Shooting a commercial [2012]

2012

               

 THOMAS ACKERMAN   ASC

Born ?, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA, as Thomas Edward Ackerman.

Education: The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.

Career: '[I grew up] in a medium-sized Midwestern town, [and] there was no opportunity to learn cinematography except the occasional 8mm backyard epic. Formal training came at the University of Iowa. The cinema program was not very production-oriented, although a student could subvert the system and make a lot of movies, which I did. A pillar of strength at the University of Iowa was Gene Jones, a former chemistry teacher who ran the 16mm lab on campus. He could be a terror; thin negative meant a trip to his cramped little Quonset hut for a lecture on densitometry. When Marshall Lovrien, manager of the University of Iowa Motion Picture Unit, hired me to shoot Hawkeye football games and training films for the School of Dentistry, he gave me a break long before I had any rational idea of how I would make it to Hollywood. Charles Guggenheim was [also] a great mentor. I went to work for him just after he won his second Oscar, for 'Robert Kennedy Remembered' [1968]. He was a rigorous taskmaster who taught me how to tell a story on film.' [From the ASC website.]
Served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War ph doc's and training films. After leaving the Air Force, he ph doc's and political campaign spots for Charles Guggenheim in Washington, D.C. In 1973, he moved to Los Angeles to form a prod company with ex-Air Force friend Mike Robe. Received his card in IATSE Local 659 in 1979 and became c.op and doph. He was a c.op for a while, which gave him an opportunity to work with doph Joe Biroc, Emil Oster and Frank Thackery. His last job as an operator was with Vittorio Storaro on 'One from the Heart' [1981].
The prod [and Ackerman's ph] of 'The Battle of Shaker Heights' was documented in an ep of the doc tv-series 'Project Greenlight'.


Thomas Ackerman: 'It's true that my filmography is pretty eclectic. I'm proud of that. In fact, it's really all part of the exploration that I think is the basis of photography. It's not a 'dial-it-in' business. It's important to mix things up and see where it leads. I can think of occasions where I had a choice of two things and took the project with more dubious prospects. One was 'Beetlejuice'. At the same time I was offered a nice, safe back lot comedy, which with its cast and script seemed more promising from a box office point of view. 'Beetlejuice' didn’t even have a lead actor when I started prep, and I doubt that some of the people under consideration would have created the character in the way Michael Keaton did. Plus, it had a smaller pay check. What it had was the vision of Tim Burton, for whom I'd previously shot 'Frankenweenie' at Disney. I was more than willing to follow his lead. I had no doubt that wherever the trip went, Tim would make it worthwhile. [...] What convinces me to do a movie is absolutely the quality of the effort: the script, the director, the whole premise. Even though the images are wonderful, if they're supporting compromise and mediocrity, it's all for naught. Not that we as photographers, or anybody in the business, for that matter, have any way of knowing. That science is elusive. Nobody knows in advance if a film is going to work or not. And in fact I've done a few films that fell way short of the mark. The other side of that coin is that once any of us signs onto a project, the best thing is to put any reservations completely out of the picture. When you agree, as far as I'm concerned, it's total advocacy. You put everything into the success of that film. No looking back.' [From interview with Jennifer M. Wood in 'MovieMaker Magazine', 2003.]



 FILMS

1972

Jerusalem Lives [Charles Guggenheim] ?; doc/53m; for Embassy of Israel

1976

The Last of the Cowboys/The Great Smokey Roadblock [John Leone] c; co-addph; ph: Ed Brown Sr.

1978

A Place to Be [Charles Guggenheim & Steven York] 16mm/c; doc/55m; cph: Foster Wiley

1980

The Man Who Saw Tomorrow: Nostradamus/Nostradamus 1999 [Robert Guenette] c; dram doc/88m; cph: Erik Daarstad & David Haskins; alternate tv-version (60m) in 1991

1980

New Year's Evil [Emmett Alston] c; as Edward Thomas

1981

Foxfire Light [Allen Baron] c

1983

Water: The Source of Life [Werner Schumann] StereoSpace 70/c; doc/20m; for Louisiana World Exposition ('The World of Rivers - Fresh Water as a Source of Life'), New Orleans (1984)

1984

Frankenweenie [Tim Burton] b&w; short/30m; 2uc: Peter Anderson & Rusty Geller

1984

Roadhouse 66 [John Mark Robinson] c; 2uc: Bryan Duggan

1984

Girls Just Want to Have Fun [Alan Metter] c

1985

Back to School [Alan Metter] c; 2uc: Frederick Moore; uwph: Alan Gornick Jr.

