Photo by Jean-Noël Ferragut [2008]

[Right] with dir Clint Eastwood - "Gran Torino" [2008]

               

 TOM STERN   ASC/AFC

Born: 16 December 1946, Palo Alto, Calif., USA, as Thomas Evans Stern.

Education: St. John's College, Santa Fe [campus], New Mexico; Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Career: 'I was born in Palo Alto, and grew up there until my family moved to France in 1960. We lived there for three years. My father was an aeronautical engineer for United Airlines. I have kind of an engineering DNA, so I was interested in mechanical things. I had a Kodak Retina reflex camera that we bought when we lived in France. I liked taking still pictures and fiddling around with black-and-white chemistry in the darkroom. […] I went to St. John's College in Santa Fe. They had just opened the campus. It was a four-year liberal arts program. During my second year, a kid transferred to Santa Fe from the school's campus in Annapolis [Maryland]. He wanted to make a movie. That seemed kind of cool to me. He asked me to photograph it. This was around 1965. I had no idea of what to do, so I read the ASC Manual from beginning to end. We had an ARRI SR and rented a blimp. The film must have been okay, because it helped to get me into graduate school at Stanford. Film studies was part of the communications department. I was the guy who shot all the student movies. […] It seemed like 60 percent of the people looking for jobs in the industry wanted to be directors and the others wanted to be cinematographers. I decided to concentrate on lighting. I had a mechanical aptitude, so I could fix things without electrocuting myself. I figured if I was any good at lighting, I could find a cameraman or two whom I had an affinity with, do interesting things and be challenged. I worked with Jon Else as his gaffer/first assistant on medical films and I was the lighting guy on a film about the birth of the semiconductor. I also met Urs Furrer, a feature cameraman. He was my first lighting mentor. I worked with him on 16mm quasi-documentaries around the country. I worked as a best boy on 'Between the Lines', a Joan Silver movie in New York. After that film, I went back to Palo Alto. I was thinking of settling down and finding some balance in my life. I got a call on a Saturday night. A gaffer had fallen out on a movie that Robbie Greenberg was going to shoot. I had never worked in Los Angeles before. While I was there, John Bailey introduced me to Willy Kurant. I did some interesting things. My first picture with Bruce Surtees was 'White Dog'. We had a wonderful time. Later that year, I did my first film with Bruce [Surtees] and Clint Eastwood. It was called 'Honkytonk Man'. I also worked on a lot of commercials, including some with Haskell Wexler and Conrad Hall. Hall's artistry was so rich that being his gaffer was kind of like being the bass player for a great maestro. It was sort of a mind meld thing. After Conrad died, I quit working for about six months. I had a lot of thinking to do. That Christmas I got a call saying that Clint Eastwood wanted me to shoot 'Blood Work' with him.' [From the KODAK OnFilm website.]

Member of the ASC and AFC since 2008.

Married to casting dir Françoise Combadière.

Appeared in the doc's "Eastwood & Co.: Making 'Unforgiven'" [1992, Richard Schickel; ph: Don Metz & Philip Hurn (addph)], 'Who Needs Sleep?' [2005, Haskell Wexler & Lisa Leeman; ph: H. Wexler, Joan Churchill, a.o.] & 'Cinematographer Style' [2005, Jon Fauer; ph: J. Fauer, Jeff Laszlo, Brian Heller & David Morgan].

Awards: Le Prix Vulcain de l'Artiste Technicien from the CST [2003]; Camerimage 'Golden Frog' nom [2003] & Golden Satellite Award nom [2004] for 'Mystic River'; Satellite Award [2006] for 'Flags of Our Fathers'; CFCA Award nom [2006] for 'Letters from Iwo Jima'; BAFTA Film Award nom [2008], BSC Film Award nom [2008] & 'Oscar' AA nom [2008] for 'Changeling'; 'César' Award nom [2009] for 'Faubourg 36'; ICFF Manaki Brothers, Bitola, 'Silver Camera 300' Award [2009] for 'Tsar'.


