Camera Operator of the Year nominees, left to right:
Will Arnot SOC, Stephen Campanelli SOC, winner Bob Gorelick SOC,
presenter John Toll ASC, Martin Schaer SOC, Kim Marks, SOC
Lifetime Achievement Awards were received by Michael Scott, SOC (Camera Operator), Bob Hall (Camera Technician), Al Cerullo (film helicopter pilot as Mobile Camera Platform Operator) and Ralph Nelson (Still Photographer).
Upon receiving the Camera Operator of the Year award, Gorelick exclaimed, "This is the first award I've ever won, except for a bowling trophy!"
The Camera Operator of the Year award is nominated and voted on by the membership of the Society and the winner was revealed at the February 21st awards event.
The other 2009 feature film Camera Operator of the Year nominees were Will Arnot, SOC (Milk), Stephen Campanelli, SOC (Changeling), Kim Marks, SOC (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Martin Schaer, SOC (Eagle Eye).
John Toll, ASC, a two-time Oscar winning Director of Photography, presented the honor. Toll explained the importance of the camera operator:
"As a Director of Photography, I know how much I rely on the artistry and the skill of Camera Operators. I trust their taste and appreciate their talent, and I understand what a tremendous contribution they make in accomplishing the creative ambitions of any film."
The large enthusiastic crowd was moved and entertained by a stellar collection of award presenters with their tributes to the honorees.
Oscar nominee Wally Pfister, ASC (The Dark Knight) began the evening speaking for Camera Technician Bob Hall.
"Bob took his work on The Dark Knight to a new level. In addition to the daily challenge of shooting method actors in anamorphic 35mm film, Bob joined myself, Operator Bob Gorelick and Chris Nolan in breaking new ground by being the first to shoot with IMAX cameras on a dramatic feature film release. In case you were not aware, IMAX has the shallowest depth of field of any film format, making focus far more critical than conventional 35mm."
Bob Hall, the recipient of the Camera Technician Lifetime Achievement Award explained his journey to the podium by telling stories of his fortunate career.
"It is ironic that I should get recognition for a job that by its very nature should go unnoticed. On the screen the focus should be transparent and on the set my job is to be unobtrusive. I admit it is a very strange craft to acquire. Almost no one knows what it is that I do on a movie. Imagine if I interviewed for a job in the real world and was asked, 'What are your skills?' I would say, 'I can guess how far you are from me!'"
Celebrating his 95th birthday in January, legendary Director of Photography Ralph Woolsey, ASC presented the President's Award to Larry Mole Parker. Woolsey recounted hilarious anecdotes of their 45 year long friendship as Parker matured to be the industry captain and mentor to several hundred film students of cinematography that he is now.
Larry Mole Parker, recipient of the SOC President's award and 50 year veteran of Mole Richardson where he is now Executive VP, talked about his passion for sharing the knowledge of the film set lighting equipment: "I started teaching set lighting to one school. Now 12 years later I have 60 schools attached to the education program at Mole. I encourage the students to try, and allow them make mistakes, and then teach them the right way to do it. It's not just the equipment that's important; it's your attitude in this business. You're not going to make it if you have a bad attitude. It's a people business, it's how you get along with people. Being nice to people is how you get the jobs."
Film director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) pointed out, "I hate to fly... but sometimes when one is making a movie, flying is mandatory. And when I or hundreds of other directors from around the world need to shoot from the sky, there is one man they call--Al Cerullo. He is technically a helicopter pilot, but when shooting from the air he becomes an operator as well as an artist, with a helicopter as his tool."
Al Cerullo, recipient of the SOC Award for Lifetime Achievement as Mobile Camera Platform Operator helicopter pilot remarked,
"… It's hard to believe I've been doing this for a lifetime. Climbing into the cockpit and ascending into the sky where I'm above the hectic pace of New York City is truly a feeling that is hard to express. But perhaps I'm better off that way because if anyone knew how much I enjoy it they might not want to pay me! To this day I treat every project like it is my first and most important - giving it absolutely everything I can to get the shot without jeopardizing safety in any way. My priority is returning home to my wife and two sons."
