. In the years since, the two have become great friends and regular collaborators on various projects. Delia is a heavy story about the aftermath of a hunting accident. John felt Thomas was the perfect leader to guide this difficult story with passion and humanity. The two shot on the Red Epic camera and on four super-speed primes. The large, fluffy snowflakes of the New Hampshire winter provided an immaculate backdrop for the lead character’s anguish. Thomas and John spoke about a naturalistic and unobtrusive shooting approach, used no movie lights, and tried to give the actors and camera some distance. A motif the two employed was what they called the “missing passenger shot,” where the camera would take the position the absent daughter usually occupied: the pickup-truck passenger seat, her usual seat at the dinner table, etc. and voyeuristically observe the lead character fall apart.

John says, “It’s great to feel supported and encouraged with something like the Emerging Cinematographers Awards. I’m very grateful for the recognition and humbled by the honor.”

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Jason Hafer

Operator
Incident on Highway 73

Jason Hafer’s fascination with the art of cinematography began while attending high school in his hometown of Petaluma, California. Inspired by the works of Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, CBE, and Conrad Hall, ASC, he decided to obtain a degree in Theater, TV & Film from San Diego State University.  

Shortly after completing his degree, Jason teamed up with fellow SDSU alum writer/director Brian Thompson to lens an award-winning period-piece music video. The project was the beginning of a successful partnership and friendship that continues to this day. 

Over the past ten years, Jason and Brian have created countless projects together, capturing many awards along the way. 

The most recent success for the duo was “Incident on Highway 73,” a short sci-fi thriller that garnered the team 12 festival awards, including this year’s 2015 ICG Emerging Cinematographers Award for Jason. 

He shot the film in 4K anamorphic on a Panavision Red One X using Panavision E-Series anamorphic lenses. The film was color-graded and finished in 2K at Light Iron in Hollywood. 

Shot entirely on location in a rugged desert canyon, the film posed some unique challenges. During the pre-light process, extremely high winds forced the team to conceptualize a new lighting strategy. All the weeks of prep essentially became irrelevant. Jason’s ability to remain calm and positive under pressure served him well as he had to adapt quickly and implement a new lighting design. 

This fearlessly positive attitude and the ability to react effectively during any creative obstacle are why Jason stands out among the rest. 

With motivation from his mentors, cinematographers Nick McLean and Joe Pennella and director Douglas Henry, and the constant love and support of his friends and family, Jason has been able to immerse himself in his craft and dedicate himself to cinematography. 

Jason joined the ICG as a camera operator in the spring of 2014.

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David Kruta

Operator
Lullaby

An award-winning director of photography and the son of Czech political refugees, David Kruta’s lifetime has taken him through a variety of cultures, experiences and locations spanning the globe, naturally bringing him to New York City to fulfill his passion for cinematography and storytelling. David’s career in the arts included not only still and moving pictures, but also the culinary arts, graphic design and fine art − all of which have inspired him to create cutting-edge visuals in his pursuit for the perfect image.

David has shot short films, commercials, documentaries, fashion and music videos and feature films.  He is the visual architect behind the 2013 Sundance Competing feature film “Concussion,” starring Robin Weigert (Deadwood) and Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy), and the 2015 Berlin Independent Film Festival Best Microbudget Feature Award Winner, “Sidewalk Traffic,” starring Samm Levine (Freaks & Geeks, Inglorious Basterds) and Heather Matarazzo (The Devil’s Advocate), and has been a member of Local 600 for more than four years.

In “Lullaby, ” directed by Stuart Valberg, a man attempts to cope with the over-stimulation of contemporary society. Is a mysterious package he purchased the solution? We attempted to build suspense by using long takes and smooth movement that would not distract the viewer from the package, but instead have them questioning it until the end. We achieved this fluidity by shooting Epic with Zeiss Ultra Primes stabilized on a Freefly MoVI M10, and lighting with a combination of available light and BBS Area 48 remote-phosphor sources for a soft, “augmented-realism” style.

Michael Nie

2nd Assistant
Dust

Growing up near Madison, Wisconsin, Michael Nie and his brother would spend hours telling stories with action figures and a video camera found under the Christmas tree.  Little did Michael know he had started down the path of becoming a visual storyteller.

Graduating from home movies, the University of Wisconsin (UW) proved a valuable training ground. His work on student films allowed Michael to experiment and grow. He quickly realized that in choosing a career in cinematography, he was in for a lifetime of learning. This was a dream worth chasing.

A significant evolution came when Michael moved west and began spending time on professional sets in Los Angeles. Gaffer Michael Bauman, a fellow UW alum, was instrumental in helping the young cinematographer get started. Immersed in a variety of work environments from feature films and commercials to episodic television and music videos, Nie gleaned what he could from talented cinematographers and their union crews.  In 2004, Michael first worked with Mauro Fiore, ASC, who remains a source of inspiration for Michael’s work and a good friend. Mauro has taught Michael the importance of striking a balance between a career as a camera operator and as student of life. In 2006, Michael joined the International Cinematographers Guild.