'Mystic River': 'I was fortunate to work with Conrad Hall and other top people at the highest levels, and that really helped me develop my eye, which was very important on this film,' says Stern. 'The idea was to make this movie somber, and take a lot of the color out of it, highlighting blacks to fit the story. My experience in lighting was very helpful in achieving this goal.' Stern says there was discussion about performing a digital intermediate on the film to desaturate the images to achieve Eastwood's vision, but there wasn't sufficient time to test for, and then perform, a DI before the movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Therefore, creation of the desaturated look was largely an in-camera affair. 'I never used diffusion on the lens, my F-stops were reasonable enough to keep a very sharp focus, and we never used zoom lenses,' he says. 'There is almost no fill light in this movie, and there was also a certain amount of mechanical stuff done to remove stray light. Often, away from the key side of the frame, we set up black fabric panels to absorb light. In the mortuary scene, for instance, we have a transition out of darkness as Sean Penn's character emerges to identify his daughter's body. That is typical of how Clint likes to work and clearly expresses the tragedy of the film - fusing the themes of parental love with the need for revenge. That whole thing was done with just two or three little lights.' [From article by M.R. Goldman in 'Variety', 2004.]


Note: Not to be confused with doph, dir and prod Tom Stern, who cph 'Mountain Mafia' [2007-08].



 FILMS

2002

Blood Work [Clint Eastwood] p/c

2002

Mystic River [Clint Eastwood] p/c

2003

Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius [Rowdy Herrington] s35/c

2004

Romance & Cigarettes [John Turturro] p/c

2004

Million Dollar Baby [Clint Eastwood] p/c

2004

The Exorcism of Emily Rose [Scott Derrickson] s35/c; addph: Andy Wilson

2005

The Last Kiss [Tony Goldwyn] p/c

2005

Flags of Our Fathers [Clint Eastwood] 35mm+dv-to-p/c; 2uc: Richard Bowen; aph: David Norris

[Middle - pointing] - "Letters from Iwo Jima"

2006

Letters from Iwo Jima [Clint Eastwood] 35mm+dv-to-p/c

2006

Tenderness [John Polson] p/c; 2uc: Patrick Capone; uwph: David Knox

2006

Camille [Gregory Mackenzie] announced as doph, but prod was ph by Sharone Meir

2006

Midnight Son [Adam Davenport] p/c; short/23m; prod Yale University

2006

Things We Lost in the Fire [Susanne Bier] s35/c; uwph: Ian Seabrook

2006

Rails & Ties [Alison Eastwood] p/c

With actress Nora Arnezeder - "Faubourg 36"

2007

Faubourg 36/Paris 36 [Christophe Barratier] p (+ 70bu)/c

2007

Changeling [Clint Eastwood] p/c

2008

Tsar/Ivan the Terrible and Metropolitan Philip [Pavel Lungin] s35/c

[Left] with dir Clint Eastwood [c] and c.op Stephen Campanelli - "Gran Torino"

[Right] with dir Clint Eastwood

2008

Gran Torino [Clint Eastwood] p (+ D-Cinema)/c

2009

Invictus/The Human Factor [Clint Eastwood] p (+ D-Cinema)/c

2009

The Sound I Saw [Tony Goldwyn] c; short/4m13s; prod for 'The Responsibility Project' sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance

2009

The Home Run [Ron Shelton] c; short/7m15s; prod for 'The Responsibility Project' sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance

2009

Lawyers [Roger Donaldson] HD/c; short/7m30s; prod for 'The Responsibility Project' sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance

2009

Hereafter [Clint Eastwood] p+RED-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c; vfx ph: Craig Kief; filmed 2009-2010

2010

Nuit blanche/Sleepless Night [Frédéric Jardin] HD/c

2011

J. Edgar/Hoover [Clint Eastwood] p (+ D-Cinema)/c

2011

The Hunger Games [Gary Ross] s35 (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc (+ c.op 'c' cam): Robert Baumgartner; addph: Patrick Loungway; aph: Kurt Soderling

[Left] with Robert Lorenz - "Trouble with the Curve"

Photo by Keith Bernstein

2012

Trouble with the Curve [Robert Lorenz] p (+ D-Cinema)/c

2012

Broken Horses [Vidhu Vinod Chopra] p (+ D-Cinema)/c; uwph: Tom Boyd

2013

RoboCop [José Padilha] HD (ARRI ALEXA M & Plus)+RED Epic/p-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc (Vancouver); ph: Lula Carvalho (2012); remake of film (1986-87, Paul Verhoeven; ph: Jost Vacano)

2013

Jersey Boys [Clint Eastwood] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT/p)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c

2014

American Sniper [Clint Eastwood] HD/c


 MISCELLANEOUS

1974

Johnny Cash - Ridin' the Rails - The Great American Train Story [Nicholas Webster; mus tv-doc/52m] lighting; ph: William Hartigan & Ross Kelsay