Cinematographer's Guild President Steven Poster, ASC warmly portrayed his friendship with Distinguished Service Award recipient Andy Romanoff, SOC.
"Andy, this Award comes from the Society of Camera Operators but it's really from the whole industry. I know the International Cinematographers Guild owes you a debt of gratitude, as does the entire craft of cinematography. But the SOC, it seems, was the first to figure it out. And while tonight you're being recognized for a lifetime of contributions and service, I'd rather think of it as the first in a long line of honors certain to come your way. Your directness and honesty, your unselfish giving of knowledge and information is what this night, and this award, are all about. And you have a pretty good sense of humor to go with all of that."
Andy Romanoff, SOC, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award lit up the room with his glowing recollections of the years he spent traveling along his career path. He stated, "In 1976, at the bottom of my life, after a motorcycle accident that left my jaw wired shut and my arm in a cast, a fellow named Stan Goldstein gave me his seat on an airplane headed for a jazz festival in France. That was where I saw the Louma, the first remote controlled crane. I came back and told Bobby it was the future. Without even seeing it, Vee trusted my judgment enough to spend the money it took to bring it to America. If there is any single moment in my life when the doors opened and everything changed it was then. Bobby Vee, Stan Goldstein and Jean-Marie Lavalou, inventor and force behind the Louma, were the ones who believed and trusted a wild eyed hippie-cameraman and gave me the chance."
Veteran set Still Photographer Douglas Kirkland, SMPSP spoke about his long time friend, Lifetime Achievement Award Still Photographer recipient Ralph Nelson.
"The list of films you have contributed to is long and impressive: from Top Gun to Dracula and Frost/Nixon to name only a very few. Whether you are working on the set or crafting your personal work the results are always outstanding. You are a reliable 'can do' kind of guy who comes in with a great positive creative spirit while fitting into every situation impeccably."
Ralph Nelson, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Still Photography could have made a career out of straight-faced comedy. He brought great mirth to the affair as he described the manner by which we work in the industry.
"The most common praise heard in the film industry for a still photographer is "he has a good eye and I never heard him," a description best fit for a mute Cyclops. So it is good to know that at least this once, that I'm more than that."
Nelson added, "Incomplete industry records say that I have spent nearly 60,000 hours on film sets. I did not spend those 60,000 hours alone - I spent them with you. For 60,000 hours, you have shared spaces that are far too small to share to help me get the photos that otherwise would have been impossible. I've been tucked up under your arms, my ear pressed into your waist and at times snuggled into those secret places that even your wives, girlfriends and partners avoid. I now confess that it was not always about getting the best shot; there were times when I did it just for the company and to stay warm."
Don M. Morgan, ASC, long time friend and trainee of Historical shot award recipient Nelson Tyler presented his award.
"Over the years [Nelson] shot films for numerous directors, accumulating a body of work that any camera operator would be proud of. For example, he learned a lot from director Sid Pollack, doing scenes from The Slender Thread, This Property Is Condemned, The Way We Were and The Electric Horseman, to name a few." Morgan added, "In 1968 with his pilot, David Jones, Nelson shot the scene from Funny Girl where Barbra Streisand is singing on the front deck of a tugboat in New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Helicopter shots are difficult at best, but this one proved to be one of those rare days when everything turned out perfect."
Awards event producer and past SOC President David Frederick welcomed the distinguished crowd.
"Thank you all for being here in light of the extraordinarily difficult economic times we are experiencing in Hollywood, our nation and around the world. Your attendance is a testament to the fact that this is an industry that is able to support individual accomplishment, even in tough times." Frederick also presented the SOC's donation and a new wall plaque, marking their support and commitment to the Vision Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. He outlined the idea that "the SOC considers their charitable support of the Vision Center to be one of the three metaphoric camera tripod legs supporting the SOC's purpose, the [second] being continuing education and training of the membership in the latest technologies and the third leg being the recognition of the accomplishments of industry peers celebrated at the Lifetime Achievement Awards this evening. For over 20 years the SOC has supported the Vision Center at Childrens Hospital and donated over $150,000. This is the only industry awards season event that is also a significant fund-raiser for such a worthwhile cause: the vision of children."
