From interview [Camerimage, 2013]

 

   


JOHN SCHWARTZMAN   ASC

 

Born: 18 October 1960, Los Angeles, Calif., USA, as John Marc Schwartzman, son of entertainment lawyer/prod Jack Schwartzman [1932-94], who was married to Talia Rose Coppola [= Talia Shire], sister of Francis Ford Coppola.

Education: Oakwood School [Fine Art], Los Angeles; University of Southern California [USC], School of Cinema-Television [expelled in 1985].

Career: 'I was expelled from USC in 1985 and at the same time I won an award called the 'Focus Award', which was sort of the equivalent of a student Academy Award for cinematography. The director was named Phil Joanou, who's gone on to have a very big career. After the screening, a writer from Columbia Pictures came up to me and said, look, I really want to direct but the studio's not going to give me an opportunity. So I'm going to save - I've got $30,000, I've got some friends that are actors. I'm going to write a short film, and would you shoot this for me. I can't pay you, but would you do it, you know, gratis? And I thought - absolutely. I mean, this is what I want to do. So we did a little short, called 'Video Valentino', in five days. And he said, look, if I ever get a feature film, I'm going to call you to shoot it. And I thought, yeah, sure you are. But sure enough, a year later, I got a call to shoot this picture called 'You Can't Hurry Love', which was an expansion of this movie 'Video Valentino' that we had done. [...] I was fortunate in that my uncle was Conrad Hall's doctor, and Conrad had been sick for about ten years in the '80s. He couldn't work; he had some kind of weird tropical disease that had been misdiagnosed. My uncle actually cured him of this illness. So Conrad was very indebted to my uncle and my uncle said, hey, do you want to go meet Conrad Hall? And I thought, oh my God, Conrad Hall. So I went and met this kind of scraggly-looking guy at the bar at Musso & Frank's one night, and we started talking. I said, you know, should I become an assistant or what should I do? And he said, you know, you're already a cinematographer, why do you want to become an assistant? Just stick it out. Find a way to survive the lean times. You already know what it's like to shoot a movie. There's nothing wrong with being an assistant, but it's not going to put you closer to where you want to be, because you're already there now. [...] Shortly after that a friend of mine who I'd grown up with, a director named Michael Bay, was going to Art Center College of Design. Their program is such that directors are allowed to use whoever they want outside of school. At USC you had to pull all your crew from within the student body. At Art Center it was the opposite. I was the only cinematographer that Michael knew, so I started shooting. Michael and I did all these spec commercials, throughout 1988. And then he took his spec reel when he graduated from Art Center and immediately got signed to Propaganda Films. And it was great - Michael and I - very early on we had a lot of success in music videos. And for probably two years, we did a video every week. And it was a great place to learn. I certainly was not an accomplished cinematographer. I think I had a good eye. I had a sense of how I wanted things to look, but I didn't necessarily know how to get there. It was a time also when the budgets were getting bigger, so I was able to go out and hire crew people that had a lot more experience than I did. And that was something I always did. I always went out and thought, I'm going to get the best people I possibly can to work with me because I don't know everything. And it was like going to college all over again, and getting paid for it.' [From the ICG website, 2003.]

Ph a Playboy Video with 'Playmate' Tawnni Cable. Ph commercials dir by David Fincher, Michael Bay, Jeremiah Chechik, a.o. Ph music videos: 'Wherever Would I Be' [1990; a: Cheap Trick; d: Nigel Dick], 'Can't Stop Falling Into Love' [1990; a: Cheap Trick; d: Nigel Dick], 'Shot of Poison' [1991; a: Lita Ford; d: Nigel Dick], 'It's Been a Long Time' [1991; a: Southside Johnny; d: Nigel Dick], 'Having a Party' [1991; a: Southside Johnny; d: Nigel Dick] and with a: Poco, Madonna, Paula Abdul, a.o.

Directed commercials, e.g. 'Army of One' [for US Army; ph: Mitchell Amundsen].

Member of the ASC since 1997.

Appeared in the doc/47m 'Journey to the Screen: The Making of 'Pearl Harbor' [2001, Doug McCallie; ph: Jack Kney], 'The Making of Seabiscuit'' [2003, Laurent Bouzereau; ph: Ron Siegel] & 'Cinematographer Style' [2005, Jon Fauer; ph: J. Fauer, Jeff Laszlo, Brian Heller & David Morgan].

Awards: ASC Film Award nom [2002] & Golden Satellite Award nom [2002] for 'Pearl Harbor'; ASC Film Award [2003], 'Oscar' AA nom [2003] & Golden Satellite Award nom [2004] for 'Seabiscuit'.