As a cinematographer today, Michael strives to tell stories that are both visually compelling and emotionally accessible. He has an affinity for strong character pieces and believs that, “the most rewarding work is that which offers a fresh perspective on the world and challenges the human condition.” Michael continues to adapt and grow from his experiences in life, as he continues on his journey as a cinematographer.

The story of Dust is that of a socially marginalized tracker who joins a black-market merchant in an effort to save the industrial society that has rejected his way of life. The project is another chapter in Michael Nie’s ever-evolving body of work. Like any film, it was not without its challenges, chief of which was working with limited resources, including a cast and crew of only a dozen, on a remote island halfway across the world.  A typhoon rolled in two days before shooting began, but could not thwart the passion for this project that director Michael Grier had been developing for years. Dust may be a short film just shy of 30 minutes in length, but from inception to completion, it is a journey that some have been on for nearly ten years.

Michael Nie considers himself fortunate to have been a part of that journey. From his family in the Midwest who has shown nothing but unending support, to the friends that he has made along the way, Michael has been truly blessed. A recipient of an ECA in 2011, Michael is always looking forward to his next challenge and visual story to tell.

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Tobin Oldach

2nd Assistant
Thirst

Tobin Oldach was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and grew up between there and Southern California. He was taken with the spontaneity and excitement of photography from the very first roll of black-and-white film that he exposed in a hand-me-down Pentax. That spark, that initial flight, and the unique challenge that every potential shot presents laid the foundation for a lifelong pursuit of imagery. That interest was carried through study in the Moving Image Arts program at the College of Santa Fe. Graduating from there in 2000, Tobin landed a job as an intern in the Camera department on a film called Green Dragon in Los Angeles. He then worked his way through the ranks, starting as a loader, and then, joining local 600 as an assistant, continued to work throughout the industry. Over the years, he has been fortunate enough to travel the world and work under such heralded cinematographers as Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS, and Claudio Miranda, ASC, as well as many others, and considers each work opportunity to be a valuable learning experience. 

On Thirst, Tobin teamed up with director Rachel McDonald to visualize the dark tale of a conflicted young man who finds redemption within the unlikely confines of a seedy bar. They agreed the look should reflect the destitute conditions of the characters, and the story had a fable-like quality, which lent a sense of timelessness. The shoot presented a number of unique opportunities and challenges: multiple locations, an ensemble cast of talented actors, and a very tight and ambitious schedule. The production wouldn’t have been possible without the generous contributions of many friends, coworkers and family members. Thirst made a world premiere at the 2014 Locarno International Film Festival.

In addition to Thirst, Tobin has begun to build a reel shooting various commercials and music videos, and would like to continue on the path of doing narrative work.  He currently resides in Venice, California, and spends a good deal of his off time serving his other passion: the ocean.

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T.J. Williams Jr.

Operator
Color TV, No Vacancy

T.J. Williams, Jr. has been making pictures since his high school years, when he started out shooting on documentaries under his DP father, T.J. Williams, Sr.  At first, teenaged T.J. thought the paid travel was the best part of what he saw as “the coolest after-school job ever,” but through doing the day-to-day work he quickly realized that the subjects he was capturing in camera would be the focus of his career. He joined the Local 600 in 2008 as a camera and Steadicam operator, and has spent the time since working alongside great cinematographers while building his own résumé as a D.P.  This is T.J.’s second ECA; he received his first in 2013 for director Jeremy Mackie’s The Return

Finding his frame across media, projects, countries and cultures has taught T.J. to put story first. This sensibility was especially integral to T.J.’s work on writer/director Dan Brown’s highly conceptual Color TV, No Vacancy – a visual poem that contextualizes fantasy with grounded, intimate performances. The film is set in a motel that may not belong to this world, each room occupied by a timeless story, retold forever. When a kamikaze pilot arrives seeking his kidnapped guardian angel, his presence breaks the cycle, freeing the lost souls constrained within. T.J. worked with Dan to establish a tone that would encapsulate both the magical realism of this world and the real emotions felt by its mystical inhabitants.

T.J. shot on a Red Epic-X in 5K, on a stage built in a warehouse, and he remarks, “Pretty much the entire film was shot on the same motel room set with very minimal set dressing alterations, yet in the story each scene takes place in a different room with a different style. There was a lot of attention paid to making creative shooting choices, mixing up angles and lighting to sell the idea of movement between multiple spaces.”

A native of the Northwest who splits his time between Los Angeles and Seattle, T.J. thanks the Seattle film community for teaching him artistry, integrity, and that working with your friends is the best.

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