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Fred Koenekamp To Receive ASC Lifetime Achievement Award

American Society of Cinematographers honors Koenekamp (August 17, 2004)

Fred Koenekamp, ASC will receive the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given annually to an individual who has made exceptional and enduring contributions to advancing the art of cinematography. The presentation will be made during the 19th Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards on February 20 at the Century Plaza Hotel.

"Fred Koenekamp was in the front ranks of a new wave of cinematographers who entered the industry and enriched the art of visual storytelling during the 1960s and 1970s," says ASC President Richard Crudo. "His work was original and innovative. He has entertained and educated audiences with a remarkably enduring body of work. His adventurous spirit and artistry are a source of inspiration for filmmakers everywhere."


Koenekamp has compiled some 90 cinematography credits, beginning in 1964 with the classic The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, for which he earned Emmy nominations (in 1965 for black and white and 1966 for color cinematography) and shot over 100 episodes. He shared a 1974 Academy Award with Joseph Biroc, ASC for their collaboration on The Towering Inferno. Koenekamp also earned Oscar nominations for Islands in the Stream and Patton. His other memorable films include The Great Bank Robbery, Billy Jack, Kansas City Bomber, The Amityville Horror, Papillon and Fun With Dick and Jane.

Koenekamp joins a relatively short list of distinguished recipients of the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award, including Biroc, George Folsey, ASC, Stanley Cortez, ASC, Charles Lang, Jr., ASC, Phil Lathrop, ASC, Haskell Wexler, ASC, Conrad L. Hall, ASC, Gordon Willis, ASC, Sven Nykvist, ASC, Owen Roizman, ASC, Victor J. Kemper, ASC, Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, William Fraker, ASC, Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, Bill Butler ASC and Michael Chapman, ASC.

The cinematographer is a second-generation filmmaker. His father, Hans Koenekamp, ASC began his career as a cinematographer at Mack Sennett Studios in 1913. He shot Charlie Chaplin and Keystone Kop comedy serials, and earned a string of feature film credits before shifting his focus to visual effects. Hans Koenekamp received the ASC Presidents Award in 1991. They are the first father and son to be honored by ASC.

"I spent many Saturdays at Warner Bros. Studios watching my father at work," Koenekamp reminisces, "but I had no intention of following in his footsteps. I was an aviation buff. I wanted to learn how to fly and become a pilot."

His plans to pursue a career in aviation were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Koenekamp served in the military for the duration. His first job after the war was in the camera department at RKO Studios. He spent 19 years working on camera crews with many exceptional cinematographers, including Joseph Ruttenberg, ASC, John Alton, ASC, Robert Surtees, ASC and Frank Phillips, ASC.

"My early years in the industry were like going to school," he says. "I learned that you have got to really believe in the story for a film to truly move people. It has to sink into your brain and body, so you can relate with the characters and with what is happening to them. I think that is the most important lesson I learned. When that happens, the cinematography falls into place with the story, acting, directing and everything else."

When production in the feature film industry temporarily slowed down in 1963, Koenekamp worked as a camera operator on the television series Gunsmoke. That led to his first cinematography credit for the inaugural season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Koenekamp went on to earn critical raves in 1970 for Patton, his first of five collaborations with director Frank Schaffner.

"The first day, there was a scene where Patton (George C. Scott), was having his portrait painted in a castle," the cinematographer recalls. "That's when I realized it was going to be a very special movie. As the picture went on, I started thinking of George as Patton. It was like we were there while history was being made, and it was our responsibility to make the audience see and feel what it was like."

Koenekamp counts Papillon among his personal favorite films. This movie vividly reenacts a true story about Henri Charriere (Steve McQueen), a petty criminal in France who was wrongfully convicted of murder.

"This is a story about the endurance of the human spirit, set in an exotic environment," Koenekamp says. "It was a wonderful script with great performances. Frank Schaffner brought out the best in everyone. Most of the story was filmed in Jamaica, but there is a dramatic scene where Papillon dives into the ocean off a very high cliff. There was no appropriate location in Jamaica. There was some talk about doing a blue screen visual effects shot, but Frank insisted on finding the right location. We filmed that scene in Maui. I really believe the audiences senses that it is real."

Koenekamp shot dramatic sequences in The Towering Inferno, and Biroc filmed the action scenes, including fires and explosions. Koenekamp relates that it was a true collaboration. He and Biroc discussed and experimented with lighting, colors and other nuances which amplified the dramatic performances depicting desperate efforts to rescue people trapped in the midst of an horrific fire. The visual tension is palpable.

"I think it takes another cinematographer to understand and really appreciate Fred Koenekamp's contributions to telling artful stories," says ASC Vice President Owen Roizman, who chairs the ASC Awards Committee which organizes the annual event, "There are subtle things that are transparent to the audience in his work, which are as important as the words in the script. Something as subtle as the way a shadow fleetingly falls on someone's face can give you an insight into a character during an important moment in a story."

Roizman points out that scripts rarely, if ever, instruct cinematographers to put a shadow on the character's eyes to conceal his thoughts at that moment. That comes from the cinematographer's understanding of the story, character and the intentions of the director.

Koenekamp cites Islands in the Stream, another film directed by Schaffner and featuring Scott, on his personal list of favorite endeavors. Scott plays a painter and sculptor who seeks comfort from the horrors of World War II in the seclusion of the tropical island of Bimini. Koenekamp's sensitive cinematography probes into the heart and soul of a lonely human being. "I'm very proud of the results of the day-for-night lighting on this one," he adds. "I'm frequently asked how I did it."

During the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, Koenekamp authored visuals for many television movies including such memorable titles as Alice in Wonderland, News at Eleven and The B.R.A.T. Patrol. His television credits also include Not My Kid, Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac, Kung Fu and Disaster on the Coastliner.

"I've never thought of television as a lesser art form," he says. "You are typically working with smaller budgets and tighter schedules, but that doesn't mean you have to make creative compromises or that it isn't a story worth telling."

Koenekamp earned his last feature film credit in 1991 for Flight of the Intruder. He also filmed a number of TV commercials, including one remarkable 30-second story featuring the legendary hoofer Ann Miller dancing in front of, behind and around giant bubbles while water spouts were shooting into the air at different heights.

"Stan Freberg was the director, and the commercial was designed to sell soup," he recalls, "but, you can't trivialize your work because its only an ad. Those 30 seconds of film include images that are a beautiful memory."


About the ASC
ASC traces its roots to the dawn of the motion picture industry in 1913, when the Cinema Club in New York and the Static Club in Los Angeles were organized by the first generation of cinematographers, who were literally inventing a new visual language. Members of those two clubs organized ASC in January 1919. There were 15 charter members, whose primary purpose for the new organization was to advance the art and craft of visual storytelling. New members were invited to join based upon their bodies of narrative film work. There are some 275 ASC members today from many nations around the world, and 140 associate members from allied sectors of the industry.

For information about the 19th Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards, call 323-969-4333, or visit the ASC website at www.theASC.com.

 


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Related Keywords:Fred Koenekamp, ASC, American Society of Cinematographers, cinematography, Richard Crudo, Joseph Biroc, Hans Koenekamp, Warner Bros. Studios, Frank Schaffner, Owen Roizman,

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