Website: John Schwartzman


About Super 35: Following his breakthrough success with 'The Rock', Schwartzman shot 'Conspiracy Theory', a big-budget action-thriller directed by Richard Donner. The cameraman's successful introduction to the anamorphic format on 'Conspiracy Theory' greatly affected the making of 'Armageddon' at every level. Though Schwartzman and Bay expressed enthusiasm for the Super 35 process while shooting 'The Rock', the theatrical prints were a bit of a letdown for both men. "The drag about Super 35 is the grain and its 'optical' feeling," Bay attests. "We did about 30 ENR-treated prints on 'The Rock' to keep some of the contrast. Those were shown in major cities, but the other prints lost a lot of snap. The film looked good for Super 35, but we were still working with this tiny negative." Asked to recount the lessons he learned on 'Conspiracy Theory', Schwartzman relates, "What became very apparent to me was that Super 35 is not just an optical process that makes the grain more apparent; the grain is also bigger because it's enlarged so much during projection. You're getting boned on both ends. The beauty of anamorphic is that there is no intermediate optical process. If you like your dailies, you're going to love your release print. The larger negative also gives you greater shadow detail and greater latitude, so even though I was shooting deeper stops in 'scope, I felt I was using [relatively] less light to get more image." [From 'American Cinematographer' magazine.]


 

 FILMS

1984

Last Chance Dance [Phil Joanou] ?; short/20m & 33m; cph: Robert Brinkmann; prod USC

1986

Video Valentino [Richard Martini] c; short/37m

1987

You Can't Hurry Love/Greetings from L.A./Lovestruck [Richard Martini] c; cph: Peter Lyons Collister; based on the short film 'Video Valentino' (1986); 'After film school, I shot a short film for a writer who wanted to direct, and he promised me that if the short became a feature, he would hire me to shoot it. When it became a feature, the completion-bond company wouldn't approve a first-time director and a first-time director of photography. I asked Peter Collister, who wasn't in the ASC at the time, to co-shoot the movie with me because he was 'bondable.' He did the most altruistic thing anyone has done for me and said yes. The result was an unmemorable film, but it was the start of a career for a young cinematographer' [From the ASC website.]

1987

Waxwork [Anthony Hickox] c; 2uc; ph: Gerry Lively

1987

The Unholy [Camilo Vila] c; ph add sfx unit; ph: Henry Vargas

1988

Olympus Force: The Key [Robert Garofalo & James Fortune] c; cph Hollywood unit; ph: John Ward

1988

Rockula [Luca Bercovici] c

 

"Red Surf"

 

1989

Red Surf [H. Gordon Boos] c

1989

Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Brokenhearted [David Lynch] c; exp film/50m

1992

Benny and Joon [Jeremiah Chechik] c; 2uc: Mark R. Streapy

1993

Airheads [Michael Lehmann] c

1994

A Pyromaniac's Love Story/Burning Love [Joshua Brand] c

1995

Mr. Wrong [Nick Castle] c; plate ph: Terry Moews

1995

The Rock [Michael Bay] s35/c; addph: Mauro Fiore; 2uc (Alcatraz): Peter Lyons Collister; aph: Larry Blanford & David B. Nowell; uwph: Pete Romano

1996

Conspiracy Theory [Richard Donner] p/c; aph: Kurt Soderling & John M. Stephens; + small part

 

[Right] with dir Michael Bay - "Armageddon"

 

1997

Armageddon [Michael Bay] p (+ 70bu)/c; uncred cph: Mitchell Amundsen (finished film after J. Schwartzman left prod to prep 'EDtv'); 2uc: Mauro Fiore; addph (Shanghai destruction, 1998): Janusz Kaminski; international unit ph: Mark Plummer; vfx ph: Tony Cutrono; high speed ph: Scott Campbell; miniature ph: Scott Beattie

1998

EDtv/Ed TV [Ron Howard] c; 2uc: Mitchell Amundsen & David M. Dunlap

1998

Superman Lives [Tim Burton] scheduled for June start; prod cancelled

2000

Pearl Harbor/Pearl Harbour [Michael Bay] p/c; addph (+ 2uc): Mitchell Amundsen; uwph: Pete Romano; efx ph: Ray Gilberti; vfx ph: Martin Rosenberg

2001

The Rookie [John Lee Hancock] p/c

2002

Seabiscuit [Gary Ross] s35/b&w-c; 2uc: Mitchell Amundsen & Bill Roe; addph (+ aph): Kurt Soderling; uncred main title seq ph: Mark Eberle; filmed 2002-03

