2016 Honorees and Honorable Mentions

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Honorees

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A collection of highlights from all of the 2016 honorees.

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Derek C. Fisher

Loader
Use Your Oui Oui

Derek Fisher was born in Wichita, Kansas. When he was young, he explored a career as a child actor, doing mostly dinner theater and commercial work. Through high school, he worked as a theater projectionist. Fisher attended Columbia College Chicago, graduating with a BA degree in 2012. His affinity for camera work developed in film school, working with the familiar technology he saw at his high school job. After college, he was lucky enough to get a gig as a camera PA on a union feature. Derek decided to join Local 600 shortly after in 2014.

When he’s not working in the camera department for larger projects, he sneaks off as often as possible to shoot short films, music videos, and commercials. Use Your Oui Oui was a project brought to Derek by writer and director Jonathan Moeller, an acquaintance he’d met on a previous shoot. The two of them really hit it off and decided this was the right project to make next. The movie was shot on an old RED One MX, using a Cooke 20-100. The shoot took place in the summer of 2015 on the Southside of Chicago at Perspectives Charter School.

Derek is honored to be a part of the 2016 Emerging Cinematographer Awards. His first cinematography award was for Dirty Laundry at the Laugh or Die Comedy Festival in 2014. Derek wishes to thank his family, friends, and guild mates for their amazing support.

 

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Dan Hertzog

2nd Assistant
Earthbound

If Dan Hertzog had to pick just one all-time favorite movie, it’d be the original Star Wars. After all, that’s how he got into “motion picture photography” in the first place. He was nine years old. From that point on, he began amassing books, reading magazines, and watching TV specials with distant dreams of a career in what was then known as “special photographic effects.”

Growing up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a middle-class family with absolutely no connections to the entertainment industry made gaining knowledge and experience somewhat challenging. Nonetheless, even before he was old enough to work, Hertzog found part-time jobs to support his addiction to filmmaking, eventually coaxing his parents into making the three-hour drive to New York Camera, where he purchased his first Super 8 mm movie camera and projector.

With the means of creating his own movies now in his possession, Hertzog came to realize that without an engaging story to tell, his early stop-motion film would have been nothing more than an exercise in technique. Later, once he arrived at the University of Southern California and was exposed to a greater diversity of films, his aspirations of becoming a visual-effects supervisor slowly gave way to one day becoming a director of photography.

Hertzog graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in May 1991 with a BA in Cinema-Television Production. From there, he rapidly worked his way up from production assistant in Los Angeles to an ad agency producer in New York City. He moved back to Los Angeles in January 1996, only to find himself criss-crossing the country countless times to freelance at a handful of ad agencies, including FCB, Bates USA, Grey, and Ogilvy.

Then, after more than ten years in the ad industry, Hertzog returned to the world-renowned AFI Conservatory to immerse himself in the study of more narrative, visual storytelling. He went on to receive his MFA in Cinematography from the American Film Institute in December 2004. His AFI thesis film, The Passage of Mrs. Calabash, was later honored at the 2006 Emerging Cinematographer Awards.

After graduating, Hertzog continued to occasionally freelance as a senior and then executive producer at Ogilvy & Mather in Los Angeles. His many years of hands-on experience in both production and post-production eventually led to stints consulting for ad agencies interested in building out their in-house production capabilities; he shot TV commercials and Web content for dozens of brands along the way.

Some of Hertzog’s more recent work includes the #betterer campaign featuring Roger Federer for the launch of the Wilson Pro Staff RF97, the music video for Alicia Blue’s “Charade,” the pilot presentation for the 1950s family drama Life in Kodachrome, and the dramatic short Earthbound

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Eric M. Hurt

Operator
Elemental

Eric Hurt’s love of cinematography is based squarely in his love for a good story. As writer/director, he’s helmed the feature film House Hunting as well as pilots, short films, music videos and many commercials. As cinematographer, he has shot six feature films and has acted as second unit cinematographer and operator on four others.

Hurt began working in Production in Los Angeles, switching to writing, directing and cinematography several years later. His clear vision through the use of imagery, combined with his love for narrative storytelling, is what distinguishes his work. Hurt approaches the filmmaking craft with the story always leading the way. He believes that positive collaboration with the entire production team is the basis for great films.

For Hurt, being judged by those whom he most admires in his field of work is incredibly meaningful. This award for Elemental is unexpected and humbling, and is especially gratifying because of the spirit behind this little film.

Elemental is a film that feels to Hurt like coming home. Working with a small budget, in his hometown, with many of his favorite people all coming together to make something with heart is a throwback to Hurt’s first years as a filmmaker and cinematographer. He would like to thank all those involved for their time and talent.

 

 

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Spencer Cole Hutchins

Operator
Walker

Texas­born cinematographer Spencer Hutchins was raised in the small town of Tyler, along with his brother, spending his childhood daydreaming beneath the tall pines under the watchful eyes of his parents, Mark (a computer scientist) and Alisa (a stay­at­home mom).