1986

Captain EO [Francis Ford Coppola] 70mm (3-D)/c; Disney Attraction for Epcot Center, Florida/17m; 2uc; ph: Peter Anderson; visual, lighting and ph cons: Vittorio Storaro

1986

Inside Out [Robert Taicher] c; 2uc; ph: Jack Wallner

1986

Stevie Nicks - Rock a Little/Stevie Nicks - Live at Red Rocks [Marty Callner] c; concert film/57m; filmed 20 August (Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colorado)

1987

Beetlejuice [Tim Burton] c

1987

Moving [Alan Metter] c; co-2uc; ph: Don McAlpine

1987

Moonwalker [anthology seg dir by Jerry Kramer] c; cph: Bob Collins, Fred Elmes & Crescenzo Notarile; seg 'Smooth Criminal' ph by John Hora; filmed February 1987-May 1988

1989

Island of Hope - Island of Tears [Charles Guggenheim] b&w-c; doc/29m; original ph; + archive; prod for National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior

1989

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation [Jeremiah Chechik] c; 2uc: Eric Engler

1990

The Spirit of Evolution [Thomas Ackerman] a 'Dome Format' trilogy of films ('In Nature', 'In Mankind' & 'In Volkswagen') for Volkswagen's Autostadt, Wolfsburg, Germany

1990

True Identity [Charles Lane] c

1992

Dennis the Menace/Dennis [Nick Castle] c; 2uc: Steve Yaconelli, Reed Smoot & Flemming Olsen

1993

Baby's Day Out [Patrick Read Johnson] c; 2uc: Steve Yaconelli

[Left] with dir Joe Johnston - "Jumanji"

1994

Jumanji [Joe Johnston] c; 2uc: Jan Kiesser

1996

The Eighteenth Angel [William Bindley] c

1996

George of the Jungle [Sam Weisman] c; 2uc (+ 2ud): Steve Boyum; aph: Kurt Soderling

1997

My Favorite Martian [Donald Petrie] c; vfx ph: Scott Beattie

1998

The Muse [Albert Brooks] c

1999

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle [Des McAnuff] c; 2uc: Roy Unger

1999

Beautiful Joe [Stephen Metcalfe] c

2000

Rat Race [Jerry Zucker] p/c; 2uc: Don McCuaig

2001

Snow Dogs/Winterdance [Brian Levant] c; 2uc: Roger Vernon

[Left] with dir Jerry Rees - "CinéMagique"

2001

CinéMagique [Jerry Rees] c; short/25m; + archive; made for theme park Disneyland, Paris, France

2001

Los Zafiros: Music from the Edge of Time [Lorenzo DeStefano] c; mus doc/85m; + prod

2002

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star [Sam Weisman] p/c

2003

The Battle of Shaker Heights [Efram Potelle & Kyle Rankin] c

2003

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy [Adam McKay] c; addph: Darren Michaels

2003

Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie/Anchorman: Wake-Up Ron Burgundy [Adam McKay] c/V; assembled from excised footage from 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy'

2003

Are We There Yet? [Brian Levant] c; 2uc: Don McCuaig & Randal Platt

2004

Marilyn Reloaded [Axel Breuer] scope/c; short/6m

2004

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World [Albert Brooks] c

2005

The Benchwarmers [Dennis Dugan] c; assoc ph: Sebastian Jungwirth; 2uc: Stephen Andrich

2005

Scary Movie 4 [David Zucker] HD (Genesis)-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc: Randal Platt

2006

Balls of Fury [Ben Garant] HD (Genesis)-to-35mm/c; 2uc: David Parrish

2006

Kill Theory/Killers/Last Resort [Chris Moore] c; ?; ph: David A. Armstrong; reshoots in August 2007

2007

Alvin and the Chipmunks [Tim Hill] c; 2uc (+ 2ud); ph: Peter Lyons Collister

2007

Infestation [Kyle Rankin] c; 2uc: Ivo Peitchev

2007

Superhero Movie [Craig Mazin] c; 2uc: Josh Bleibtreu

2008

Fired Up! [Will Gluck] HD (Genesis)+s35-to-35mm scope/c; addph: David L. Parrish

2008

Mardi Gras: Spring Break [Phil Dornfeld] HD (Genesis)-to-35mm/c

2009

Furry Vengeance [Roger Kumble] RED-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; addph 2u (+ 2ud); ph: Peter Lyons Collister

2010

Hop [Tim Hill] s35-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc (+ 2ud); ph: Peter Collister

2011

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked [Mike Mitchell] s35-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc (+ 2ud) Vancouver: Mark Vargo; aph: Phil Pastuhov

2012

The Smurfs 2 [Raja Gosnell] HD (Sony F65)-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc; ph: Phil Méheux


 TELEVISION

1977

Roots: One Year Later [Robert Guenette] doc special/120m; cph: Erik Daarstad & Andre Gunn

1981

Talmage Farlow [Lorenzo DeStefano] doc/b&w-c/58m

1984

To Save Our Schools, To Save Our Children [Thomas Lennon, a.o.] doc/144m; cph: Don Lenzer & Richard Roy; for ABC News 'Closeup'

1986

The Making of Liberty [Charles Guggenheim] doc/58m/16mm; for PBS-tv

1989

Journey to America [Charles Guggenheim] doc/b&w-c/52m/16mm; ep PBS-tv series 'American Experience'; extended version of 'Island of Hope, Island of Tears' (see Films)


 FILMS AS CAMERA OPERATOR

1980

The Gangster Chronicles [: An American Story] [Richard C. Sarafian; tv-miniseries] c.op 'a' cam; ph: Gerald Perry Finnerman

1981

The Gift of Life [Jerry London; tvm] ph: Gerald Perry Finnerman

1981

One from the Heart [Francis Coppola] co-c.op; ph: Vittorio Storaro & Ronald Garcia

1985

Iron Maiden - Live After Death [Jim Yukich; concert film] co-c.op; ph: Daniel Pearl