2004

Meet the Fockers [Jay Roach] c; 2uc: Michael Pinkey; aph: Kurt Soderling

2006

The Bucket List [Rob Reiner] s35/c

2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets [Jon Turteltaub] s35 (+ D-Cinema)/c; cph: Amir Mokri (was replaced by J. Schwartzman); 2uc USA: Josh Bleibtreu; 2uc UK: Fraser Taggart; aph: David B. Nowell & (UK) Adam Dale

2008

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian [Shawn Levy] s35+RED (vfx)-to-35mm scope (+ IMAX-70bu & D-Cinema)/c; vfx ph: Tim Angulo; vfx element unit ph: J. Eric Camp

2009

The Green Hornet [Michel Gondry (replaced Stephen Chow)] p+35mm+RED (3-D reshoots)+HD (Phantom HD)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Peter Collister; aph: Kurt Soderling; filmed 2009-10

2010

Red Dawn [Dan Bradley] p (+ D-Cinema)/c; addph (2010 ?); ph: Mitchell Amundsen; released in 2012; remake of film (1983-84, John Milius; ph: Ric Waite)

2010

The Amazing Spider-Man/Spider-Man 4 [Marc Webb] RED Epic-to-35mm scope (+ IMAX-70bu [also 3-D version] & D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; plate unit ph 2u (+ 2ud): Peter Collister; aph: Kurt Soderling; filmed 2010-11

2012

Life of Pi [Ang Lee] HD (ARRI ALEXA)-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; addph Montreal (reshoots in July); ph: Claudio Miranda (2011)

2012

Saving Mr. Banks [John Lee Hancock] p (+ D-Cinema)/c; ph UK: Ben Smithard

2013

Dracula Untold/Dracula [: Year Zero] [Gary Shore] p (+ D-Cinema)/c; addph (reshoots 2014): John Mathieson; 2uc: Patrick Loungway; addph 2u (+ c.op 'a' cam): Peter Taylor; main title seq ph: John Frost

2014

Jurassic World/Jurassic Park IV [Colin Trevorrow] s35+p70+RED Epic Dragon-to-35mm (2.00:1) (+ D-Cinema [2.00:1; also 3-D version])/c; 2uc/splinter unit ph (New Orleans & Hawaii): Patrick Loungway; aph: David B. Nowell & Michael Kelem; uwph: Peter Zuccarini & Topher Jones; edge ph: Ronald Hersey; see also Dean Cundey (2005) & Shelly Johnson (2008)

2015

The Founder [John Lee Hancock] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT/p)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; edge ph: Ronald Hersey

2015

The Book of Henry [Colin Trevorrow] p (+ D-Cinema)/c

2016

Fifty Shades Darker [James Foley] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT Plus/p)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; aph: Phil Pastuhov; edge ph: Ronald Hersey

2016

Fifty Shades Freed [James Foley] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT Plus/p)/c; uwph: Denis Lagrange

2016

Star Wars: Episode IX [J.J. Abrams (replaced Colin Trevorrow)] pre-production; scheduled to start shooting in 2018

2017

The Unicorn [Robert Schwartzman] HD (Panavision DXL)/c

2017

A Simple Favor [Paul Feig] HD (Panavision DXL)/c

 

 TELEVISION

1991

To Save a Child/A Child for Satan/The Craft [Robert Lieberman] tvm

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1984

A Nightmare on Elm Street [Wes Craven] electrician; ph: Jacques Haitkin

1985

Stand Alone [Alan Beattie] co-grip; ph: Tom Richmond & Tim Suhrstedt

1985

Rad [Hal Needham] title seq des; ph: Richard Leiterman

1987

Tucker - The Man and His Dream [Francis Ford Coppola] uncred apprentice (+ ph EPK footage); ph: Vittorio Storaro

1987

Moonwalker [anthology seg dir by Jerry Kramer] co-c.op; ph: Fred Elmes, Tom Ackerman, Bob Collins & Crescenzo Notarile; filmed February 1987-May 1988

1988

Heathers/Fatal Game/Lethal Attraction [Michael Lehmann] add c.op; ph: Francis Kenny

1988

Limit Up [Richard Martini] 2nd c.op; ph: Peter Lyons Collister

1989

Metallica: Live Shit - Binge & Purge [Michael Salomon; concert film] co-c.op; ph: Crescenzo Notarile; filmed 29 & 30 August (Seattle); released in 1993

2006

Carlisle School [dir] announced in February; status unknown