Hutchins’ world was broadened immensely when he decided to attend film school at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. It was there that he began to understand what film really was, or at least the concept of how it was all put together. In fact, the very idea that a movie had to be lit was something very new to him. Thus began his passionate interest in storytelling and the artistry and mechanics of film production.

After graduating, Hutchins made his move to Los Angeles, where a year later he would join the International Cinematographers Guild as a camera assistant. Initially, most of his work was on indie features, eventually gravitating toward network television. Early in his career, Hutchins was fortunate enough to meet someone who would become his mentor, Joaquin Sedillo, ASC. Along with the practical lessons Sedillo imparted on set while he and Hutchins were working together, Sedillo also provided career advice and suggestions regarding the evolution of Hutchins’ own work as a cinematographer.

Hutchins hopes that his ECA-honored project, Walker, will be seen as a unified pursuit of excellence with director Adrian Orozco, and he himself views it as an example of the continued growth of his craft and storytelling.

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Alexa Ihrt

Operator
Born In Battle

The daughter of a well-known German photojournalist, Alexa Ihrt got her hands on still cameras at a very early age and would later decide to take her photography to the next level: moving images. She left Hamburg for Munich to be an apprentice at camera company ARRI. During an overnight trip that had her deliver camera gear to a Schindler’s List set in Krakow, Ihrt promised herself she would one day try her luck in Hollywood.

After a number of camera assistant jobs for big European directors, she finally made good on her promise and set out for the United States.

Ihrt first attended the International Film Workshops in Rockport, Maine, and was then accepted at the American Film Institute’s Cinematography program. She moved to Los Angeles and got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from masters like Allen Daviau, ASC; Michael Ballhaus, ASC; and Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC; before graduating in 1998.

Ihrt first joined the Local 728 Union as a gaffer and in 2010 joined the Local 600 Camera Union as an operator.
As a DP she went from short films to music videos to commercials to documentaries and features, shooting in the Americas as well as throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. She credits her collaboration with crews from different cultures for greatly extending not only her toolkit and perspective, but also her passion for uncompromising, authentic stories.

One of those is Born in Battle, Ihrt’s collaboration with award-winning director and bestselling author Yangzom Brauen. It tells the story of a boy who struggles with his past as a child soldier, escaping into a dream world − only to be caught up in a nightmare in which he has to make a choice of life and death all over again.

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Matt Irwin

Operator
Emeralds

Matt Irwin was born in Toronto, Canada and moved to Santa Barbara, California as a child. The son of a cinematographer father and art-teacher mother, art and visual communication were constants in his life, and he landed a still camera in his hands around the age of ten. As a second-generation cinematographer, Irwin was introduced to filmmaking at a very early age. Childhood was split between an upbringing in southern California and summers spent on set observing, learning, and eventually working with his early mentors − father Mark, as well as gaffer Jay Yowler and guild 1st AC Gary Ushino.

Despite Irwin’s early exposure, his desire to pursue a career in cinematography didn’t solidify until around the age of twenty. A reintroduction to Jordan Cronenweth’s work on Blade Runner caused the notion of storytelling with light and lens to “click” for Irwin, and from that point forward he became a lifetime student of cinematography.

His early background gave him a solid knowledge base on which to lean at the start of his career. Since graduating with a BA in film from Cal State Long Beach, Irwin has worked as a focus puller, operator, gaffer, and DP on television, independent features, countless shorts, and music videos. Recent experiences on documentaries in South America have added fuel to an incurable wanderlust and love of that style of filmmaking. He learned on those trips that one must have life experience and stories to tell in order to grow in any storytelling medium. In an industry that can all too often put technical specs and equipment on a pedestal, it can be easy to lose sight of that. As a cinematographer today, Irwin strives for a balance between work and life, technique and story.

Matt shot Emeralds with his frequent collaborator, director Nicholaus Goossen. They chose to frame in 2:1, an aspect ratio championed by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, for its compositional balance between the more common 1:85 and 2:40 aspect ratios. They shot on an ARRI Amira with Zeiss Ultra Primes, favoring the 32- , 40- , and 75-mm focal lengths.
Irwin joined ICG in 2013. When not working, he is often found on a bicycle or sleeping in a tent.

 

Clifford Jones

Digital Imaging Technician
In Memory

Clifford Jones’ love for working with the camera started in junior high when his dad gave him his Ansco 35-mm rangefinder still camera. Jones took a black-and-white photography class in ninth grade and shortly after used some money he had won in a church raffle to buy darkroom equipment. He always viewed his photography as a hobby and never considered using a camera as a career option.

After struggling for a couple of years as an engineering student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Jones was on the brink of flunking out. He needed to find another major, so he opened up the course catalog and started flipping through from the front, hoping to find anything that would spark his interest. He discovered that the Speech Communication degree offered an emphasis in radio and TV production. From day one of Jones’ first production class, he was hooked! 

Jones worked at local broadcast TV stations for a couple of years until his best friend asked him if he wanted to move to Los Angeles with him. One of Jones’ co-workers at the TV station had a friend, Rodney Taylor, who had moved to Los Angeles to work in film. Rodney (who is now a well-regarded DP in the ASC) was one of the first people Jones met in Los Angeles, and he gave Jones insightful advice and freely shared his wisdom in Jones’ pursuit of a career in the camera department.
Jones started as a loader and 2nd AC on low-budget projects, racking up enough days to join Local 600. As he has moved up through the ranks of the camera department, Jones has had the privilege of working with many great DPs who also shared their knowledge with him.

