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Cinematographers offer master class at Palace


Tribune-Herald staff writer

You may not have heard of Richard Edlund of the American Society of Cinematographers, but you’ve seen his work.

A four-time Academy Award winner for Best Visual Effects, he’s known as the “father” of modern special effects. He was one of the founders of Industrial Light & Magic, making his mark with the original “Star Wars” trilogy and also working on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Poltergeist.”

“We’ve gone from being blacksmiths to neurosurgeons,” Edlund said about the evolution of special effects from mechanical and analog technology into the digital age.

The 71-year-old Edlund will discuss his work on these films and more, complete with clips, in the seminar “Hollywood Comes to Hilo: A Cinematography Master Class,” from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Palace Theater. This program is sponsored by The Big Island Film Office and the Palace.

Ron Garcia, ASC, is the program’s host and organizer. A Cable ACE Award winner for “El Diablo,” and two-time Emmy nominee, he was a cinematographer on the first season of “Hawaii Five-O,” now filming its third season on Oahu. He’ll discuss how a camera team works in network television production.

Another presenter, Bob Primes, ASC, is a winner of the ASC Award for Outstanding Cinematography and a two-time Emmy winner for Best Cinematography for the mini-series “Sleeper Cell,” and the series, “Felicity.” He’ll share results and findings from “The Great Camera Shootout,” which compared 24 frames per second/HD/DSLR cameras vs. HD/digital motion picture cameras.

Lighting wizard John Buckley will also highlight his craft. A member of IATSE Local 728, he’s worked on “Avatar,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Dreamgirls” as chief lighting technician.

Edlund, a graduate of University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, is a former Navy photographer’s mate, one-time rock ’n’ roll photographer and a self-professed “gearhead” who developed the Pignose portable guitar amp, a credit he says is “always a conversation starter” with rock musicians. Before hooking up with Lucas and ILM, Edlund created visual effects for the “Star Trek” TV series and even appeared on camera, sort of. His hand was that of Thing on the TV’s “The Addams Family.” He also worked on “Battlestar Galactica” before being being recruited by fellow special effects pioneer John Dykstra to work on “Star Wars,” a film that changed the lives of all involved as well as the movie industry.

“When (writer/director) George Lucas cast Alec Guinness (as Obi-Wan Kenobi), I knew we were going to have a huge hit on our hands,” he said. “Up to that point, ‘Jaws’ had been the shark at the box office. But I knew we were going to be even bigger. I told everybody working with us, ‘Mark my words. We’re going to remember this as the good old days.’”

Edlund eventually left ILM and started his own effects production company, Boss Films, whose credits include “Ghostbusters.”

He said the crowning achievement, so far, of the effect of computerized and digital effects is “Avatar.”

“They say it cost $240 million to make ‘Avatar.’ I have to believe it cost more than that, but the film grossed $2.8 billion,” he said.

All the participants will participate in a question-and-answer session at the end of the program.

“These are guys who make movies at a high level, so it’s important for us here on the Big Island, isolated as we are in so many ways, to see and hear firsthand how movies are made by top professionals, how things are done and why things are done,” said Big Island Film Commissioner John Mason. “There will be some practical information, I hope, not just on high-end moviemaking, but the working relationships of filmmaking. … There aren’t a lot of handbooks that go over that. And the questions that every emerging, aspiring filmmaker has is ‘How can I get into the union? How can I do what you’re doing? What do I have to do? What do I have to learn?’ What do I need?’ These guys are going to be able to share their experiences to help people like that.”

In addition to the presenters, representatives from professional camera manufacturer Canon will be on hand to talk about Canon’s new DSLR C300 and C500 cameras in “hands-on” sessions during a long lunch break in the theater lobby.

Mason called the seminar a “must” for the Big Island’s professional film community, film students, and those who just want to learn more about how Hollywood movies are made.

Admission is $20 for students and $35 for adults and a box lunch is included with the fee. Cash or checks made out to County of Hawaii are accepted. RSVP by Monday, Sept. 10, by calling 961-8498 or by emailing myoshiyama@co.hawaii.hi.us. For more information, call 323-4705.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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