Dr. Natalia Uribe, who now heads the Contact Lens Program at the Vision Center of Childrens Hospital that the SOC has supported with its charity, stated, "In many cases contact lenses are a luxury but in very young patients with cataracts, or with severe myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, contact lenses are a medical necessity.
"I wish that I could describe the emotions of my patients and their families and also their gratitude for your help in providing contact lenses, but words fall short in describing what your kindness provides for our patients.
"As camera operators, you can see the wonderful beauty of the world and bring it to life on the big screen. All this is possible through your vision, which allows you to transport your audience into a different world. At Childrens Hospital, by restoring and rehabilitating the vision of our young patients, we allow them the opportunity to enjoy the world as you and I see it."
Bruce Logan, ASC, double Emmy-winning Writer/Director, Commercial Director/DP, Visual Effects Director, licensed pilot and championship winning racecar driver recounted the accomplishments of his dear friend and mentor Douglas Trumbull. Logan spoke about Trumbull and 2001:A Space Odyssey.
"I was recently at a screening at the Academy and several of us that worked on the movie, including Doug, were on a panel… we were all talking about the genius of Kubrick, and he was indeed a genius… but the elephant in the room, the true genius, without whom all the startling and ground-breaking imagery of 2001:A Space Odyssey would not have been possible, is sitting right here in this room tonight: Doug Trumbull."
SOC President Dan Kneece, a veteran Steadicam operator, instructor and mentor, presented a Technical Achievement award to the collaborative development team at GPI/PRO for their camera stabilization system. Kneece related a string of events that led up to the development of this system by operators for operators.
"In the spirit of Steadicam modification, the ultimate mod was born. It was called the PRO and stood for Paddock Radical Options. The options were radical indeed. They also proved to be very reliable, so much so that the industry took notice. Clients would call and not only ask if you had a Steadicam, they would ask if you had a PRO."
As a tribute to recently deceased legendary Steadicam Operator Bob Ulland of Florida, the SOC created a moving video clip and photo presentation that had Oscar winning Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown expressing the industry's sentiments at this sudden loss of one of its crowned princes.
Robert Brinkmann, Director of Photography (The Cable Guy, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny) presented the Camera Operator Lifetime Achievement Award to his long time friend, Michael Scott, SOC.
"I think we both knew that we were a good match and made every effort to work together. He worked on big movies with me, but also on small movies. The smallest one, a one and a half million dollar independent film called Standing Still, which we shot in 18 days, didn't originally even have an operator in the budget, until I managed to convince the producer that paying for the operator would free me from being tied to the camera and allow me to work on the next shot, even while the last one was still being executed. I was lucky in that we didn't have Christian Bale in the cast and I was actually free to roam around the set… And I never told you this, Michael: after that film, the producer, Trent Othick, told me that the best money he spent on the shoot was the money he paid for Michael Scott. Having the operator position filled didn't cost him - it saved money, because we worked faster and more efficiently, and were able to finish on schedule and without any overtime at all."
Michael Scott, SOC, related key points in his remarks both on stage and on screen in his video clip segment, including advice given to him years ago:
"A prop man told me that there are four stages in my career:
1. 'Who is Michael Scott?'
2. 'Get me Michael Scott!'
3. 'Get me someone exactly like Michael Scott, but less expensive.'
4. 'Who is Michael Scott?'"
Scott said, "I think that being nice is the best way of being successful in this business" and added, "When working with high powered people, when they say to do something, just do it. I would say I couldn't do that because of such and such, and then it becomes some sort of a battle of wills. I finally figured it out: don't try to explain it; when they say pan left, just pan left and it works."
SOC President Kneece wrapped up this elegant gathering of warm appreciation for these top industry contributors.
"Within these walls tonight, we all experienced incredible human riches and the fortunes of talent in these challenging economic times. As we leave this awards presentation, keep in mind that we all share the burden of leaving a legacy to future generations. These children will benefit from your generosity with an enhanced vision of just what makes up a lifetime of achievement."