Director Rob Kirbyson has a relentless passion for storytelling. He and Jones have collaborated on other projects, and Jones says that working with him on In Memory was another awesome experience. Jones also thanks his amazing wife Cheukwa for her constant encouragement and support.

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Karina Silva

Operator
Doble 9

Karina Silva is a cinematographer based in Los Angeles. After graduating from UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 2012, Silva began shooting for up-and-coming directors in both Los Angeles and New York City. She has photographed a variety of short films, music videos and commercials.

The Madrid native, born in Miami, has been a Local 600 union camera operator since 2013, working in the feature-film and commercial worlds. She has worked with production companies like Pretty Bird, MJZ, Pony Show Entertainment and Anonymous Content. Karina has had the opportunity to work with such highly respected directors as Paul Hunter, Malcolm Venville, Carl Erik Rinsch and Peter Berg. Some of her commercial spots include such clients as Nissan, Chevrolet, Heineken and Under Armor.

In 2014, Silva began working on HBO’s new series Ballers, shot by Tobias Schliessler, ASC, and directed by Peter Berg. Later that year she had the opportunity to operate on Bill Condon’s new film, Mr. Holmes (2015). Some of her most recent feature-film credits include Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Deepwater Horizon, Leavey and Patriots Day.

Apart from her film career, Silva was an Olympic-level diver and competed at a Division 1 university. She has competed in more than 15 countries, holds 14 Spanish national titles, has the UCLA record on 10-meter platform, and holds three European Championship titles − one of which includes the record in Spain for being the only woman to win gold at a European diving championship.

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John Veleta

Digital Imaging Technician
Pop Music

Growing up in Cincinnati, John Veleta enjoyed making films with his friends, but he started taking it seriously in college at Ohio University. There he was lucky to find himself surrounded by talented filmmakers, many of whom are now living and working in Los Angeles. That network has been incredibly important in creating opportunities and providing support.

After graduating from OU’s Honors Tutorial College with a degree in Film, Veleta followed his fellow alumni to Los Angeles where he began working as an AC, joining Local 600 in the winter of 2011.

In line with his thesis, Veleta believes that the best cinematography supports the narrative, even if that means taking a back seat. Fortunately, collaborator and director Patrick Muhlberger’s scripts always have a big vision, which provides many rewarding challenges to a cinematographer. For Muhlberger’s Pop Music, Veleta used a RED Dragon and shot 6K to help with VFX, and chose Panavision Primos for their classic look, which helped give the movie a timeless feel.

Veleta has had the good fortune of working for many great Local 600 cinematographers. He’d especially like to thank Giles Dunning, Chris Riess, and Heimo Ritzinger for their continued support and guidance. He would also like to thank his talented crew for their time and effort, and his family for always smiling through his childhood backyard productions.

Outside of filmmaking, Veleta is an avid reader and traveler, often shooting abroad. He recently spent time in northern Sweden hunting auroras, and in Indonesia documenting a sulfuric flame–spitting volcano. He finds that traveling brings a sense of adventure and wonder that can renew his perspective and help him rediscover the world through different lenses.

He currently resides on the Westside of Los Angeles.

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Alejandro A. Wilkins

Operator
Limbo

Born on an island in the East Bay of Northern California, Alejandro Wilkins grew up tinkering with cameras, trying his best to emulate the films he watched on the big screen.

San Francisco State University formally introduced him to the craft of cinematography and the importance of its adherence to story. After graduating, Wilkins moved to Los Angeles and began working as a camera assistant. In 2006 he joined Local 600.

His years in Los Angeles and those traveling for work have been an intensive education, gaining him proficiency first as a camera assistant, then as a DIT, camera operator and DP. Some of his most valuable lessons have come from working with shooters who thought “outside the box” successfully. Early work in his career with Cinematographer Aaron Platt, Director Cam Archer, and, more recently, with DP David Lanzenberg has inspired Wilkins to make more bold choices with style, movement and lighting.

The extent of his experience culminated with Limbo, a surreal short film about a man, a dog, and a wish.

Much of the aesthetic for Limbo was inspired by the artwork of Marian Churchland. With the generous help of Panavision Woodland Hills and Mike Dallatorre, Limbo was shot in 3-perf with a Millennium XL, a Lightweight II, and Primo lenses, framing 2.39:1. Kodak 5219 was used for interiors and 5207 for exteriors. The bulk of Limbo was shot at a remote location in the Mojave Desert in one day.

Wilkins would like to acknowledge his parents, who continue to support him in all his endeavors; the crew of Limbo, a team of invaluable professionals who worked hard and fast in the desert sun; Local 600, for promoting and supporting growth from within; and Will Blank, the director of this film, for his creative integrity, patience and follow-through.

He is currently on board to shoot Will Blank’s feature-length adaptation of Marian Churchland’s work, titled Beast.

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