- Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017
Lion (The Weinstein Company) roared on Saturday night. At the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif. the film earned director Garth Davis the Best First Feature honor. And across town at the ASC Awards in Hollywood, Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS, won the coveted Theatrical Award for best cinematography in a motion picture for Lion at the 31st Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Awards for Outstanding Achievement. Fraser was a first-time ASC Award nominee.
Fraser topped a field of ASC feature-nominated DPs which also included: James Laxton for Moonlight; Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC, for Silence; Linus Sandgren, FSF, for La La Land; and Bradford Young, ASC, for Arrival.
Based on a true story and adapted from the memoir “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley, Lion introduces us to a five-year old Saroo who gets lost, ending up on a train which takes him thousands of miles across India to Calcutta, away from his home and family. Somehow he survives living on the streets, escaping close calls before landing at an orphanage that is far from a save haven. Eventually he is adopted by an Australian couple who takes him to the Aussie town of Hobart where he feels love and security. In respect of and not wanting to hurt the feelings of his adoptive parents whom he loves, Saroo suppresses his past and the hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians rekindles his past as he struggles to find himself. With a small store of memories, and the help of a then new technology called Google Earth, he ultimately decides to try to find the proverbial needle in a haystack, seeking out his original home and first family.
The film features transformative performances from Dev Patel as an adult Saroo and Nicole Kidman as Sue, the mother who adopts him. Pivotal to Lion was five-year-old actor Sunny Pawar who played Saroo as a child. Furthermore, Pawar did not speak English. Yet Davis saw qualities in him that resonated and he relied on Fraser to help capture the child’s perspective, enabling the audience to see the world through a child’s eyes—the fear of being separated from your mom and brother, and having to fend for yourself in a seemingly cold, alienating world amidst assorted perils.
Fraser related, “We didn’t have the means to carry a Steadicam throughout the whole production, but we could carry a gimbal rig, which actually served us better because it was more appropriate a height for our young actors.”
Fraser went with the ARRI ALEXA for Lion. “We felt it captured the light, and quality of India and Australia,” said Fraser. “We also used the RED Dragon on the drone rigs, that we used to shoot the aerials in India.”
Fraser and Davis has a close-knit collaborative relationship and rapport. Davis told SHOOT, “I’ve known him for 21 years. We met at Exit Films [which has offices in Australia and New Zealand]. I was a director starting out there and he had taken an entry-level position—anything to get his foot in the door. Eventually he wound up shooting commercials for me and we both kind of grew up in the industry together. We are kind of like brothers and reuniting on Lion [Davis’ feature directing debut] was very special. We have an intuitive language and connection with the camera together.”
And Fraser also recently took on Davis’ second feature, Mary Magdalene. Davis has shot notable work for various other filmmakers, including Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016); director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty (2012), which earned Fraser a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematography; Bennett Miller’s Academy Award-nominated Foxcatcher (2014); the Andrew Dominik-helmed, Palme d’Or-nominated Killing Them Softly (2012) and Jane Campion’s Bright Star (2009) which earned assorted accolades (including a British Independent Film Award for the cinematographer). Among other Fraser-lensed features are Out of the Blue (2006), Last Ride (2009), The Boys are Back (2009), Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and The Gambler (2014).
Foxcatcher earned five Oscar nominations in 2015, including for Best Director. When the film was released, SHOOT connected with Miller who had first worked with Fraser in the commercialmaking arena. Foxcatcher marked Fraser’s first feature collaboration with Miller. The director recalled that the spot they worked on together was “a really good experience and he stayed on my radar. I then saw the film Bright Star and was so impressed—it was beautiful, elegant and haiku. I checked out some of his other work and saw hoe he adapted to so many different styles and how completely he was able to author them. Zero Dark Thirty and Snow White and the Huntsman come to mind.”
But beyond the work, Miller praised Fraser as a person. “To have a collaborator like Greig is everything. He’s very sensitive, deeply cares, knows what the film is about, who these characters are and he’s not going to allow superficialities to distract from what really matters.”
A pattern of firsts
All this year’s ASC Award feature and TV category honorees are first-time winners.
The ASC Spotlight Award—which recognizes outstanding cinematography in feature-length projects that are screened at festivals, internationally, or in limited theatrical release—was bestowed upon Gorka Gomez Andreu, AEC for House of Others.
Winners in the TV categories were Fabian Wagner, BSC, for Game of Thrones, Tod Campbell for Mr. Robot, and Igor Martinovic for The Night Of.
The only ASC Award winner with a prior nomination was Wagner whose work on Game of Thrones garnered him nominations in 2015 and 2016.
Still Martinovic, for example, is no stranger to awards show recognition. His ASC Award joins such honors as a pair of Emmy Award nominations: Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series in 2014 on the basis of the “Chapter 18” episode of House of Cards, and Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program (shared with DP Rachel Morrison) for What Happened Miss Simone?
Martinovic’s body of work also includes the 2009 Oscar-winning feature documentary Man on Wire directed by James Marsh. Additionally Martinovic has received recognition for his directing. Back in 2011 he gained inclusion into SHOOT’s New Directors Showcase on the basis of an Adidas spec spot entitled “Dream.”
Wagner too is a two-time Emmy nominee—for the “A Scandal in Belgravia” episode of Sherlock in 2012, and the “Hardhome” episode of Game of Thrones in 2015.
And Andreu’s lensing of the feature film Chaika earned Best Cinematography Debut distinction at Camerimage in 2012.
Here’s a rundown of this year’s ASC Award winners:
Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS, Lion
Gorka Gomez Andreu, AEC,
House of Others
Regular Series for Non-Commercial Television
Fabian Wagner, BSC, Game of Thrones (“Battle of the Bastards”)
Regular Series for Commercial Television
Tod Campbell, Mr. Robot (“eps2.0_unm4sk-ptl.tc”)
Movies, Miniseries or Pilot for Television
Igor Martinovic, The Night Of
The ASC Board of Governors Award was presented to Denzel Washington for his significant and indelible contributions to cinema through his body of work. This is the only ASC Award not given to a cinematographer and is reserved for filmmakers who have been champions for DPs and the visual art form.
The ASC Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Ed Lachman, ASC (Carol, Far from Heaven, Mildred Pierce).
The ASC Career Achievement in TV Award was presented to Ron Garcia, ASC (The Day Lincoln was Shot).
Philippe Rousselot, ASC, AFC (A River Runs Through It, Hope and Glory, and Henry & June) received the ASC International Award.
Nancy Schreiber, ASC (Your Friends and Neighbors, The Nines) was presented with the ASC Presidents Award.which is given not only for the recipient’s body of work, but also dedication to the organization and its mission of advancing the art of cinematography through education.
And the ASC Bud Stone Award of Distinction was given to Bruce Berke, longtime motion picture marketing and sales executive and ASC Awards Show coordinator, and Frank Kay, marketing director at J.L. Fisher and chairman of the ASC Awards Sponsorship Committee. This award is presented to an ASC associate member who has demonstrated extraordinary service to the ASC and/or has made a significant contribution to the motion picture industry.