1974

The Grateful Dead/The Grateful Dead Movie [Leon Gast (loc dir) & Jerry Garcia (editorial dir); concert film] co-c.asst (as Thomas Stern); ph: Jonathan Else, Albert Maysles, David Myers, Robert Primes, Thomas D. Hurwitz, a.o.; filmed 16-20 October (San Francisco); released 1977; restored 2004

1976

Renaldo and Clara [Bob Dylan] lighting; ph: Howard Alk, Paul Goldsmith, Michael Levine & David Myers; incl footage shot during the 'Rolling Thunder Revue' tour (1975; ph: Albert Maysles)

1976

False Face/Scalpel [John Grissmer] gaffer; ph: Edward Lachman

1976

The Displaced Person [Glenn Jordan; tvm/58m] best boy; Kenneth Van Sickle

1976

Youngblood/YoungBlood [Noel Nosseck] gaffer; ph: Robbie Greenberg

1977

Between the Lines [Joan Micklin Silver] best boy; ph: Kenneth Van Sickle

1977

Harper Valley P.T.A. [Richard C. Bennett & Ralph Senensky] gaffer; ph: Willy Kurant

1979

Cardiac Arrest [Murray Mintz] gaffer; ph: Jon Else

1979

Homework/Growing Pains/Short People [James Beshears] gaffer; ph: Paul Goldsmith

1980

Running Scared/Back in the U.S.A./Desperate Men [Paul Glicker] co-c.op 2u; ph: Willy Kurant

1981

White Dog/Trained to Kill [Samuel Fuller] gaffer; ph: Bruce Surtees

1982

Bad Boys [Rick Rosenthal] co-gaffer; ph: Bruce Surtees & Donald Thorin

1982

Honkytonk Man [Clint Eastwood] gaffer; ph: Bruce Surtees

1983

All the Right Moves/All Right [Michael Chapman] gaffer; ph: Jan de Bont

1983

Sudden Impact [Clint Eastwood] gaffer; ph: Bruce Surtees

1984

The Wild Life [Art Linson] gaffer; ph: James Glennon

1984

Tightrope [Richard Tuggle] gaffer; ph: Bruce Surtees

1984

City Heat [Richard Benjamin] gaffer; ph: Nick McLean

1984

Twice in a Lifetime [Bud Yorkin] gaffer; ph: Nick McLean

1984

The Goonies [Richard Donner] gaffer; ph: Nick McLean

1985

Pale Rider [Clint Eastwood] gaffer; ph: Bruce Surtees

1985

Ratboy [Sondra Locke] gaffer; ph: Bruce Surtees

1986

Heartbreak Ridge [Clint Eastwood] gaffer; ph: Jack N. Green

1986

Spaceballs [Mel Brooks] chief lighting tech; ph: Nick McLean

1987

Like Father, Like Son [Rod Daniel] gaffer; ph: Jack N. Green

1987

Bird [Clint Eastwood] lighting cons; ph: Jack N. Green

1988

The Dead Pool [Buddy Van Horn] chief lighting tech; ph: Jack N. Green

1989

Impulse [Sondra Locke] chief lighting tech; ph: Dean Semler

1989

Class Action [Michael Apted] chief lighting tech; ph: Conrad L. Hall

1990

The Rookie [Clint Eastwood] chief lighting tech; ph: Jack N. Green

1991

Unforgiven [Clint Eastwood] chief lighting tech; ph: Jack N. Green

1993

A Perfect World [Clint Eastwood] chief lighting tech; ph: Jack N. Green

1994

Dangerous Minds [John N. Smith] chief lighting tech; ph: Pierre Letarte

1994

French Kiss/Paris Match [Lawrence Kasdan] gaffer; ph: Owen Roizman

1995

Sugartime [John N. Smith; tvm] gaffer L.A.; ph: Pierre Letarte

1995

The Phantom [Simon Wincer] chief lighting tech Los Angeles unit; ph: David Burr

1998

True Crime [Clint Eastwood] lighting cons; ph: Jack N. Green

1998

American Beauty [Sam Mendes] chief lighting tech; ph: Conrad L. Hall

1999

Space Cowboys [Clint Eastwood] chief lighting tech; ph: Jack N. Green

2001

Road to Perdition [Sam Mendes] chief lighting tech; ph: Conrad L. Hall